Is Acne Linked to Diet?

Author: Louise Plant   Date Posted:15 December 2015 

Can we change the condition of our skin by changing our diet?

Is Acne Linked to Diet?

What is acne?

Most of the time acne is caused by the sebaceous glands at the base of the hair follicles of the skin secreting too much sebum.

Sebum is an oily substance released from the pores to keep the skin lubricated and healthy. When too much sebum is produced or it gets clogged it can form hard plugs that block the pores and produce pimples.

The question we ask in this article is, is there a dietary connection?

Recent Studies

Studies have shown that there are many factors that can be the cause of acne and it could be a combination of one or many of these factors. Add poor diet, nutritional deficiencies and teenage pressures and the stress starts to mount up.

Hormonal fluctuations in androgen's play a part in acne flare ups. Insulin also will affect our growth hormones and other hormones, hence it is speculated that insulin spikes coming from high levels of sugar intake can play a factor in acne formation. What is more scary is that the average teenager consumes nearly 40% of their diet in the form of sugar.

Two studies in 1969 and in 1971 were undertaken to determine whether chocolate and acne are related. The first study only compared cocoa content and not the sugar content of the chocolate. All the participants had similar states of acne. This posed the question as to whether the sugar and milk it contained was a factor. To this day it has remained unproven that there is a direct relationship between acne and chocolate.

A more recent study in 2002 looked at indigenous tribes from Papua New Guinea. These people had zero incidence of acne.

This was then followed by a study looking at high-glyceamic foods such as grains, milk, processed foods, bread, French fries and potato chips as being the main culprits. Eating these foods led to a high production of insulin, which in turn can raise male hormones. This then leads to an excess production of sebum in the body, which can clog the pores and cause acne.

Another type of food to consider is saturated fats and trans-fats such as margarine and hydrogenated oils. These types of fats are found in meat, dairy, poultry and in fast foods. Teenagers love to eat fast food!

Modern day of factory farming now creates mass produced poor quality food. Many of these foods are loaded with hormones as well pesticides, insecticides and weed killers. This is exacerbate and increase hormone dysfunction and xenobiotic spikes.

Stress is another factor that is important in this second most prevalent skin condition. Stress will make the adrenal glands step into overdrive and once again hormone levels will spike. Stress can come from emotional triggers, physical irritations on the skin from soaps, cosmetics, washing powders etc. Medications, in particular steroids, contraceptives and any drugs that affect hormone levels could be an influence on acne.

Eating excessive salty food, also have been shown to increase acne.  Chips are the biggest culprit here as they have high iodine levels, high in fats and starches. Combine the fats and salt for a double whammy.

Some people do believe that eating too much can increase hormone levels and this is proven in obesity. Though there is no direct link between obesity and acne at this stage.

A final factor that might need to be considered is that when eating processed foods you are eating foods that are devoid of nutrients. Processed foods can have as much as 50 to 90% of the nutrients that were in the whole food removed when they are processed. This is the difference between white flour and wholemeal flour.

Vitamin A and Zinc are great nutrients for the skin, though they will be found in minimal amounts in processed foods. A healthy and well balanced diet will show up on your skin.

What Can Be Done?

aim to eat a diet that is rich in veggies, fruit, seafood and grass fed meats, as these will help to stabilize insulin levels.

Use Omega 3 fats, like fish oils, walnuts, chai and flax oil. These have been shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory activity, to reduce stress and to provide each cell with the vital oils they require.

Avoid hot and damp foods such as sugary cakes, cookies, sweets, alcohol, chocolate, fried and greasy foods, dairy foods, peanuts and fats and oils.

Reduce your carbohydrate intake. If you must eat carbs then eat complex and wholegrain carbs, brown rice, brown pasta etc. These types of carbs will not cause a spike in your blood sugars. Aim for cereals that contain bran, barley and oats rather than wheat.

Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables as these help to stabilize the blood glucose and the insulin levels too.

A higher protein diet may help. This will decrease the production of the enzymes that cause more sebum production. Eggs and fish (not farmed) would be great protein sources to have. A poached egg would be far better than a fried egg.

Reduce or cut out salty foods.

Reduce the amount of dairy and diary products that you eat as these will increase mucus production.

Reduce your consumption of fizzy drinks, these are high in sugar and have no nutritional value what so ever.

Drink lots of good water. This acts to flush out the toxins and junk in your body. Hot water, herb teas and fresh veg or fruit juices are also recommended.

Herbs To Help

There are some herbs which have been well documented as to their phenomenal benefits in helping with acne.

Neem is one of these herbs. Neem will counteract the excess sugar content in the blood, as well as having the added benefit in reducing the multiplication of viruses and the skin, This gives an added bonus of blocking viruses and gives it a germicidal and anti allergy activity. It is also anti fungal and has been used for centuries for a wide range of skin disorders. The leaves can be crushed and applied as a paste and improvements will be seen in a matter of minutes.

Sandalwood oil could be something that could be used topically.

Other herbs that could be used topically include Calendula, Lavender, Aloe gel, Tea tree oil, Witch hazel and Rose water.  Aloe is astringing,  healing and anti-bacterial herb. Calendula will help with healing, Lavender compresses will relive inflammation, as will rose water, though it will also help if there is an pain. Tea tree oil is an antiseptic which will need to be diluted and witch hazel is an anti-bacterial and an astringent.

Generally speaking, just treating the skin topically will not address the internal causes of acne and skin eruptions. Ideally cleaning the blood and the diet will be an important factor.

To help internally, herbs can be considered like Echinacea to promote healing and remove inflammation, burdock to tone a sluggish liver and eliminate toxins, clivers to flush the lymphatic system and support detoxification. Combined with dandelion root it contains inulin which improves the skin by removing bacteria. St Mary’s Thistle could be added with dandelion to also cleanse the blood and the liver.

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Red clover could be used to clean up the blood.

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Goldenseal will act as a skin tonic and it is a powerful antibacterial. It is good for treating the underlying condition of intestinal toxicity.

Other herbs which might also be useful internally are turmeric, Holy basil and the Chinese herbs Cnidium and Japanese Honeysuckle. Holy Basil is a great blood purifier and it also kills bacteria.


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