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Healing Foods - In the Clear
By Gina DeMillo Wagner
By the time you’ve finished high school—and left proms, SAT scores, and driver’s permits behind—you assume you’ve left acne behind as well. But, alas, acne can plague people’s complexions well into their 30s and 40s. And topical treatments usually only treat the problem after it has oh-so-visibly manifested. Applying one of these potions may hasten the blemish’s departure, but like an unwanted guest, you’ll have to endure its presence in the meantime. Plus, the harsh acids in many treatments strip the face of its oil, prompting the skin to pump out more and worsen acne as the skin swings between oiliness and dryness.
Far better to nip those blemishes in the bud. Choosing the right foods—and avoiding others—can help you do that by nourishing your skin from the inside out.
Blemish be gone
In high school, the pimple always popped up the day of a big date. Now, it arrives the day of a big presentation at work. You can still cry in despair, but realize that you’re not alone: Adult acne affects more than 25 percent of men and 50 percent of women at some point in their lives.
Genetic predispositions for overly active oil glands share some of the blame, but hormonal fluctuations make you prone to adult acne as well. When male hormones called androgens spike, they increase oil production. These hormonal changes can occur at any time during life but often accompany stress, menstruation, menopause, and, of course, puberty. Excess oil becomes trapped with bacteria and dead skin cells inside pores, forming pustules, better known as zits.
Certain foods can spur zit formation, but, contrary to mom’s warning, chocolate isn’t one of them. Research has shown that neither it nor greasy foods cause acne. But a diet low in zinc might. Studies published in the journals Clinics in Dermatology and International Journal of Dermatology found that taking 135 to 250 mg of zinc daily can treat mild to moderate acne as effectively as some prescription medications. Researchers theorize that zinc has antibiotic properties similar to tetracycline, a common acne medication. Pumpkin seeds, meat, and legumes are all high in zinc.
Pay attention to your dairy consumption as well. Several studies, including one from 2005 in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, point to dairy as an acne trigger. Dairy naturally contains small quantities of hormones from the cow, and these levels increase when cows are given genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production. The rBGH raises levels of another hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF), as well. These hormones find their way into dairy products and can stimulate oil production when ingested. Dermatologist F.W. Danby, MD, writes in the 2005 study that milking pregnant cows unavoidably results in “taking the hormones into your diet as milk, cream, ice cream, butter, cheese, yogurt, pizza, lasagna, cheeseburgers” and “the hormones bei...
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