If you’re like most of us humans, then you’ve probably dealt with acne at some point in your life. It plagues millions of people, from their teen years and even well into adulthood. In some cases, acne cannot be prevented; it is simply something that comes with maturation, puberty, and even poor genetics. However, if you’re acne is severe, or persists even after puberty is long gone, then there may be some other underlying issue at work. Oftentimes, this underlying issue is a poor diet.
If you are struggling with acne, I know exactly how you feel. I developed this skin condition at a very young age; around fourth or fifth grade. I was the only one in my class who had it, and I received lots of unbridled questions regarding the strange bumps that were consuming my entire face. I thought that perhaps since I had developed it at such a young age, it would resolve itself at a young age, and I would thereafter be blessed with pure, pristine skin.
I was wrong.
My acne continued to worsen well into my sophomore year of high school. Not only did I suffer from severe whiteheads and papules, but I also developed cystic acne. This type of acne generally develops under the skin, and results in painful, inflamed, red lumps that may or may not come to a head on the surface of the skin. After developing these all over the lower half of my face, I decided to take action; so I went to the doctor and was prescribed Bactrim. Over the course of the first week of taking it, I began developing some troubling symptoms: shortness of breath, terrible heartburn and dizziness. On the final night of taking the medication, I awoke in the middle of the night unable to breath. So, obviously, I stopped taking it. I continued using the topical prescription the doctor had given me, which did help the acne a little, but it resulted in extremely dry, peeling skin all over my face. Needless to say, I was not in my prime during this time.
When the ointment began causing my harm then good, I stopped taking that too. It was around this time that my diet changed dramatically. It was as if a light bulb went off in my head, and I suddenly realized the error of my ways. I, like so many other teens, had been eating a horrible diet. I consumed copious amounts of processed, oily foods, I didn’t drink enough water, and I rarely ate fruits and veggies. I was lacking nutrients I didn’t even know existed. So, in the course of one day, I decided to change all of this, and transition to a much healthier diet. I also transitioned to vegetarianism at this time. After a couple weeks of eating like this, my skin cleared up immensely. The cystic acne was gone, and I only had two or three pimples at a time on most days. However, I still suffered some pretty severe breakouts occasionally. At the time, I didn’t understand what was causing it; I chalked it up to bad genetics and hormones. And, to be fair, some of it was probably caused by these. However, it wasn’t until the year after I graduated high school that I learned the real, primary cause of my acne.
In this year, I cut out all animal products; meat, dairy, honey, gelatin, and anything that involved animals in any way during the process of creating the food. I became a vegan in every aspect of life, and within a couple of weeks my skin was nearly clear. After a few months of no breakouts, I decided to do some research; I still didn’t understand how my previous diet had been so tightly linked to my acne. I then learned that dairy, namely milk, contains over 60 hormones that are known to cause acne. Even organic, grass fed varieties of milk have these hormones. Even worse, the lactose in milk can spike insulin levels, which not only causes acne, but can also contribute to prediabetes; to me, this in itself seemed like a good enough reason to cut out dairy products.
But dairy wasn’t the only thing that I stopped consuming when I changed my diet. I also decided to stop using oil during cooking, and to stop consuming foods that contained saturated and trans-fats, as all of these contribute to inflammation and acne. They’re also terrible for the rest of your body as well, so they too seemed like they needed to go.
Today, although my skin is virtually clear of acne, I still take precautions by eating lots of whole foods that have been proven to help acne. Some of these include dark greens, like kale, berries, ginger and turmeric, among others. In general, if you’re eating a wholesome, well-rounded, plant-based diet combined with lots of water, your skin is going to thrive!
Below is a list of dietary changes you can make to combat acne, as well a variety of other diseases:
Cut out all dairy products. The hormones and lactose in dairy are directly correlated with an increase in acne.
Increase your water intake. This helps clear toxins out of your body, and helps keep skin hydrated.
Decrease your intake if oils. Oils and fatty foods cause an increase and inflammation and acne.
Consume a variety of plant foods known to help treat acne. Some of these include kale, spinach, red and blue berries, and beets.
Help your body detoxify naturally. Along with an increase in water, certain foods help purge your body of toxins that have been linked to acne. Some of these include ginger, lemon, green tea, cucumber and lime. All of these aide your digestive system in clearing waste from your body efficiently.
Pay attention to your poop. If you suffer from acne and you notice that you are straining to go to the bathroom, or that you don’t go frequently enough, then there is probably a dietary issue at work. Try increasing your water and consuming the detoxifying foods listed above, and you should notice a decrease in each of these issues.