Sugar and Skin Health

Ever notice how certain times of year you notice your skin having more inflammation, acne, blemishes or wrinkles?  Do you ever stop to think it could be a direct correlation to what you are eating, your stress levels, or hydration?  Our skin is a reflection of our inner health, especially as it relates to our body ecology.  Skin is the largest organ in our body and our ecology is 10 times what our skin is.  In other words we are made up more of bacteria, yeast, and microbes (good or bad) then anything else.

Although sugar may be good for a facial scrub, sugar feeds a poor ecology inside the body.  By products of a poor ecology produce toxins that promote inflammatory processes.  The association between skin and diet is not clear but there is some research that diets rich in Vitamin C and low in unhealthy fats, processed foods, and sugars might promote younger looking skin.  Newer studies are finding that the rise in insulin from eating more carbohydrates and sugars can promote their acne.  It’s no surprise that our body would improve when taking out sugar due to its correlation to inflammation, poor ecology, and dehydrating effects.   This same sugar producing inflammation makes enzymes that break down collagen and elastin.

It’s important to understand the types of sugars to avoid as pertaining to the glycemic index or by classifying them as complex or simple.  Your food label may not say “sugar” on it, sugars can be under other aliases like barley malt, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice, maltose, maple syrup, date paste, honey, molasses, succanat, turbinado, flour, tapioca syrup, coconut nectar, etc.  When reading a food label, if you want to know how many teaspoons of sugar you are getting divide the number of carbohydrates by 4 to get the number of teaspoons of sugar.  Try for less then 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Other foods that produce a rush of insulin and inflammation are pizza, jelly, juice, candy, white bread, ketchup, ice cream, pasta, and most packaged foods.

Instead, try to eat foods that are low in sugar and reduce inflammation.

These are berries, vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, etc), healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, hemp seed, chia seed, wild fish, or other omega 3’s).  Try to keep your omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio to 3:1 or less.

Water is another great way to help with increases in insulin and keep skin looking young.  As many have said before “the solution to pollution is dilution”.  As winter approaches it’s easy to forget our hydration needs and the dryness in the air, keep the water flowing.

Additionally, getting enough sleep and rest is imperative to keeping cortisol levels lower.  Cortisol is a hormone that tends to spike insulin levels.  Do what you can to reduce stress levels and wind down.  Even taking 5 deep breaths at a stop light is helpful.

Food timing and frequency is also really important.  Eating small, frequent meals is ideal as you are never overloading the body at any given time, you are negating getting too hungry in between meals, and you keep metabolism going more steady.   The order of the food you eat also helps keep insulin from spiking.  Eat protein foods first since they don’t increase insulin and therefore keep inflammation at bay.

So as you go into the holiday season, keep a few things in mind.

  • Try to keep healthy snacks going through the day
  • Stay hydrated
  • Sleep
  • Reduce stress- find a practice that suits you
  • Avoid too much sugar
  • If having a carbohydrate laden meal, eat the protein foods first
  • You might also entertain the idea of taking a walk after the holiday mealJ.

British Journal of Dermatology.

 Kaymak, Y. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, November 2007, vol 57: pp 819-823.

 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007;86:1225

Share with a friend