Is Your Acne a Response to Gluten Sensitivity?

Let’s talk about food for a minute. I love cooking, baking, and most of all I love eating.

Unfortunately, I also have a very sensitive digestive system and have to be careful about what I consume on a regular basis.

There are certain food products that definitely trigger a negative response from my body. To name a few, gluten, corn, tomatoes and excessive amounts of dairy.

Due to this, I’ve made some diet changes in the last four years. But, did it mean that I had to stop eating anything that contains those ingredients completely?

No way.

What I did was to avoid eating them regularly and it has improved my overall health quite a bit.

What Exactly is Gluten?

My first impression was that in order to avoid gluten, I’d just have to quit eating so much bread. So, I give up my morning toast. No more sandwiches. Maybe ditch the pasta. I could sacrifice those things, no problem.

However, with some research, reality hit me and I was pretty much overwhelmed by the amount of products I use on a daily basis that happen to be hiding gluten in them. For starters:

  • Plenty of products containing wheat: flours, breads, starches, etc.
  • Granola, energy and protein bars
  • Cosmetics
  • Countless pre-packaged meals
  • Seasonings
  • Vitamins

Okay, that seems a little excessive. How on earth did gluten weasel its way into all of those things?

Gluten is gummy in texture, so it’s used as a binder in quite a few products. That said, it is a full time job trying to avoid the stuff. For those with Celiac Disease, even miniscule amounts of gluten have to be taken into account.

People like myself that are only considered “gluten sensitive” don’t face as dire of consequences, and therefore don’t have to be quite as careful.

The absolute best way to figure out if you have Celiac Disease or if you are even sensitive to gluten at all is to go to your doctor and have some tests done. The proof can’t get any clearer than that.

Bottom line: If you’re having digestive issues that you believe can be attributed to gluten, don’t hesitate. Your life will be a lot easier if you can figure out what your body is trying to tell you.

Does Gluten Cause Acne?

What does gluten have to do with skin, you ask?

Well, there isn’t just one simple answer for this. The great debate on what causes acne is still in motion. Some say it’s clogged pores, some say it’s food, some say it’s hormones. I say any one of those things can contribute to acne. But one thing I know to be true, you should not discredit what you eat as having an effect on your skin.

I am by no means in a position to give you medical advice. That being said, the clearest thing that I can offer you is that if gluten isn’t causing your acne, it might be worsening it at the very least.

Gluten contains something called gliadin. Our friend gliadin combines itself with transglutaminase. That reaction causes an inflammatory response in people that are sensitive to gluten.

There’s that word. Inflammatory.

Inflammation causes irritation. You’ve probably felt this on your skin during a bad breakout. Any product deemed inflammatory, whether it goes directly on the skin or is meant to be ingested, is something that you should stay away from if you want to avoid worsening your skin issues.

Bottom line: If you’re sensitive to gluten and you happen to consume it, you’re putting yourself at risk for not only an inflamed small intestine, but also inflamed and irritated skin. We really don’t want that, because it makes our skin problems a lot more noticeable, and even more hard to get rid of.

Prior to my own experience with dropping gluten, I wasn’t armed with the knowledge that it was an inflammatory for sensitive people. It wasn’t until after I started noticing results that I realized the havoc that gluten can wreak on skin.

An Unintended Cure

Let’s go back to when I first started taking care of my body by changing my diet. I was focused, I had given up my beloved morning toast, I was even finding a greater love for fruits and veggies. After a few weeks of battling, I noticed some positive changes.

  • My stomach felt a bit better, thank goodness.
  • I felt that I had more energy.
  • I stopped feeling so abnormally bloated.
  • My skin started to clear up.

And what a lovely surprise it was! About 75% of my blemished skin’s redness and swelling had diminished. Granted, I wasn’t completely clear, but there was definitely a huge improvement. And the only thing that I had changed in my lifestyle was my diet.

