When I first wanted to heal my acne through nutrition, Google became my best friend. I honestly didn't know much about nutrition, and I definitely didn't understand how food affects our body and our skin. One of the first concepts I encountered while researching adult female acne was a vegan diet.
While the cystic acne on my face was at it's height in severity, I went vegan for many months. In the beginning I did notice some improvement in the appearance of my skin. However, in the end being vegan didn't win out for me.
While my diet is still largely plant based, I don't eliminate all animal products. I want to share with you my thoughts on the vegan diet, specifically as it relates to acne.
The benefits of a vegan diet can be the large number of plants consumed. When you're not consuming animal protein, you need more fruits and vegetables to fill you up. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which help fight inflammation in the body.
Acne can be an indication of excess inflammation in the body so, logically, it makes sense to consume more fruits and vegetables. The problem that often arises here, and the reason I put can be in italics, it's easy to be vegan and lose sight of nutrition.
It's easy to become so focused on whether a not a food is vegan that you forget to evaluate nutritional value. Technically, Oreo's® are vegan. Although I don't think anyone would argue that eating these cookies will help clear your skin. I've seen many times, including in myself, where consuming a vegan diet quickly turns to lots of vegan baked goods, pastas and baked potatoes. These things are fine in moderation but they aren't the super-foods needed to boost our immune system so you can give acne a kiss good-bye.
The downside to a vegan diet is its neglect of healthy fats. When researching a vegan diet I was quite alarmed at how many proponents of this diet still had the low fat mentality that plagued the 90's. The concept of following a low fat/no fat diet is outdated information that was never actually correct. In fact, during the 90's when the low fat craze really took off, heart disease increased as people's waist lines grew. Why did this happen? Most likely it was due to high insulin levels. Instead of eating healthy fats, which keep you fuller, longer, people were eating low- fat crackers, highly refined pastas and low- fat yogurts. All these things spike our insulin levels which leads to excess belly fat, AND many people felt constantly hungry because the very thing that helps keep us full fat was removed from food. What I'm discussing here pertains to weight gain and heart health but, please make no mistake, it's also connected to the appearance of your skin. Warning signs of internal excess inflammation in the body, such as acne, should help us connect the dots: a low-fat/no fat diet won't give us the skin, or the overall health we want.
Vegan diets also eliminate the intake of wild-caught, sockeye salmon. I really can't overstate its benefits to our skin health. First, wild-caught salmon provides a hefty dose of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids simply means our bodies don't make these fats, therefore, we must get them from food. Omega-6's are also essential fatty acids. However, because of deficiencies in our food supply these days (such as eating grain-fed instead of grass-fed beef, or consuming processed foods containing unhealthy, shelf-stable oils) we are ingesting too much omega-6's and not enough omega-3's. The ratio of these oils should be 1:2 omega 3 omega 6. Unfortunately, our modern diets tend to have a ratio of 1:10 of omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) to omega-6 (inflammatory). [William Sears, MD, The Inflammation Solution,©2015]
Vegan diets also lack astaxanthin. Here we go again with salmon the prize winning fish! Astaxanthin is another reason to love this fish. Astaxanthin gives salmon its beautiful pink color. It's a nutrient that has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Astaxanthin paired with beneficial omega-3's in wild-caught salmon make this fish vital to our diets. Notice I keep emphasizing wild-caught. It is important that you avoid purchasing farm-raised salmon. It doesn't contain the same amounts of the powerful antioxidants. In fact, farm-raised salmon may have pink color added, so it appears more like wild-caught. I also take a fish oil supplement and have noticed a difference in my skin, hair and nails.
Tip: On the days you enjoy salmon for dinner it's okay to skip your fish oil supplement. This will help you stretch your budget a bit farther as well!
Lastly, I encourage you not to place yourself in a "diet camp." What I mean specifically is avoid anything that promises weight loss as its single goal. It can lead to an all or nothing mentality, in which you feel guilty if you are ever in a situation that makes it impossible to eat and still stay within the diet's strict guidelines. What I do encourage, instead, is focus on real, whole-food nutrition. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Opt for organic produce and meats when possible. If unavoidable, be very selective in the purchase of processed foods. If you're curious what to look for when purchasing processed foods, you can read more here.
Have you ever tried, or are you currently following a vegan diet? Have you noticed an improvement in your skin, hair, and nails? How are you currently eating, and how does it make you feel? Please comment!
