Acne Diets

One of the most common questions I am asked by the parents of young teenagers I am treating for acne is "What type of diet should I put my child on to make his/her acne better?" I have always wondered about why people always feel their looks depend on what they eat. Especially when it comes to acne. What does something you put in your stomach have to do with what happens on your face?

So, for years my response has been that there is no artery or vein that brings eaten food directly from the stomach to land in the face and distribute "these acne causing ingredients." Any food that is digested would be equally distributed throughout the body and wouldn't therefore express itself in one location e.g. the face. Greasy fries and fried chicken-no problem for acne. Chocolate may ruin your teeth and give you a sugar rush, but it shouldn't harm your face. And I still believe this to be true. But--my thinking about foods and acne is slowly changing with recent research I have been reading the past year or so.

Insulin (which regulates sugar control in the body) is also a well know stimulus for male hormones to be produced. Male hormone is a trigger for oil production by oil glands in the face. Oil glands producing excess oil can clog the facial pores, trapping oil and bacteria, thereby leading to acne. Recent research has shown that children who eat high carb and sugar (carbs are essentially metabolized as sugars by the body) diets have more acne. This sort of makes sense. If you are eating a high carb/sugar diet, you will need to make more insulin to help eliminate the carbs/surgars, and the increased insulin will also stimulate male hormones and hence the production of acne. But, all this said-I still feel that the food-acne relationship is indirect, as there are many steps needed to go from ingesting high carbs to actually creating acne.

One other piece of research I have heard that I give less credence to is that dairy or milk ingestion triggers acne. Some people believe that milk produced today has too many hormones and that cow male hormones ingested by the stomach can act like or trigger the production of human male hormones and hence acne. I'm not a believer in this one yet. For one, I don't know how cow male hormones can act as human ones, and secondly, any ingested hormones should be dissolved by stomach acid long before they can be absorbed into the bloodstream.

8/30/2007 9:00:00 PM
Dr. Lawrence J. Green
Dr. Green’s goal is to provide safe, effective therapies and/or minimally invasive procedures that help patients continue to look and feel their best. His approach is to remain at the cutting edge, but never compromise on patient safety. To this effect, Dr. Green believes that only board-certified physicians with appropr...
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Hi Hailey: Your response is similar to many people, so you are not unique in feeling that when you eat a particular food your acne flares up. Acne does occur on the face, chest, and back-that's where the oil glands are most abundant, but it will never occur on the other places like the hands or feet. If you think you are getting acne in places like that ie. hands and feet-it's not acne and is most likely something else. I am sure you are intimate with your knowledge about how your body responds to foods, but in medicine we look for answers and responses that are reproduceable for all of us. That's why when a doctor treats someone for an infection, for example, she/he knows that person will have a response to a medicine just like everyone else. In other words, if your acne responds to certain foods, many of us with acne should do the same. And that just hasn't been proven to happen with acne and individual foods yet. No one has been able to say that a certain food(s) will directly or indirectly trigger acne. But also as I said, eating more generally in a bad way, seems to be able to cause acne to flare. But, I hope one day, I can offer people like you an explanation that makes scientific sense, it's just there isn't one now. But, you never know. Two years ago, I wouldn't have said diet mattered at all with acne!
Posted by Dr. Lawrence J. Green
No that didn't help, thanks. If I took your advice and ate whatever I wanted (fat calories aside) I'd look like $h**t most of the time and probably have to go on depression meds to deal with it. I know it not a coincidence with me so there must be a medical explanation somewhere. These food-related flare-ups are all over, not just my face. They are just most noticable on my face, chest and back. How can you discount the possibility of a medical explanation in my situation? I have battled my own acne for 20 years and I'm intimate with my responses to different foods. I never meant to convey that certain foods "cause" acne, I already have acne to a manageable degree. It is the devastating food-related flare-ups that are the issue. Perhaps certain foods elevate hormone levels that cause these fair-ups, but I'm not satisfied with you leaving it with no room for a medical explanation. There must be one, even it is an indirect relationship.
Posted by Luna
Hailey: I also hear comments like your all the time, and to be honest, I don't know what to make of it. Faces reacting to a specific eating of one piece of chocolate really doesn't make sense as their is no direct vein that brings chocolate up to the face only. As far as different reactions on your face to different dairy products, that also is medically impossible to explain for the same reason. So, my explantation would be that sometimes people perceive things to relate that really don't and most often are just coincidences. For example, what if you got acne every time you drove home from work one way instead of the regular way? Does that mean driving home a different way causes acne? There is about as much a scientific link in causing acne to what you put in your stomach at any one given time eg. a Starbucks, piece of chocolate,etc. as there is to driving home a different way from work. Now, over time with multiple chocolate bars, Starbucks and pasta frequently eg. heavy carb loads, etc. I would think what you put in your stomach matters to your body. But, this would create acne all the time-not a specific time relating to a specific food item. I hope this helps. -Lawrence Green
Posted by Dr. Lawrence J. Green
RE: I still feel that the food-acne relationship is indirect, as there are many steps needed to go from ingesting high carbs to actually creating acne. Dr. Green, I can drink several glasses of milk and be completely fine; however, if I eat just a scoop or two of icecream, it will trigger a predictable breakout on my face, back and chest. One nutritionist I saw said it was the milk-sugar combination. Still, if I drink a Grande Late' from Starbucks and add sugar, I'm fine. Also, milk chocolate gets me too. Dark chocolate I do fine with. Too bad I love icecream and milk chocolate. Any explanation doc?
Posted by Luna

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