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Diets for Acne

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We know for certain now that diet can contribute significantly to the appearance and treatment of acne. Read on to find out which diets are for or against acne.

In recent years, more and more evidence is showing how your diet is linked to acne. This means that while some food types trigger acne breakouts, others can prevent acne and even be useful for treating the skin condition.

Discussed below are the 8 most important diets that affect the emergence and prevention of acne.

1. Dairy-Free Diet and Acne

Milk and dairy products are now widely known to cause acne. There are many scientific studies on the subject, and the overwhelming conclusion points to a strong link between milk products and acne.

Dairy products are high-energy foods. Therefore, they provide high calories and represent significant glycemic loads in the body. However, the most important reason why dairy products cause acne has to do with the hormones present in milk and milk products.

Milk is growing food for young animals. Therefore, milk is naturally fortified with animal growth hormones such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and androgens like testosterone.

To worsen the situation, cows are routinely fed steroidal hormones to make them grow faster. But even in the milk of pasture-grazed cows, growth hormones are still present. These hormones are also mostly carried over to dairy products.

Androgens and IGF-1 are known to cause acne.

Androgens, for example, cause the enlargement of the sebaceous glands and the increased production of sebum. With increased sebum production, there is an increased chance of the pores clogging up and forming acne lesions.

When excess sebum floods the skin, it serves as the ideal growth environment for acne-causing bacteria. These bacteria worsen the damage done to the skin by promoting a cycle of inflammation and increasing the accumulation of dead skin cells.

Therefore, a dairy-free diet is highly recommended for treating acne. 

With such a diet, the consumption of milk and dairy product must be reduced or even avoided. Since the effect of milk is cumulative, it may take a few months before you see the effects of a dairy-free diet.

To determine if dairy products are the cause of your acne, you should adopt dairy-free diets for at least 2 months and see if your acne improves.

A dairy-free diet may not involve avoiding all dairy products. Even for those who experience fresh acne breakouts soon after ingesting milk, some dairy products may be safe to take. Yogurt is a good example of dairy products that rarely trigger acne.

However, finding which dairy products are safe to ingest will require some experimentation. You will need to start with a total dairy-free product then introduce each dairy product one after another.

If you decide to adopt a completely dairy-free diet, then you must remember to get your daily calcium requirement from supplements or other dietary sources.

2. Low Carb Diet and Acne

Sugar and foods with high glycemic indices have been shown to promote acne. While this does not happen in everyone, there is sufficient proof to indicate that a high carb diet causes acne especially in people who have low glucose control.

The exact mechanism involves a medical condition known as hyperinsulinemia. People with this condition have constantly high levels of circulating insulin. This means that they have high levels of glucose which needs to be converted to glycogen.

Therefore, a dietary change to low carb foods may help resolve acne by bringing down the blood levels of insulin and insulin-like hormones.

As a result, high-carb foods such as simple and refined sugary products should be avoided. Instead, low-carb alternatives such as unrefined whole grain products with complex sugars should be introduced to the diet.

The benefit of a low-carb diet in acne treatment was demonstrated by a study published in 2007 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In that study, 43 men aged 15 – 25 were placed on either a low-carb diet or a carbohydrate-dense diet for 12 weeks.

After the study, the low carb group saw reductions in acne lesion counts, severity and weight, and improvements in insulin sensitivity.

3. Diet Soda and Acne

Diet soda is promoted as a healthier alternative to regular soda. Even though that is true, diet soda is not without its dangers.

Diet sodas pack lower calories than regular sodas. They also do not include sugars as sweeteners but instead, other chemicals such as aspartame are added to sweeten them.

While aspartame has been the subject of many controversies regarding its safety and link to different diseases, health regulatory bodies in different countries have found it largely safe for consumption and no more dangerous than some naturally occurring plant chemicals.

Still, aspartame currently has a bad image among natural health enthusiasts.

