Poor diet is reflected in your skin. Acne is a physical sign that your body uses to tell you something isn’t right. Changing your diet can help improve, or even reverse acne.
Although it has been in print since 2006, I just picked up Dr. Loren Cordain’s The Dietary Cure For Acne. We have known for a while that poor diet plays a role skin conditions, specifically acne, despite what modern dermatology says. Most dermatologists are quick to prescribe topical and oral medications to help treat the symptoms of acne, but none treat the underlying cause: an imbalanced diet. This is the basis for Dr. Cordain’s book.
Dr. Cordain’s account includes a detailed biological explanation of how acne occurs. Lots of evidence comes from studying civilizations that thrive on a Paleoesque™ diet, lacking all of the garbage food found in modern civilizations. These people, including teens have clear skin. Coincidence? I think not. If you are a science and nutrition nerd, like all of us here at Bordeaux Nutrition LLC, you will thoroughly enjoy reading this book cover to cover. For the rest of you, here’s the short and skinny.
Unfortunate events leading to acne…
- Blockage of pores. Open pores can easily get blocked by the buildup of dead skin cells. Programmed cell death sounds a bit morbid, but is a delicate, orchestrated process that removes dead skin in a timely manner to prevent buildup. An upset in the hormones and enzymes that control this leads to uneven timing, causing buildups that prevents air flow into the pore.
- Bacterial growth. Once your pores are clogged and air flow is cut off, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that thrive without oxygen) begin to colonize. Their presence creates an immune reaction that causes the pore to become inflamed, leading to a pimple. Yuck.
- Overproduction of oil. Oil on the skin easily clogs pores even more, exascerbating the effects of events 1 and 2. The amount of oil increases due to an excess in of the hormone androgen. As a side note, androgen is a hormone that facilitates growth, and naturally increases during puberty, which is why we see more cases of acne in teens.
Main culprit responsible for all of these causes?
Hormone imbalances. What causes hormone imbalances? Your diet. The American diet consists mainly of high glycemic index foods, those that cause your blood sugar to spike, leading to increases in insulin in response. You may recognize this as the cause of diabetes. Insulin is special, in that it has an effect on almost all other hormones and enzymes in the body. In the case of acne, increases in insulin throw off cell death timing and increase androgen leading to overproduction of oil. The unfortunate side effect shows on your skin. Getting your blood sugar in check, whether you have diabetes or not, will help with acne, and many other problems caused by irregular insulin levels.
Foods to avoid
Foods containing refined sugar and grains are typically high glycemic index foods, which cause blood sugar to spike. Dairy products are technically low glycemic index foods, however they still cause a spike in insulin levels. Stay away from milk, cheese, yogurt, baked goods, heavy starches and sugars.
Foods to eat
Here’s where the Paleo Lifestyle wins the acne battle. With a meal plan high in meat, vegetables, and low glycemic carbs like fruit, your body is able to get the nutrients it needs without raising your blood sugar and insulin levels beyond normal. Stick to unprocessed whole foods. Check out our Paleo 101 article for a full review of acceptable foods. Dr. Cordain suggests a strict Paleo plan for 30 days in order to regulate body hormones and clear up acne. Foods that may cause inflammation may be added back slowly, but pay attention to how your body feels and how your skin looks afterward. Avoid a food if it causes you to break out.