Functional Nutrition

Does What I Eat Make My Acne Worse?

By Liz Abel, LDN, CNS, MS, MA

If you or your teenager suffer from acne, I invite you to learn which foods will make your symptoms worse, and which foods may make it better.

Simply stated, one of my philosophies is to “add in to crowd out,” so before we get into the list of “don’ts”, let’s tackle the “dos”:

(1) Consume 5 – 10 servings of veggies every day. Given the average American consumes just a couple of vegetables servings every day, think of this as a great opportunity to make improvements. There are lots of ways (aside from eating salads) to increase veggie consumption: smoothies, veggie noodles, and vegetable soups. One serving is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw. Think of your favorite veggies (you might have to try some new ones) and figure out if you can add it to breakfast or double up at dinner.

(2) Eat more fish, specifically cold-water fatty fishes, like Alaskan salmon, at least two times a week.

(3) Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant and may be helpful in reducing acne. Make a turmeric latte or cook with this powerhouse root.

(4) Vitamin E and Selenium are beneficial, and most people’s diets are deficient! Add in foods like spinach, brazil nuts, cremini mushrooms, almonds and avocados for nutritional impact.

(5) Zinc is another incredibly important mineral. Low zinc status can show up as white spots on nails or frequent colds. Teenage boys need slightly more zinc than teenage girls. Increase your daily focus on zinc-rich foods, such as cashews, baked beans, pork chops, oatmeal.

(6) Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin – is incredibly important, yet most of us don’t get enough. Get your levels tested and supplement accordingly.

(7) Vitamin A has been shown to reduce acne. It’s best not to supplement vitamin A (unless under the care of a qualified health provider), so just increase your daily consumption of orange whole foods, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, cantaloupe, as well as dark green foods.

(8) Green tea is also considered helpful in fighting acne; however, be careful because green tea contains caffeine. Teenagers should avoid caffeine, and adults should limit their consumption.

(9) Berries and cherries contain the phytochemical resveratrol. Science is still pending if supplementation with this can reduce acne, so for now, just continue to eat berries and cherries for their overall high count in minerals and vitamins.

Now that you’ve added in, here’s what can start to minimize:

(1) Salt triggers acne; season food with lemon juice, vinegars, fresh herbs.

(2) B12 supplementation, which is important for vegans, can make acne worse for some individuals. B12 is often believed to be an energy vitamin, so people tend to take in excess. Get a blood test done to assess your current level of B12 vitamin.

(3) Refined carbohydrates are quick, easy, cheap and void of fiber. These high-glycemic, refined carbohydrates (think bread, crackers, cookies, cereal) worsen acne. Period.

(4) Sugar is the same problem as refined carbohydrates. It’s high-glycemic and worsens acne.

(5) Trans-fat makes acne worse. Trans-fat is made in a lab and is found mostly in processed snack foods. How inconvenient.

(6) Saturated fat, while not always bad in small amounts, wreaks havoc on your face in large amounts. Think ice cream, peanut butter, coconut oil, butter. Too much of a delicious thing leads to more acne.

(7) The majority of research says dairy products aggravate acne, though you can find an occasional study that says it’s okay. Some research suggests pasteurized milk is bad. Some research says yogurt is good. Lately, research says only skim milk is bad. Is your head spinning? What to do: remove all dairy for three weeks. If acne improves, then dairy is a culprit (but it may not be the only one). If complete elimination isn’t possible, then try reducing consumption by at least half. And ensure dairy products are from animals free of growth hormones. And definitely skip the whey shakes.

I strongly suggest that acne is also linked to gut health. Come visit us for a probiotic or for a gut assessment. You don’t have to live with acne for the rest of your life!

lizLiz Abel, LDN, CNS, MS, MA, is a Licensed Integrative Nutritionist at the First State Health & Wellness Integrative Health Center in Wilmington, DE. She leads a dynamic, team-based Functional Nutrition program that encompasses food, lifestyle, lab testing, natural supplementation, mindfulness and movement to support your health and well-being. Integrated with First State’s six chiropractic  offices, the program offers access to Delaware’s premiere experts in holistic health. Are you ready to create your custom plan and harness sustainable results? Call 302.384.7104 or e-mail Wellness@FirstStateHealth.com to schedule your comprehensive Functional Nutrition consultation today.

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