Acne is one of the most common skin issues that people of all many different ages struggle with, and the reasons for developing acne range from dietary to hormonal causes.
This makes acne one of the hardest skin issues to overcome, not to mention one of the most frustrating skin issues to deal with too.
Creams and gels that promise to cure acne don’t always correct the underlying causes of bad skin, and many of these products are also filled with toxic chemicals and other ingredients that can lead to other health problems and consequences later on.
How Food Reactions Can Lead to Acne: It’s All About Your Hormones and Digestion!
It’s true that hormones are a leading cause of breakouts, but what most people forget is how much our dietary choices affect our hormones which, in turn, also affect how likely we are to breakout or develop acne.
Digestion is also another reason some individuals have acne and breakouts. Anytime the body doesn’t fully break down the proteins and compounds found in certain foods, the body may see these specific foods as invaders which results in delayed digestion.
The immune system then responds by triggering inflammatory responses as it tries to deal with these foreign compounds and skin problems can occur as a result.
Sugar, greasy, and especially high-fat, acidic foods are well-known triggers of acne due to the way they lead to inflammation in the body and cause a rise in insulin levels which can lead to acne.
But what if you’re already avoiding those foods and still having breakouts?
Along with foods we know are bad for our skin, there are some healthy foods that can trigger breakouts despite that they’re often promoted as healthy foods, even for clear skin.
Here are some of the most common healthy foods that might be causing your breakouts and some especially nutritious alternatives you can eat instead.
1. Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is a great source of lean protein, calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12, and for many people, it helps fight acne because of the natural probiotics it contains.
However, Greek yogurt is still a dairy product and therefore, it can lead to acne more easily than other sources of protein can. Even varieties of Greek yogurt without added sugars can still pose breakouts if you’re highly sensitive to dairy, so if you’re eating it regularly and breaking out, then you’ll want to consider removing it from your diet.
What if you don’t have a dairy allergy? You don’t actually need to be allergic to dairy to have an intolerance to it, and one reason it can lead to acne and breakouts more easily is because the proteins in dairy can trigger inflammation for large amounts of people. Those proteins can be hard to break down and lead to acne as a result.
Dairy also is high in natural mucus-forming properties which can lead to excess sebum production in the skin. It also triggers breakouts more easily than many other protein sources because it leads to a higher output of insulin in the body. This process disrupts normal hormone levels and leads to acne as a result of imbalanced blood sugar levels.
What to Eat Instead:
You can easily find yogurt alternative products on the market, such as coconut or soy yogurt, but be sure you choose one without added sugars whenever possible. Sugar in most any form leads to breakouts because it also disrupts insulin levels in the body, so it would be in your best interest to avoid sugar whenever you can for optimal skin health and blood sugar levels.
If you’re looking to add more probiotics into your eating routine without yogurt, opt for some kimchi, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, pickles, raw cacao powder, apple cider vinegar, or other natural fermented foods. You can also take a dairy-free probiotic supplement as well if you’re just looking for the probiotic benefits that yogurt contains. Or, you can just choose to enjoy real Greek yogurt once a week as a treat instead of having it so often.
2. Citrus Fruits
Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, tangerines, and limes are all nutrient-dense foods and great sources of Vitamin C that most people tolerate just fine. However, for some people, these healthy fruit choices can lead to acne because they’re high in natural compounds known as histamines.
Histamines trigger a reaction in the body similar to an allergy reaction. They can lead to breakout, hives, itching, digestive upset, and even headaches or fatigue. Histamines are found in a number of natural foods such as strawberries, tomatoes, and even fish, but they’re especially high in citrus fruits.
What to Eat Instead:
There are a number of fruits you can choose to enjoy besides just citrus fruits. Some of the best sources of Vitamin C that don’t tend to cause breakouts are berries, apples, melons, and pineapple. Many of these fruit choices may also help fight acne due to their anti-allergenic properties and high antioxidant content which fights free radicals and improves the skin as a result.
Eggs are another healthy food rich in Vitamin D and protein that is also one of the most common allergenic foods that might be causing your breakouts. Even if you don’t have an egg allergy, you may still not be quite as tolerant of eggs as you need to be for optimal skin health. Eggs and dairy are also two foods that many people react to even if they’re not allergic (others are peanuts, wheat, soy, and gluten).
