One of the earliest posts I wrote for this blog was called: Is Your Diet Causing Your Acne?, and in that post I basically concluded that there is no connection between diet and breakouts. Well I have to say that I have changed my mind in regards to the connection between diet and acne. I now do believe that you can improve your skin, in this case acne, with the help of a healthy diet.
I started to change my mind about the diet-acne connection about six months or so ago when I noticed a change in my skin after I drastically cutback on the amount of dairy that I was eating. Almost a year ago I started to see an acupuncturist about chronic pain I had in my right shoulder. Since Traditional Chinese Medicine treats the body as a whole as opposed to just focusing on what is bothering you and looks to bring balance back to the body one of the things my acupuncturist and I discussed was my diet. She suggested that I cut back on dairy, sugar, and fried foods. Well this scared me. I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years, and I love dairy. I pretty much ate dairy with every meal which isn’t surprising since if you look at vegetarian recipes they seem to inevitably have some sort of dairy in them. I thought – how could I ever give up dairy? But I wanted to feel better so I decided to try to cutback on the amount of dairy I was consuming. I bought almond milk instead of cow’s milk (I absolutely hate soy milk so I wouldn’t even consider getting that) and started eating oatmeal each morning instead of my cup of greek yogurt. And now the added bonus – anyone who has read the “about” section of my blog knows that I have suffered from acne for the last 20 years or so and this constant skin condition lead me to become an esthetician since I wanted to learn more about skin and skincare and help others as well – as I cutback on the amount of dairy I was consuming my skin started to look much better (and I lost a few stubborn pounds that I hadn’t been able to lose since I had my son three years ago). No my breakouts have not stopped completely and yes I still follow a strict home care anti-acne regime, but I could definitely see a positive change in my skin. I was very surprised to say the least. I also really started to notice, more than ever before, a connection between how stressed out I was and the number of breakouts I had. So now that I had seen a change in my skin I wanted to learn more. I finally checked out The Clear Skin Diet from the library and started reading it.
So in many ways the authors of this book were preaching to the choir when it came to me reading this book since I have really started to believe in a connection between diet and health, including skin health. At times I got very bogged down in the number of studies and scientific proof and explanations that the authors presented in the book, but truthfully I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I was glad that the book didn’t just state a connection between certain foods and acne but actually proved that connection by quoting and explaining numerous scientific studies from all over the work (the scope of the research quoted was impressive). Not only that but the authors of the book did the opposite as well; they thoroughly explained why so many doctors do not believe in a connection between food and diet. Furthermore, the book goes out of its way to explain how past studies that claimed to prove that there were was no link between diet and acne were flawed and need to be reconsidered. I really appreciated how much explanation the book contained. Another thing I liked about the book were the summaries at the end of each chapter so if you didn’t want to read an entire chapter and just needed to be reminded of the key points in a chapter it was easy to do so.
The core point of the book is that the typical American diet which includes fast food, white bread and rice as opposed to whole grains, many foods filled with saturated fats, few vegetables and fruit, a lot of sugar, and many processed foods causes inflammation in the body which then triggers the production of hormones which lead to acne (this is an extremely brief summary of what the book aims to prove). By changing the foods you eat you can stop this process from happening and thus help to clear up your skin. The book doesn’t just promote changing one’s diet in order to improve their skin but also mentions leading a less stressed life in order to see an improvement in one’s skin. The book goes beyond just explaining how diet and stress affect the skin, but also gives lots and lots of concrete tips on how to go about distressing and changing your diet. It is great that the book doesn’t just say you need to change your lifestyle and/or diet but actually gives you the tools to do so.
I found two parts of the book intriguing. The first thing I found interesting was the discussion of probiotics (chapter 5: Acne – A Gut Reaction) and acne and the other was the statistical information about the rise of acne in Japan as the traditional Japanese diet has given way to a more Western diet (chapter 7 – The Former Clear Skin Nation – Japan). I had never given much thought to The trillions of microbes living in my intestines and how they affect my health but now I will. I am on the lookout for topical skincare products that incorporate probiotics into them; I think we will be seeing more of those in the future. So far I have found Bioelements Probiotic Anti-Aging Serum which, as the name suggests, isn’t marketed at acne sufferers but rather at people interested in an anti-aging product. The chapter about Japan clearly presents a quite convincing report on how the traditional Japanese diet that includes lots of green tea, few processed foods, omega-3 rich foods, more fiber, little dairy, and a variety of foods rich in antioxidants protected the majority of the population against acne. As Japanese food habits have changed and shifted more towards an American diet the rate of acne in Japan has risen tremendously. As the charts, statistics, and research presented in the book explain this rise in acne with the change in the Japanese diet cannot be mere coincidence. Lastly, I was also really fascinated by the studies that the authors quoted about the connection between diet and all sorts of other diseases like depression and anxiety. For so long I have held on to the Western notion that diet, skin, beauty, and mood are not closely related so I was captivated (for lack of a better word) by the whole connection between food and health and not just for the sake of preventing acne.
Now if you are not one to want to read about scientific studies and such you can do two different things with this book: read the summaries at the end of each chapter and read and follow the action plan for clear skin outlined in chapter 8 of the book. There is a clear list of foods to include in your diet and which foods you should limit or avoid entirely. I for one am making sure that I drink my green tea everyday without fail.
The one thing I didn’t really like about the book were the food suggestions and recipes. I actually found all of the recipes completely unappealing, and I say this as someone who likes to cook and is always on the lookout for new recipes to try. Also in the food/snack suggestions dairy is mentioned again and again which is strange, in my opinion, since the book time and again talks about limiting the amount of dairy that one consumes. Yes, I know the book explains that not everyone needs to completely cut dairy out of their diet and that different types of dairy affect one’s skin differently, but I just felt it strange that so many of the snack suggestions had dairy (or white potatoes) in them instead of someone coming up with a more creative, dairy-free suggestion.
Overall I really liked this book. I would definitely suggest that if you are struggling with acne and have tried numerous topical solutions, oral antibiotics, etc. to no avail that you seriously consider changing your diet. Yes, genetics plays a major role in acne (because we all know that person who eats fast food morning and night and never gets a pimple or gains weight, right? I hate those people as much as you – believe me) as well as hormones, but perhaps the missing link to clear skin really is diet. Eating healthy will only benefit you – there is no reason not to try the suggestions in this book. You don’t need to try the actual recipes. Take the list of good and bad foods and proceed from there. And do a little meditation in the evenings as well. Your body will thank you.
More reading, if you are inclined:
If you are less interested in effects of diet on acne but more interested in anti-aging be sure to read Dr. Amy Wechsler’s book The Mind-Beauty Connection. I’ve recommended this book numerous times before in my blog, and I’ll continue to do so. Her advice about living a healthy, happy life and how that will positively affect your skin, appearance, and psyche is wonderful.
Once I decided to give up eating a lot of dairy I went on the hunt for a good vegan cookbook. I’ve been pleased with most of the recipes I tried in Appetite for Reduction. The salad dressings in particular are great and so is the baked falafel.
Another great source for vegetarian and vegan recipes is Nava Atlas’ website Veg Kitchen. Her cookbooks are great too.
- Can Eating Carbs Give You Pimples? – Skin Inc.