They say “we are what we eat” because it’s 100 percent true. The food we eat has an important effect on all of our organs, and it’s no more obvious than what it does to our skin. Here’s what experts have to say about the connection between nutrition and skin, and how our diet can cause (or help fight) inflammation.

How food affects your skin
“Nutrients from food travel through the bloodstream to all parts of the body, including our skin,” says Maral Skelsey, MD, director of dermatologic surgery at Georgetown University. Eat the right things (antioxidants, vitamin E, vitamin A) and those foods will help reduce skin damage and reduce wrinkles.

However, the reverse is also true. By using the wrong ingredients, you can prevent your skin from blemishes, spots, and acne breakouts. N.D., a naturopathic doctor at NexGen Natural Medicine. “When we eat foods that contain inflammatory markers and antibody complexes, these antibodies can bind to the skin and trigger these reactions,” says Jason Way.

Foods that poison the skin
If you’re experiencing persistent, otherwise unexplained skin problems, the food on your plate may be to blame. Below are six of the most common offenders.

  1. Dairy products
    While the Internet likes to blame dairy for almost everything, many studies show a strong correlation between dairy consumption and acne breakouts, says Wei. “Dairy contains compounds that stimulate the release of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1),” he explains. “It increases testosterone levels and inhibits the turnover of sebaceous gland cells that secrete oil into the skin.”

These factors create a favorable environment for acne breakouts, explains Vivian Buckey, MD, founder and president of Buckeye Dermatology Center and a member of the Gynecological Dermatology Association. An increase in androgens (male sex hormones) such as testosterone is associated with excess sebum in the skin. When skin bacteria break down that oil, free fatty acids are released. These compounds increase inflammation, which causes inflammation.

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