Nutrition and the Skin
Foods That Influence Hormone Levels
by Andrea Gregaydis
Hormonal acne occurs at any point in time when there are fluctuations in our hormones. Anything from flareups during menstrual cycles to changes in the skin from birth control or pregnancy. The one common factor with all of this is Hormones! Anyone can be affected but women, specifically between the ages of 20-40 often suffer from this condition the most. I hear all the time from clients “I thought I was too old for breakouts.” The fact of the matter is, as long as you have hormone fluctuations, you have the potential for hormonal acne. We know that we can’t completely control our hormones, but what we can control are things that we “feed” the acne, specifically specific foods, that may have an influence on acne itself.
Food and Acne
There may not be any direct link regarding diet and skin health, but knowing that the skin is the largest organ of the body, we know it takes the brunt of our nutritional choices. I, however, know once I incorporate foods specifically full of vitamins and minerals, my skin almost instantly looks clearer. The same goes for water. Once your entire body is hydrated, your skin just seems to be a little bit happier. Clear skin doesn’t just come from professional products, but from everything in your body and environment. Knowing exactly what you are eating and understanding how it affects your skin may be a big step in helping with hormonal acne.
Sugars and Carbohydrates
Oh sugar, how on earth can sugar be bad!? It makes you happy, maybe gives you energy or even calms you down. But within your body, especially in excess, it can wreak havoc and cause inflammation. Inflammation causes redness, swelling and stress on the skin. Inflammation is a natural response that tells the body that something is wrong and provokes an immune response. If the reaction of inflammation is chronic and our immune cells are constantly working, this can cause more harm than good. This type of immune response can greatly affect your overall skin tone and texture. High blood sugar levels have been shown to reduce the amount of skin protecting antioxidants in our bodies. Carbohydrates, specifically refined carbs, are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, causing a spike in the body’s insulin levels. Insulin increases the activity of androgen. We know androgen is directly and heavily linked to acne and sebum levels. There is an absolute need for carbohydrates in our body. However, they provide us with a source of concentrated energy. Choosing the best sources of carbs, ones which come from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, may help with an improvement in overall acne.
Gluten is a protein used in some breads and other specific types of processed foods. Gluten can affect certain hormones and cause inflammation in those who are allergic to it. Gluten allergies may not just be a pain for your intestines, but for your skin as well. When someone who suffers from a gluten allergy consumes gluten, their body sees it as a foreign substance, triggering inflammation. You may not know or understand gluten allergies right away, but if your body is giving you warning signs after you consume it, you may want to pay attention to it!
Glycemic Index: What is it?
If you are someone who loves carbs, which really who doesn’t, it may be worth understanding them and knowing not all carbs are to be treated equally. This is where understanding the glycemic index will play a role in your food choices. It is a helpful guide that indicates how quickly blood glucose and insulin levels show up in the blood immediately after digesting carbs. Different carbs result in varying glycemic index responses. Foods that cause a quick rise in blood glucose have a higher glycemic value. There is research showing food that is absorbed more slowly has the least impact on blood sugar levels. The more natural and unprocessed a food is, the lower the glycemic index value. Fruits that are lower on the glycemic index list, such as blueberries, have a higher amount of antioxidant properties!
Once I was old enough to decide what I wanted to consume, milk was one of the first things to go out of my life. So, I have very little experience with how it may affect hormonal acne personally. There has been some research that shows a correlation between acne and dairy consumption, especially skim milk. When you think of dairy, specifically milk, the first things that may come to mind are hormones! Milk has testosterone in it, which is an androgen hormone. This hormone stimulates sebaceous glands. An over production of oil can plug oil glands and increase breakouts. It’s not to say you have to cut out dairy or avoid dairy during fluctuations of hormones, however it may be worth a try if you find yourself to be a lover of all things dairy. If you decide to go this route, consider the nutritional benefits milk has such as high calcium and vitamin D levels, and adjust your diet accordingly to find foods that will supplement those for you.
Understanding It All
There is not enough research to specifically understand or state what exactly the link is between food and acne. We do know that high amounts of sugar, carbs, dairy, and any other food you consume can cause a quick spike in insulin levels. These levels do and can have a great impact on your hormone levels. When trying to control, understand and even make changes to your skin care or acne maintenance routine, it’s important not to change it all at once. Just like adding or taking away skin care products to see which one is or isn’t working, we should do the same with food. If you completely overhaul your pantry and take away all the thing you may find “bad,” you could be missing out on enjoying the things you truly love! It may be a matter of just a shift in how much of each thing your are consuming, how often and when. Unless you are a dietitian, we cannot necessarily create a diet for our clients. What we can do is research and educate ourselves on anything that may have an impact on skin!
People will spend hundreds of dollars on the latest and greatest trends with skin care and makeup; the newest ingredients on the market or what the celebrities are endorsing now a days. While it is imperative to use the best possible products for your own specific skin types and conditions, they have zero impact on hormones and hormonal acne. We must understand and explain to our client the importance of taking care of ourselves as a whole, so our skin will be much happier for it. Keep in mind that acne is not something that occurs overnight, although sometimes it seems that way. There is no quick fix to clearing it up. Start small and go from there. Make sure to give the skin several weeks once coming off or changing a specific part of your diet. If something seems to be working, stick with it. If not, try the next thing and go from there!