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Diet and Acne



Acne is caused by the effects of your hormones on the skin and bacteria in your oil glands.  The hormones involved are the so called “male hormones”. 


These are the hormones that are responsible for stimulating muscle growth and development of body and facial hair among other things.  They also cause your skin to change from dry, thin, sensitive baby skin to oilier, thicker, tougher adult skin.  These hormones usually increase in puberty, and remain elevated until early adulthood.


Bacteria are present in all your oil glands.  When these oil glands become more active in puberty, bacteria grow in greater numbers and can cause irritation which then leads to your pores becoming clogged.  This is what causes acne.


Two things in your diet may make your acne worse.  Food that has a high glycemic index may cause greater insulin production in your body.  This in turn may raise the production of male hormones.  High glycemic index means that a food will be converted to sugar in your blood quickly.  This is true of many processed and starchy foods, for example, pop, juices, candies, cookies, chips and french fries.  As little as 10 grams a day of fructose (what you would get in 2/3 of a can of pop) may be enough to cause an increase in your male hormones.  Less processed foods, like whole grains, vegetables and raw fruit have a lower glycemic index.  Eating more of these and less sweet or starchy “junk food” may improve your acne slightly.


Dairy products may also cause a slight worsening of your acne.  It is possible that some proteins in milk may increase male hormone production.  Dairy products include not only milk, butter, cheese and yogurt, but also many processed foods that contain whey (the protein portion of milk).  This includes many protein supplements used in body-building.  If you want to avoid dairy for any reason, you must find another source of calcium.


Diet will likely not make a huge difference in your acne.  It is better not to go to extremes in any direction.  Try to eat a wide variety of foods with as many vegetables and raw fruit as you can.  Include fish in your diet at least two times a week.  If you need to snack between meals, try raw fruit instead of packaged treats.

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