Did you know that the Kitavans from Papua Guinea have no idea what acne is?
That’s right. No member of the Kitavan tribe has ever had to deal with even the tiniest pimple. They’re not the only primitive civilisation that goes from the cradle to old age without blemishes.
What makes them so lucky?! Here in the Western World, acne is like an act of initiation. You know you can’t escape it in your teens and, all too often, it plagues you long after that.
What do the Kitavans know we don’t? Scientists think the answer is their diet. Yep, the same people who for years swore that your diet couldn’t possibly cause acne are now swallowing back their words and admitting that yes, certain foods could trigger an outbreak.
Needless to say, the Kitavans diet is VERY different from the standard American diet. The tribe munches on leafy greens, coconut, fish, tropical fruits and, sometimes, pork. Those staples of the American diet - grains, processed sugar, diary and alcohol - are banished.
Cutting these foods out of your diet (or at least, eating them in moderation) could be the key to banishing acne for good. Here’s why:
Food To Avoid #1: Diary
We’ve long suspected that diary can trigger an acne outbreak, but now we have proof. New studies found that people who consume milk, cheese and other diary products are more at risk of getting acne. Milk, especially the skimmed kind, is the worst culprit.
But, wait! Wasn’t milk supposed to be good for you? Turns out, milk is loaded with hormones that help little calves grow into strong and healthy cows. These hormones are great for them, not so good for us.
I don’t want to get too scientific on you, so here’s the laywoman version. The hormones found in milk increase insulin and IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor I). This is bad because too much insulin triggers an overproduction of sebum.
You know where this is leading, right? Too much sebum clogs the pores. Clogged pores become inflamed. Inflammation leads to a brand new, big, red pimple. Let’s leave milk to calves, shall we?
Food To Avoid #2: Sugar
You already knew that chocolate chip cookies and soda drinks aren’t the best thing for your skin, but did you know that sugar hides in the most unsuspected of places? Grains and starchy vegetables, like potatoes, turn to sugar in the blood stream, too.
These foods have a high glycemic index, a fancy way of saying they cause your blood sugar level to spike up quickly. When this happens, your body is forced to produce more insulin to keep blood sugar levels in check.
Remember what insulin does to your skin? Too much insulin > excess oil production > clogged pores > acne.
The solution isn’t to cut out all sugar (and carbs). It’s about choosing foods that release sugar slowly so your body won’t have to produce more insulin that it needs to. Leafy green vegetables, blueberries, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and carrots are some tasty options to get your sugar and carbs fix without spiking your insulin levels.
When fed a low glycemic diet, your acne clears up. According to several scientific studies, this diet reduces acne count by 59% in only 12 weeks!
It’s not just the lack of insulin spikes that does the trick. A low glycemic diet also reduces the levels of androgens, pesky hormones that trigger oil production. When they behave, your skin does, too.
Food To Avoid #3: Too Many Omega-6
I’m sure you’ve heard of omega-6 and their cousins, omega-3. They’re essential fatty acids your that play a crucial role in the health of your skin. They keep your skin naturally moisturised, bulletproof it against bacteria and germs and reduce redness and inflammation.
Your body can’t produce these fatty acids. You MUST get them through food. Problem is, we’re getting way more omega-6 than omega-3. The ideal ration is 2-4:1, but on the Standard American Diet, that’s more likely to be 15:1!
Ration matters. A little omega-6 is good for skin. A lot of omega-6 interferes with the absorption of omega-3, causing all kinds of imbalances in the skin. An example? People who eat a lot of omega-6 have less linoleic acid in the skin. That’s the same fatty acids acne sufferers are deficient in. Are you starting to see the connection?
It gets worse. Omega-6 are pro-inflammatory. And guess what acne is? An inflammatory disease! Cutting down on omega-6 and upping your dose of omega-3 restores the balance and reduces the inflammation.
Let’s be clear: no one is suggesting you stop eating omega-6. That’s not a good idea. Your body needs them. But it’s crucial, especially if you’re dealing with acne, to get the balance back to a healthier 2-4:1 ratio. Here’s how:
Omega 6 foods to reduce:
- Cottonseed oil
- Vegetable oils
- Chia seeds
- Cod liver oil
- Fish (especially salmon, sardines and trout)
- Flaxseed oil
- Grass fed beed
- Hemp seeds