What foods cause spots?

Student Herbalist, Reflexologist, Yoga Teacher, Writer & Product Trainer

21 February 2021

What’s making my skin breakout?

Spots appear when small glands under the skin become clogged with a mix of sebum (a fancy word for oil) and bacteria or dead skin cells. Excess oil or sebum can lead to clogging of the skin's pores. Certain foods can lead to this over-production of oil, and other foods act as inflammatory aggravators in different ways.

Some foods that have been identified as triggers or aggravators for acne are:

  • High glycaemic index foods
  • Dairy products
  • Whey protein
  • Foods high in processed fats

High glycaemic index foods

High glycaemic index foods are carbohydrate foods that are broken down quickly by your body and cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. High GI foods include obviously sugary items like sweets, chocolate and fizzy drinks. But they also include white bread and white flour products, potatoes and white rice.

A hormone called insulin is produced by the pancreas every time we eat; but more insulin is produced when we eat foods like these that are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. When a lot of these foods are consumed, insulin levels in the bloodstream go up. The reason this impacts our skin health is that the rise in insulin causes oil production to increase.

Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) stimulates oil glands and also leads to higher testosterone and androstenedione. Both of these hormones can stimulate oil production too. Remember how I mentioned excess oil can lead to clogging of the skin's pores and ultimately spots? Eating one cupcake or cookie doesn't mean a spot will suddenly appear on your chin, but a diet that increases insulin, and thus sebum levels over time, can create an environment where unwanted spots will start cropping up.

Dairy products

Certain studies show that there is a link between acne and dairy consumption. Insulin-like Growth Factor is found in milk, and possibly more so in fat-reduced dairy products (with their higher lactose content!). As I mentioned above, insulin-like growth factor stimulates oil glands and leads to higher levels of hormones that stimulate oil production too –all bad news for acne sufferers.

Whey Protein

There have been reports of teenagers developing treatment-resistant acne after starting whey protein supplements. While further research is needed into this, plant-based sources of protein may be safer for skin if protein supplementation is required.

Foods high in processed fats

Fats are not all made the same: there are many different types of fats. Some are wonderful for your skin; and others, not so good.

Trans fats are often seen as the worst type of fat. In fact, there are two types of trans fats – naturally occurring trans fats and artificial trans fats (or trans fatty acids). There are not many sources of naturally occurring trans fats, though meat and dairy products may contain very small amounts.

More common, however, are artificial trans fatty acids, which are the product of an industrial process which hardens the fat to make it more solid. Trans fats are used often in fast food, snack food, fried food and baked goods, and are thought to inflame and aggravate acne.

On the other hand, omega-3 fats have a really positive impact on the health of our skin and should be included in the diet by eating oily fish, nuts and seeds, as well as unheated plant oils.

A lot of people don't digest fats very well. After eating a fatty meal, you might feel nauseous and sluggish. This indicates that you are struggling to process the fats from your food. We need very strong gastric secretions to make sure we are able to get the best out of the fats we eat. If not, our skin won't get the benefit and our digestion can get backed up too. A sluggish bowel is linked with acne, especially breakouts around the jawline and chin. Making sure you are digesting and absorbing all the food you take in is very important for clear, healthy skin.

If you need help with a sluggish digestion, a bitter herbal remedy like Digestisan taken before meals can ease symptoms of fullness, bloating and digestive discomfort.

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What should I eat to avoid pimples?

A varied diet, rich in whole, fresh foods and low in highly-processed food, will go a long way towards healing your skin and keeping it healthy.

Your skin thrives when you nourish it. So, fill up on all the nutrients it loves. Zinc, beta carotene, and essential fatty acids are really important for skin health. You will get lots of these nutrients if you eat a variety of fresh fruit, veggies, and the type of oil found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados.

If you concentrate on adding nutritious foods to your diet, you won't have any room for cakes, biscuits and overly processed stuff. Here are some things you should stock up so there is no room left on the shelf for junk food that won't do your skin any good:

  • A variety of fresh vegetables and fruit
  • Wholegrains – wholemeal pasta, rice and bread instead of the white flour options
  • Plant oils – flaxseed or avocado oil
  • Prebiotic foods – chicory, artichoke, Molkosan drink – these will help support gut bacteria, which enhances good metabolism of sugar and starch in your gut
  • Probiotic foods – sauerkraut, kimchi, miso
  • If you suspect you're sensitive to dairy you might want to consider plant-based dairy alternatives. If you want to include dairy in your diet, choose the highest quality, organic, grass-fed option.
  • Bitter foods – rocket leaves, dandelion greens, cruciferous vegetables, bitter foods help stimulate gastric secretions to keep your digestion working efficiently. Include bitter foods regularly in your diet, as well as bitter herbal tinctures before meals.

My Self-care tip: Clear skin smoothie

Have a look at my self-care video to see what I put in my clear skin smoothie.









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