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How To Keep Insulin-Induced Acne Away

Studies upon studies have shown the link between insulin and acne. It should be no surprise to anyone that eating foods with tons of sugar can result in insulin spikes which can manifest on your skin.

Some people would argue this finding, though, saying that there is no evidence that a high glycemic diet can exacerbate or contribute to acne, and I ask these people to share with me some evidence. These people generally are the ones who have never had acne and think they know all about it.

For those of us with acne that is exacerbated by a lousy diet, we know otherwise. The science knows otherwise, too.

Hyperglycemic diets can induce insulin and IGF-1-mediated PI3K ⁄ Akt-activation inducing sebaceous lipogenesis, sebocyte, and keratinocyte proliferation, all of which can aggravate acne. While insulin resistance certainly is NOT the most prominent contributing factor, and may not be the case for all acne sufferers, it can definitely be a contributor for some, especially those of us who are eating rather unhealthy, high glycemic diets with lots of dairy products, pastries and processed foods, and low in fresh, whole fruits and vegetables. Postadolescent male patients with acne more commonly have insulin resistance.

Why does this matter, you might be asking? Even if we are consuming high glycemic diets, what does it matter? Well, the insulin resistance found in people consuming high glycemic diets may actually be a stage of prediabetes, and the patients may develop hyperinsulinemia or type 2 diabetes in the future. This is scary stuff! So, essentially, if you're consuming a high glycemic diet, and you're suffering from acne as a result, you might want to consider your little pimples as road flares, or a flashing red warning sign for what's to come if you don't nip it in the bud.

For some people, the bottom line is, their acne may need to be kept in check with a low-glycemic diet. It's up to you, though, to determine if this will help your acne or not.

So how do we maintain good blood sugar and avoid unhealthy blood sugar spikes?

I'm so glad you asked! If you've made it this far, it means you want to do something about your skin (& your health), so high-five for that!

Tips for Maintaining Healthy Blood Sugar/Insulin Levels

  • Avoid dairy. It goes without saying (well, it kind of doesn't if you haven't read my blog post on dairy and acne here), dairy is bad news for acne, because it's bad news for insulin. High dairy intake is a significant predictor of insulin resistance in middle-aged, nondiabetic women and men alike.

  • While you don't need to avoid things like chocolate and pastries, just be aware of their impact on your body's ability to control insulin, and enjoy them sparingly.

  • Absolutely 100% avoid sugary drinks like energy drinks and pop/soda. They're filled with sugar which is just terrible for your body. Enjoy one every now and then, but certainly don't allow them to creep into your every day habits. Instead, pick up the habit of drinking flavored water, like water with lemon, lime, cucumber, berries, oranges, mint, whatever your desire. It will make drinking water a little tastier! Or you can even look for carbonated water with natural flavoring like this brand, if you miss the carbonated feeling of a soda.

  • Maybe you need more vitamin D in your diet? No, I don't mean go and roast out in the sun (see my blog post on why I stopped tanning here), but instead, take a vitamin D3 supplement like this one! A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed women who were given a daily dose of 4,000 IU of vitamin D3 showed improvements in their insulin resistance after 6 months of supplementation. Did you know that some 3/4 of North American is vitamin D deficient? I take a vitamin D3 supplement every day, because an optimal blood value of 125 nmol/L is ideal for insulin balance.

  • Definitely consume more healthy fats, like those found in avocados and nuts. Not only is a healthy dose of healthy fat (20-35% of calories; polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) important for endocrine function, it's also important for insulin!

  • Exercise significantly helps insulin to move sugar out of the blood into the cells where it can be used for more energy. Without exercise, a lot of the sugar may never actually reach the cells, but instead remains in the bloodstream.

  • Research shows that when your body is short-changed of sleep, it quickly feels stressed, and that stress interferes with your body’s natural ability to handle blood sugar.

  • Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of cinnamon per day on foods, in coffee or tea. Cinnamon is known to help prevent insulin resistance! Although this should only be taken as a supplement to a good diet, and ensure you're using ceylon cinnamon like this one (I talk about why in this blog post).

  • If you're like me and you have a nasty sweet-tooth and a hankering for baked goodies late at night, then use fructose in place of sugar in your baking. The Glycemic Index of fructose is less than half that of sugar, so it won’t cause a blood sugar spike with the subsequent burst of insulin into your bloodstream, and thus, won't impact your acne as much. So-called natural sweeteners are generally safe, but there's no health advantage to consuming any type of added sugar, so as always, use sugars sparingly. You may even opt to use dates as sweeteners in recipes wherever possible - with their added fiber, the insulin spike won't be as prominent. The Role of Fiber

  • Fiber is an overwhelming factor in controlling blood sugar, because it slows down the release of glucose into the bloodstream. We were, after all, designed to eat colorful and vibrant fruits and vegetables, breads, nuts. Ensuring you have a diet rich in fiber (rich meaning every meal contains fiber) will help to ensure healthy blood glucose and insulin levels. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people with diabetes who ate 50 grams of fiber a day — particularly soluble fiber — were able to control their blood glucose better than those who ate far less. There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber keeps your digestive tract working well. Whole wheat bran is an example of this type of fiber. Soluble fiber can help lower your cholesterol level and improve blood glucose control if eaten in large amounts. Oatmeal is an example of this type of fiber.

  • Trade in your daily green juices for a denser, fiber-rich green smoothie. Fiber is the whole point of the fruits and vegetables you consume, and when you eliminate the fiber you're basically just drinking liquid sugar. I know, you're saying "But it's natural sugar, so it's OK". Well, no, it's still sugar and without the fiber, it is going to act the same way in your body as any other sugar would. Smoothies keep all the sugar and all the fiber, so you've got all the tools you need. Plus, it's nice to have something with a little sustenance.

  • Try a blueberry smoothie! Or, at least a green smoothie with blueberries added. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, a daily dose of blueberries may reduce the risk of developing diabetes in at-risk individuals. Researchers discovered that obese, non-diabetic and insulin-resistant participants who consumed 2 smoothies containing 22.5 grams of blueberry freeze-dried powder daily for 6 weeks experienced a 22% change in insulin sensitivity, compared to only 4.9% in the placebo group.

  • Increase consumption of whole grains and legumes to decrease insulin resistance. Eat more fiber-rich foods, like beans! Beans were used to treat diabetes before insulin! A review out of Canada compiled 41 randomized controlled experimental trials, totaling more than a thousand patients, and corroborated the diabetes association nutrition guidelines recommending the consumption of pulses as a means of optimizing diabetes control. They discovered that some pulses are better than others. Some of the best results came from the studies that used chickpeas. In terms of beans, pintos and black beans beat out kidney beans. One of the reasons beans are so healthy is they contain compounds that partially block our starch-digesting enzyme, which allows some starch to make it down to our colon to feed our good gut bacteria. In fact, the inhibition of this starch-eating enzyme amylase, just by eating beans, approximates that of a carbohydrate-blocking drug called acarbose (sold as Precose), a popular diabetes medication. The long-term use of beans may normalize hemoglobin A1C levels (which is how you track diabetes) almost as well as the drug.

So, as you can see, there's a lot we can do that is well within our control to keep our blood sugar within a healthy range, and avoid insulin spikes that would be bad news for our skin, but most importantly, for our health.

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