For optimum health it is better to avoid processed foods. But it can be difficult these days to do that.
Life seems to be busier than ever and it seems we have less time to dedicate in the kitchen than in years past. It's no wonder women resort to picking up boxed packaged items, and foods in the freezer section.
I'm a firm believer in balance. Nutrition shouldn't be viewed as all or nothing. It's all about giving yourself grace.
Do what you can with the knowledge, information, budget and time you have.
While I do cook mostly from scratch there are a few things I purchase prepackaged. However, there are KEY things I look for before buying a processed food; and there are certain factors I won't compromise on.
In order to manage acne it is best done from the inside out. Focus on nutrition to bring your skin to an improved state of health. Examine all facets of your diet.
Let me share with you some key things to look for in any packaged food you buy.
We live in a world of quick fixes. It seems like everywhere you look there is an advertisement for something that will help you to "look good and fast." This can be tempting and many of of us fall prey.
After all who doesn't want to look good in a bikini by Friday or have perfectly clear skin in only one month?
I know there was a time in my life when I fell for this stuff all the time! And guess what? Some of it worked!
The problem was nothing worked for long and then I was right back where I started.
Today I want to talk to you specifically about treating acne and how those changes may look.
We tend to think of acne as being only an external issue. After all, it's clearly visible on our skin so a really good face wash should clear that up, right?
It may not be that simple.
Proper skincare IS incredibly important. However, let's not ignore the fact that acne can often be a sign of a deeper internal issue. Where I see women face trouble is they only address the visible signs of acne. There's a lot to be missed by not looking a little deeper.
In fact, by looking deeper you may discover improved digestion and better energy levels among other whole body benefits. I know this was true for me!
For years I was on an acne specific skin care line. My face remained clear as long as I continued using the product and it worked for a decade!
I falsely believed that the acne had been eradicated. I thought it was gone and all I had to do was continue to buy this certain face wash. I could not have been more wrong!!
Not only would I later learn that this particular skin care line is actually quite damaging to the skin, but I had also spent an entire decade neglecting my total body health. I failed to address any internal issues that were, in fact, affecting my skin.
When the above said skin care line failed to deliver it's usual results, I was left with an enormous mess. My skin had never looked worse. I was devastated.
For the first time in my life I was forced to look at other options. I naturally tried a few other acne specific skin care lines all to no avail. This prompted me to do more research on acne as well as how to treat acne.
I learned there was a holistic side to healing acne. What?!
I had never before even considered that there was a root problem to my acne, never mind addressing it.
This didn't mean that skincare wasn't important. Quite the opposite - I finally began to understand how to properly care for my skin!
It did mean though that I had a lot more control over the situation than I previously believed. Through simple nutritional and lifestyle changes I experienced great improvement in my skin and my health.
These changes don't happen overnight and some people (while well intentioned) simply say the wrong things. These are some questions you may receive (I know I did!):
Shouldn't your skin be completely clear with all the dietary changes you've made?
Is your body getting proper nourishment?
Why are you doing this to yourself? Aren't you miserable? You know I have a friend who sells acne skin care. You should call her.
With all the self-doubt that can go along with these comments, it may be best to tune them out.
Here are a few thoughts I'll leave with you:
Remember who you are doing this for - YOU! You deserve to look and feel your best. If it takes a bit longer than expected to get where you want to go, won't it still have been worth it to arrive? There's much to be said for perseverance.
It's important to remember that external remedies are only a band aid. It's not that you can't use them, it's that you have to also address the underlying issue or you will never truly be free of your acne.
It's important to quiet the external voices. Don't try to argue or reason with those who find your new dietary lifestyle to be crazy. You'll never win the argument! It's better to smile, thank them for their concern and move on.
Which brings me to my final point don't overshare!
I know this may seem odd because when we're trying to lose weight or step up our fitness game, we're often encouraged to tell lots of people so we hold ourselves accountable.
Treating acne is different though and is often misunderstood. Because of that it is better to not overshare with too many people. Having one or two people close to you who you trust is the best option. They can help hold you accountable and offer encouragement and support. This support may not come from immediate family. It's nice if it does but it doesn't always happen that way.
Where are you on your journey to healing your skin? What approaches have you tried? Do you feel you have proper support? Leave a comment I'd love to chat!