By Lauren La Rose
Acne has long been the scourge of millions of North American adolescents who dream of a pimple-free life.
But could the path to a clear complexion really begin with scarfing sardines?
In their new book “The Clear Skin Diet” (Cumberland House), Toronto-trained naturopathic doctor Alan Logan and holistic dermatologist Valori Treloar try to help acne sufferers understand the condition, its correlation to eating habits, as well as answers to what could be triggering their breakouts.
Logan says the omega-3 fatty acids found in sardines, salmon, anchovies and seafood have important anti-inflammatory activities and can be protective against acne.
When it comes to possible triggers, however, two large population studies out of Harvard show clear association with milk consumption and the promotion of acne, and other forms of dairy, including cheese, sherbet and ice cream, he said.
“It’s perhaps the case that not every acne sufferer is having their acne provoked by dairy, but it appears many are, so in that case, there are guidelines in the book about how to go about ensuring adequate calcium intake,” said Logan, a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and faculty member at Harvard’s School of Continuing Medical Education.
Fortified beverages like soy milk, tofu, nuts and green, leafy vegetables are good alternative sources of calcium, Logan said.
Whether individuals are picking up lunch on their breaks or brown-bagging it, Logan said they should be sure their meal is comprised of whole grains or whole wheat and a good-quality lean protein, like skinless poultry.
Having something colourful in their meal, like berries or cherries is a bonus, he added. Those foods won’t spike blood sugar and contain lots of fibre, which helps regulate blood sugar levels, and contain important antioxidants critical to acne patients.
“We now know acne sufferers are under increased oxidative stress,” Logan said. “Some of the research indicates the lower the blood levels of antioxidants in acne patients, the more severe their acne is, so they, of all people, may actually need to really go out of their way to make sure they’re getting in enough antioxidants.”
Processed foods and those high in sugar that spike insulin levels may also be acne promoters, Logansaid.
“In essence, the dietary triggers are not too dissimilar from what we have been warned against before when it comes to gaining weight or Type 2 diabetes or even cardiovascular disease,” he said. “These types of foods that are devoid of fiber and nutrients may be implicated as well.”
Despite the book title, Logan said diet is not everything when it comes to acne. Stress has been shown to promote acne, and acne rates have increased significantly among adult women, he said.
“This may be attributed to diet, but it could also be attributed to stress because stress promotes the sebum which ultimately blocks up the pores, and in women in particular they’re very prone to this,” he said.
Exercise, relaxation techniques and keeping stress in check are important features of a clear-skin lifestyle, he said.
Some dermatologists say while they don’t have a set list of items patients shouldn’t eat, they do advise them to steer clear of foods they find lead to breakouts.
“In general, your skin reflects your inner health, and your inner health is dependent on what you put into your body, so good nutrition will help to improve your skin,” said Toronto-based Dr. Lisa Kellett.
“With that being said, as long as you are eating fruits and vegetables and things like that, one certain food group – if you eliminate it – will not cure your acne.”
“Conversely, if you have the odd chocolate bar, that is not the cause of your acne. However, if the only thing you eat are chocolate bars, your skin will likely reflect your inner nutrition and therefore, won’t look right.”