Skin conditions such as acne can really put the brakes on enjoying life to the fullest for it's sufferers, for some it's a minor irritation but for others it can be a full blown crisis.
Acne creams and ointments are in plentiful supply and do a very good job to suppress the onslaught of this condition but have you ever wondered if you can achieve skin changes on Keto? Or if the Keto diet can actually reduce acne in some cases.
Well the quick answer to the question above is Yes it most certainly can. On a Keto diet the primary benefits are weight loss as well as better control of blood sugar and lower blood pressure, however based on research done by Paoli A and Grimaldi K studying the effects of the Keto diet and acne treatment an unexpected bonus of this diet is also better skin complexion.
What Exactly Is Acne And How Is It Formed?
In order to understand how Keto acne treatment works let's first look at how acne is formed. Lets say you have a little bump right here, It could be filled with fluid or pus.
There's usually redness involved and could be on the the face, the back, it could be anywhere on the body, but we have several pieces to this puzzle. Number one, you usually have higher amounts of Androgens.
Androgens - are a group of hormones that play a role in male traits and reproductive activity. Present in both males and females, the principle androgens are testosterone and androstenedione.
Now incidentally during puberty you have the spike of Androgens which leads to a higher ratio of zits.
Ok so the next part of this puzzle is that you get an overproduction of sweat glands which are called sebaceous glands. You don't need to know too much about these, but they're just the sweat gland that start becoming enlarged because of Androgens.
Now when Androgen levels increase, the sweat glands start to enlarge even more and then you get more oil production. Now not only do you get this enlargement of this gland, you also get a lot of turnover with cells and you start getting more dead skin cells in the area and they can clog pores and they can get infected in turn creating blackheads and whiteheads.
So you have a lot of things happening due to the higher level of Androgens. As a byproduct, you get inflammation. That's why it's red and tender.
Now it just so happens there's a certain micro, a bacteria that lives in your skin that eats this oil mentioned above.
So the situation is that you have just provided more food for this microbe which creates more inflammation. It's a cycle that continually gets worse and the acne becomes ever present, something needs to give.
This is why a lot of people when they go to the doctor, get an antibiotic for their skin conditions, but that's only addressing the tip of the iceberg.
It's just a matter of time before it either comes back or you start developing antibiotic resistance and now we have a big problem. So it's not the best long term strategy.
What Is The Keto Diet And How Does It Directly Impact Acne?
A Keto diet works when you eat in such a way that you change the body's fuel source from glucose, which is sugar to fat. So this means you enter a state of Ketosis, and that's when the body is no longer burning glucose. Instead it's shifting to burn fat that is burned very efficiently in the body.
Now what this diet does is when you're burning the fat very efficiently, it's really balancing insulin levels. It's balancing blood sugar levels and it's normalising hormone levels. So there is such a really amazing benefit to following a ketogenic diet.
Let's go back to the Androgens, the main trigger for higher levels of this hormone is Insulin.
Now I don't know if you've ever heard of the condition called PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), this is a situation where, you get acne, facial hair and if you're female you get a deeper voice because your Androgens are increased and that comes from insulin.
So the solution for that and to keep Androgens in check is to make sure insulin is normalised. Going on a healthy Keto diet will greatly help to balance your levels and you start to see some skin changes on Keto.
The Keto diet ensures the levels of Insulin and stress are significantly reduced as stress can also activate Androgens. Through this you can see the link between carbs and acne and this also debunks the common question of, 'does keto cause acne?'
Some might say there is a link between the Ketogenic diet and skin ageing, there is a link but rather than ageing the skin it has been found to make skin more youthful.
Now what do we do about the bacteria? Well bacteria live on sugar and if you're on a Keto diet plan you're cutting down your sugars, so you're actually starving the bacteria which helps to break the cycle resulting in acne.
The Roles Of Vitamin A and B In An Effective Acne Diet Plan
So we come to the question asked above all else, how to prevent acne on keto? Well we looked at how Androgens lead to enlarged sweat glands and an increase in bacteria resulting in an environment where acne can thrive.
Let's look at the role of Vitamins in combating acne. First up let's look at Vitamin A, this essential nutrient is crucial in keeping the sweat gland or the sebaceous gland in check so it doesn't become too big.
So it really helps to normalize these glands in the production of oil and it does a lot of other important things with the skin too. It keeps it healthy, keeps it soft, it's intimately involved in a lot of functions with your skin.
Now we come to Vitamin E, this is important in the prevention and reduction of anti scarring. So if you're deficient in vitamin E, a lot of times you'll get pock marks and scarring after the acne.
Furthermore Vitamin E is very important in producing a balanced hormonal profile as well.
It so happens that Vitamins A and E are significantly found in foods in a good Keto diet and is one of the reasons the diet also works as a Keto acne treatment.
When you follow this diet the carbs are reduced and the fat is increased, but we make sure it's high quality fat and these fats are rich in Vitamin A and E, so you can see here the direct link between carbs and acne.
Foods In A Keto Diet That Have An Effect On Acne
There are three main classes of foods when talking about a good healthy Keto diet. They each help to combat the causes of acne in their own way. You can come up with a super effective acne diet plan using a combination of these.
Healthy Fats - These types of fats can be gained from foods such as egg yolks, cod liver oil, coconut oil and fish. Egg yolks and cod liver oil are particularly important as they are rich in Vitamin A keeping glands in check.
Non-starchy vegetables - This includes cruciferous vegetables, Broccoli, Spinach, cauliflowers, leafy Greens, carrots, radishes, basically any vegetable that is not a starchy vegetable. Spinach contains Vitamin E which is important in reducing skin inflammation, scarring and poch marks thus helping to reduce the effects of Acne.
Proteins - These come from healthy sources like grass fed beef, organic chicken and sustainable fish. fish containing omega-3 fatty acid which has found to be anti-inflammatory. Fish such as Sardines, Herring and Salmon all contain the omega-3 fatty acids.
There are foods that are best avoided too when trying to reduce the effects of acne.
Dairy - It has been shown that certain dairy products actually increase your insulin level with skimmed milk being particularly bad for this, cheese is another dairy product which is best avoided when trying to reduce acne.
Dark Chocolate - Certain studies have found that dark chocolate in particular may cause the effect of acne to get worse. More research is required in this but may be best to avoid dark chocolate completely when faced with acne.
Finally it goes without saying to minimise all carbs, the recommended amount when following the Keto diet is around 20 grams per day. As mentioned earlier carbs and acne go hand in hand.
When looking at a Keto diet to reduce or eliminate acne, the affect may vary from person to person, however the common consensus is that it has a more of a positive impact than a negative one. In fact "getting acne on a Ketogenic diet" is more of a myth without any findings supporting this.
When looking at the science behind this, Insulin plays a big part as this can cause higher Androgen levels and can lead to acne and other similar effects. The Keto diet directly impacts the control of Insulin, reduces skin inflammation, keeps sweat glands in check and reduces scarring and pock marks. This makes it an effective solution to combat skin conditions, like a ready made keto acne treatment.
The foods recommended for a Keto diet are readily available at your local supermarket making this diet easy to follow in terms of preparation, on your finances and when coming up with an acne diet plan that works.
As the Keto diet is mainly followed for weight loss and blood sugar control primarily there aren't many negative things to be said about this, although as always we recommend consulting your doctor before undertaking any diet if you suffer any other conditions.