Getting acne-free skin has been a 14-year battle that can only be described as the biggest challenge of my life. I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which is a hormonal condition associated with higher levels of androgens (male hormones), insulin, and even cortisol (the stress hormone). Although there are a variety of PCOS symptoms, such as excess hair growth (hirsuitism), weight gain, ovarian cysts, infertility, etc. the one I struggled with most is hormonal acne.
I am not the only woman who is struggling with PCOS. One in ten women have PCOS, and chances are, if you are reading this, you are probably one of them. If you are like me, you probably started Googling everything you could about PCOS and how you should change your diet the moment you were diagnosed, if you are not, and you do not know a lot about PCOS, this blog post will teach you as much as you need to know about how to start adjusting your diet for PCOS and hormonal acne.
Even though PCOS symptoms are different for a lot of women, high insulin levels and high androgen levels are always involved, and the diet guidelines in this post should help them all.
When androgen levels become too high, your skin starts to produce more sebum that can clog pores when mixed with dead skin cells. Higher insulin levels can also trigger inflammation, which can cause acne.
If you have PCOS and hormonal acne, you know the struggle. Hormonal acne commonly shows up on the chin and jawline. Even though my skin is not fully clear yet, there are things I have found make a big difference, and can hopefully help you with the same. Here are a few diet changes that can help you with PCOS and hormonal acne.
Cut Out Sugar and Processed Carbs from Your Diet
The first thing that doctors recommend is following a low-GI diet to try and control insulin levels. This means reducing your intake of sugar and high-GI- and processed carbohydrates while sticking to slower releasing carbohydrate sources like vegetables, sweet potato, etc.
Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
This is possibly the best diet for your skin. Acne is an inflammatory condition. You can improve acne naturally by cutting out inflammatory foods, such as sugar, dairy (for some), gluten, trans fats, and processed foods from your diet. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods like dark chocolate, berries, brightly coloured vegetables, nuts, seeds, olive oil, etc. as they are some of the best foods to eat for clear skin and PCOS.
Drink Spearmint Tea for Progesterone and Androgens
Two cups of Spearmint tea a day has been shown to possibly reduce PCOS symptoms by 50%. Since I started incorporating this into my lifestyle, I saw a significant improvement in my skin. In my opinion, it is one of the best hormonal acne treatments. It not only lowers androgen levels, but also helps balance progesterone levels.
Add Flaxseeds to Your Diet for Hormonal Acne
Eating two tablespoons of flaxseed powder a day can also help greatly with hormonal acne. It contains anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, and helps to regulate androgen levels. I recommend the powder because the whole seeds can be hard to digest.
Reduce Stress for PCOS-Related Acne
Stress and anxiety are some of the biggest culprits in terms of what cause acne, including hormonal acne. When levels of the stress hormone cortisol rise, acne can appear. Make stress reduction a priority by doing relaxing activities, such as yoga, meditation, reading, walking, socialising, etc.
If you struggle to clear up your hormonal acne, I recommend that you start with these five tips, and see if it makes a difference after a few months.
They have helped me a lot in clearing up my own hormonal acne. Great skin comes from the inside. I believe that acne and other skin problems are signs of something being wrong within the body. If you work to get your body as healthy as possible, the result will show up on your face. Be patient. Be strong. Drink that cup of tea, and find a way to relax. Your skin and other PCOS symptoms will start to improve over time.
Take a DIM Supplement
3,3′-Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a compound that is found in cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. It has the ability to help the body break down excess estrogen, which is highly beneficial if you are estrogen dominant as well, and it can help lower high androgen levels.
If you have PCOS-related hormonal acne, I recommend eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables (just cook the kale, as raw kale contains more goitrogens that are not good for PCOS), and supplementing with 200mg of DIM a day.
Don’t Eat Too Much Saturated Fat
While a little bit of saturated fat won’t hurt, eating too much can make PCOS acne worse, as the body uses saturated fat to make testosterone. Try to eat more foods that are high in monounsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, and avocado. You can still eat steak though. Like I said, you just should not eat too much.
Do Not Eat Too Many Calories
Unfortunately, I am a binge eater. I eat a healthy diet, but I often eat way too much. I noticed that my skin broke out more after days where I overate, and once I reduced my calorie intake, and just focussed on not eating more calories than I burned in a day, my acne started improving. When you eat more than you burn, it puts your body in an anabolic state (a building-state), and your testosterone also increases.
If you struggle with overeating as well, hopefully the possibility of skin that is acne-free will be motivation enough for you to stop. It worked for me. I will continue to document my journey with acne and PCOS on this blog, and share what I learn along the way.
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