By Dr. Jennifer Haley
Acne in adult women is becoming more common, and I think it is an excellent idea to address other ways to treat acne besides traditional acne medications. Typically, adult acne presents with very tender, deep pimples around the chin and jaw that take forever to resolve. These deep lesions cannot be picked and all this does is cause the area to become more inflamed and resolve with a brown, scarred area.
While food allergies do not typically present this way, there is growing evidence that the types of foods we choose, along with other factors, may influence the severity of these breakouts. Years ago, when I was a resident, we were taught that food had no impact on acne. After practicing quite a few years and listening to my patients, it seemed more and more clear that sugar binges definitely caused breakouts in patients whose acne was previously well-controlled. Also, our food sources have changed dramatically over the last 30 to 40 years, which is one of the reasons why we are now seeing more adult acne.
In general, acne has a number of causes: hormones, inflammation, clogging of the pores, and bacteria. Anything that can worsen one of these factors will predispose you to breakouts.
Choose low-glycemic, unprocessed foods. The glycemic index measures how fast your blood sugar rises after eating a certain food. The more rapidly a food is converted into glucose, the more insulin is secreted into the blood. Eating lower glycemic foods will help reduce the number and severity of acne breakouts by helping hormones to stay balanced and reducing inflammation. In African populations that consume a low-glycemic, plant-based diet, acne is rarely seen, even in teenagers.
Avoid dairy. Dairy products tend to cause inflammation and throw off hormone balance. Good substitutes are almond, coconut and flax milk. Choose the unsweetened varieties. Some people can tolerate small amounts of dairy or in different varieties (i.e., cottage cheese or unsweetened yogurt).
Choose organic. Pesticides are also endocrine disruptors and throw off the delicate balance of hormones in the body, causing many problems including acne. Grass-fed beef is a necessity, as the nutritional value and omega-3 percentage is so much higher.
Drink enough water so that your urine is clear. Water flushes out toxins and hydrates your skin from the inside out.
15-30 milligrams of zinc daily may help reduce acne. Be careful not to take too much, as zinc can displace iron and copper from the body. Zinc reduces inflammation and in some studies proved to be as effective as oral antibiotics.
Control stress. If you can’t change your situation, you can always choose to change how you perceive and handle it. Positive thinking, deep breathing and getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep nightly are key. Stress causes the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroids, which can cause acne.
Choose glass over plastic all the time. Many plastics (even BPA-free) leach out hormone-like chemicals into your food and water.
Give these changes at least three months to work, as flushing out toxins and rebalancing hormones naturally takes time. While you may see improvement quicker, be patient and know that you are improving your health in so many ways by reducing inflammation.