"The skin is a good overall mirror of what is going on in the rest of the body," says Judy Penta, a certified nutritionist and skin care expert at Patients Medical in New York City. Lisa Crary, CEO and founder of Sanitas Skincare, a line based on beauty from the inside out, concurs, "The face is a road map of what is going on inside the body," she says.
Translation: Your diet may be the culprit of your skin concerns.
Skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis can all be traced back to food, among other things. Studies have shown that nutritional deficiencies, food allergies or intolerance and digestive problems can all contribute to these particular issues.
Topical treatments may help alleviate them, but according to some experts, they won't completely cure them. "The best way to treat skin problems is to figure out what is causing them. You want to find the source and prescribe internal strategies as well as topical ones," says Crary.
Finding the source is a process of elimination.
Removing certain foods from your diet for a few weeks can help pinpoint what is causing or triggering a specific condition. If your problem is acne, try removing possible allergens that can contribute to the cause, such as wheat, gluten and dairy. After a few weeks, reintroduce them one at a time. Through this process of elimination, you should be able to discover what (if indeed it is food related) is causing the breakout. Penta also notes that vitamin deficiencies can be a possible culprit, as vitamins have both antibacterial and antioxidant properties that can help prevent acne in the first place.
Rosacea is almost always a direct result of digestion and is "exasperated by poor diet," says Penta. "When you see red spots, your skin is trying to push out toxins your digestive track can't process." To create a better balance, eliminate gluten first, as well as known triggers like dairy and alcohol. Anything that turns up your internal thermostat should also be avoided (spicy foods, citrus fruits and piping hot beverages to name a few).
As for eczema, says Crary, "it's tough to treat topically so diet and nutritional solutions will help, as will anything you can do to support the digestive system." Start by eliminating animal fat, grain oils and hydrogenated fats, all of which are known irritants for this condition and more difficult for the body to process. Psoriasis is also challenging to treat topically and is often directly related to digestion and the immune system. Animal fat, dairy and foods that contain gluten are considered offenders and should be the first to be eliminated.
If after omitting certain foods you see no notable changes in your skin, Crary says not to give up. "Although it can be really frustrating to not get results from the elimination diet right away, the truth is that you need to keep trying. Sensitivities and allergies can be found in many different foods," she explains. "The best strategy is to keep a journal of your diet and pay attention to foods that you eat frequently or those that you crave; often those are the offenders and the best candidates for elimination," she adds.
In addition to eliminating, adding to your diet is essential. For the noted skin conditions, a diet rich in vitamins A, C and E, B-Complex and Omegas (3, 6 and 9) can help improve and alleviate symptoms.
Fruits (dark berries being among the most beneficial), vegetables (all kinds, with leafy and dark greens topping the list), healthy grains and fats (think nuts, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, wheat germ) and good proteins (fish, particularly salmon) offer the most benefits.
If you don't suffer from any major skin conditions, don't count yourself lucky just yet. Pre-mature wrinkling can also be a result of your diet. "Dairy, wheat, refined sugars and process foods-the body has a tough time digesting them so it pulls from stored nutrients and then is depleted of essential nutrients that will accelerate the aging process," notes Crary. "If you eat healthy, your skin, by extension, will be healthy."
So if food is indeed a possible trigger for certain skin issues, then there is some validity to the old saying, "you are what you eat."
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