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Food That Triggers Acne

Food That Triggers Acne Food That Triggers Acne Food That Triggers Acne


Acne is caused by overproduction of sebum--an oily substance--by sebaceous glands that lie under the skin, other irritants and bacteria. Excess amounts of sebum or other irritants accumulate and block hair pores of the skin. Bacteria then infect the cells and tissues that block the pore. Foods or substances that cause irritation or inflammation, increase bacteria or boost production of sebum can trigger acne. While research results are mixed, there are many clinical reports and well designed studies that support the contention that food can trigger acne. In general, foods to avoid include dairy products, processed foods, fatty and fried foods, meat and sugar.

High Glycemic Index Foods and Acne

The glycemic index (GI) is a food rating system developed to measure how quickly foods affect blood sugar levels. High GI foods can induce a condition called glycemia in the short run, and with chronic consumption can enhance the likelihood of obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. Several studies, including a December 2002 report in the Archives of Dermatology, described at, suggest that high GI foods can also enhance the risk of acne. High GI foods induce the release of insulin, which then triggers a hormonal cascade culminating in the release of testosterone which triggers overproduction of sebum, an oil that blocks the pores and triggers acne. In addition to this, sugars and high GI foods impair immune system functioning, which further exacerbates infection and inflammation problems associated with acne.

High GI Foods

High GI foods that can trigger acne include processed grains such as white bread, biscuits and cake; simple carbohydrates such as sugar, fructose, corn syrup and other sweeteners;and processed breads, cereals and carbohydrates. Many sweets, junk and snack foods, contain sugars that are quickly metabolized into blood sugar.

Dairy and Other Food Allergies

Acne can be caused by food allergies. The immune system detects the allergen---the food you are allergic to---and attacks it as if it were an invading organism. This misguided protective response by the body results in various reactions including, for some people, acne. According to Phyllis Balch in "Prescription for Nutritional Healing,"many people have intolerances or allergies to dairy products. Dairy products to be avoided include milk, butter, cheese, chocolate, cream, eggs and margarine.

Fat and Heavy Oils

Foods that contain trans-fatty acids are thought to contribute to subcutaneous oil, and to stimulate fatty acids and other irritants under the skin's oil glands and hair follicles. Foods to avoid include fatty foods such as milk, milk products such as cheese, sour cream, and ice cream, fried foods, margarine, shortening, synthetically hydrogenated vegetable oils and fried foods. Cross cultural studies have identified a lower prevalence of acne in cultures that use thin oils. For example, as reported at, Koreans, Italians, Japanese and Eskimos use light oils such as olive oil, fish oils and peanut oil, and these cultures also have a lower incidence of acne.

Foods with High Levels of Iodine

Iodine is reported to exacerbate acne. Processed foods contain high levels of iodine (from the salt), and should be avoided. Other foods that contain iodine include fast foods, iodized salt, dairy products, egg yolks, chocolate, seafood, kelp, dried fruit, commercial bakery products and onions.

Further Foods to Avoid

Although research is thin, other foods and substances such as alcohol, coffee, soda, cocoa, meat, poultry and soft drinks are also thought to trigger or exacerbate acne. For example, it is thought that meat contains hormone or hormone-like substances that trigger hormonal responses including testosterone, which then increases sebum production. Likewise, foods that contain caffeine or other stimulants such as coffee, chocolate, cocoa or caffeinated soda are thought to stimulate hormonal responses that trigger the release of sebum. Alcohol, as well as chocolate, fried food and refined sugar are thought to contribute to an acidic internal environment that may foster acne.

Elimination Diet

If you suspect that certain foods may contribute to your acne, try an elimination diet. Eliminate these foods from your diet for a month; observe the progress of your acne. One by one, add the food back into your diet while observing the status of your acne.

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