To explain the title, I like to tell you my acne past.
My skin seems to be an even more sensitive gauge of my diet than I’ve ever expected.
After cutting out the usual suspects out of my diet, I noticed, that my acne got better. (It’s not easy to assess how much exactly) but food, which was low GI/GL, no dairy, no grains, equal omega ratio, let my face became 40% better (my “body acne” got way better than that: approximately 80%). Now that I think about it… it was more like 35%±10. It was just fluctuating quite heavy, but at least you got an idea of how much. A not-really-precise one. But,… nah, it’s not that important now.
So I was gone “paleo”.
I hadn’t just bought a book and started eating like that. I read a lot of acne sites, forums and stuff like that on the internet, but eventually started researching on my own. A lot. I tried different diets. Let’s just say, the road to eating “paleo” wasn’t that short.
I began looking at things (not just disease) out of an evolutionary perspective a long time before that. As for acne, the results in the mirror were confirming once more that this was the right thing to do. It was the right way… was it? My Skin got better, sure, but why wasn’t I clear? I was wondering a lot about that topic, trying to figure out what the difference between the diet of the paleolithic humans and my “paleo” diet were.
First thing I cut out of my already restricted diet was olive oil.
As I was looking for the reason, that this would benefit me, I stumbled over the downside of oil extraction. I’ve read about lipid oxidation of “PUFA-Oils” during cooking before, but Olive oil? Really? No one had a problem with EVOO, aside from the omega ratio. PUFA seem to spoil even if not heated or left in an open bottle¹? The reduction of the antioxidants normally surrounding them², in their natural environment, appears to be why. Was this causing acne? Mh, better just I cutting it out.
Next food that was affected by that were my omega 3 fish oil capsules. They were pure PUFA with added Vitamin E. Vitamin E for the antioxidantal effect. So how did they become rancid?
Didn’t really matter. I cut them out as well.
I picked frozen salmon as my omega 3 source instead, and have been eating 1/2lb (accounting for ~5g omega 3)³ every day since (my roommate loves me for that one). Even the heating process won’t harm the PUFAs⁴.
Following these nutritional steps my skin improved.
Despite of adding fatty fish to my diet, I was losing weight. As I searched for calories I came across “nuts”. Almonds seemed a good choice regarding the omega 6 intake. I read that the best way of preparing them, according to paleo-sites, was to soak them. Seeing what came out of them after an overnight water bath, I was rather sure that this was good thing to do. But after weeks of reducing the amount, and hoping the delicious raspberry almond milk wouldn’t be taken away from me, I stopped convincing myself that the almonds didn’t make my skin worse. (while my omega ratio was balanced)
Did I underestimate the leverage of antinutrients?
Sure, I heard of them before, but always thought their presence would show itself in indigestion. So they were the next possible acne related culprit I had to take care of. Reading about them, and their effects (e.g. on the immune system⁵), I thought, and still do, that lectins are the worst of the group antinutrients found in foods. Next thing to do was to cut all lectin-containing foods in general, which were known to cause problems. So nightshades, mostly peppers and tomatoes for me, were crossed of my diet.
Till today I don’t know how much, if any, improvement came of cutting the nightshades. But precaution was better than suffering weeks finding the lectin, or the amount of which I react to.
So, nuts didn’t go well.
Next calorie dense food I tried was quinoa. As a fake-grain it was loaded with saponins, another antinutrient trying to protect the plant from being eaten. As I learned about possible effects of eating quinoa, it became clear, that the saponins could, and should, be decreased by washing the seed prior to cooking.
But even rinsed and cooked low GL portions made my skin worse. I didn’t really know if it was saponin residue or other lectins/antinutrients, but I knew I could no longer eat quinoa.
Fructose: an apple a day, keeps the… waaait a minute
So after cutting olive oil I didn’t add anything to my diet and still had acne? At that time nothing food-related could shock or stop me. So next one, please: fructose in fruit. There always been a discussion about fruits in the paleo community and on this board. Some say fructose from fruits is fine and you can devour them, some say 10g fructose/day should not be exceeded (e.g. according to Dr. Lustig).
