Acne, pimples and spontaneous, untimely blemish breakouts plague us all from time-to-time.
The general consensus is that occasional bouts of skin trauma are completely natural; that it’s all hormones and there’s just nothing we can do about it.
The truth of the matter is this: acne is not natural. It shouldn’t occur and is your body’s way of signaling to you that something you’re doing is causing it harm.
We only need to look at the glowing complexions of our ancestors to conclude that acne is a product of our lifestyle and not our genome.
The Sentinelese, Brazilian, and Papua New Guinean tribes are renowned for their clear skin and brimming vitality.
Even young, adolescent tribespeople avoid the scourge of acne, despite the supposed hormonal changes they are subjected to.
If acne were simply a symptom of puberty genes, these people would also find themselves red-faced and pimpled like us Westerners.
All of this gives rise a contentious question that sparks much controversy in the world of dermatology: how can diet affect our skin?
Dairy Products, IGF-1 and Sebum Production
Dairy is often famed for its potent calcium content and ability to nourish young animals towards health and longevity.
Indeed, milk and all of its cherished products are fantastically healthy, essential to growth and protein production and necessary for childhood vitality.
That is, if you are a baby cow.
Humans do not require dairy to remain healthy and our physiological composition has evolved only to consume human milk during infancy - not cow’s milk into adulthood.
Consuming milk, even our own species’, past 12 months of age, is catastrophic to our health. Our body simply cannot digest it, and that’s why 75% of the global population is lactose (the primary sugar found in dairy) intolerant.
Dairy contains a protein compound known as IGF-1.
IGF-1 tells cells to grow and divide, supercharging the growth of infantile cows until an adequate size is reached.
When an adult human consumes milk, its cells are ordered to divide, driving up sebum production and causing inflammation.
Skin cells in the face also begin dividing, clogging up sebaceous glands and causing acne lesions.
If you regularly consume dairy products and suffer from acne, removing them from your diet could have a profound impact on your dermatological health.
Soya milk, almond milk and oat milk are great-tasting alternatives to dairy products.
Omega-3s/Omega-6s, Meat and Eating Natural
The average westerner consumes far more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s.
This could significantly contribute to acne and the occurrence of blemishes.
Both omega-3s and omega-6s fall under the umbrella of ‘essential fatty acids’; our body is unable to produce them and thus we must obtain them through diet to stay healthy.
Omega-3s and omega-6s are complementary to one another. Omega-6s act as ‘on switches’ for various processes involving growth, while omega-3s switch these off once completed.
Omega-6 functions include:
- Promoting inflammation
- Encouraging cell growth
Omega-3 functions include:
- Reducing inflammation
- Halting cell growth
An imbalance in omega-3s/omega-6s can lead to chronic inflammation, also driving up IGF-1 production and causing pores to clog.
It is therefore essential to the health of your skin that you balance your intake of these essential fatty acids.
Here are some ways that you can do this:
- Eat only grass-fed, organic meat. Typically, farmed animals are fed grains and they, too, have an excessive amount of bodily omega-6s. Grass-fed animals have balanced amounts of omega-3s and omega-6s and thus consuming their meat will not upset your internal environment.
- Avoid processed seed and vegetable oils. Vegetable oils like corn, sunflower and soybean oils are very high in omega-6s. Switch to coconut oil, avocado oil or olive oil instead. Flaxseed oil is very high in omega-3 acids and can be used to control inflammation.
- Prioritise line-caught fish. Non-farmed, wild/line-caught fish like salmon provide fairly balanced amounts of essential fatty acids, limiting inflammation and improving skin health.
Zinc has been used in a number of studies into dermatology and has been proven to have numerous benefits on skin health.
6 percent of our body’s zinc supply is found in the skin. Zinc is known to have potent anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects, thus proving to be effective against blemishes.
A supplement such as zinc gluconate, used in conjunction with a healthier diet and lifestyle, may effectively control the formation of acne lesions.
According to acne.org, “Zinc helps maintain skin integrity, reduces inflammation, promotes wound healing, helps kill and suppress acne bacteria, and may reduce skin oil production.
Though supplementation of zinc will increase its benefits, there are a wealth of dietary sources that can help, too.
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