What we eat and drink can have a dramatic impact on our health, so it’s hardly surprising there are so many stories online about people who claim to have cured their skin conditions with special diets or by eating certain foods. But just how true are these claims and should you change what you eat because of your skin condition?
Can food trigger skin conditions?
The most common way in which food can cause a skin condition is when a food triggers a skin rash. Most skin reactions are triggered by substances that come in contact with our skin, but they can also happen when certain substances are eaten. Commonly reported foods which can cause skin rashes include shellfish, nuts and cow’s milk. Food allergies that cause skin reactions are quite rare and are usually seen in combination with other causes such as contact allergies or infections. A doctor will be able to carry out some tests to identify the specific allergy which is causing the problem so it can be eliminated from your diet if necessary.
Some common skin conditions are not caused by diet, but symptoms can be worsened, or alleviated in response to the things you eat and drink. Urticaria (hives) may be aggravated by eating foodstuffs which contain high levels of natural salicylates such as strawberries, tomatoes, citrus fruit, shellfish, nuts and blue cheese. The yellow orange food dye tartrazine (E102) and aspirin itself may have similar effects.
Eczema is a long term skin condition which causes the skin to become dry, itchy, red and cracked. Causes of flare ups of eczema include stress, soap, laundry detergents, weather and food allergies. The most commonly reported foods which cause eczema flare ups include milk, eggs, fish, nuts and food additives. Omega-3 fats, zinc and vitamin E have been reported to help reduce symptoms if included in the diet.
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions in the UK which affects many people at some point in their lives, however severity and longevity of the condition varies. Acne is an inflammatory skin condition which leads to oily skin and the development of spots, blackheads and whiteheads on the skin. Acne is caused by a combination of overactive grease-glands, hormones and bacterial infection. To help alleviate the symptoms of acne, cut back on processed foods, junk foods and food high in sugar. Aim to eat more raw vegetables, wholegrains and fish.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that causes thickening, redness and scaling of the skin. Essential fatty acids from foods such as fish, nuts and seeds are good to include in the diet if you are suffering with psoriasis. Anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, red pepper, ginger, cumin, fennel, rosemary and garlic are also good to be included in the diet and may help to alleviate symptoms.
Rosacea is a long term skin condition which mainly affects the face. The main signs are redness or blushing which comes across the face in waves. The skin is likely to be sensitive to skin care products and can lead to ‘broken’ blood vessels across the face. It is not known what causes rosacea, but triggers can include spicy food, caffeine, alcohol and cheese. It is therefore best to avoid these foods and drinks where possible in the diet. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish and nuts can help to reduce the inflammation associated with this skin condition.
It is key to note in all of these cases, there are many other factors which can affect your skin condition such as the toiletries you use, the environments you have been in or your stress levels. It can be difficult to identify what exactly triggered a flare up or alleviated your symptoms, it may be something you have eaten but there can also be a lot of other contributing factors. It is important to speak to an expert about your skin condition before you start to cut food groups from your diet as there may be other factors causing your skin condition and better suited treatments. Speak to a consultant dermatologist today if you have any concerns with your skin.
Even if your diet isn’t triggering any specific skin symptoms, what you eat can still have an impact on the health of your skin. Eating a balanced diet containing plenty of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and water as well as reducing your intake of unhealthy fats and sugars is essential for all aspects of our health, including our skin. Eating a better diet won’t necessarily improve the symptoms of your skin condition, but it should help you to look and feel healthier. See our top diet tips for all round healthy skin:
DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Skin needs moisture and even mild dehydration can make your skin look tired, dry and slightly grey. It is recommended to drink between six to eight glasses of water a day. Water is the best for your skin, however herbal, caffeine-free teas are also good. Why not try flavouring your water with some fresh fruit such as cucumber, watermelon or orange.
EAT FIVE PORTIONS OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES PER DAY
We have all heard this one but fruit and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants which help to protect our skin from external damage. Aim for a selection of different fruits and vegetables to keep variety in your diet.
INCLUDE VITAMIN C IN YOUR DIET
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which has been proven to support the immune system, promote radiant skin and to help blemishes heal properly. Vitamin C is needed to produce collagen which strengthens the skin and keeps it looking elastic and hydrated. Vitamin C can be found in oranges, blueberries, broccoli and sweet potatoes to name a few.
INCLUDE VITAMIN E IN YOUR DIET
Vitamin E supports health skin growth and protects the skin from cell damage so it is great to have in a balanced diet. Foods which are high in vitamin E include avocado, hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts and sunflower oil.
INCLUDE OMEGA-3 IN YOUR DIET
It is important to have omega-3 in your diet as it helps the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds which can help reduce the symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Omega-3 can be found in oily fish, chia seeds, walnuts and rapeseed oil.
EAT SOME HEALTHY FATS
Healthy fats provide essential fatty acids which moisturises the skin, improving its elasticity. Healthy fats also include vitamin E which help protect the skin from external damage. Healthy fats are found in avocados, oily fish, nuts and seeds.
Every skin condition is different so be aware of claims diet alone can cure your symptoms. Cutting out certain foods might not help your condition and it could prevent you from getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy. If you think your diet might be affecting your skin, get in contact with us today to get expert advice. Our experienced dermatologists can help to identify possible triggers for your symptoms and manage these in a controlled way.