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Diet and acne: Interview with nutritionist Angelique Panagos

November 20, 2018 by Works with Water
Angelique Panagos nutritionist

Diet and lifestyle can have an effect on the condition of your skin.

Today we speak to Angelique Panagos, a ground-breaking nutritionist in London, to find out a bit more about the  link between diet and acne.  

Angelique specialises in the management of stress, hormone balancing, fertility, skin, digestion problems and weight. Her philosophy is that food is healing, nourishing and what we consume affects each cell in our body and impacts our lives – bodies, emotions and even our thoughts. So what’s her take on clearing away spots with a healthy diet and lifestyle?

Is there a proven link between what we eat and our skin health?

Yes, many studies have reported the benefits of drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in vegetables on the appearance of our skin. The less attention we pay to eating a healthy skin diet, the more problems we may see cropping up with our skin, including spots and blemishes.

It’s quite helpful to understand how acne is formed. Spots occur when the hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells. Hair follicles are connected to sebaceous glands. These glands secrete an oily substance known as sebum to lubricate your hair and skin. Sebum normally travels up along the hair shafts and then out through the openings of the hair follicles onto the surface of your skin. When your body produces an excess amount of sebum and dead skin cells, the two can build up in the hair follicles and form together as a soft plug, creating an environment where bacteria can thrive.

What foods do acne sufferers need to avoid?

Not all acne patients are the same. It is best to keep a track of what you are eating to identify trigger foods. Take note of what was eaten 72 hours before acne flare-ups, see how the skin reacts and eliminate anything that causes problems.

Foods that may affect your skin health include:

  • Refined Carbohydrates – Highly processed foods such as cereal, breads and flour-based foods lack nutrients such as zinc and antioxidants that our skin needs. They also contribute to a build up of yeast and bad bacteria.
  • Refined Sugars – Sweets, pastries, cookies and fizzy drinks spike blood-glucose levels, which your body tries to bring down by secreting insulin and male hormones. This in turn prompts the sebaceous glands to work in overdrive, causing inflammation and blocked pores.
  • Milk – Although low-GI, milk carries lots of hormones, even organic milk as all milk comes from nursing cows. The hormones alongside a high percentage of calcium accelerates the body’s synthesis of androgens, which trigger the sebaceous glands to create excess sebum. Switch to other fortified milk such as almond milk and eat more spinach and greens that are naturally rich in calcium instead.
  • Vegetable Oils – Corn, sunflower and sesame oils have far more Omega-6 fatty acids than anti-inflammatory omega-3s. This imbalance promotes inflammation which causes the skin cells to clump together and jam pores.

Are there any other factors that can cause acne to become worse?

  • Make Up – Synthetic make-up products have pore clogging ingredients. A pressed powder natural mineral make up is a much better alternative and won’t clog the pores.
  • Excess Oil – Excess oil is commonly blamed for acne prone skin. Despite popular belief, oily skin does not need to use oil control products. The more hydrated the skin, the less oil the glands will secrete.
  • Dehydration – Dehydration is actually the most common cause of acne.  As oils harden in a dry environment, pores become clogged.  It is also important to note that smoking, caffeine, and alcohol are dehydrating factors, known to be taxing on the liver.
  • Toxins and Liver – Chronic acne is almost always an indication that there is an imbalance within the body. This is the root of the problem and even the purest of products can rarely help heal this type of affliction.  The skin is the largest organ of detoxification and whatever toxins are not eliminated through the intestines and digestive tract, will come out through the skin.  This is why elimination is so important. The liver is the organ most related to acne.  I run a metabolic detox, which is a gentle and effecting cleanse.
  • Hormones – Hormones play a huge part in breakouts.  Many women get breakouts around their menstruation period, mainly because this is a time of increased candida and yeast in the body. Others start having breakouts when coming off the birth control pill.  The reason is simple: the body is balancing itself out while purging toxins. Depletion of the adrenals (over-production of adrenaline) and the production of testosterone are other hormones that also play a role in acne.
  • Stress – Stress utilises the B vitamins and is therefore taxing on the whole body, lowering the entire immune system and leaving it defenceless to bacteria or infection. It hinders your body’s ability to detoxify or regenerate as normal.

What foods should acne sufferers include in their diet?

  • Dark Berries – Not only are berries jammed with skin clearing antioxidants, but they’re packed with fibre too; great for staving off hunger pangs and regulating insulin production.
  • Peppermint- It can help to aid digestion, relieve stress – a common acne aggravator – treat headaches and clear sinuses. In addition, it’s seriously good for the skin too. Try swapping your usual cup of builders’ brew for a peppermint tea and see if it makes a difference.
  • Nuts – Deficiencies in minerals such as zinc and selenium have been linked to acne in some sufferers, which is why nuts – in particular pumpkin seeds and brazil nuts – are a good, healthy snack to get used to. Selenium helps to actively increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in the body and strengthens their fighting power, while vitamin E, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, calcium and iron are all essential to skin health and its function.
  • Avocado – A great source of vitamin E, which boosts the skin’s vitality and luminosity. However, it also possesses good quantities of vitamin C, which can be used to reduce skin inflammation. Avocado oil is thought to stimulate the production of collagen in the skin, which improves its tone and texture. Eating a regular portion of avocado can also improve the skin’s ability to keep itself moisturised.

Can acne be a sign of other underlying health issues?

Yes, it is important to monitor your skin and look in to any drastic and unusual changes in your skin.

Adult women who suffer from acne may have an underlying hormonal disorder called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women diagnosed with PCOS have a risk of infertility and metabolic syndrome. Several other endocrine system disorders, including problems with the thyroid, can lead to acne breakouts in adults. See my PCOS Programme.

Why do more women seem to suffer from adult acne than men?

Sugar aggravates acne more than fat in adult women. High intake of sugar and other fast-acting carbohydrates increases blood sugar levels. They use extra sugar to make extra hormones, both oestrogen and testosterone. The excess oestrogen interferes with menstruation and fertility, whilst the extra testosterone fuels unwanted hair growth and acne. Sometimes cutting back on sugar consumption enough to lose just 2 or 3 pounds is enough to correct both acne and menstrual irregularities

Also, the ingredients in women’s skin care products that are advertised as healing are often the very ingredients that cause skin irritation and perpetuate acne-related blemishes on the skin. The biggest problem in most cosmetics is the addition of botanicals. Certain herb and spice extracts irritate the skin, especially balsam, cinnamon, citrus, lemon, lime, mint, peppermint, wintergreen and witch hazel.

There is also the fact that oral contraceptives have a major effect on acne, but not all brands are equally beneficial. In a woman’s menstrual cycle, acne tends to flare up as progesterone levels rise and oestrogen levels fall, and tends to get better as oestrogen levels rise and progesterone levels fall.

Are you seeing more patients who are concerned about their skin health?

Yes, I am definitely seeing more and more clients who are concerned about their skin health.

I would say that this increase is due to the world we live in today where there is an abundance of highly processed foods, increasing marketing of skincare products that are not necessarily good for us and the ever increasing stressful lifestyles we are exposed to.

You can find out more about Angelique’s work as a nutritional therapist – and get more great diet tips – from her website and via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.


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