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Can Healthy Carbs Cause Acne And Breakouts?

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One of the most frequently asked questions I get is if carbs cause acne and breakouts?

Yes, it can!

If you’re eating processed food, junk food, or fast food, those carbs (and other terrible ingredients) are definitely contributing, or even completely causing your acne and breakouts.

And what about health foods, those healthy carb-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, milk products, grains, beans, etc., that have naturally occurring sugars and starches? Are they just as bad?

My answer is: yes and no. For each person it’s different.

How healthy carbs and fruit could be causing acne and breakouts

Start with the bad stuff

I don’t know a single person who doesn’t look (and feel) a lot better once they give up junk food, processed food, and fast food.

You give that up, your skin will look a lot better.

Sometimes that’s all you need to do to clear up your skin.

But for others, they might have to cut out or reduce a few more things on top of the processed food to get skin clearing results.

In order to know what you need to cut out right now, start with cutting out processed food, refined food, junk food, and fast food. Once you’ve gotten rid of the candy bars, soda, chips, bottle salad dressing, store bought sauces, white bread, and fast food meals – and you’ve done it for a couple of months consistently, then you can assess your situation to see what to do next.

Too many people ask me about fruit, and if they should be cutting out fruit? But when I ask them if they still eating candy bars and drinking alcohol and they say yes, then I will always recommend getting rid of the junk food and unhealthy foods first, before even considering if fruit could be an issue.

What if you eat such a super healthy diet, but still have breakouts and acne?

If you’ve been eating a super healthy diet consistently for some time (at least 3 months), and your skin isn’t clearing up, or it’s even getting worse, then yes, you need to look into the carbohydrates in your diet, especially if you are eating a diet high in carbs, even healthy crabs.

There’s two main reason why healthy carbs could be messing up your skin:

  1. You might have an allergy or sensitivity to a naturally occurring sugar like lactose or fructose (which can cause digestive and/or immune system issues, and breakouts).
  2. You’re eating too many carb-rich foods (foods rich in starches or naturally occurring sugars) that is spiking your blood sugar, and throwing your hormones off balance.

Naturally occurring sugars you could be allergic or sensitive to:

Two types of sugars that some people have allergies or sensitivities to is lactose and fructose. Having any type of food allergy or sensitivity can cause breakouts and acne.

Lactose

Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar found in milk and milk products. There is a strong connection between adult acne and dairy products, and it could very well be coming from an allergy or sensitivity to them. If you eat dairy products (milks, cheeses, yogurts, etc.), take a break from them for a few weeks – you’ll probably be pleasantly surprise by the skin clearing results from staying away from this food.

Fructose

Some people are sensitive or allergic to fructose. Symptoms of a sensitivity include breakouts and acne, plus stomach bloating, gas, diarrhea, and rashes.

Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruit, honey, and other sweeteners including agave nectar and high fructose corn syrup.

If you notice that eating too much fruit causes you breakouts and acne, but when you eat foods made with white sugar you have no skin issues what so ever – it could very well be a sensitivity or allergy to fructose, and not all types of sugar like sucrose or glucose.

If you suspect you have a sensitivity to fructose, start with cutting out honey and agave nectar from your diet first (because it’s a much more concentrated in a syrup than in a fruit), and see how your skin responds. Sometimes just decreasing the amounts of fructose you’re consuming may solve the problem without having to take everything out completely.

If you notice improvements in your skin when taking out honey and agave (and high fructose corn syrup), but you’re skin still isn’t completely cleared up, you can do an experiment of decreasing the amounts of fruit you’re eating, or stop eating high glycemic fruits (like mangos, melons, papaya, etc.) for a few weeks to see how your skin responds. Fruits that are high glycemic are going to be high in fructose, so even if you stop eating high glycemic fruits for a few weeks, you can most probably continue eating low glycemic fruits like berries without it adversely affecting your skin.

By decreasing or taking a break from foods that are high in fructose for a couple of weeks, you will be able to see in your skin whether the change of diet is helping or not. If there’s no difference in your skin after a month of experimenting with less fruit, then definitely add the fruit back into your diet.

