Foods That Affect Your Skin

There’s increasing evidence that our gut is responsible for a lot more than digesting the food we put into our bodies. What we eat has a direct impact on how we feel. Coffee, for instance, can cause a person to feel shaky and jittery. Foods can also have an effect on our skin.

Common Skin Conditions and Their Relationship to Food

Here are some of the most common skin ailments, along with foods that can cause them to flare up or subside.

Rosacea

This skin condition, which affects millions of people in the United States, causes the skin to become red and inflamed. It usually crops up in people over 30 years of age. Redness first shows up as flushing in specific spots around the facial area. Over time, the redness worsens, and permanent skin changes can occur, such as bumps and visible blood vessels. It’s most common in people with fair skin. Because it affects the face, the condition often causes self-esteem issues in affected individuals. A dermatologist can help people manage their symptoms, though there is no definitive cure for the skin disorder.

People with rosacea should opt for gentle cleansers for sensitive skin. A dermatologist can also prescribe topical or oral medications to help control symptoms. Laser therapy is one possible treatment for visible blood vessels and excess tissue growth.

People with this skin condition should also be mindful of potential triggers that can include certain foods. A 2017 study in Dermatology Practical & Conceptual found that dietary triggers fell into four categories: alcohol, hot beverages, spicy foods, and foods containing cinnamaldehyde such as cinnamon, tomatoes, and chocolate. Both wine and hard liquor were frequently reported triggers for rosacea symptoms in addition to spices, hot sauces, and cayenne pepper. It’s important to note that food triggers may differ significantly from person to person. The National Rosacea Society encourages people to track and pay attention to potential triggers.

Eczema

Eczema is a skin ailment that produces itchy patches of skin around the body. It’s thought to be triggered by an inflammatory response, so identifying triggers — food included — is part of symptom management. Many foods have been linked to eczema flare-ups, so an elimination diet is recommended if symptoms worsen shortly after eating. Examples of foods that can cause eczema flare-ups include:

• Eggs
• Dairy
• Gluten
• Soy
• Some nuts
• Nickel-laden foods (e.g., lentils, chocolate, shellfish)
• Foods exposed to birch pollen (e.g., carrots, pears, celery)

Dietary change, however, is not a cure-all for eczema. Working with a physician is the best strategy for determining the cause of and settling on viable treatment options for this uncomfortable skin condition.

Sunburn

While you can’t eat your way to sunburned skin, contact with certain foodstuffs can increase your risk of sunburn. Phytophotodermatitis, also known as ‘margarita burn,’ occurs when lime juice comes into contact with the skin and then that patch of skin is exposed to the sun.

The chemical furocoumarin, found in limes and other foods like citrus fruits and celery, reacts to the sun’s rays and causes a chemical burn on the skin, leaving affected individuals with a painful, blistery rash not long after exposure.
Thankfully, drinking margaritas or other drinks with freshly squeezed lime won’t necessarily translate to a surefire burn. After mixing drinks, wash your hands and forearms thoroughly before laying out in the sun — with sunscreen, of course!

Hives

Also called urticaria, hives are an extremely common condition. The small, itchy bumps can be triggered by a host of things, including food. Foods that can trigger hives include:

• Alcohol
• Nuts
• Eggs
• Shellfish

Hives are only life-threatening if accompanied by symptoms of a severe allergic reaction such as throat or tongue swelling. It’s not always easy to identify the cause of an outbreak. An allergist can conduct tests to help identify what is causing your skin reaction — whether it’s a food or something else entirely.

Acne

There’s long been a myth that eating greasy foods leads to pimples and acne, but that’s not entirely true. A healthy diet can help improve the appearance of the skin, but it’s not a magic bullet. Skin conditions, acne included, won’t disappear with a diet overhaul. Treatment for acne consists of a gentle skincare regimen, medication, and avoiding things (skincare products and foods, for example) that cause flare-ups. Potential food triggers for acne include:

• Foods that spike blood sugar (e.g., bread, cereal, pasta, rice, etc.)
• Chocolate
• Cow’s milk (but not necessarily all dairy)

Written by: Steph Coelho

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