Skin is the largest organ of the body and taking care of the skin should be an essential part of one’s healthcare routine. The skin needs the right balance of nutrients to carry out its essential function of acting as a barrier that protects the rest of the body from the environment. It is important to feed the skin well from the inside to help keep it looking, working and feeling good. Antioxidant-rich foods, well-balanced diet and a low stress environment are vital in having good skin health. One of the vastly seen skin disease in adolescents is acne. It is imperative to follow a hormonal acne diet to get rid of this condition.
It affects about 80-90% adolescents attaining pubertal age. Some of this acne also continues into adulthood leaving some kind of psychological and social impact. Acne, also called as acne vulgaris is a chronic skin condition that results from dead skin cells and sebum from the sebaceous glands.
It presents itself in the form of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and scarring. Acne are common in body parts which consists of higher density of sebaceous glands – especially on the face, back and chest. Some of these inflammatory acne lesions can cause permanent scarring.
Different Types of Acne
- Mild acne : These are tiny, few in number and non-inflammatory lesions
- Moderate acne : These are slightly bigger in size, are inflamed and painful, that can occasionally cause scarring
- Severe acne : These are highly inflammatory, big nodule like lesions that can cause scarring and are chronic in nature
Common Causes of Acne
The causes of acne are many. Genetic make-up of a person is one of the factors that determines the susceptibility to developing acne. Other factors include :
Acne are commonly seen in adolescents as sebum production from the sebaceous gland is at its peak during puberty due to a drastic shift in hormone levels and metabolism. During puberty, there is a surge in some hormone levels like androgen, which causes the sebaceous gland to enlarge and produce more sebum
Acne are also usually seen is women attaining menses and women with hormonal imbalances like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS); increased levels of male sex hormone – androgen
Bacterial infections like Cutibacterium acnes can cause development of acne. Increased growth of this organism on the skin can cause acne
Increased humidity and polluted air can cause acnes
Diet also influences the occurrence of these acnes. Consumption of large amounts of dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, cottage cheese can lead to development of acne as these products increase mucous production in the body which acts as a trigger for clogging the pores.
Also, a diet that is high in fat and refined sugars is a cause for acnes. Research has shown that diet containing milk and milk products stimulate the release of insulin and insulin like growth factor -1 (IGF-1), which further increase the production of androgen hormones, sebum and thereby, acne.
Cosmetic products like a greasy moisturizer, other make-up and skin care products can cause the pores to clog and increase the occurrence of acnes.
Stress can also trigger acne breakouts. This could be due to increase in the levels of hormones which lead to excess sebum production and thus, acne.
Since diet plays a significant role in stimulating acne breakouts, changing diet and lifestyle for the better can go a long way in preventing acne and reducing the severity of the existing ones.
Hormonal acne diet tips
Restricting dairy and gluten
It is believed that milk and other dairy products like paneer, cheese, butter etc, increase the production of insulin, a hormone in the body that is released by the pancreas. It increases insulin secretion and production of another hormone called Insulin Like Growth factor (IGF-1), which is one of the major triggers for hormonal acne breakouts.
Gluten is a protein derived from mainly wheat, when consumed in excess can give rise to inflammation in the body, which can cause acne. One must exclude Gluten products in their hormonal acne diet in order to reduce their symptoms.
Eating more plant based foods, reducing gluten consumption and replacing dairy with vegan options wherever feasible helps in reducing acne intensity and improve skin health overall.
Cutting down sugars
Consuming a diet rich in sugar and sugary products such as desserts, aerated drinks, chocolates, refined products, pastries, candies, bakery products can increase the levels of insulin and in turn increase the production of IGF-1, which leads to more acne.
They do so by hyperkeratinisation and increasing sebum production, which is a causative factor in causing acne. Hence, switching to high fiber, high protein and including natural, home cooked foods is a good alternative to sugar laden products, thus improving acne lesions
Including more vitamins and nutrients
Most of the raw fruits and vegetables contain plenty of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds, essential vitamins and minerals. The improve skin health by increasing cell regeneration, reducing inflammation and increasing collagen formation. Vitamin C, for example, increase collagen formation and acts as an antioxidant.
Consuming all different kinds of colourful and seasonal fruits and vegetables is one of the best natural ways to fight an acne problem. Zinc is a mineral that is involved in regeneration of cells, increasing immunity and also regulating hormonal imbalance.
Zinc sources include nuts like walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, flaxeeds, lentils. Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant that plays a great role in maintaining skin health and integrity. Including nuts like almonds, walnuts, avocados, vegetable oils, provide vitamin E.
Water is sometimes an under rated nutrient, that makes a lot of difference in overall health, especially in combating hormonal acne. Water helps in cleansing the entire body, flushes out environmental toxins and impurities out of the body. It helps in keeping the skin always hydrated and maintains skin texture.
Water consumption can be increased by including fluids like coconut water, lemon water, natural cold-pressed juices, smoothies, soups and buttermilk, apart from consuming plain water. To follow a strict hormonal acne diet, one must include plenty of fluids in their diet.
Keeping fat and oil to the minimum
Using large amounts of oil in the diet, fatty foods and deep fried foods can increase acne by increasing sebum production and creating an acidic environment in the body.
Stir frying, grilling, boiling, baking are some of the healthier alternatives to minimise oil consumption and thus reduce acne symptoms. Reducing fat and oil in your diet will help in reducing the symptoms of hormonal acne.
This is one of the fool proof ways to treat acne. Not only does exercise has multiple overall health benefits, but it also improves skin quality. Exercising releases something called as ‘endorphins’ which also known as ‘happy hormones’, that elevate mood, reduce stress and calms the body.
Exercise also causes removal of toxins from the body in the form of sweat. Indulging in exercise or physical activity of one’s choice on a regular basis can be a therapy in itself when dealing with acne problems
Probiotics are living organisms that promote gut health and immunity. A lot of research is emerging in relationship between gut health and possibility of developing acne. Including probiotic food sources such as curd, yoghurt, buttermilk can help in restoring the gut flora and thus improve skin health
Some vitamins have shown a protective effect against acne. For instance, Vitamin D deficiency can be one of the indirect, yet important causes of acne development. Research has shown that correcting vitamin D deficiency by supplementing it alleviated acne symptoms and improved skin and hair texture.
Some of the other supplements that can help in acne reduction include omega-3 containing fish oil supplement, multivitamin supplement (B complex vitamins), zinc and biotin supplements
Acne is a serious skin problem that can potentially leave psychological impact if severe. Following a proper hormonal acne diet will help in getting rid of its symptoms.
There are a number of options available to treat acne – both natural and chemical. One of the most important and natural ways to treat or prevent acne is to inculcate good eating habits and following a healthy lifestyle.
Consuming raw, plant-based foods, fruits and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, water and exercising on a daily basis is one of the best ways to improve skin health and keep acne at bay.
It takes about 8 to 10 weeks of eating clean to make a visible impact on acne lesions. Here, consistency is the key and although vitamin supplements are available, including the sources of these vitamins from the food and in natural ways is recommended.