Acne vulgaris is common in the UK. This chronic skin condition affects almost all adolescents and around half of adults. And, more people than ever are having breakouks. As a herbalist, I regularly see patients with acne and help them to achieve clearer skin. In this post, I discuss my acne free diet plan. This plan includes my general dietary recommendations that I find help to reduce acne outbreaks. Why not try this diet plan for thirty days and see how fast your skin can improve.
What is acne, and what are the causes?
Acne affects the body parts with the most sebaceous glands, which is another term for oil glands. In other words, acne is usually most apparent on the face, back, neck, shoulders and chest.
Pimples form when there is over production of sebum, the oily substance made in the skin's sebaceous glands. Dead skin cells can block skin pores and this creates a perfect environment for skin bacteria to multiply.
The problem can vary from minor to severe. Mild cases may have one or two pink bumps, spots or pimples. But, severe acne can be very sore and inflamed and include cysts, called cystic acne. A deep cyst can result in an acne scar. Although this condition affects men and women equally, men are more likely to have the more severe form of acne.
There are likely to be several factors promoting this common skin disease. When we compare westernised with non-western societies we see differences in skin health. Specifically, we see there are far fewer people with acne in non-western communities. Researchers say this difference in severity is probably not only due to genetics but also to other influences such as a person's diet and lifestyle.
We can't change our genes. But most of us can easily make changes to what we eat and how much we move. Regular exercise can change your metabolism, which can benefit your skin. So moving your body every day is important. But this post is about what you eat, so let's start by talking about the foods that cause acne.
Foods That Cause Acne
One of the most important causes of acne are the high glycaemic index foods that are so common in the typical western diet. The glycaemic index grades foods on how quickly they can be turned into sugar when we eat them. Foods that are high on the glycaemic index, turn into sugar quickly. Rising blood sugar levels cause an increase in insulin levels. And, these spikes in levels of insulin can alter hormone balance and lead to acne.
Foods high on the glycaemic index include refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods. These are easily and quickly broken down into sugar in the body.
Interestingly, this study suggests an association between skimmed milk and acne. While consuming full-fat milk is not a problem. One theory is that processing skimmed milk changes the milk in a way that results in more acne.
So, to balance blood sugar levels, the first items to avoid would be refined carbohydrates. Switch to eating more low GI foods and cut out the high glycaemic load foods such as processed grains. Reducing the amount of grains that you eat not only lowers blood sugar levels but also has an anti-inflammatory effect. So, reducing grains and other high glycaemic items helps to soothe the inflammation that underlies this disorder.
Junk foods are highly processed and are easily broken down in the body. It is better to avoid items with high sugar content and simple carbs such as white bread and products made with white flour altogether and try to eat wholefoods where possible. Even if that means not eating out for a while.
Your acne free diet plan should not include:
- sugar and flour
- white potatoes
- certain fruits – bananas, grapes, cherries, raisins
- baguettes and bagels
- bread and bread rolls
- breakfast cereals and puffed grains
- biscuits and cookies
- crackers and pretzels
It is also a good idea to avoid dairy products, especially cow's milk, skimmed milk and skimmed milk products. Research suggests dairy intake makes acne worse.
Chocolate and acne
I am often asked if chocolate causes acne. There is no scientific evidence linking chocolate and acne, but chocolate is highly processed. It also contains dairy and refined sugar, so it is high on the glycaemic index. Chocolate can be a cause of acne, but not everyone will develop acne after eating chocolate. But, I recommend that anyone with acne-prone skin should avoid all types of chocolate at least for one month.
What foods to eat for healthy skin
Okay. So, that is what not to eat. Now, let's move on to what you should be eating to reduce acne.
For healthy skin, you should be eating a balanced diet, with an emphasis on anti-inflammatory foods. Eat healthy, unprocessed, real foods such as:
- a variety of colourful, fresh vegetables, such as leafy greens, and legumes (peas and beans)
- lower glycaemic fruits, such as berries
- oily fish with higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (fatty fish such as salmon and sardines are excellent sources)
- nuts and seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower and flaxseeds
Emphasising an anti-inflammatory diet such as this means that you will lower levels of inflammation in your body. You may need to substitute your usual foods with less inflammatory food sources.
Almond milk is a healthy food and makes a good alternative to dairy milk.
Pumpkin seeds are a source of zinc. Foods rich in zinc are believed to prevent acne. And, flaxseeds are a rich source of anti-inflammatory, omega-3 fatty acids as well as lignans. Nuts and seeds can be good food choices for snacks. But take care not to overdo it.
Wholegrains are complex carbohydrates, and so lower on the glycaemic index than refined varieties, some gluten-containing grains can be inflammatory. Now is a good time to try swapping some gluten-containing grains for items such as brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat which are less inflammatory.
You can also try eating more of the lower glycaemic vegetables in place of those higher on the index. Good examples of these substitutes are replacing mashed potatoes with "mash" made from another vegetable such as cauliflower, turnip or white beans.
Stay hydrated to keep skin looking healthy
Help to support healthier skin by ensuring adequate hydration. Make sure you are drinking the recommended six to eight glasses of water per day.
Still can't get rid of acne and need more support?
If you would like a step-by-step program to help you with this approach, I have created my Smooth & Soothe Program that will help.
This is my comprehensive four-week nutritional program for people with acne. This four-week plan includes meal plans and recipes based on the latest scientific evidence relating to acne.
To get even better results I have also included some herbal remedy suggestions, and stress reduction techniques.
Learn more about my Smooth and Soothe online program.
As an experienced Medical Herbalist, you can be sure that this program is dedicated to helping you get the skin you want. It is based on the latest scientific evidence to help you achieve lasting results using a natural approach.
For instance, a healthy diet that includes the correct balance of dietary macronutrients - carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats, is proven to help people with acne achieve clear skin. Plus, my program includes proven herbal medicine solutions for acne.
Get smoother, clearer skin in just a few weeks, by:
- eating the right foods
- supplementing correctly
This four-week program goes into more depth about acne, including hormonal and teenage acne. This program is the most effective diet plan for acne based on the most recent research.
What you will also learn:
- which foods affect your blood sugar
- how foods affect inflammation
- how diet affects sebum production
What you will get:
- dozens of acne-reducing, healthy balanced recipes, including vegan recipes
- meal plans
- glycaemic index guide
- herbal information
- lifestyle and relaxation recommendations
Though the approaches mentioned above will help many people who suffer from acne, both the simple dietary recommendations and the nutritional program are general in nature. Many people with acne will benefit from personalised recommendations. So, I do offer private consultations If you need this level of support. Let’s have a chat and I can explain how I can help you achieve clear skin.
You might also like my posts:
Pomegranate fights acne-causing bacteria
The Gut-Skin connection: How the gut microbiome affects acne
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