Acne & Blood Sugar

Did you know that acne is so largely driven by imbalances in blood sugar levels that it has been coined the “diabetes of the skin” ?

Hormones, environment and diet along with genetics can all play their role in acne but one major cause of skin congestion and breakouts stems from blood sugar imbalance.

When we eat, that food get broken down into macronutrients and begins to elevate levels of glucose in the blood. In response to this increase, the pancreas begins secreting the hormone insulin. Insulin’s main role is to regulate the uptake of the glucose from the blood and into the cells for energy. It’s a delicate balance by our body, keeping blood glucose stable throughout the day as you eat, get hungry, exercise, stress and sleep. 

The key is stability when it comes to blood sugar regulation. And the most powerful way we can influence how it regulates is through dietary choices.  When we eat high GI foods such as processed sugar and grain based foods (bread/pasta/rice/) without correct balance of protein and fats, glucose will spike causing insulin to also increase rapidly an start converting into insulin-like-growth-factor (IGF-1)

This growth factor is a nasty trigger for acne as it increases circulating androgens (male hormones) leading to EXCESS SEBUM PRODUCTION and excess skin cell turnover = congestion.  Androgens are male hormones such as testosterone and when in excess can be a predominant cause for PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome)  a hormonal condition that can present with acne. More oil means more chance of pore congestion and more food supply for the acne bacteria to thrive.

Blood sugar levels that are elevated too high or crashing too low (inevitable if they have spiked quickly) also cause a physical stress response, elevating cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol puts your body in “fight or flight” mode where the focus of the body is to protect vital organs and prepare to run away from danger. In this state, the healing of a breakout or keeping reproductive hormones stable is far from a priority- your body is in a survival state. Elevated cortisol over a long period can lead to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) dysfunction and contribute to inflammation and decreased immunity.

So what can you do?

+ Start your day with a protein and fat to anchor your blood sugar

This might be organic eggs with avocado or smoked salmon

+ Don’t go too long between meals

Small snacks in between meals containing fat and protein will help to keep blood sugar stable

+ Reduce your sugar intake

Get rid of lollies, fizzy drinks, processed foods loaded with sugar and even go easy on fruit and fruit juice.

+ Manage your stress

Getting adequate sleep, not overdoing high intensity exercise and building mental resistance to stress helps to keep blood sugar in check


Brooke Venables

Skin & Hormone Specialist Naturopath

Clear Skin Coach 

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