Published February 18, 2014
We’ve been taught to believe that bad skin occurs due to raging hormones during the teenage years, but many adults struggle with skin problems as well. Eczema, rosacea, dry skin and recurrent rashes are common skin conditions that stay with us throughout our lives and unless we uncover the real cause, lotions and potions will only keep them away temporarily.
Inflammation and hormonal fluctuations due to diet can cause some of these unwanted skin reactions. While it may be challenging to commit to long-term dietary changes, finding the right diet can help you achieve clearer, brighter skin that will last a lifetime.
A study published in Cutaneous Medicine for the Practitioner revealed that the consumption of nuts, fried foods and potato chips increases the risk of acne. The study also showed evidence of a strong association between acne, a diet rich in foods with a high glycemic load (white breads, pasta, cakes etc.) and the increase in the proportion of refined sugars in the Western diet.
Foods high in sugar and added hormones, such dairy, have been shown to clog pores. Choosing plain, organic dairy can make a difference. White table salt is another culprit that causes tissue to swell and makes your skin look puffy and unhealthy. Even worse, iodized salt has been shown to aggravate acne. Always read labels on pre-packaged foods to check their sodium content.
Many people have seen their skin troubles disappear by cleaning up their diets and avoiding their triggers. There is no one diet to help clear up everyone’s skin and finding your specific trigger can take some time. Not all food sensitivities show up in blood or skin tests, so the best way to figure out which foods are bothering you is to banish them from your diet for a period of time, usually three to six weeks, and see if you notice a difference in your skin.
Along with eliminating trigger foods it is also important to get the right vitamins in your diet. A study published by the National Institutes of Health suggests that acne-sufferers tend to have lower levels of zinc and vitamins A and E compared to those with clear skin. Carrots, butternut squash, dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes are great sources of vitamin A. And almonds, olives, sunflower seeds and dried apricots can provide vitamin E, while grass-fed beef, spinach and pumpkin seeds all contain zinc.
Underlying inflammation is thought to contribute to skin issues such as rosacea, eczema and stubborn rashes. Switching from a diet high in processed foods to an anti-inflammatory diet can make a dramatic difference in the appearance of skin. An easy way to reduce inflammation is through a diet rich in essential fatty acids. The best places to find these healthy fats are in cold-water fish such as wild salmon and herring, organic coconut oil, walnuts, Brazil nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and sea vegetables.
Antioxidant rich foods are also important to a skin-clearing diet. Free radicals, such as those formed by sun exposure, are thought to damage the outer layer of the skin but an antioxidant rich diet can help protect against the damage and help guard against premature aging. Blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and plums have some of the highest levels of antioxidants so make these a part of your daily diet. Choosing organic will also help reduce your consumption of pesticides.
Since hormones also play an important role in the health of our skin, stress-reducing activities should be combined with a skin-clearing diet in order to reap the best benefits. Activities such as yoga, meditation, visualization, deep breathing and even regular exercise can help reduce everyday stress, which in turn reduce the hormones that worsen conditions such as eczema, rosacea and acne.