You never value clear skin until you develop a skin condition like acne.
For some people, even the most researched and thoughtful skin care routine can leave them with inflammation all over their face, neck, and back. From dermatologist visits to expensive creams, lotions and gels, there’s no limit to what we’ll do to calm the storm when acne strikes.
For some, a pimple here and there can become a little nuisance, but chronic acne leads to embarrassment and shame for others.
In this article, you will learn:
- What causes acne
- How insulin levels play an important role in balancing other hormones that cause acne.
- Benefits of a high-fat, low-carb diet for acne
- Some of the best foods and supplements to support healthy skin
Why do some people have acne (AKA acne vulgaris) and others are not due to a few factors, including:
Excess androgen hormones
Androgen hormones are classified as male sex hormones and are responsible for male hallmarks such as body hair and a low voice. Although androgens are considered “male” sex hormones, women still have androgenic hormones, albeit in smaller quantities.
Androgens are responsible for the production of sebum, the oily, waxy substance produced by the sebaceous glands. Sebaceous glands secrete sebum to lubricate your skin and protect it from moisture loss, but if you overdo it, it can clog your pores, leading to breakouts.[*].
Therefore, one of the most common causes of acne is excess androgen hormones. This is why during puberty, when hormones change naturally, many people experience acne breakouts. Also, for women with PCOS, a condition that results from excess androgens, acne is a common symptom.[*][*].
It was once believed that inflammation plays only a small role in the acne formation process. From a conventional perspective, bacteria might colonize the sebaceous follicle duct (also known as a follicle) in your skin, and the reaction from your immune system would trigger inflammation that leads to intolerance.
However, more research today points to the possibility that inflammation is already involved in all stages of acne-causing acne. In fact, some scientists believe that acne should be considered an inflammatory disease[*].
Regardless of whether inflammation is the cause of acne or plays a critical role in the formation of acne, it is clear that inflammation has a large role in this process.
Several studies have shown an association between high glycemic diets and acne formation. The current understanding is that a diet high in glycemia and rich in refined carbohydrates and sugar will cause your blood sugar to spike. When the blood sugar level rises, this causes the body to produce more fats and at the same time produce inflammation throughout the body.
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Insulin and insulin-like growth factor
Similar to a diet high in blood sugar, there may also be two hormones that help control blood sugar in the development of acne – insulin and insulin-like growth factor.
When blood sugar is high, insulin is released to transport the excess glucose from the blood into your cells. The problem is that excess insulin also increases levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and androgen hormones.[*].
Much like androgens, IGF-1 increases sebum production in your body, which paves the way for the development of acne. Moreover, IGF-1 can also initiate inflammation – which increases the likelihood that acne will develop[*].
There is one common thread that unites all of the above factors that contribute to acne, and that is the blood sugar level. And if there’s one thing that the keto diet undoubtedly does, it lowers blood sugar.
When you significantly reduce carbohydrates and your body starts relying on ketones instead, several pathways are activated to help you keep your skin clear; These include:
1. Low blood sugar
As mentioned earlier, spikes in blood sugar can pave the way for acne. However, researchers found that when patients with mild to moderate acne follow a low-glycemic diet, there is significant improvement in their skin health, including fewer acne lesions, smaller pores, and significantly reduced inflammation. Year.[*].
2. Androgen levels regulated
High androgen levels lead to excessive sebum production, which in turn clogs your pores and creates cracks on your skin.
Therefore, regulating androgen levels is vital to healthy skin.
Research shows that a high glycemic diet, which is rich in carbohydrates, increases androgen levels. Specifically, the presence of insulin appears to drive androgen synthesis. Of course, insulin is only present when there is glucose in the blood.
Simply put, the higher the glucose level, the more insulin there is, and the greater the androgen production.
While a high glycemic diet can prompt androgens to speed up, studies show that a low-glycemic diet, such as the keto diet, can lower it due to a lack of insulin.[*].
3. Reduces insulin and insulin-like growth factor
In addition to the androgen hormones, insulin also increases insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), another hormone that can increase fat production. Therefore, when you follow the keto diet, it is natural to reduce the two common causes of clogged pores.
As mentioned earlier, IGF-1 is also responsible for dermatitis, which may further aid the development of acne.[*]. Again, there is no insulin equal to any IGF-1 growth factor, thus there is no excessive secretion and inflammation.
4. Reduced inflammation
If inflammation is at the origin of acne, it makes sense to make sure your body’s inflammation is under control when trying to cleanse your skin.
Aside from the inflammation-reducing effects of a low-glycemic diet, the keto diet provides a more effective dose of anti-inflammatories due to the presence of ketone bodies.
Specifically, the most abundant ketone body, beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), has shown impressive anti-inflammatory behavior in several studies. In fact, research shows that when compared to a low-fat diet, a low-carb diet results in a significant reduction in inflammation.[*].
Aside from the benefits of blood sugar regulation and insulin reduction on a high-fat, low-carb keto diet, there are a few other keto-friendly foods and supplements that support skin health and protect against acne.
Omega-3 fatty acids
The Western diet is known to be highly inflammatory, containing large amounts of processed foods, low-quality meats, and cheap oils. One of the main factors behind inflammation is an imbalance between omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.
While our ancestors likely consumed a 1: 1 ratio of these fats, research today shows that our ratio is closer to 15: 1, with omega-6 consuming the vast majority of the polyunsaturated fats we eat.[*].
Omega-6 fats are associated with inflammation, while omega-3 fats are highly anti-inflammatory. Adding sources of omega-3 fats to your diet will help balance naturally occurring omega-6 fats and support inflammatory pathways. Some excellent sources of omega-3 include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, and supplements like krill oil, fish oil, and cod liver oil.[*].
Green tea, which is packed with the antioxidant polyphenols, is known for its many health benefits. However, the benefit of green tea that is often overlooked is its positive effect on skin health.
The polyphenols present in green tea are not only powerful antioxidants, but they also have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties that aid in achieving clear skin. In fact, research shows that when green tea is used topically, it can reduce sebum production and help treat acne.[*].
Drinking green tea may also help fight acne, but more research is needed at this time.
Turmeric, an ancient medicinal herb from India, possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and antioxidant properties. Research has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine, and research now shows that turmeric, the active compound curcumin, may support many conditions related to the skin, including acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis and photoaging.[*].
Due to the high demand, many companies have come up with turmeric supplements that you can just add to your routine. However, if you enjoy cooking, try adding turmeric to some of your dishes.
Bitter melon together treats acne from two angles – it limits the effect of insulin that produces sebum while simultaneously treating skin problems from its roots with its anti-inflammatory properties.
Bitter melon is a staple of many Asian cuisines, but it can be difficult to obtain in the West. With that being said, there are many bitter melon supplements, which may be the ideal way as this fruit is nearly inedible unless you know how to cook it.
You can buy the best skin cleanser you can find, but if you don’t put your diet in order, you’ll be fighting a fate when it comes to acne.
A balanced ketogenic diet rich in healthy fats, high-quality protein, and low-carb vegetables with no processed carbohydrates will get your hormones on the right track, so escaping will be a thing of the past.
Whether it’s insulin, IGF-1, or androgen hormones that increase sebum production and increase inflammation, the keto diet eliminates these imbalances in the roots.
Moreover, acne medications can come with a lot of unwanted side effects, so if you suffer from severe acne, getting your body into ketosis may be the way to go.