Nutrients And Food For Acne – What Your Teen Needs To Know
Is your teen struggling with acne? Acne can be a concern for many teenagers, impacting their self-esteem and moods. Many medications for acne have unwanted side effects and can make skin worse in the long-term. If you’re looking for a more natural approach, there are some key nutrients and food for acne management that you (and they) need to know about.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more about the impact of nutrients and food for acne issues.
What happens with teenage acne
Acne can be a big problem during puberty for both boys and girls. During puberty, there is an increase in androgens – the male sex hormones. Both boys and girls experience a surge of these hormones.
This surge increases the amount of sebum produced on the skin. Until the hormone and sebum levels balance, it can lead to breakouts and acne.
In the Western world, we see acne as a normal part of puberty. However, the research suggests otherwise.
One study looked at acne in traditional populations. They examined two groups – one from Papua New Guinea and one from Paraguay. What they found was that there were zero cases of acne in teens – even though the study was done over a 27-month period!
What this shows us is that hormones drive the acne, but they aren’t the root cause. Traditional diets that are rich in fibre and wholefoods protect against acne.
This suggests that acne doesn’t have to be the norm for our teens! By altering the diet and lifestyle, we should be able to manage and even prevent acne.
How conventional medicine approaches teenage acne
Doctors will often say that there is no benefit in using nutrients or changing the diet to manage acne. Instead, they tend to offer one or more medication options. There are 3 main medications that your GP or dermatologist may offer.
The oral contraceptive pill, or OCP, is often the first option given to teenage girls. The Pill shuts down androgen production, which helps in the short term. However, when they come off the Pill, there is a surge in androgen and sebum production. Girls will often have worse skin than before!
There are also many other side effects of the Pill that need to be considered. This is why the Pill is a bandaid solution – not a permanent one.
Antibiotics are often prescribed for long periods of time for infected and inflamed acne. Again, this helps with the short-term by killing off bad bacteria.
However, in the long-term, this has an incredibly negative impact on gut health. As we’ll discuss later, gut health is an important part of managing teenage acne. That’s why using antibiotics regularly will make the situation worse, not better.
Roaccutane is well-known as an acne medication. It is often offered to boys as a treatment option, as they are unable to use the Pill. This retinoid medication is similar to vitamin A – but with many more negative side effects.
Roaccutane has been associated with dozens of serious side effects. Some of the mental health effects include depression, psychotic episodes, suicidal thoughts and suicide! Given how much teens already struggle with anxiety and depression, this is not something we want to encourage.
As you can see, there are no real ‘great’ choices when it comes to medications! That’s why we much prefer the approach of nutrients and food for acne prevention and management.
How To Use Nutrients & Food For Acne Management
Many medical doctors will claim that there nutrition or food choices have no impact on acne. But the research has shown that it does have an effect – in fact, it’s the biggest contributor!
By reducing the foods that contribute to acne and improving nutrient levels, we can help our teens to get a handle on their acne.
The worst food choices for acne
When it comes to food for acne, there are two factors that can exacerbate or even cause acne flare-ups. If your teen is serious about getting their breakouts under control, cutting them down is the most important step they can take.
When teens have increased androgen levels, this increases another hormone called insulin. Insulin helps to stabilise blood sugar levels by storing excess glucose away in the cells.
When we add sugar and refined carbohydrates into the diet, this drives insulin levels even higher. Why is this a problem? A high level of insulin increases sebum production and inflammation, leading to acne.
Unfortunately, the average teenage diet is pretty high in sugar and processed foods. But the good news is that teens are often willing to make some changes if it means clearing up their skin!
The key is to reduce the sugar and processed foods and boost up the wholefoods that are rich in fibre.
For some ideas around meal ideas that are low in sugar, check out our favourites here:
Another problematic food for acne is dairy. For many teenagers, reducing or even cutting out dairy can help to clear skin within a few months.
Dairy can be a problem for a few reasons. Firstly, it has a high glycaemic load (GL). High loads are not good for the skin as it spikes insulin levels.
Secondly, there is a type of protein in most dairy products that is inflammatory for many people. This A1 protein increases inflammation and contributes to high sebum levels.
Going dairy-free can be a challenge, so you may want to work with a practitioner to help with the transition. But the good news is that your teen may be fine with dairy that contains A2 instead of A1. You can learn more about A2 dairy options here.
The role of gut health in teenage acne
Gut health plays a role in so many areas of wellbeing. So it’s no surprise that it also plays a role in acne!
The gut is our biggest organ of elimination. If it is not working effectively, this can put pressures on other organs of elimination – including the skin.
Leaky gut and gut flora imbalance are two gut health concerns that go hand in hand. Together, they can exacerbate and even lead to acne development.
Both of these are multi-factorial conditions, but some of the common causes include antibiotic use, use of the OCP, a processed and high-sugar diet and a lack of fibre. Combined with the hormonal fluctuations, it’s easy to see why teens are so prone to poor gut health and the resulting skin issues!
When it comes to food for acne management, focusing on gut-supporting choices is key. To learn more about building a healthy gut, download our FREE Gut Health Ebook here.
The best nutrients for teenage acne
There are two essential nutrients to consider when it comes to managing teenage acne.
If we were to pick one nutrient for acne, zinc would be it. Zinc is a great nutrient for teens in general. But it is also a key player in managing and preventing acne.
Zinc can help to:
- Support a healthy balance of hormones
- Decrease excess androgens
- Reduce inflammation
- Support healthy skin
- Aid in immunity and healing of affected skin
Taking a zinc supplement isn’t a magic pill – it won’t work wonders for a teen who is eating junk food and dairy. But it can give a good boost on top of dietary changes.
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are found mostly in fish and seafood. They may help with acne by:
- Reducing inflammation
- Supporting overall skin health
- Encouraging a diverse and healthy gut microbiome
As many teens don’t eat much fish or seafood, a supplement is often warranted.
When it comes to supplements, the right dosages for your teen will depend on their usual intake and their specific case and concerns. However, it is essential to choose a high-quality supplement for the best outcome.
If you think your teen may benefit from a zinc and/or omega-3 supplement, booking an acute consultation is your best option.
Does your teen need some help with controlling acne?
Diet changes and high-quality nutritional supplements may help them to do just that.
If you are looking for support to help them address their acne concerns, we’re here to help.
Check out our appointment options here.