Sugar and acne: the (not so) sweet truth
During my journey to clear skin I discovered one of the main culprits for my constant acne was sugar! Sugar and acne go hand and hand so by managing your blood sugar levels, and ultimately quitting sugar will be one of the best things you can do for your hormones and your skin! Quitting sugar will probably be your toughest challenge during your healing. You may not think your addicted to the white stuff but you’ll be surprised how much your body will crave it once you cut it out of your diet.
Sugar and acne: the lowdown
Acne sufferers want to keep their blood sugars as stable as possible to prevent spikes. When you eat something sugary, or you skip a meal, your blood sugar will spike. When sugars get digested, they can cause the pancreas to produce more insulin and the insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) to help maintain the balance of blood glucose. Too much insulin and IGF-1 will, in turn, trigger a release of androgen hormones, which is one of the leading causes of acne. An excess of androgens means that our skin will produce too much sebum, which will then lead to clogged pores, blackheads and whiteheads which can then lead to further acne inflammation.
Let’s face it, we all consume way to much sugar on a daily basis. Over time, all this sugar can lead us to become less sensitive to insulin (also known as insulin resistance), meaning that our pancreas has to pump out more and more insulin and IGF-1 to compensate. In fact, studies have actually shown higher rates of insulin resistance in acne sufferers compared to people with healthy skin.
To cut a long story short: sugar = bad news for acne sufferers!
Is there such thing as a good sugar?
Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. It’s now believed to be one of the leading causes of chronic illness and disease. It’s also really really REALLY bad for you acne!
Refined sugar is, by far, the worst out of a bad bunch, it’s pretty much used solely as a flavour enhancer and is worryingly found in most packaged foods, condiments and drinks. Honestly, you’ll be horrified at the amount of refined sugar that sneaks into your everyday foods items! The refining process of sugar strips it of all its nutritional value, making it “empty calories” and very high on the GI.
What about natural sugars?
Simple sugars include natural sweeteners like honey, molasses, date sugar and maple sugar. These simple sugars are unprocessed and natural, which means they contain more nutritional benefits such as antioxidants, flavanoids and minerals as well as having anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. However, they can still be high on the GI scale which is not good if you want to minimise acne/blood sugar issues.
Then there are the complex sugars like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These complex sugars contain an abundance of fibre, minerals and vitamins so it takes your body longer to break down which means there’s less chance of a sugar spike. However, I try to keep my fruit consumption to a minimum and prefer to stick to low sugar fruits such as berries and citrus fruits.
Ok, I keep mentioning GI, but what really is it? The Glycemic Index is a measure of the effects of carbohydrates (sugar) on blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream have a high GI; carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, have a low GI. I came across this really useful page which lists all the sugars and their GI (link).
Looking at that list we can cross off anything that says “artificial”, “modified” or “alcohol” – we don’t want to be going anywhere near those sweeteners! Opt for the natural sugars with the lowest GI and even then, use as little as possible! I’m currently trialling liquid stevia and yacon syrup as these are both completely natural and rank between 0-1 on the GI scale – you can’t get much lower than that!
Ok, I want to quit sugar! What else can I do to balance my blood sugar levels?
As well as cutting right back on your sugar intake (I’m afraid you’re going to have to start reading the labels of absolutely everything and binning anything that lists sugar as an ingredient!) it’s vital that you eat regularly throughout the day. The key is little and often – DON’T let yourself get ‘hangry’! This will keep your blood sugar levels steady and prevent any spikes – I always keep some macadamia nuts on me to snack on if I find myself getting peckish.
Sugar-free doesn’t have to mean chocolate-free! Start your sugar-free journey by making some of my raw chocolate sweetened with yacon and stevia or if you’re a milk chocolate addict, try my ‘You Won’t Believe It’s Not Milk’ Chocolate!
Do you find a low/no-sugar diet gives you glowing skin? Let me know in the comment box below!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin,