The Effect of Food: Foods that Cause Acne
I cannot stress enough the importance of diet in everyday health. This is not hard science. I like the phrase, “when you eat stuff, stuff happens”. Food is the fuel that powers the body; therefore your diet is essential in ensuring your body is functioning correctly.
Why has there been a growth of acne in the last 25 years among adults? Surely a big factor is the change in our dietary habits.
Perhaps conventional dermatology continues to overlook diet because there is much debate over the effect that certain foods have on acne. The debate arises due to the fact that certain foods which cause a severe reaction in one person may haver little effect on another.
Asking the Right Question about Food
Rather than ask “What foods cause acne?”, the better question is “What effects do the food I eat have on my body?” Starting on the right premise will help you determine what types of food you need to eat and how you can customize your diet to prevent an acne outbreak.
Different types of foods draw out different kinds of reactions from the body. There are foods that cause inflammation, prevent proper oxidation, create hormonal imbalance, or cause a spike in blood sugar, conditions which all contribute to the deterioration of the body’s ability to function properly and can eventually result in acne growth.
On the same note, there are foods which enhance the body’s natural ability to cleanse and repair itself through regulation of blood sugar, promotion of hormonal balance, strengthening of the immune system, and prevention of inflammation.
It is, therefore, crucial to analyze and understand different food components in order to determine the ways in which these elements contribute to (or prevent) acne growth.
Foods that cause spots: Sugar
Sugar is an essential nutrient found in the food we eat. On a cellular level, it is responsible for providing us with energy to perform our daily tasks and it also fuels our body organs, allowing us to continuously build and repair.
Sugar is a naturally-occurring substance found in fruits and vegetables. Foods rich in carbohydrates like pasta, rice, and bread contain natural sugar. Carbohydrates are chemically altered during digestion, becoming sugars, which fuel the body.
Unfortunately, most processed foods today contain more sugar than the human body requires. You may not be aware of it, but food ingredients such as dextrose, sucrose, and fructose are types of sugar. Aside from those odd-sounding substances, molasses, malt, and honey are also ingredients that contain sugar.
In the normal scheme of things, the pancreas releases insulin to manage the sugar level in the blood. The hormone insulin then triggers the liver and the body cells into action to take up the sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream and use it as a source of energy. This prevents a spike in blood sugar, which can often lead to diabetes and other ailments associated with high blood sugar levels.
When the body is flooded with sugar, the pancreas works overtime to release more insulin. This hormone serves as a warning, telling the body that it is in survival mode due to the influx of glucose. As this process happens, the body concentrates on the production of insulin and all other bodily functions slow down. When the pancreas is forced to produce insulin over a long period of time, it will eventually wear out and lose its ability to create and release the hormone. This condition leads to diabetes.
As the stress in managing blood sugar level heightens, other organs fall under more internal stress because they are not functioning properly. The digestive system will not be able to process food nutrients efficiently and more solid matters will find their way into the bowel. Once deposited in the bowel, the food by-products will rot and ferment.
If not released as fecal matter, the toxic substances created through fermentation and decay will mix with water in the large intestine. This will then be absorbed through the bloodstream, and transported to various parts of the body, until the toxins are released through the skin, causing an acne outbreak.
Aside from diabetes and digestion problems, excess sugar can also cause obesity. The glucose that is not burned as energy is converted to glycogen and turned into fats. In short, the more sugar you introduce to your system, the fatter you will become. Fats, per se, are not bad because they serve as the body’s energy reservoir. When there are not enough nutrients for the body to burn, fat becomes a source of fuel.
Excess sugar in the body is made even more complicated by today’s mass food production industry. The use of insecticides and chemical fertilizers, though helpful in producing farm products abundantly, has a detrimental effect on the body. So aside from the challenge of managing blood sugar level, the organs of the body also need to contend with the influx of toxic substances from these chemicals in food.
Determining Sugar Content Using Glycemic Index
Managing the amount of insulin released by the pancreas is important in maintaining the overall health of the body. For this purpose, medical researches came up with a method of rating how fast sugar in food is absorbed by the body. This method is called the glycemic index (GI).
