In the United States it’s estimated that 50 million people and 95% of adolescents suffer from acne! Yet, anecdotal evidence indicates that there is a simple diet that will cure acne for most people. Without over simplifying the matter, the acne-curing diet is essentially a nature-based diet, free of industrial and processed foods. If you’ve heard people say that diet doesn’t affect acne, they’re misinformed, and I’ll provide the evidence. Here’s how it works:

How acne develops: Acne is caused by two basic imbalances in the body. First of all, an increase in growth hormones in the body can cause the skin’s sebaceous glands to secrete an extra amount of oil. This oil is called sebum and is essential for healthy skin and hair. Sebum provides moisture and assists the immune system in creating a barrier against bacteria and viruses. Excess oil production wouldn’t be such a big problem on its own, but it often occurs simultaneously with a second imbalance: excess shedding of skin cells. Acne forms when dead skin cells plug the skin’s hair follicles, causing oil to accumulate in the pores. Once the oil is trapped, the clogged pores can become environments where bacteria grows, which leads to acne.

The underlying causes: Since high levels of growth hormones can cause excess production of sebum, adolescents are more prone to acne than any other age group. Drugs and foods that throw normal hormones off balance, however, have a more significant role in causing acne than adolescent hormones by themselves. Milk and high-glycemic foods are thought to exacerbate the imbalance, but based on the combined evidenced, it appears that the quality of food has a greater effect than the type of food on whether a person produces excess sebum or not (at least in most cases). Diet quality also affects the skin’s overall health and the rate at which it dries and sheds. Inflammatory diets, high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (refined seed oils) and refined sugar, cause dry skin and promote problems like eczema and acne. The problem is compounded when ones’s diet is deficient in vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and other healthful plant nutrients. Without these important nutrients, skin cells don’t have adequate defenses against all the bacteria, toxins, and UV rays they are bombarded with, and the sebaceous glands can’t produce high quality sebum to nourish the skin.

The remedy: The cure for acne (in most cases), as stated at the beginning of this article, is essentially a nature-based diet. Recent research has revealed that acne is extremely rare among people from non-industrialized or pre-colonized cultures. People from these cultures tend to eat diets that consist entirely of whole foods from their environment and from limited agriculture.

A study published by JAMA in 2002 looked at the prevalence of acne among people from two non-industrialized cultures, the Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea and the Aché hunter-gatherers of Paraguay. After examining hundreds of people from both cultures, ZERO cases of acne were found among adults or adolescents. Being from very different cultures and geographic locations, the influence of genetics was ruled out and diet was recognized as the most significant factor. Their combined diets consist primarily of tubers, fish, fruit, vegetables, coconut, peanuts, maize, and wild game. They eat little or no flour, sugar, cereals (such as wheat or barley), dairy, or alcohol. Though some researchers have said that a high-glycemic diet is what causes acne, the diets from both cultures emphasize very high glycemic foods (although they do tend to be low glycemic-loading foods).

While it seems clear that highly domesticated and industrialized foods are a major cause of acne, the affect dairy has on acne, in my opinion, is less straight forward. There are several studies that demonstrate a correlation between dairy consumption and acne, however the quality of milk used in these studies was likely very poor. Most Americans drink highly processed milk that comes from cows treated with hormones and fed grain instead of grass. The milk also usually comes from cows that are pregnant, which means that there are increased levels of natural hormones in the milk. People from many non-industrialized cultures drink milk and dairy products as a primary component of their diets, and as far as I know they don’t have the problem with acne that we have in the US. For example, the Bantus, Todas, Zulu, and Maasai, all consume dairy as part of their traditional diets, and at least among the Bantus the incidence of acne is known to be low. Unless a person is lactose intolerant, dairy from grass-fed cows has many important health benefits that make it a valuable food to include in ones diet, so I don’t feel it should be eliminated from the diet needlessly.

If you suffer from acne, I recommend making the switch to a nature-based diet for at least 30-days. It takes time to see changes in the body, so you can’t expect to see your acne go away over night. Eat only whole, unprocessed foods like the Kitavans and Ache eat: potatoes, sweet potatoes, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts. Also, try cutting out wheat, but feel free to eat rice and other gluten-free grains. Many people are more gluten-sensitive than they realize, and I think the leaky gut associated with gluten intake can contribute to acne development. Also, avoid refined seed oils and sugars that will cause inflammation. If you continue drinking milk, switch to organic milk or milk that’s locally produced and from grass-fed cows. If you continue to have an acne problem after 30-days, try cutting milk completely out of your diet.

Feel free to eat chocolate, just make it at least 70% cocoa! Also, feel free to eat oils, but they should be the minimally refined varieties, like butter, extra virgin olive oil, and extra virgin coconut oil. Eat organic and free-range as much as possible to make sure you’re getting fewer toxins and more nutrients (including omega-3 fatty acids).

I’m 29-years old and had problems with acne until the last few years when I switched to a nature-based diet. I’m also able to eat organic dairy without a problem. I wish I would have know this information when I was in high school; it would have saved me from a lot of unnecessary embarrassment! While, overall, acne is a less pressing matter that most of the health problems associated with our society, it provides another example of how reconnecting with God’s nature promotes optimum health!

JAMA Study of Kitavans and Aché
Nutrition and Acne
Mayo Clinic
The Relationship of Diet and Acne

Originally posted 2013-02-05 21:33:00.


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