Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine.” Simply put, our diet has a profound effect on our health, both in terms of treating and preventing conditions. Acne is no different. This skin condition which affects around 85% of people around the globe, has been linked to how good our diet and digestion is. People who tend to have a “leakier” gut are more prone to having skin conditions such as acne.
Research studies found that the gut-skin connection is based on the health of the microbiome, the community of good bacteria living in our intestines that help digest and absorb food efficiently. Our gut bacteria are thought of as tiny soldiers that protect the barrier of the gut lining. When these soldiers are disturbed, toxins can leak through the gut and are deposited on the skin. This often contributes to acne.
These soldiers also support immune function through the nutrients that are digested and absorbed from the food we eat. Stimulating the immune system through having a strong digestive system can help reduce inflammation of the skin.
Diet is not a word I am fond of. As a naturopathic doctor, I am an advocate of making sustainable and healthy food choices to support one’s skin health. Through making these choices we can heal the inflammation in our skin and strengthen our gut. Here are four food choices that you may want to include to prevent and heal acne.
- Eat fiber-rich foods: Fiber is important because it serves as nutrition for the good bacteria in our gut. While many foods contain fiber, it is important to add fiber-rich vegetables to the diet. Eating vegetables as a source of fiber allows us to get the important micronutrients as well that can reduce inflammation of the skin and support digestive health. An easy way to add fiber to our diet is to eat at least 1 cup of vegetables with every meal.
- Avoid inflammatory foods: Many foods can contribute to the ongoing inflammation in our body that accompanies acne. These foods also destroy the gut bacteria and perpetuate the ‘leaky gut’ syndrome. It is best to avoid inflammatory foods to preserve our skin and gut integrity. While there are many foods that can cause inflammation, the main inflammatory foods to avoid include:
- Processed sugars
- Eat fermented foods: Sometimes, our gut is exposed to food or medication that can damage the microbiome. When that happens, it is important to replenish the good bacteria to support skin health. Good bacteria can also be found in a variety of probiotic rich, fermented foods. Although the dosage of probiotics found in supplements is much higher than that found in foods, adding fermented foods to one’s diet can help in supporting the gut and skin microbiome. A good dose of probiotics can be found in many fermented foods such as:
- Sauer Kraut
- Eat foods rich in Omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids aka the good kind of fats, are extremely important for skin health. Having an adequate amount of omega-3 in your diet causes a reduction in inflammation, a balance in skin oils and prevents dry skin. The best food source for omega-3 fatty acids is fish, especially the cold-water fatty fishes such tuna, sardines and salmon. Other sources of omega-3 include:
- Nuts – such as walnuts
- Seeds – such as chia seeds and flax seeds
- Soybean (non-GMO)