Eating for Acne-Free Skin

Eating to Prevent Acne

It seems almost a rite of passage in America that your tween or teen will get some acne.  And maybe you STILL have acne! But did you know that it’s not a given? And did you know that your options include more than just creams and antibiotics?

I believe that as with many chronic health conditions, acne is just a symptom of underlying imbalances in the body.  The best way to prevent and treat acne is from the inside out by eating an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet.

Of course, hormonal fluctuations are an underlying cause, but it’s really is about inflammation and we have to treat it that way.  Parents, this can be a sticky topic to talk with your kids about, so go easy.  

First, DON’T go in there like gang-busters.  Instead ask gently, “I see that you’re getting some acne.  Would you like some help with that?”  Secondly, realize that while hormonal changes can make this a challenging time for the skin, your child is also going through a lot of social and emotional changes, so don’t obsess and risk making things worse with your child.

Caveat on the role of hormones: Acne is caused by hormonal shifts, which is NORMAL in the teen years and later in life.  Hormonal shifts can increase inflammation in the skin and oil (sebum) production in the pores.  If the pores get clogged, this is a perfect environment for acne causing bacteria to grow.  While diet can help balance hormones and cool inflammation, it might not be everything.  Again, go easy on the expectations, and just do your best.  

Nutrition to Fight Acne

What to Eat

The food that is beneficial for acne is is the same food I recommend in all cases.  Eat tons of veggies and a little bit of fruit for the phytochemical and antioxidants, moderate amounts of protein, and lots of healthy fat. Get your nutrients in adequate quantities from REAL food

Gut health is also important for skin health, so try to add some probiotics every day.  A little bit of pickles, sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha, and unsweetened yogurt are all great.

What NOT to Eat

Avoid foods that feed bad gut bacteria and compromise gut and skin health.  These include sugar and refined carbohydrates.  Start reading labels and know that 4g sugar = 1 tsp sugar!  Work on reducing added sugar to 5g or less at every meal.

You may also try reducing or eliminating gluten and dairy as they are some of the most inflammatory problems for many people.  Dairy is also known to lead to changes in hormone levels, thereby increasing sebum production.

5 Specific Nutrients That Can Help Reduce Acne

#1 Vitamin A

  • Retinoids are an effective treatment for acne because Vitamin A can quickly regenerate and heal the skin.
  • Animal-based fats like tallow will have lots of Vitamin A.  Another good food source is beef liver.  If that doesn’t sound good to you, try some beef liver capsules.
  • Caution:  Be careful of supplementing with vitamin A because you can get too much!  

#2 Vitamin D

  • Deficiency in Vitamin D has been linked with acne. 
  • Get your vitamin D levels tested, and supplement appropriately
  • As with Vitamin A, you can get too much of a good thing so work with a professional to monitor your levels!

#3 Vitamin E

  • Research shows both oral and topical and supplementation are effective. 
  • In all studies, Vitamin E was used in conjunction with other acne-preventing ingredients.

#4 Zinc

  • Addressing zinc deficiency is very important in all aspects of health, and especially for acne. 
  • Zinc is important for gut barrier and microbiome health, immune health, and skin health.
  • Best food sources of zinc include beef, lamb pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas, and shellfish.
  • You might also try taking some liquid zinc when you see some acne coming on.  Call me for instructions on how to do this.

#5 Omega-3 Fats

  • Omega-3 fats can help cool the skin level inflammation that causes acne.   
  • Unfortunately, the pro-inflammatory American diet (with lots of omega-6 fats) tends to negatively influence acne.
  • Eat at least 3 servings of fatty fish (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies Sardines, and Herring) per week. 
  • If you don’t like fish yet, you can get your Omega-3’s from a high quality fish oil supplement.
I hope that this blog post helps you to dial down the acne.  If you need more help, call me and let’s talk about it!

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