Diet soda additives like aspartame and sucralose may be converted into harmful metabolites in the body. For example, aspartame is converted to phenylalanine, aspartic acid, formaldehyde, formic acid, and methanol.

However, there are no proven links between these metabolites and acne. Therefore, it is unlikely that the consumption of diet soda will trigger acne breakouts.

4. Lemonade Diet and Acne

The lemonade diet is a detox diet. It is also called the maple syrup diet or the Master Cleanse. This detox diet is recommended for a least 10 days and a maximum period of 14 days.

The lemonade diet involves taking a liquid concoction every day of the detox. This liquid concoction is prepared from maple syrup, lemon juice, filtered water with cayenne pepper or ginger. The last ingredient is included to act as a laxative since the liquid diet has no fiber content to promote the evacuation of the bowel.

A lemonade diet may provide several small benefits for acne sufferers.

For example, since it is a low-calorie diet, it represents a reduction in glycemic load when compared to high carb diets that trigger acne breakouts. During the course of the detox, acne symptoms may improve for this reason.

Also, maple syrup contains some essential minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Zinc and magnesium may provide some benefits for acne sufferers although such benefits will be little at the concentrations in which the minerals are available in the lemonade diet.

Lastly, the process of detox can improve the tone and appearance of the skin simply by driving out toxins.

The lemonade diet is hard to follow because of the number of days it requires and because no solid foods are allowed during this period. Therefore, many people fail to complete it.

Even when done faithfully, the lemonade diet can only provide minimal benefits for acne. It should not be the primary remedy for acne because it does not affect the root causes of skin diseases and its benefits are only temporary.

Good & Bad Diets for Acne
Dairy-free diet ~ Good
Low-carb diet ~ Good
Diet Soda ~ Bad
Lemonade Diet ~ Possibly Good
Paleo Diet ~ Good
Raw Food Diet ~ Good
3-Day Apple Diet ~ No Effect
HCG Diet ~ Bad

5. Paleo Diet and Acne

Paleo diet or paleolithic diet is a modern dietary plan which approximates the kind of diet we believe humans or cavemen of the paleolithic era ate.

Therefore, the main components of the paleo diet are fish, roots, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and meat obtained from animals raised in pastures. Paleo diet must exclude gluten, salt, refined sugar and oils, dairy products, grains, legumes, and any processed food.

The main attraction of the paleo diet is the belief that humans are better adapted to this diet as compared to the modern diet. Human evolution has been slow since the paleolithic age, and therefore, our bodies handle food items in the paleo diet better than the refined and processed foods we now consume.

It is hoped that by adopting the old nutritional plan of early humans, we can avoid several modern diseases such as acne.

However, the paleo diet is not without criticism. First, the notion that the caveman diet is the best diet possible is baseless.

The peak of the nutritive value of the human diet may as well have occurred before or after the paleolithic era. It may well be that as humans grouped into bigger societies they adopted better diets. Also, although diet may play an important role in disease, it is by far not the major player.

Lastly, critics of the paleo diet are quick to point out new evidence that processed food was not absent in the paleolithic era.

Whatever, the justification for and merit of the paleo diet, it represents a stripped-down diet that is mostly free from most of the food causes of acne.

Different studies have demonstrated the health benefits of the paleo diet. It improves glucose tolerance and the blood level of high-density lipoproteins also called “the good cholesterol”. The Paleo diet also lowers weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure levels.

When compared to the modern diet, the paleo diet has more vitamins, cholesterol, and unsaturated fatty acids but lesser calcium, saturated fatty acids, and carbohydrate. The Paleo diet also produces lesser energy and a glycemic load.

Since the paleo diet excludes high-caloric, high-carb foods, it cannot stimulate hormones such as insulin-like growth factor 1 which triggers acne.

Similarly, since the animals included in paleo diets are not raised with steroidal hormones, they contain far less (the milk will still contain animal growth hormones) acne-causing androgenic hormones such as testosterone and its derivatives.

