June 23, 2020

Is our skin affected by the foods we eat? The simple answer to this question is ‘yes’, but let's be real, it is way more complex than that. Let me break it down for you! The skin is the largest organ of the body. It would be naive for us to assume that it does not communicate with the other organs. Unfortunately, it is commonly taught in Western medicine that food sensitivities and what we consume have little effect on the skin. Some doctors will even tell you that there is no science that supports food sensitivities even exist! But rather, you are either allergic or you're not, even when the food item doesn’t exactly agree with you. Chinese medicine, functional medicine, and eastern European medicine will tell you otherwise. Our skin is indeed affected by the things we consume. 

Let’s start with the concept of food sensitivities. Now many of us have food allergies that we know we absolutely cannot eat as it will for sure result in an allergic reaction. But what about the foods that do not result in a clear reaction but rather signals our body gives us? Bloating, gassy-ness, diarrhea, nausea, body swelling, and even headaches can all be symptoms, or signals that we have consumed something our body does not agree with. Yet, according to Western medicine, because we are not technically clinically proven allergic we should just ignore those symptoms, take a pill to band-aid those symptoms, and continue eating those foods. I’m not sure about you, but I just cannot make sense of that! If we eat foods that don’t make us feel well, chances are we are sensitive to them and they should be eliminated from our diet.

Now, what does that have to do with our skin you ask? Well our skin is our body's third form of elimination (with the first and second being the urinary and gastrointestinal systems). We excrete toxins that are formed in our bodies through our skin's sudoriferous glands. Sudoriferous glands are exocrine glands found in the dermis of the skin that are commonly known as sweat glands. In addition to secreting sweat to cool down our body, sudoriferous glands also excrete waste products out of the body. Sudoriferous glands can be found in almost every region of the body, including the face, chest, and back, which are some of the most common regions where acne appears. To simplify, this means that when our body gives us signals such as bloating, gassy-ness, diarrhea, nausea, body swelling, or headaches when we consume something, chances are we are increasing toxin levels in our body. Which means that it is our sudoriferous glands job to eliminate those toxins when they can’t be eliminated elsewhere, oftentimes resulting in acne, or other skin conditions. 

The most frequently asked question I get to this concept is: what are the most common food sensitivities or foods in general that cause a break out? This is always a hard question to answer, because everyone is so different. I typically recommend people stay away from or limit their intake of gluten, processed sugars, dairy, almonds, soy, and caffeine. I cannot guarantee that eliminating these foods will automatically clear your skin of acne, or other skin conditions, as there are so many factors. But from my experience it most certainly helps. Gluten has an inflammatory result in the body, which is directly correlated with premature ageing and exasperating acne. In fact one of the most common signs of gluten intolerance in infants/children is body rashes and or eczema. Similarly, excess sugar can aggravate skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and facial candida (yeast). Next, the molecular structure of the dairy we consume does not match the molecular structure of the dairy we produce, so oftentimes we are unable to digest it. Not to mention the dairy we consume is merely a cocktail of hormones designed to provide proper nutrients for an infant. However, inducing these hormones out of infancy can seriously disrupt our metabolic process and cause a hormonal imbalance. Almonds and soy when consumed in excess or condensed into a milk or cheese can have high levels of estrogen, resulting in hormonal acne. Lastly, caffeine (this one always shocks people) is a blood thinner, and the function of our blood is to carry oxygen and nutrients to the cells, as well as, fight off bacteria. When we consume an excess amount of caffeine we can disable the function of our blood.

For those of you who have eliminated these common irritants from your diet but are still experiencing breakouts or other skin conditions, chances are you have a more specific food sensitivity. Food sensitivities can be tested through blood. Typically, functional medicine doctors perform these kinds of tests. Food sensitivities can change over time and are completely different for everyone. Frequently when I talk about this concept with my clients their initial reaction is “but I eat healthy”. What we often neglect is ‘health’ for every person looks different, and the most common guidelines for “healthy eating” are created by Western medicine doctors who do not believe in this kind of science. For example, my food sensitivities are: brown rice, quinoa, kidney beans, eggplant, corn, dairy, and gluten. Most of those foods are generally considered healthy. Another good example is one of my favorite functional medicine doctors, Dr. Ryan Monahan, his food sensitivities consist of broccoli and avocado! These two foods are totally considered “healthy” and consuming these foods for him never resulted in acne, but rather he felt foggy and inflamed. Whereas for me, if I eat dairy I will 100% break out without a doubt. That is why health is a case by case situation, especially when it comes to food and skincare. If you are experiencing face or body acne, eczema, dermatitis, facial candida, body rashes, and/or other skin conditions I highly recommend getting a food sensitivity exam by a trusted functional medicine practitioner. 

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