Eggs also contain a number of sulfuric compounds which can lead to gas, bloating, and acne. They’re also a naturally acidic food, and it’s a general rule that alkaline foods tend to be better for the skin than acidic foods are.
What to Eat Instead:
There are a variety of healthy proteins you can eat in place of eggs for meals as well as a variety of egg alternative products you can use for baking. For meals, opt for lean fish, lentils, black beans, or hemp seeds which are very anti-inflammatory sources of proteins that may help improve the look of your skin and aid in digestion.
For baking, you can mix 1 tablespoons of ground flax or chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water to equal one egg, or you can use a variety of powdered egg alternative products available at any supermarket.
Tomatoes are such an antioxidant-rich food that’s often promoted to help clear the skin, however, they’re one of the most overlooked foods when it comes to hidden acne triggers.
Tomatoes are high in histamines just like strawberries and citrus fruit are, and they’re also a member of the nightshade family of plants. Nightshades such as white and yellow potatoes, peppers, eggplant, goji berries, and tomatoes are all some of the most overlooked causes of inflammation, especially in the skin, digestive system, and joints. They contain natural compounds known as alkaloids that can trigger a systemic, inflammatory reaction resulting in acne and breakouts along with other bodily reactions.
Alkaloids are hard for some people’s bodies to break down and the immune system sees them as invaders. As a result, they are seen as a toxic byproduct of your meals and will therefore not be fully digested as a result.
What to Eat Instead:
There are many other healthy foods you can eat instead of tomatoes such as cucumbers, olives, chopped melon, zucchini, yellow squash, and berries. Each of these foods are all high in potassium and several key skin-boosting vitamins and minerals that don’t lead to breakouts. Olives are also a rich source of Vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fats which are great for your skin and heart.
5. Wheat Products
Whole wheat bread, waffles, bagels, crackers, and even ancient, wheat-based grains such as Kamut or farro can all be causing your breakouts if your body doesn’t digest wheat as optimally as it should. Wheat is high in certain proteins that can lead to inflammation, not just the protein gluten like it’s most well-known for.
What to Eat Instead:
Opt for other varieties of grains such as quinoa, amaranth, teff, and millet (which are actually seeds, not grains at all), or choose safer options known to benefit the skin such as oats and wild rice.
Wild rice is actually a grass, not a grain, and is a very anti-inflammatory food with a sweet, nutty flavor. Oats are also high in natural skin-boosting properties, but you may need to choose gluten-free varieties if you’re especially sensitive to wheat. Why so? Because oats are naturally gluten-free but often contaminated with wheat on machines used to produce the oats during the processing methods.
If you want to go a step further to improve your skin than only eliminating wheat and gluten, try going grain-free for awhile and eat more healthy carbs from root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and winter squash. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash are also great for your skin and wonderful anti-inflammatory foods for the body.
What to Do Next: 3 Steps to Better Skin
1. There’s no reason to toss out all of these foods from your kitchen all at once. First, note if you eat them very often. If not, they may not be causing your breakouts. However, if you eat them every single day or even several of them a few times a week, then you’ll need to eliminate all of them for at least 30 days. Notice if your skin improves during the 30-day period and note any other changes you feel in the rest of your body.
2. After the 30 days, introduce each of the potential problematic foods one at a time to see how you react to that one food before introducing another possible trigger food. It can be a timely process to find out what foods you’re sensitive to, but you’d be amazed at how your skin—and even digestion and joints— can improve once you’ve removed problematic foods from your diet.
3. It’s also important to eliminate other potential triggers of acne and breakouts such as alcohol, sugar, cheese, milk, wheat, excessive oils, junk foods, and too many foods that are high in saturated fats. These foods trigger inflammation in most everyone and removing them from your diet will likely lead to clearer skin more quickly. Add more vegetables, fruits, and gluten-free whole grains to your plate, and opt for water instead of extra coffee or tea most days.
Finally, don’t forget to get enough rest and manage your stress levels as much as possible. High stress levels and lack of sleep will both lead to lackluster skin and disrupted hormone levels. If you need help getting to sleep or relaxing more during the day, reduce the amount of caffeine you consume, take up gentle, stress-relieving exercises such as yoga and walking in place of running or HITT (high-intensity interval training), and have a hot shower or bath before bed to help you relax more easily at night.
For more beautifying health tips, you can also check out these simple hacks to improve the look of your hair in just one month!
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