Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Dairy, Carbs, Sugar and Acne: Is There a Connection? September 12, 2013

Filed under: Acne — askanesthetician @ 7:30 am
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I’ve written a lot in this blog about the connection between food and acne and diet and skincare in general.  (See the links at the end of this post)  This post will highlight new research that has emerged about the connection between diet and acne.

From the Skin Inc. article Long-term Research Links and High Sugar Foods to Acne we learn the following:

Review of 50 years of clinical studies indicates there may be a link between diet and acne after all. It’s been a subject of debate for decades, but it seems diet really does have an impact on a person’s complexion.

A landmark overview of research carried out over the past 50 years has found that eating foods with a high glycaemic index (GI) and drinking milk not only aggravated acne, but in some cases triggered it, too.  …

Since the late 19th century, research has linked diet to acne, with chocolate, sugar and fat singled out as the main culprits. But studies carried out from the 1960s onwards have disassociated diet from the development of the condition.

Jennifer Burris, researcher and doctoral candidate within New York University’sDepartment of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health in Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, says, “This change [in attitude] occurred largely because of the two important studies that are repeatedly cited in the literature and popular culture as evidence to refute the association between diet and acne.

“More recently, dermatologists and registered dietitians have revisited the diet-acne relationship and become increasingly interested in the role of medical nutritional therapy in acne treatment.”

Eating high GI foods – foods that are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly – is thought to have a direct effect on the severity of acne because of the hormonal fluctuations that are triggered. High GI foods cause a spike in hormone levels including insulin which is thought to instigate sebum production. A 2007 Australian study showed that young males who were put on a strict low GI diet noticed a significant improvement in the severity of their acne.

Milk is thought to affect acne because of the hormones it contains. A 2007 study carried out by Harvard School of Public Healthfound that there was a clear link between those who drank milk regularly and suffered with acne. Interestingly, those who drank skimmed milk suffered with the worst breakouts, with a 44% increase in the likelihood of developing blemishes. It is thought that processing the milk increases the levels of hormones in the drink.

Another Skin Inc. article expands on what I referenced above:

“The strongest evidence we have to date of a link between diet and acne comes from the glycemic index studies,” says Whitney P. Bowe, MD, FAAD, who is the lead author of the article “Diet and Acne,” published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. “These studies show that low-glycemic index diets may improve acne. The consumption of high-glycemic index foods appears to trigger a cascade of responses, which can lead to acne through effects on growth hormones and sex hormones,” Bowe adds.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrate-rich foods based on their potential to increase blood sugar levels. For example, high GI foods include white bread, chips and white potatoes; low GI foods include multi-grain bread, peanuts, vegetables and beans.

A study of 23 Australian males ages 15–25 who followed a strict, low-glycemic load (LGL) diet experienced significant improvement in acne severity by adhering to a LGL diet. However, the participants in the LGL group also lost weight, which means the LGL diet may not solely be attributed to the outcome. Specifically, studies have also shown that acne improves when the patients’ blood sugar levels are controlled and a low-carbohydrate diet stabilizes hormones.

In addition, a web-based survey assessing the role of a low-glycemic diet in the treatment of acne found that 86.7% of the 2,528 dieters who completed this online survey reported improvements in their skin while following this diet. Still, based on some of the flaws in the design of the study, the results must be interpreted with “cautious optimism,” says Bowe.

Although there is weak evidence that dairy also impacts acne, Bowe says there’s still a possibility that an association may exist. While there were several flaws in the studies, “Dairy does appear to be weakly associated with acne, with the strongest association being skim milk,” according to Bowe. While the exact mechanism behind this association is unclear, she suspects that hormones and growth factors in milk might play a role.

While more clinical research is needed to determine dairy’s impact on acne severity, Bowe advises patients to speak with their dermatologist to determine if certain dairy products aggravate their acne. She also says patients who choose to limit dairy products should supplement their diets with appropriate levels of calcium and vitamin D.

(From Can Eating Carbs Give You Pimples?)

Still not convinced about the connection between acne and diet?  Check out the following information about societies that ate a plant based diet and acne:

Rural cultures with diets high in fruits, nuts and root vegetables have been observed to have a very minimal incidence of acne. Communities of Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea and Achè hunter-gatherers of Paraguay were observed to not even have a single comedo while eating their native diets rich in fruits, coconut, wild foods and fish, with minimal amounts of Western foods. Similar rural cultures, which have zero incidence of acne, suddenly experience breakouts when introduced to a Western culture and diet.  This suggests that the disorder cannot be solely attributed to genetics, but is likely sourced from differing environmental factors.

These studies point to whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as having a positive correlation with clear skin. This makes sense: Plants are, by and large, some of the strongest anti-inflammatory food sources available. By increasing daily intake of fruits, greens and vegetables, clients biologically increase their immunity and could potentially decrease signs of acne.

(From The Diet-Acne Connection – Skin Inc.)

So how can you change your diet in order to prevent breakouts?  Here are some suggestions:

Choosing low GI foods

  • Only carbohydrates have a GI rating.
  • Because low GI foods take longer for the body to break down they help you feel fuller for longer too.
  • High GI foods include sugary fizzy drinks, cakes, pastries, chocolate, white bread and potatoes.
  • Low GI foods include fruit and vegetables, wholegrain options such as brown pasta, basmati rice, couscous and pulses.
  • Not overcooking your pasta and vegetables helps lower the GI.
  • Watch for food triggers that may seem to aggravate acne.
  • Keep a food diary and share it with your dermatologist.
  • Be patient. It may take up to 12 weeks of a diet change to determine if certain foods are contributing to acne.
  • Continue following your regular acne treatment routine. Diet changes are only a small part of an acne treatment plan and are meant to be used in conjunction with proven medical therapies for acne.

Have you seen a connection between your diet and your breakouts?  Please share your experiences below.

My Related Posts:

Image from allparenting.com

 

Why You Should Never Pick or Pop Your Pimples March 21, 2011

Filed under: Acne — askanesthetician @ 6:48 am
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I have a confession to make – I pop my pimples.  Yes, I tell my clients all the time that they shouldn’t ever pop their pimples or pick at their skin, and though I truly know how bad it is for my skin to pop my pimples I still do it.  Anyone who has ever popped a pimple knows how addictive that act can be.  Once you do it is hard to stop.  But here’s why you should avoid popping pimples and why you should never pick at your skin.

This is the thing – if you pop or pick at your pimples they will take longer to heal and could get worse, you risk damaging your skin by pressing and pushing on it aggressively, you could push the bacteria from the pimple deeper into your skin instead of expelling it, and you really run the risk of having the pimple leave a mark or even a scar.  Believe me I’ve been there – every time I pop a pimple I am left with a post inflammatory red mark in the area of the pimple that sticks around for about six months.  Concealer is one of my best make-up friends.

Having said all that I know how hard it can be to keep your hands off of pimples, particularly the red ones with pus.  Believe me I know – I still have trouble keeping my hands off the ones with pus.  So is there a safe way to pop pimples?  Truthfully – not really.  BUT if you insist on squeezing your pimples you can look for some suggestions on how to do this in the book Breaking Out by Lydia Preston on page 151. 

The bottom line is this – hands off your pimples!  Be patient, apply topical anti-acne products to your breakout, and wait it out.  Your skin will thank you later.

 

Book Review: The Clear Skin Diet March 17, 2011

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.
  • For a concise article about the topic of this book read this article from WebMD Healthy Diet, Healthy Skin.
  • Can Eating Carbs Give You Pimples?Skin Inc.
 

 
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