Australia’s University of Sydney developed a method of labeling foods based on their GI. Foods were tested in a laboratory and compared with glucose to determine their GI rating. Glycemic index measures the impact of digested food to the level of sugar found in the blood. The standard of measurement used is pure glucose, which is tagged as having a GI of 100.
Foods are categorised in three levels:
The GI content of some foods can be surprising. Potatoes for instance have a GI rating of around 95, making them almost equivalent in effect to sugar, whilst some energy drinks with added sugar fall only into the medium range.
The higher the glycemic index of the food, the faster its sugar content is absorbed by the bloodstream. Therefore, a food that has a Low GI rating of 50, will approximately be absorbed by the body at half the speed of pure glucose (that has a 100 GI rating).
Simply put, the higher the GI rating, the more insulin is produced. Inversely, when you consume more food with low GI rating, your pancreas is not hard-pressed in producing insulin. Thus, other body organs can function normally and efficiently and will be able to filter out toxins and other waste food by-products effectively. As a result, you will have less fats stored in different parts of the body, avoid suffering from diabetes and other ailments related to high blood sugar, and less chance of developing acne as a result of poor eating habits.
Insulin is a naturally occurring substance in the body. It helps in a lot of bodily functions, but excessive insulin is also detrimental. Unless you are a body builder who wants to benefit from the anabolic characteristic of this hormone, it is important that you keep your insulin level minimal.
It is also important to note that the combination of food you eat will have a significant effect on your glycemic index rating. For example, eating a chocolate bar after a meal of low GI food will actually bring your rating up to the medium level. In the same manner, eating steak (no GI rating) together with pasta will bring the high GI rating of the pasta down.
Knowing the glycemic index of the food you eat, finding the right combination of food to prevent blood sugar spike, and eating in moderation will greatly help to reduce internal stress and improve your body’s capability to function normally and efficiently.
Foods that cause acne: Breads and Pastas
To understand glycemic index, let’s take wheat as an example. Wheat is the grain used to make flour. In its natural form, this grain has very low glycemic index. When wheat is turned into flour and baked, its components are broken down making it easier for the body to absorb the sugar content of the bread.
Bread products contain gluten—a naturally occurring protein found in grains like barley, rye, wheat, and oats. Gluten is responsible for making the dough elastic, but it is quite harmful to the body.
Gluten also slows down the digestive process because it is hard to break down, thus delaying the distribution of nutrients to the body. Oftentimes, the undigested food containing gluten is pushed down to the bowel where it rots and releases toxic by-products. These harmful substances will eventually find their way to the bloodstream and out through the skin, causing an acne outbreak.
Combined with the high glycemic index of white bread and the proliferation of toxic substances brought about by gluten, the human body becomes one big toxic dump.
Whole grain bread requires less insulin to digest, due to its lower glycemic index, and is consequently favoured by dieticians and by Natural Dermatology. The difference is in the nutritional value. By adding whole grains into the mix, whole grain breads become loaded with protein, minerals, and vitamins. It also has a higher fiber content which is beneficial in the digestive process.
Food fiber is not readily digestible; as such, the body automatically pushes it down to the bowel for immediate discharge. Fiber acts as the digestive system’s cleansing agent—a broom, if you will, that sweeps the dirt away. The process of defecation becomes easy when the bowel is filled with fiber.
In effect, the fiber found in whole grain bread counter-acts the ill-effect of gluten by flushing it down to the large intestine and out of the body through defecation. As gluten is expelled immediately there will be no time for it to rot and create toxic by-products. In the same manner, fiber from whole bread cleanses other solid waste materials in the stomach and prevents them from rotting.
There are also types of fibers known as soluble fibers that are absorbed by the body in small quantities. Nutritional experts believe that these fibers are beneficial in absorbing cholesterol—another substance that can cause internal body stress. Because of its cleansing characteristics, fiber found in food helps the body to ridtoxic substances that cause illness and acne.
Foods that cause spots: Coffee and Chocolate
There is an ongoing debate about whether or not coffee and chocolate can lead to acne. Information pointing to this is varied and often conflicting. While many agree that drinking a lot of coffee can lead to insomnia and hand tremors, there is no evidence that chocolate has the same effect.
