We are what we eat- a mantra that we hear quite often. In a rapidly growing skin care industry, mixed messages can easily create unrealistic expectations on how diet and supplements affect the skin. Below doctor Kittridge separates facts from fiction on the subject matter.
Let us start by clarifying several misconceptions. The first misconception is that diet does not affect skin health. The second is that diet is the cause of the skin condition. Lastly, is the misconception that the same dietary changes that work for one will work for all persons. The reality is, the skin-diet relationship is unique in each person. Diet plays a multifaceted role in overall health and skin health, but is not the sole cause of skin disease (with very few exceptions).
Below, Dr. Kittridge provides a select few dietary pearls for those struggling with specific skin concerns:
Childhood atopic dermatitis (eczema). While there are patients with food allergies that trigger eczema flares, most atopic patients do not completely clear their eczema when food “triggers” are removed. Additionally, introducing “allergenic” foods at an earlier age, such as peanuts, has been correlated to a lower risk of severe allergy. Another concern with severe dietary restriction is nutritional deficiencies. In addition to affecting the overall health and development of the child, severe dietary restrictions can also cause rashes on the skin. Dr. Kittridge recommends keeping a journal of foods and trying to correlate those foods with symptoms.
Acne. While the causes of acne are multifaceted, heavy sugar and dairy consumption have surfaced as culprits. Whey protein in dairy products, specifically, has been shown to increase hormones in the body which are linked to occlusion of pores and increase in oil production. Dr. Kittridge has found that many of her athlete patients take whey-containing protein supplements. She often recommends that these patients switch to a non-whey protein isolate. Other supplements often consumed by athletes, such as testosterone, may also cause flares in acne of the face, chest and back. Some supplements have been helpful for acne patients. One that she often uses is a prescription supplement containing niacinamide, zinc and azelaic acid, copper and folic acid.
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS). HS is a disease of chronic inflammation of the hair follicles, particularly in areas of skin folds (groin, under arms, buttock and under breasts) that can lead to painful bumps in the skin and scarring. The role of dietary recommendations in HS is a newly emerging area where sweet foods, carbohydrates, dairy and high-fat foods are linked to flares in HS, while vegetables and white meats may alleviate some symptoms. Additionally, supplements such as zinc/copper combination and vitamin D have also shown a positive effect on the disease process.
Alopecia. There are many forms of hair loss. The Mediterranean diet, rich in raw vegetables and fresh herbs, and isoflavone-rich soy contain anti-inflammatory nutrients that may promote hair health and growth in androgenetic alopecia (AGA, male/female pattern hair loss). On the other hand, low calorie diets or those high in fish have been questioned as possible triggers of alopecia such as AGA, alopecia areata (autoimmune hair loss), telogen effluvium (stressed induced hair loss) and some forms of scarring hair loss. Vitamin D, iron and zinc/copper supplementation has shown to be beneficial in some forms of hair loss. Dr. Kittridge does not currently recommend biotin for hair loss due to its limited value in increasing density or strength of hair and reports by the FDA that biotin supplements interfere with some laboratory testing.
Skin aging. While we all desire to stop the aging process, no single food, lifestyle choice or procedure can do this. Healthy eating patterns, with less processed foods and red meats, has been correlated with less wrinkles. Proteins in our skin break down naturally with chronological aging, however, this process may be accelerated in those with high sugar diets. Eating nutrient dense, unprocessed foods that are rich in antioxidants are helpful in protecting the skin against accelerated aging.
If you need help managing your skin, please schedule a visit with Dr. Kittridge so that she can delve you’re your personal skin concerns and create a customized medical and dietary plan that works best with your skin!
DermWorld. 11.2020 An appetite for healthy skin. Pg 17-21