So, was gluten contributing to my digestive and skin problems? Due to what I’ve learned through hours of scouring the internet and my own experience with it, I would say yes, gluten makes my acne worse. However, I also think that the results I got can’t be fully attributed to avoiding gluten products.

The Big Picture

There’s a lot of preparation that goes into starting a gluten free diet, or, for that matter, any diet. You have to replace the foods that you cut out with alternatives.

Blessed by the onset of the gluten-free craze, my local grocery store was stocked with quite a few gluten-free choices. Breads, cereals, pastas, all my favorites had similar options that would help me be successful on my GF journey.

But it wasn’t just replacing those products that was beneficial for me.

I was excited to try a new diet because I was so hopeful for good results. Because of that, I wanted to be healthier on a number of levels.

I started drinking fruit smoothies on a regular basis. I accepted vegetables into my life. I drank more water. Salad? I never knew how good it was until I actually gave it a real chance.

When it comes down to it, eliminating gluten from my diet was extremely helpful, but it wasn’t actually the only thing that I had changed. I was actually thinking about what I was putting into my body. I looked at the whole thing in a new light.

You know that saying, “you are what you eat?”

There’s some honesty in that phrase. Your body needs nutrients to perform at the very best level that it is capable of.

Living off of coffee, cupcakes and ramen isn’t exactly going to give your body a chance to show you what it can do. Believe me, I’ve tried that diet. Tasty, but not helpful.

When you are faced with a breakout, sometimes it’s so easy to just want to mask the problem by applying something to your face in hopes that it will make the problem disappear. That works on occasion, but sometimes you have to look deeper.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts

I could go ahead and get real emotional right now and give you a speech on how in order to beat any outward problem, you need to stay confident. You’re beautiful, be kind, don’t worry, et cetera. I truly believe that your mindset affects your overall well being. But that’s for another post, and another day.

What I mean by “inside” is what you’re putting your digestive system through.

Your interior regimen is equally, if not more so, important to the well being your skin as your exterior regimen. You’re doing a great thing by trying to fix your skin problems with what nature has to offer. But don’t stop there.

Even if a new diet isn’t guaranteed to clear up your skin one hundred percent, it will absolutely make you feel better about yourself. Food is fun, but more importantly, food is fuel. We need it to get through the day, and we need it to keep ourselves in tip-top shape. So don’t ever discredit the importance of a balanced diet.

Should You Eliminate Gluten?

You could benefit from eliminating gluten from your diet in a number of ways, just like I did. Excessive bloating, digestive issues, fatigue, and skin issues can all be traced back to gluten intake. But don’t assume that gluten is the only answer to your food related skin problems.

My advice to you is to try out an elimination diet. Sounds easy, but it takes some effort. You have to be patient and wait for the results to come. Also, you have to be persistent and stick to your goal.

A few helpful tips:

  1. Make a list. Create an extensive list of foods and meals that you will be eating during your elimination diet. This will help you stay motivated, and refrain from getting bored of the process.
  2. Make another list. Now, make a list of foods that you will want to avoid. If you’re eliminating gluten, figure out what foods contain gluten so that you know what to stay away from.
  3. Don’t just eliminate. Make sure you are getting a sufficient amount of nutrients. You want to see the best and most accurate results. If you’re lacking in any nutrient areas, this could alter the outcome of your diet’s success.
  4. Be patient. I’ll say it again, and again, and a thousand more times. Don’t give up just because three whole days have gone by and you haven’t seen any results. Your body will need time to adjust.

So, why not find out what exactly it is that's making your stomach turn and your skin sore? With the amount of people that are currently experiencing both Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity, there's a good chance that eliminating gluten altogether could be the answer to your skin problems.

If you’re considering trying out a new diet because you think you might be sensitive to gluten (or another food product), or you’ve already had the chance to eliminate the foods that you’re sensitive to, comment below and tell us your story!

Hannah Do

Hannah is the founder of ThankYourSkin. Having personally battled acne during her younger years, she aspires to provide an invaluable guide to anyone suffering from it.

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