Furthermore, medical experts are not able to establish a direct correlation between chocolate consumption and acne. This, however, does not discount the fact that there are people who experience acne growth when they eat chocolate.
To have a better understanding of the effects of chocolate on acne, we need to break chocolate down to its chemical components and examine their individual effects on the human body. Coffee and chocolate contain caffeine and theobromine—substances that are identical and found to be coming from the chemical xanthine. Raw cocoa and coffee beans contain both chemicals abundantly. Processing the beans does not eliminate these substances completely.
Caffeine and theobromine are stimulants. Caffeine, for its part, causes rapid beating of the heart and heightens blood pressure and blood sugar levels. When consumed in large amounts, coffee can lead to erratic heartbeat and respiratory difficulties. Theobromine affects the tone of the heart muscle. In clinical experiments, this substance is known to cause cardiac arrhythmias and heart attacks in canines.
Thus, consuming chocolate and coffee in large amounts can cause severe internal stress on the human body.
Caffeine and theobromine also serve as diuretics. Doctors treat patients suffering from glaucoma or edema with diuretics to facilitate urination—a natural body process ridding toxic substances from the body. These chemicals help the body in its cleansing process, but this does not come without side-effects.
Unless a person drinks enough liquid to equal the amount lost during urination, they risk dehydration. Once the body is deprived of water, all organ functions will fail. Continuous exposure to this condition, a result of over-indulgence in coffee and/or chocolate, will eventually lead to digestive problems and other physical difficulties—which could cause further internal stress and lead to an acne outbreak.
To counteract this, drinking coffee and eating chocolate must be done in moderation, with plenty of water added in to the mix.
Toxins and the Food Chain
We are exposed daily to toxins. Even people who are mindful of what they eat are exposed to chemicals and other harmful substances that are present in foods. Our environment also contributes to the body’s toxicity level as the skin absorbs chemicals from the air. Over time, our body can become one big toxic wasteland.
Therefore, it is of paramount importance that we consciously make an effort to get rid of the toxins in our body. This cleansing process will help the liver recover its vitality, allowing it to filter toxins efficiently on its own. Less toxins will also lighten the load of other organs of the body, like the digestive system. Before embarking on this cleansing journey, it is imperative that we clearly understand how the food we eat contributes to our exposure to toxic elements.
The simplest way to demonstrate how toxic substances enter our body is by studying the food chain. Let us take one example from the wild. Insects abound in nature and are often exposed to chemicals such as insecticides. If they are able to survive these chemicals, danger may still lay ahead. If a frog were to eat the infected insect, the toxic load would be absorbed by the frog.
The frog on its own is also exposed to toxic substances found in water. By eating chemically-laced insects, the frog doubles its toxic load.
But it does not stop there—fish in the water, which are also exposed to toxic substances, find a delectable meal in the frog. Now that is three times more toxicity in just one organism – the fish.
Now here comes one human being who decided to take a day off and fish in the wild. By stroke of luck, he or she is able to catch the fish that carries three times the amount of toxic substances in its body. Happy with his catch, he goes home and prepares a hearty meal of fish fillet. Now you know where this toxic story will lead.
Humans, though not considered apex predators, remain on top of the food chain. As our example has shown, the higher you are in the food chain the bigger the toxic load you are likely to intake. Even food products that are considered ’fresh’ are exposed to chemicals and other toxic substances. Farmers use chemical fertilizers to ensure abundant harvest and to protect their crop. All these substances find their way into the food we eat.
Luckily for us, the human body has natural defenses against all these harmful substances - the liver filters out toxins and the digestive system flushes out food waste products.
The human body is in fact very tolerant of the amount of toxins we absorb daily. However, the body has its limits—when exposure to toxins is constant and unabated, our filtering system will eventually fail. Rather than expel toxins through urination and defecation, these harmful substances will come out through in the skin, such as acne.
Toxins cannot be avoided, but we can always proactively take measures to reduce their effect on our body. Eating the right kinds of food and choosing fiber-rich food with low glycemic index is one step towards achieving a healthy body free of acne problems.