The other morning, I was discussing the impact of diet (sugar in particular) on the health of your skin with a patient of mine. She was shocked that I so firmly believe that what you eat impacts your appearance because her dermatologist had told her for years that there was no connection. Unfortunately, this myth has survived for far too long. Your diet and lifestyle are the foundation on which your health is built, including the health and radiance of your skin.
One of the foods that has the greatest impact on your skin is sugar. The two greatest contributors to acne are hormones and inflammation. Hormones cause an increase in sebum (oil) production and skin cell growth leading to an accumulation of sticky, thick sebum and dead skin cells within the pores. Inflammation promotes bacterial growth within those pores. Sugar has it’s sticky fingers in both of these processes and can ruin your skin in 3 ways.
- Aggravates hormonal imbalances
Most cases of acne are hormonal to some degree. Acne-prone skin is sensitive to androgens (male sex hormones) – androgens stimulate sebum production and skin cell growth. When you eat sugar and your blood glucose rises. In response, your pancreas produces insulin to stimulate uptake of that sugar by the cells. Elevated insulin levels increase IGF-1…IGF? WTF? Higher values of IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor) are associated with more severe acne, oilier skin and larger more visible pores.
- Drives inflammation
Multiple studies have shown that individuals with acne have higher levels of inflammation. Sugar increases inflammation dramatically. One study showed that a single can of pop/soda per day for 3 weeks increased inflammation levels by 87% (2 cans per day led to an increase of 105%). Systemic inflammation increases redness, cystic blemishes and the risk of scarring from acne.
- Disrupts gut bacteria
Excess sugar consumption alters gut bacteria by promoting the overgrowth of pathogenic (AKA bad) bacteria. This disrupted balance leads to an increase in inflammation and an exacerbation of acne and other skin conditions.
Sugar definitely contributes to acne…now that doesn’t mean you have to avoid sugar like the plague, the occasional treat is not something to stress out about but expect trouble if you indulge too frequently.
If you are struggling with acne and aren’t sure how to change your diet to support the health and appearance of your skin, come see me at the Integrative Health Institute so we can create a customized plan based on a comprehensive assessment of your skin concerns.
Have a beautiful day!