How Popular Diets (or diet fads) Affect Your Skin

Fad diets are often popularised through the media, with emphasis on losing weight. While the validity of these diet plans is still debatable (most fitness trainers will still tell you to stick to the traditional methods), perhaps you’d like to know how they affect your skin and then decide whether you’re going to follow these diets or not.

Atkins Diet

The Atkins diet is a low-carbohydrate diet that is recommended for weight loss. This diet is originally promoted by Dr Robert C. Atkins and it involves eating high amounts of meat protein, fats and reducing intake of carbohydrates. A lot of people who have gone through the diet have reported a positive impact on various unpleasant and chronic skin conditions, helping to clear redness, irritation, and itching due to eczema, psoriasis, acne and also vitiligo. Even those without any skin condition witnessed more healthy, moisturised and radiant skin. Not just skin, it improves your nails and hair making them stronger and healthier.

Another study shows that it can be damaging to the complexion as excessive protein causes a decrease in the percentage of calcium and thus, reducing bone density on the face, making one appear more aged. It also depends on whether you do stick to varied meat and fish protein or only sticking to processed meats such as sausages, then there will be an imbalance in fatty acids which may cause inflammation – causing the skin to breakout or look a little swollen.

It is important to note that the first phase of the Atkins diet causes swelling such as hives (itchy, red, raised areas of inflammation). This is due to histamines as a result of the breakdown of fats. This only affects those with sensitivity towards histamines. In common cases, it fades eventually within days. Do consult a doctor if it persists.

Alkaline Diet

The Alkaline diet believes that eating food that is alkaline can help you lose weight and avoid problems such as arthritis and cancer. The theory is that foods such as meat, wheat, sugar, and other processed foods cause your body to produce acid, which is bad for you. The pH range is from 1-14, with neutral at 7. If the level of pH is below 7, it is rated as acidic, the lower the number the higher the acidity. Conversely, the higher the pH level, the higher the alkaline level.  The optimum pH level of the blood is around 7.34 to 7.45, while the pH of your stomach should be around 2 to ensure proper digestion.

Hence, the “science” behind this diet is to eat foods filled with antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamins A, C, E, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, whole grains and ancient grains such as quinoa and amaranth, good fats like coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, nuts, and seeds to protect the body. The Alkaline Diet really hit the popular rage when Victoria Beckham tweeted about an alkaline diet cookbook in early 2013.

Besides wheat, the alkaline diet does take out a lot of major triggers for food allergies, which is why it is good for people who are avoiding fat and sugar. It definitely does not hurt to be on such a high plant-based diet but do note that scientifically speaking, nothing you eat is going to substantially change the pH of your blood as your body works to keep that level constant. However, what you are supposed to eat during this alkaline diet are naturally great for skin.

Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet is based on the theory that we should be eating what our Paleolithic (2.6 million to 12,000 years ago) ancestors ate. As such, it is rich in meats, fruits, vegetables, seafood, and nuts, but low in grains, dairy, added salt, and legumes such as peanuts, beans, lentils, and soybeans. It also cuts out a lot of processed meats and focuses on whole foods.

As per our previous post, the Paleo diet is really quite a myth and what proponents advise us to eat are often foods that were not consumed by our Paleolithic ancestors – which differs also from region to region.

That said, the Paleo diet does help improve the skin condition as it is rich in proteins, which is necessary for building up collagen for healthy skin; healthy fats from olive oil and avocados also help to keep stay hydrated.

That said, be careful about the choice of meat when on the Paleo diet. Chicken breasts and other animal protein that have been treated with hormones in the farm are linked to higher levels of cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol means an increased level of estrogen and progesterone that causes acne.

Gluten-free diet

Those suffering from extremely itchy, blistering rashes due to coeliac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis should definitely comply with gluten-free diet. Generally, removing gluten from our diet reduces acne as foods with gluten are high on the glycemic index, which is linked to inflammation in the body. However, if you are planning to go on a gluten-free diet, be cautious of replacing gluten-containing food with processed gluten-free products as they can still spike your blood sugar, leading to breakouts.

Conversely, going gluten-free also means eliminating sources of vitamin B and selenium, which can impair the body’s ability to fight off inflammation related to skin damage. Thus, a gluten-free diet may not be suitable for everyone. If you are experiencing skin flare up and nothing seems to work, you may want to adopt a gluten-free diet, be it on a short term basis till your skin gets better or on a longer-term. Nevertheless, make sure that you check for added sugar and fats in gluten-free products.

The best way to know if these diet fads are reliable or not is to consult with your dermatologist due to different skin types and conditions.


Photo credits: flickr, Zliving, Healthline and Paleo Foundation 

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