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Decoding Dermatology: Unveiling the Dietary Links to Common Skin Conditions

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Amid all the buzz, assertions, and confusion, there is substantial evidence connecting certain foods and beverages to an elevated risk of acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, rosacea, and various common skin conditions. So, what's the link in each case? And how can individuals with these skin conditions potentially enhance their health and quality of life through dietary changes?

There has been a surge in interest in understanding which foods can positively or negatively impact skin issues in recent years. Vivian Shi, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, suggests familiarizing yourself with the research and exploring 'diet' and 'skin' on Google. "As practitioners, we should be well prepared to talk about what patients want to talk about."


Diet and acne are a major focus, with concerns about the impact of sugar and dairy on the Western diet. Dairy, red meat, and carbohydrates can break down into leucine, an essential amino acid in protein. The combination of leucine and sugar can produce insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), leading to sebogenesis, lipogenesis, and keratinization, triggering follicular inflammation and more acne-causing bacteria. Milk and other dairy products can increase IGF-1 levels, altering hormonal mediators and increasing acne. Notably, not all types of dairy milk are equal in terms of acne impact, with whole milk being a better choice.


A systematic review of 55 studies indicates that obesity can exacerbate psoriasis. Strong evidence supports dietary weight reduction, suggesting a hypocaloric diet for overweight or obese individuals. Other evidence links alcohol to a lower treatment response and more severe psoriasis. Additionally, a gluten-free diet or vitamin D supplements may benefit some with psoriasis. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends healthful food choices to alleviate symptoms and reduce the likelihood of comorbidities, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts, and adherence to a Mediterranean diet.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is closely related to diet, with a meta-analysis suggesting that synbiotics (prebiotics and probiotics) can help treat it in adults and children over 1 year. Synbiotics are more beneficial than probiotics, and prebiotics alone can lower AD severity. However, the American Academy of Dermatology doesn't provide recommendations on prebiotics or probiotics for AD. A 2022 review ranks the efficacy of different supplements for AD, with vitamin D supplementation showing the greatest benefit, followed by vitamin E, probiotics, hemp seed oil, histidine, and oolong tea. The 'Six Food Elimination Diet and Autoimmune Protocol' has the least evidence to support it.


Rosacea appears to be triggered by "fun" elements like sunlight, alcohol, chocolate, spicy foods, and caffeine. These can cause facial flushing, edema, burning, and an inflammatory response. Certain foods activate skin receptors and sensory neurons, releasing neuropeptides that act on mast cells in the blood, leading to flushing. Evidence also suggests the involvement of the skin-gut axis in rosacea.

The exploration into the connection between diet and common skin conditions reveals a compelling relationship, emphasizing the impact of dietary choices on skin health. From the influence of sugar and dairy on acne to considerations of weight reduction, alcohol moderation, and Mediterranean diet for psoriasis, dietary decisions emerge as crucial determinants of skin well-being. Insights into atopic dermatitis highlight the potential benefits of synbiotics and specific supplements. The multifaceted nature of rosacea acknowledges lifestyle factors as triggers, emphasizing the interconnectedness of overall health. The skin-gut axis underscores the holistic impact of dietary choices. Overall, this exploration empowers individuals to make informed dietary decisions for healthier, more vibrant skin, promoting a holistic approach to well-being that nourishes both body and spirit.


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