Fruits were my main source of carbs, in that time. Our paleolithic progenitors had huge access to them at least in the summer/fall. Made sense to me. As long as I stayed low GL with fruits I should be fine. No, not really. I ate around 100g/d of fructose. I lowered it drastically and my skin became better. So after a bit trial and error, I ate (and still do) max. 50g/d fructose.
50g/d is still waaaay to much? Well, it’s controversial. “Fructose is used to make rats insulin resistant” is something you could say regarding that topic. But it would be very plausible (by looking at an ape’s diet), if hominids are more adapted to fruit intake, and therefore fructose, than rats or other rodents. Maybe the fruits were small and less sugary than the ones we know. I can’t tell. Maybe I shouldn’t even defend my intake, because I don’t force anybody to eat anything.
Why fructose shouldn’t be overeaten by me, I don’t know. Several things could cause negative effects (e.g. Insulin resistance, AGEs).
Was I finally clear?
The huge decrease in calories, due to the cutting-fructose-thing, got me searching for a carb source again. Sweet potatoes were what I found (and I haven’t found a reason to ditch them since). As for a fat source next to salmon, I picked avocados.
But ~80% was the most my facial skin wanted to become better.
Not enough for me.
Long story short : As it turned out, it was the omega 3 to 6 ratio, which took the last 20% from me. My fault: I ate 3-4 avocados a day, and they weren’t the small kind neither. I estimate it was ca. 16g omega 6 a day. In disregard of vegetable omega 3 sources, avocados vs salmon would end up at a 3:1 ratio. I honestly never thought that the exact ratio would matter that much but as I cut back to an equal ratio, I got clear. No red mark left.
Nice story you might think.
But I can assure you, that this isn’t just another thread claiming ridiculous things, like these
“I had a strawberry with my cornflakes yesterday and broke out today!!!111 so: fruit = acne!”- threads.
Jumping to conclusion is not something I have done here. I know, that my “theses” are pretty strange, but at least I tested them, verified them (as far as this is possible), before I tell you about.
For example the olive oil thing: Of course I tried different ones. I bought cheap ones, expensive ones, I stored them in the fridge. They never smelled or tasted rancid, and yet, there is a very high possibility that exactly that caused me a problem. I can never be 100% sure, but because I am able to consume olives without any bad consequences, it explains the findings best for me.
I tried substituting almonds with “soaked” macadamias (they don’t really do that), even ate roasted (in their own fat) macadamias, but no matter what, nothing worked.
Maybe the fish oil in the capsules was contaminated by whatever, a heavy metal, I don’t know, but I tested different amounts and brands and I could reproduce results. This is maybe as close I can get to write my results with certainty (a certain certainty).
I guess what I’m trying to say is, that some people should “work” a little bit more scientific, but that is just something I noticed. I don’t want to start debating over the threats and benefits of health recommendations on the internet I’m just concerned that “strange diet”-threads, as this one, have a credibility problem.
That would be a nice sentence to end with but…
“Y U no stop?”
…there is some more.
Interesting findings I'd like to share
As my skin/body is super sensitive to several dietary things, I like to tell you about my experiences with sweetener. I used: Acesulfam-K, Aspartame, Saccharin-Natrium, Thaumatin, Splenda/Sucralose, Natriumcyclamat and Stevia.
Stevia excluded, they all gave me a headache, some more some less, but all did. Splenda even gave me a breakout (there is a topic about this on here I think).
Additional to this, the urge to pee after drinking sweetened fluids (again not stevia) comes way faster, than with same deal of fluid without sweetener. It’s the same when I drink alcohol. Sweetener seem to provoke a reaction like (the hepatotoxic agent) ethanol does. (But alcohol doesn’t give me a headache, not even the next day I don’t say that some sweetener are poisonous, but I guess they aren’t that harmless neither.
