Diet and the Skin
A well-balanced diet combining vegetables, fruits, complex carbohydrates and protein offers the vitamins, minerals and nutrients we need to not “stress” the body and keep the skin healthy.
Most people consume three times the amount of protein and fat they require but don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. An inadequate intake of any nutrient results in reduced blood and oxygen flow to the skin, altered oil secretions, diminished maintenance and repair of injured tissue, alterations in skin color, and limited ability to fight infections. A proper diet can aid in changing these.
Stay away from excessive fats, refined sugar, white flour, and caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, cola, oranges, strawberries, and alcohol. A good diet lowers the body’s stress levels and reduces excessive hormone production. That’s an important benefit for acne sufferers.
Excessive, long-term ingestion of iodide (a.k.a. iodine), whether in drugs or in food, can induce acne. Once iodide enters the body and mixes into the bloodstream, excess is excreted through oil glands. As it is excreted, it irritates the pores and causes acne flare-ups. Iodide is especially irritating to susceptible pores of acne-prone persons, but large enough amounts can induce acne in anyone. It is so potent an acnegen that skin researchers will use a few drops of potassium iodide on the skin in order to create acne in just one week’s time on a test subject. The eruptions become inflamed very quickly. In persons with existing acne, such eruptions occur much more rapidly and intensely than in non-acne-prone individuals—and the flare-up joins already diseased skin.
Want to reduce your iodide ingestion? Here is where it’s lurking in your diet.
Salt: Years ago nutritionists feared that the average American’s diet lacked adequate iodine, particularly in the Midwest, where less seafood is consumed. They wanted to reduce the incidence of goiter, an enlarged thyroid, which is a result of iodine deficiency. Therefore iodine was added to table salt. Since this “fortified” salt is used in all types of cooking and food preparation, there is a good likelihood of “iodide overload.” Only buy “plain salt” with no iodide.
Seafood: Kelp has very high levels of iodide. You should stay away from kelp totally. Watch for kelp as an additive to vitamin and mineral pills and certain health foods. The practice of sprinkling food with kelp, popular with some health-food advocates, is likely to be excessive. Seafood like shrimp, sole, red snapper, and shark have low amounts of iodide.
Vitamin and Mineral Pills and Food Supplements: This may be the biggest offender of all possible sources of iodine, and it’s something you can eliminate in quick order. If you take vitamin pills, look at the label. If they contain iodine or kelp, throw them out.
Separately, each source of iodine we have identified may be negligible. But add them all up and you may be getting enough to aggravate your acne. What can you do? Avoid iodized salt. Eat whole-grain bread. Be wary of foods, cosmetics and bath and body treatments containing kelp and sea salt. Avoid highly salted junk foods and processed foods. Discard vitamin and mineral pills with either iodine or kelp.
Food Containing Hormones
Any food containing high amounts of hormones or hormone-like substances can create a problem. New York dermatologist, Dr. Norman Orentreich, identifies peanut oil, corn oil, and wheat germ oil as containing high amounts of testosterone or dihydrotestosterone. Ingested male hormones can stimulate your sebaceous glands as do the hormones your body produces naturally.
Food does affect your skin, despite what doctors have told us. It is a fact that if I eat strawberries, I break out in little bumps all over my face. I have had hundreds of clients who are allergic to orange juice due to its high acid and high sugar content, and many “react” to caffeine in coffee and chocolate. And fats in fried foods like french fries, onion rings, and hamburgers.
In case you’ve been in denial or simply indifferent to statistics, you know that many Americans have notoriously unhealthy dietary habits, which make the country’s obesity rate so high (and embarrassing). We rush off to work or school without eating breakfast, and then stimulate our sluggish bodies with doses of caffeine through numerous cups of coffee. We continue stimulating our bodies with caffeine drinks, candy, and snacks. But the unhealthy diet not only adds pounds, it also places stress on our bodies—and invites acne. These bad dietary habits have the effect of artificially elevating hormone levels. Remember, increased hormone levels can aggravate your acne.
Be smart and follow these easy recommendations:
- Stay away from “white” substances like refined sugar and refined bleached flour.
- Start each day with a hearty old-fashioned breakfast, topped with fruit.
- Mid morning, have a substantial snack of cut up vegetables or a cold piece of chicken. At noon, eat large portions of steamed vegetables, fish, or poultry. Finish with fresh fruit.
- Keep fruit out where you can see it. Go for the low acid fruit like melons and apples.
- Get some vegetables every meal, every day. Try filling half your plate with vegetables.
- Explore the produce aisle and choose something new. Variety is the key to a healthy diet.
- Drink 1 to 2 quarts of water per day. Water removes toxins from the blood.
It’s hard to argue with the health benefits of a diet rich in vegetables and fruits: lower blood pressure; reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, and probably some cancers; lower risk of eye and digestive problems; and a mellowing effect on blood sugar that can help keep appetite in check.
Food and Beauty
Water: It’s crucial to achieving a flawless surface! It allows your organs to function more efficiently, as well as remove toxins and waste much faster. Drinking 8 glasses of water per day will get your skin looking plumper (note: the skin and not the face), clearer, and more hydrated!
Essential Fatty Acids: Although foods with the name “fatty” may not sound like they are good for you, they contain Omega-3 and 6, which help fight inflammation and sunburn—two major causes of premature aging. They also help your skin cells repair their natural barrier and increase cell production. Omega-3 and 6 are found in foods such as salmon, trout, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and flax seed.
Greens: Foods like spinach, kale, broccoli, and romaine all contain vitamins B, E, and C, as well as antioxidants that help fight off free radicals!
Green Tea: This may be the easiest way to ease into a healthier diet. Green tea is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that helps the overall health and appearance of your skin. It also contains polyphenols that strengthen and protect the cell membrane, and help reduce the risk of cancer.
Fruits for Beauty: Fruits like bananas and plums are not only high in antioxidants but they’re proven to repair damage to the skin’s cell membranes. So whether you suffer from acne, sun damage, or redness, eating a moderate amount of berries high in antioxidants will help repair your skin and fight off future damage. Watch out for strawberries and orange juice; they are very high in natural sugar and acid.
Potato, Tomato: Eating foods that are red and orange in color, such as sweet potato, tomato, and carrots, boosts your intake of beta-carotene and vitamin C. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A which helps overall hydration, collagen production, and strengthening of skin cells. Besides acne and scarring, the production of collagen is important to fight the aging process as well!
Foods that are Bad to the Bone
Any food high in fat, sodium, sugar, caffeine, dairy, and citric acid can cause excessive skin breakouts, sagging, and congestion. Eating processed and bleached foods (white flour, white sugar etc.) can also have a huge effect on the appearance and clarity of your skin. A good way to find out your “food triggers” is to do Food Boot Camp for your Skin for 7 days. Try cutting out these foods for 7 days; slowly re-introduce them into your diet one at a time and monitor any changes in your skin.
A great way to take the first steps is to begin with a (iodine free) multivitamin. Introducing a good multivitamin into your routine is ensures that your body receives all the necessary nutrients it needs. Many report feeling healthier, happier, and getting sick less often after introducing a multivitamin. I recommend “Juice Plus,” a whole food supplement, to help start you on a healthier routine and healthier you! I also recommend Secure Meal Protein Shakes by Andrew Lessman.”
For a full skin diet plan and more on the link between your diet and your skin, check out my book Under My Skin here.