Blood Sugar and Hormones

Adult acne is very much connected to hormones, whether it’s a sensitivity to hormone shifts and changes, or an actual hormone imbalance.

One of the key ways of balancing hormones is maintaining balanced blood sugar levels.

For many women with adult acne, the amounts of carbs in the diet (even healthy carbs), can increase or spiking blood sugar so much, it can adversely affect hormone levels, which in turn causes breakouts and acne.

If you suspect that your acne is hormone related, and you’re already on a super healthy diet for some time (at least 3 months), and your breakouts aren’t clearing up or they’re getting worse, it might be connect to the amount of carbs in your diet (even healthy carbs).

If this is the case, or you suspect it is, then do an experiment. You can either go on a low carb healthy food diet (like a paleo diet, low carb whole food diet, low carb vegetarian diet, etc.), or just cut your portions of carb-rich food is half. Carb-rich health foods includes fruits, starchy vegetables like potatoes and squash, whole grains, beans and legumes. You don’t necessarily have to cut out carb-rich foods from your diet, just decrease the amounts you’re eating. Do this experiment for at least a month, and if you notice your skin is clearing up, than you know you’re in the right direction.

There’s no overnight remedy

Unfortunately, there’s no overnight remedy. I really wish there was.

What I feel is most important is doing experiments with your diet, and doing one experiment at a time instead of big massive changes all at once.

Too often I see people cut so many food groups out of their diet all at once (like taking out all processed food, grains, dairy, fruit, beans and legumes all in one shot!), and yes, their skin starts clearing up. But, for a lot of people, that sort of diet is really hard to maintain, it can be way too restrictive, and even unnecessary.

By doing smaller experiments of reducing or eliminating one type of food at a time for a few weeks at a time, you can really keep track of what’s working and what is not, and pin point exactly what the cause of your skin issues is.

You don’t want to take out 5 food groups and not know which one out of the five is really causing your breakouts. It might get you results, but without knowing the cause, it’s much harder to prevent breakouts from coming back.


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About the Author

Natasha St. Michael is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Natural Health Educator accredited by the Institute For Integrative Nutrition. She is a member of the American Association For Drugless Practitioners. For over a decade, Natasha has been coaching her clients how to improve their diet, lifestyle and skin care routine to reach their health goals and have clear youthful skin.

DISCLAIMER

This blog is for information purposes only. The content is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Should you have a medical or dermatological problem, please consult with your physician. None of the information or recommendations on this website should be interpreted as medical advice.

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  1. Hi! Thank you so much for your posts, & find everything so helpful! I have acne and have been trying to cure it through diet, for 3 months I took out all processee food, grains, dairy, fruit, nuts, beans, eggs, sugary veggies, and legumes and my acne got worse! Basically it was a paleo diet without fruit, eggs, or nuts. I ate a lot of meat, fish leafy greens, and coconut oil. Since that didn’t work I am now working on a high carb low fat vegan diet. I actually have started to see a huge improvement, however still not clear yet. So essentially I am eating lots of fruit and starch. You mentioned that this may not be good for acne, I am wondering if it has worked for others? Or any thoughts you have on this drastic change in my diet. I have to say I feel so much better and my digestion is great. It was awful on the paleo. Is it that there is no diet that works for everyone, and it’s just individual?

    • Hi Samantha,
      Glad to hear the low fat vegan diet is working better for you! I have a feeling the coconut oil was throwing your skin off while you were on the paleo diet (I don’t think people digest cooking oils so well, even the higher qualities one, and if you’re eating a lot of animal fats and proteins as well, it could be too much for your digestive system). I believe everyone is different, and that’s why some people thrive one type of diet, while others don’t. My recommendation on the vegan diet you are currently on is to really focus on eating an abundance of vegetables (make sure to have at least one large salad a day, green smoothie/green juice every day, steamed veggies, etc). And do experiment to see if your skin responds better to less high glycemic fruit (less tropical fruits like bananas, mangos, grapes, melons, etc.., and eat more lower glycemic fruits like berries, apples, pears, etc.). Sometimes small adjustments can yield big results 🙂


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