Nutrition and acne: what diet can do for your skin

Acne is a skin disease that occurs when the hair follicles under the skin become clogged with sebum and dead cells, forming the lesions we know as “pimples” or “pimples”. It is more typical in adolescents, but it can also appear in adults, especially in women. Why does it occur? Can diet help you fight acne? In this article I will explain it to you.

Why does acne occur?

There are three main causes that trigger the appearance of acne:

  1. The sebaceous glands increase sebum production . Sebum is an oil that we produce naturally to prevent the skin from drying out. Increased sebum production by the sebaceous glands can occur if we have high levels of androgens, a typically male hormone.
  2. Our body releases inflammatory molecules. The one that is most related to acne is IGF-1 ( insulin growth factor 1 ), which stimulates keratinocytes, the cells of the most superficial layer of the skin, and induces their proliferation. As a consequence, the keratinization process of the skin is altered, which “thickens”, which makes it easier for the pores to become clogged and acne to appear .
  3. The bacterium Propionibacterium acnes . This bacterium invades the skin follicles causing inflammation and acne .

Other factors such as genetics, age, some medications, stress, sleep, movement, skin care routine, UV rays, pollution and tobacco also influence the health of our skin .

Fortunately, good nutrition can help us control acne and, in general, keep our skin healthy and beautiful.

acne nutrition

Eat well to improve acne

limit sugar

Some studies have found that foods with a high glycemic index (those that cause blood “sugar” spikes) increase levels of IGF-1, the inflammatory molecule we mentioned, promoting inflammation. They also increase the production of androgens, which is related to an excess of sebum by the sebaceous glands .

Foods with a high glycemic index are cereals and refined flours (rice, pasta, white bread), potatoes and sugary foods (candies, cookies and industrial pastries).

  • Avoid foods with a high glycemic index
  • Opt for the integral version of cereals and flours (integral rice, pasta or integral bread).
  • Cook the potatoes and rice, store them in the fridge and wait 24 hours to consume them. Resistant starch will have been generated, which reduces the glycemic index .
  • When you eat foods with a high GI, eat them together with others rich in fiber, fat or protein (whole natural yogurt with fruit compote or a few squares of chocolate with a handful of nuts).

dairy and acne

A common concern is whether consuming dairy causes acne. There are some studies that have found a possible link between dairy products and acne, but the reality is that this has not been extensively researched and a “cause and effect” link has not been proven . One possible theory is that dairy raises IGF-1, which stimulates the proliferation of keratinocytes in the skin, and also aids in the manufacture of androgens.

Interestingly, skimmed milk is more associated with acne than whole milk, because it concentrates a greater amount of IGF-1, since it is not compensated by fat.

The protein shakes that are consumed in the world of sports also contain a higher amount of IGF-1.

  • Eat whole dairy, especially yogurt or kefir. They are a source of probiotics, which favor the health of our intestine, thus helping to reduce inflammation.
  • Try goat milk as it contains less IGF-1
  • You can resort to sources of calcium such as fortified vegetable drinks, sesame seeds, almonds, etc. Of course, if you decide to exclude dairy products from your diet to improve your acne, it is best to do so with the support of a dietician, to ensure that your diet is balanced.

Omega-3 and good fats

Omega -3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory , helping to reduce the inflammation that causes acne. However, omega-6s produce the opposite effect and promote inflammation, so they should be consumed in smaller amounts than omega-3s.

  • Consume enough oily fish, walnuts and chia and flax seeds, as they are foods rich in Omega-3.
  • Extra virgin olive oil cannot be missing from your diet, as it also has an anti-inflammatory effect.
  • Consume corn flour in moderation, which is found in pastries, cookies and is rich in omega-6.

acne food

fiber and acne

Fiber helps intestinal transit and it has been shown that a healthy intestine is essential to maintain the health of the rest of our body, reducing the risk of acne and helping to manage it. The ideal amount of fiber you should consume each day is between 20 and 30g.

  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds every day.
  • Do not forget to drink water, otherwise the fiber will have a “plug” effect in the intestine.

Zinc, the key mineral

Zinc is an essential mineral for skin care thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and also strengthens our immune system. It is no coincidence that it is part of the ingredients of most acne food supplements .

  • Foods rich in zinc are oysters, clams, hazelnuts, almonds, red meat, chicken or turkey, and oatmeal.

Colorful fruits and vegetables

They are a source of antioxidants, substances that counteract the action of free radicals, fighting the inflammation that causes acne .

  • Fill your plates with fruits and vegetables of all colors to benefit from their antioxidant properties.

And what about the chocolate?

The relationship between chocolate and acne is not due to cocoa, but to the high content of sugar and other ingredients that some chocolates contain. Therefore, you can consume chocolate, as long as it is with a high percentage of cocoa (minimum 80%) and in the context of a healthy diet.   

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