A guide to controlling acne through diet

Almost everyone experiences an occasional flare-up of acne, but it is most prevalent during adolescence, afflicting 85 percent of teenagers to some degree. Hormones are responsible for most cases of acne.Some people believe that eating foods like chocolate, French fries and other high-fat favourites can lead to acne or make it worse. Food does not cause acne, dermatologists stress, but eating a healthy, balanced diet is vitally important for great-looking skin.

A guide to controlling acne through diet

What can cause acne

  • Heredity is suspected in some cases of severe acne.
  • A number of medications can also cause acne; major offenders include steroids and other hormonal agents, iodine preparations, lithium and anticonvulsants.
  • Stress often triggers a flare-up of acne, most likely by altering hormone levels. In turn, hormonal changes can stimulate food cravings. Consequently, the acne sufferer may erroneously attribute the acne to food, rather than stress, the real culprit.

Can diet cause acne?

Diet and other lifestyle factors, including cleanliness and sexual activity, do not cause acne.

  • In rare instances, sensivity to food may exacerbate existing acne, but food does not actually cause it.
  • An exception is kelp, a seaweed that can cause severe cystic acne. Iodized salt can also provoke an acne flare-up.
  • If you think your acne is a result of a food sensitivity, try eliminating suspect foods from your diet for several weeks. Then, add them back to see if your skin is affected.

How food can help

Clear, glowing skin reflects overall good health. This requires regular exercise, adequate sleep, quitting smoking and avoiding excessive exposure to the sun, as well as a diet rich in some important nutrients.

  • Eat vitamin A- and C-rich foods. They help build and maintain healthy skin. There is some evidence that beta carotene, which is converted by the body into vitamin A, may reduce sebum production.
  • The best dietary sources of beta carotene are brightly coloured fruits and dark green vegetables.
  • Citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, melons, peppers, broccoli, cabbage and potatoes are especially rich in vitamin C.
  • Include B6 which is found in meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, beans, lentils, avocados, nuts, potatoes, bananas and leafy greens. It may reduce acne by helping to regulate hormones implicated in the development of acne lesions.
  • Don't forget zinc. Some studies link this mineral to skin health and claim it may help to improve acne. Zinc promotes healthy hormone levels and advances healing.
  • Seafood — especially oysters — red meat, poultry, yogurt, milk and whole grains are rich in zinc.
  • Do not attempt to self-treat acne with high-dose vitamin and mineral supplements; this might worsen the condition. Some studies show that high doses of vitamins B6 and B12 can aggravate acne symptoms, and high doses of vitamin A can cause dry, flaking skin and hair loss. Excessive intake of vitamin A has also been linked with the risk of osteoporosis.

Skin care

Good nutrition is the first line of defense. Most persistent mild to moderate acne can be controlled with ­proper skin care, good nutrition and nonprescription drugs, such as 2.5 to 10 percent strength benzoyl peroxide gel, lotion or ointment.

  • A dermatologist may prescribe tretinoin, a topical medication derived from vitamin A; anantibiotic may also be tried.
  • Isotretinoin, a potent oral drug, is reserved for severe cystic acne. Since it can cause severe birth defects, women taking this medication should be counseled to use multiple methods of birth control.
  • "Chloracne" is a well-recognized clinical sign of exposure to certain chemicals, like dioxins. Steroids, and the use of the drug Ecstasy, have also been linked with acne like skin rashes.

Ultimately, acne is a common problem that can often be treated with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Consider this guide and contact your dermatologist for more information and treatment options.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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