Skin Trouble? Avoid These Common Food Triggers and Give Your Skin a Fighting Chance
- Soy Products
- Sugar and Refined Carbs
- Fatty and Processed Meats
- Dairy Products
- Refined Vegetable Oil
Feed your skin the nutrients it needs.
If you go to the doctor for a certain skin condition, you probably won’t hear him or her ask you about your diet. They’ll more than likely just write a prescription and send you on your way.
Diet, however, has a significant impact on your skin health, and research continues to suggest that food is medicine when it comes to your skin.
Even if you just want to support and maintain clear skin, avoiding these common food triggers just might be all you need.
If you’re vegan or lactose intolerant, you’ve likely heard of soy milk as a popular alternative, and for many it could be. Today, however, soy is popular (or should I say infamous) for another reason.
It is making its way to the top of the food allergy chain, perhaps thanks to the fact that 90% of soy crops are genetically modified.
Besides being a growing food sensitivity that many Americans don’t even know they have, soy contains phytoestrogens that actually mimic true estrogen upon absorption within the body. These have been known to disrupt hormonal balance and even lead to excess estrogen, which has been linked to skin issues such as cystic acne.
Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners are a well-known culprit behind many skin conditions, but most people don’t really know why other than it’s just “bad for you.” Sugar, which includes refined carbs like pasta, bread and processed foods, works against your skin in 3 ways.
First, it increases oil production and clogs pores. Upon sugar consumption, you release insulin, which regulates your blood sugar levels. Because refined sugar digests so quickly, large amounts of insulin must be released in order to bring that sugar within your cells just as fast as it’s being digested.
Theseinsulin spikes cause excess oil secretion, which sets off a change reaction of clogged pores, pimples, eczema flare-ups, and more.
Second, processed sugar feeds the bad bacteria within your gut. Once fed, these bacteria grow and reproduce, crowding out the good bacteria and resulting in a bacterial imbalance.Such imbalances have been linked to rashes, acne and more.
Last but not least, sugar literally ages your skin. Processed sugars and refined carbs bind to collagen molecules, which results in the formation of compounds known as “Advanced Glycation End products” or “AGEs” for short (ironic, right?). The body is unable to break this bond, and those once usable collagen molecules are rendered useless.
If you look through the countless studies done on skin conditions of all sorts, you’ll see that inflammation is often the culprit. So it just makes sense that many of the foods on the “naughty” list are those that promote inflammation.
That’s certainly the case when it comes to meat high in saturated fats. According to theUniversity of Maryland Medical Center, people with atopic dermatitis (really you can apply that to any inflammation-based condition) should avoid fatty meats and choose foods rich in omega-3s instead.
Did you know that roughly 75% of the world’s population lose their ability to properly digest lactose upon weaning? What’s worse is that most don’t even know it, so they go on consuming dairy products and wonder why they deal with things like skin eruptions, bloating, digestive issues, and others.
Besides the whole “lacking the enzyme to digest lactose” thing, dairy is a common trigger because it is pro-inflammatory. It also has a naturally high sugar content, which goes back to that insulin-spiking, pore-clogging connection mentioned earlier.
Non-organic dairy products also contain growth hormones and/or antibiotics. Thesehormones have been shown to interfere with your own hormones in a negative way.
Most vegetable oils are very high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. A certain level of omega-6s are needed, but problems occur when the balance between pro-inflammatory omega-6s and anti-inflammatory omega-3s are out of whack.
To give you an idea of just how bad things have gotten:
Researchers estimate our ancestors had an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1. Compare that to the 15:1 ratio Americans have today, and it’s easier to understand why inflammatory-based skin conditions are such a problem.
The omega-skin connection is well documented in studies where people who consumed fewer omega-6s and high amounts of omega-3 seafood had significantly lower rates of acne, oily skin and similar issues.
Beyond that, many vegetable oils are heat and light sensitive, easily turning rancid when exposed to high temperatures. These already problematic oils become oxidized at high temps, which leads to free radical production that then leads to cell damage (including skin cells) and premature aging.
Alcohol dehydrates you in two ways. First, it inhibits the secretion of hormones that help keep you hydrated. Second, it causes excessive water loss through your skin pores, which can lead to dry, flaky skin, and even dark circles around your eyes.
It’s also high in sugar, which spikes insulin, leads to increased oil production and depletes collagen.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the body metabolizes alcohol with enzymes secreted by the liver. This releases a byproduct known as acetaldehyde, which is actually toxic to your body’s tissues. Add those toxins to the dehydration factor, and it’s easy to see why alcohol is a recipe for post-binge breakouts.
In fact, several studies indicate that alcohol misuse can play a part in developing of eczema, psoriasis, post-adolescent acne, rosacea and more. One study from Brigham and Women's Hospital found that just two to three beers a week was enough to increase the risk of psoriasis.
Poor gluten has been named the villain behind so many frustrating skin and digestive conditions, but it certainly deserves the stigma.
Let’s first look at gluten’s effect on zonulin – a protein produced in your GI tract. Zonulin controls the junctions or “seams” between the cells in your gut. These junctions prevent food and pathogens from passing through the gut’s lining.
Gluten, as tasty as it is, causes your body to overproduce zonulin. This overproduction actually tears apart those junctions instead of keeping them tight and closed, resulting in what we know today as “leaky gut.”
Once undigested food passes through that barrier into your bloodstream, it stimulates an immune response, which sets off a chain reaction between systemic inflammation and inflammatory skin conditions.
Many studies have been conducted in hopes of learning more about the relationship between gluten and skin issues. One such study followed 302 patients with a form of psoriasis. A large portion of the group had increased serum levels of the gluten protein, gliadin. Thirty of those patients followed a gluten-free diet and enjoyed significant improvement in their symptoms.
While eating a tasty treat will bring you instant satisfaction, having your skin under control will permanently increase your quality of life. I know that changing your diet can be daunting, but the relief of symptoms is well worth it if you are dealing with problematic skin.
To avoid overwhelm, eliminate one thing at a time. Start with what you think is damaging your skin the most, find alternatives to it, and make the switch. Once you've gotten used to the new diet, move on to the next category of foods. Luckily, there are viable options for pretty much everything these days.
Since the foods discussed above have been implicated in more than just skin condition, it’s possible you’ll not only see an improvement in skin health, but also gain more energy, sleep better, get sick less, enjoy increased mental clarity, and more. Now those are side effects just about anyone can enjoy!
Feed Your Skin the Right Way
Just like your body, your skin needs the proper vitamins, minerals and amino acids to properly function. There are many foods that help heal skin conditions, you can learn about those here: Best Foods for Your Skin: What to Eat and What to Avoid for Clear Skin
You can also feed your skin these nutrients from the outside. That’s why developed our Relief cream- to nourish damaged skin and encourage it to properly heal itself.