Everybody got their own GL- value they don’t want to exceed. But, although the glycemic/insulin responses may vary from person to person (and is influenced by more factors), the insulin-answers are important to most. So here is something, which seemingly is neglected sometimes.
The effect of food preparation on serum insulin. When one is making fruit smoothies or mashed sweet potato, there can be substantial difference in the insulin response following these meals⁶, than expected by their GI. This is just something worth noticing when making “green” smoothies.
What to do next? Answering so many questions.
Cocoa, the unsweetened baking kind, seems to be quite popular on this board. I think just one person ever noted a negative skin reaction after consuming some. Well I break out pretty bad from it as well. I didn’t really delve in cocoa-related papers so I’m not sure what to make of it.
Except for now?
Just recent I noticed, that frozen (there is not really a source of fresh spinach where I live, at least not now) spinach is also a trigger for me. Yes, spinach, and yes, I tried it several times. Like I said I haven’t done a lot of research but spinach and cocoa have one thing in common: high oxalic acid content. That’s definitively something worth looking into. Cocoa is extracted from seeds, so maybe antinutrients are ruining it for me?
Ground meat. I don’t know if the high fat part of it is oxidizing that fast so lipid oxidation becomes a problem once more. Maybe it’s because the beef wasn’t grassfed and the low nutrient content is responsible for that. I don’t know.
Olive oil with added antioxidants would be something I like to try, too.
So is coconut-oil. Although I would be very surprised I can eat coconuts trouble-free. But the pure fat fraction of those is worth a shot, even if it would not be paleo. At least there aren’t so many PUFAs or fragile fats in general, to worry about.
Pressure cooking nuts/seeds appears decrease lectins very effectively. It’s highly unlikely that paleolithic people pressure-cooked anything, but I just like to know. One more thing I will have a go at.
Eggs with their gluten-like stickiness, would be a cheap energy source with a great variety of uses. But I doubt, that the egg white won’t mess me up.
It would be helpful to know if the total amount of omega 3 and 6 (like 15g : 15g) play a role in my acne development. Tough it could lead to increased fructose-PUFA interactions.
…I’m afraid the list goes on.
As final words I like to say a bit in general.
Pain, indigestion or acne your body tries to communicate with you.
Instead of just asking the old “Why me?!”- question, maybe you should start seeing acne as an indicator for how valuable your diet (diet as an example) is. A helpful thing to have. Better than having clear skin, while “eating whatever you want”, and developing diabetes with 30y or CHD with 50y. But…
easy for me to say.
¹Handbook of olive oil: analysis and properties
The main processes leading to the deterioration of lipids are hydrolytic rancidity, or lipolysis, and oxidative rancidity, or oxidation. In olive oil, the former usually begins while the oil is in the fruit, whereas the latter is mainly produced during the extraction process and storage (Kiritsakis 1990).
²Partitioning of Olive Oil Antioxidants between Oil and Water Phases
The olive oil antioxidants are amphiphilic in nature and are more soluble in the water than in the oil phase. Consequently, a large amount of the antioxidants is lost with the wastewater during processing.
³National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
⁴The stability of fish oils high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in fresh fish of low, medium and high fat content was investigated using microwave oven cooking. Cooked and uncooked portions of butterfish, mullet, mackerel and sardines were extracted, the lipid recovered and fatty acid composition determined. The effect of cooking was minimal with no detectable difference in total lipid between cooked and uncooked samples. Most important, PUFA were virtually unaffected by the overall cooking and the cooked fish retained their original PUFA composition and content.
⁵Modulation of immune function by dietary lectins in rheumatoid arthritis
Additionally, dietary lectins have the ability to interact with components of the immune system which may facilitate the autoimmune process
⁶Depletion and disruption dietary fiber. Effects on satiety, plasma-glucose, and serum-insulin.
Serum-insulin rose to higher levels after juice and purée than after apples. The removal of fibre from food, and also its physical disruption, can result in faster and easier ingestion, decreased satiety, and disturbed glucose homœostasis which is probably due to inappropriate insulin release.