6. Raw Food Diet and Acne

A raw food diet is a form of alternative nutritional plan that encourages detox. Its proponents believe that processed foods and all forms of concentrated sugar promote the accumulation of toxins in the body.

Some of these toxins are then eliminated from the skin where they can damage the sebaceous unit and cause acne.

With raw food diet, it is possible to substitute processed and refined foods for natural herbs, raw fruits, vegetables, and dietary fibers.

Raw foods can also contribute to acne treatment by different means. The plant chemicals contained in unprocessed food can serve as antibiotic, antioxidant, immune system modulator,s, and regulator of the endocrine system. The sum of these effects can improve the acne system by promoting the general health of the body and skin health.

However, raw food diet can be difficult to fully adopt. Still, it is possible to reduce some of the processed food in your diet and substitute them with some raw foods.

Raw food diet is not a cure for acne. It may improve acne symptoms but that is only because it improves general health. For better results, acne remedies that provide more specific benefits will be required.

7. 3-Day Apple Diet and Acne

The 3-day apple diet is a fasting and detoxifying dietary plan. In its pure form, it involves eating only apples for 3 days.

The basic recommendations of this diet include eating 10 apples a day and preferably eating the red variety of apples which is believed to have more nutritive value than other varieties. Apple contains a good number of vitamins, minerals, and plant nutrients some of which provide good benefits in acne treatment.

These include vitamins A, B complex, and C as well as magnesium.

However, besides its nutritional benefits, the 3-day apple diet is meant to starve the body into detoxifying. The proponents of this diet believe that toxins in the body are the chief cause of acne. This belief is partly right.

Since the body cannot survive on apples only, this diet should not exceed 3 days. As long as you do not mind eating only apples then this diet cannot harm you at all.

To promote detoxification during these days, lots of water and rest are recommended. Also, since toxins pushed out through the skin can get the pores clogged, some suggest applying castor oil on one’s acne lesions to seal them off and prevent further clogging by toxins being pushed out through the skin.

To promote evacuation of the bowel, laxative enemas are also recommended at the end of each day.

Does the 3-day apple diet work? Unlikely. No proof eating only apples provides a complete and lasting benefit for acne sufferers. Furthermore, eliminating toxins is not all that is required to treat acne.

The root causes of acne, which are hormonal imbalance and microbial colonization of the skin by certain bacteria, are not sufficiently addressed by this diet.

It is highly unlikely that a 3-day detox will miraculously cure acne. In fact, the notion that acne can be cured is misleading. It can only be prevented by a good combination of good skincare hygiene, nutritional supplements, dietary restrictions, and acne medications.

8. HCG Diet and Acne

HCG diet is the ultra-low caloric diet allowed alongside HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) in weight loss treatment regimens.

The amount of calories allowed in the HCG diet is a paltry 500 calories which are between 20% and 25% of the recommended daily requirement.

Therefore, the HCG diet is insufficient for supporting the body since it fails to provide the minimum energy needs of the body. This is one reason why experts consider HCG diet unsafe.

A review of scientific literature shows that the HCG diet is not even effective for achieving weight loss. The only studies to have found a link between diet and weight loss are poorly designed. This is why the FDA recently banned the sale and marketing of homeopathic and over-the-counter HCG diet products for weight loss.

Paradoxically, the low-calorie HCG diet does not prevent or “cure” acne. Rather, acne is one of the reported side effects of HCG.

HCG can cause acne because it mimics the structurally similar luteinizing hormone which is produced in the pituitary gland. HCG can trigger the production and release of testosterone in the testes.

Therefore, regular use of the HCG diet can increase the levels of testosterone and its metabolites in the body. These androgens cause the enlargement of the sebaceous glands which leads to the increased production of sebum, and then acne.

In summary, the HCG diet is ineffective, unsafe, and not approved for losing weight; and it can also trigger acne breakouts.


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