• Why food can unexpectedly affect your skin

Why food can unexpectedly affect your skin

Yes certain food can give you skin complaints. It is however often very difficult to pinpoint which product is actually the culprit. This differs for everyone. And such sensitivity can happen unexpectedly in later life. Find out what gives you a problem, if you already think it is food related… 

Was it the chocolate, or actually something else?

Let me just use chocolate as an example. You aren’t allergic to it and don’t get a stomach upset from it, so basically you can eat it without any obvious problem. That same chocolate, however, may have caused an outbreak on your skin a day or two later, or worsening of an ongoing condition. Now a lot of people will be able to make a link with that box of sweets, because chocolate has already been suspected for years of causing spots (although that doesn’t count for everyone). But that is not always so obvious. Maybe as a youngster you always enjoyed chocolate, strawberries, pork etc. problem free, but are bothered by it when, for example, you get into your thirties. How does this happen?

Food hypersensitivity, how does that unexpectedly happen?

Skin complaints can be the result of a food hypersensitivity. And you don’t necessarily need to be born with that sensitivity, it can happen during your life. One theory is that it can be caused by an intense period of stress. Try and remember when your skin complaint began… Was it coincidentally during a severely stressful time? After you lost someone? During a burn out? Intense heartbreak? Or simply stress being put on your body through too much exercise? Because among other things with stress, something which happens to your body is that the permeability of your stomach increases. Suddenly larger substances are able to pass through your stomach cells, which aren’t supposed to. This is what is happening with a leaking gut (scientific term is hyper permeable gut) which I have talked about in an earlier blog.

Normally, the spaces between your gut cells are small. Now when the openings become wider this allows larger substances such as (undigested) protein from e.g. dairy or pork to slip through them. As a result of this the passing substances are exposed to the immune system which can see them as intruders and therefore it starts a counter-reaction. Such a reaction is a defence mechanism by your body, but this can cause an outbreak of spots or skin rash.

How do you know if your skin complaints are a result of hypersensitivity?

Out of interest I asked you recently via Instagram and Facebook which food triggers you thought caused spots. Below you can see your top 6 answers.

The 6 main ‘suspects’ in the event of an outbreak of spots

  • Dairy
  • Pork: bacon, spareribs and pate
  • Chocolate: white, milk and dark
  • Fast sugars: granulated sugar, biscuits, sweets and sugary drinks
  • Alcohol: beer, wine and spirits
  • Fried food: chips, crisps and pizza

These were the foods which were most often referred to by you. But it is in fact very personal. For example, gluten, liquorice, sunflower seeds,

But how do you know if your spots are actually a result of foodstuff? Basically, how can you find out if you are sensitive to certain foods? Because it can actually take two days before you see anything. And can you remember exactly what you’ve eaten two days ago? Me neither, unless I really pay attention. And it doesn’t have to mean that you always have other symptoms as well, such as a swollen stomach, diarrhoea or constipation.

Keep a diary with you

By keeping a food diary you get a better picture of what you have eaten in the last few days. This makes you more conscious about what you eat so it can be easier to establish a link to which food causes an outbreak on your skin. You probably already suspect which food triggers you have. You can then test this by cutting the product out of your diet for six weeks. In that time your bowels and skin can recover. If you don’t see a change in your skin then this probably wasn’t your food trigger.

If your skin looks calmer after six weeks then it may very likely be your culprit. And if chocolate is actually your food trigger and is your absolute guilty pleasure than at least you have the control to decide between chocolate or smooth skin…

If you really haven’t got a clue but think that food does play a part have a good look at the list of the most common food triggers. Is there something here that you eat often in a week? And also consider that gluten or vegetables from the Nightshade plant family (e.g. Tomatoes, chilli peppers, okra, peppers and aubergines) can cause problems. Start with a food group which you suspect is not favourable for your skin. Try and avoid this for six weeks and see what happens.

Search for a replacement if certain products are scrapped for a while!

You take in less vitamins and minerals when cutting out certain food. It is therefore important to gain these nutrients from other food. There isn’t any reason to worry about a shortage of vitamins and minerals when cutting out chocolate, alcohol, fast sugars and fried food though.


You cut out: Less of the following vitamins and minerals: What you can supplement the omitted nutrients with:
Dairy Vitamin B12 and calcium Soya drinks enriched with B12 and calcium
Pork If you don’t eat meat you will consume less vitamin B1, B12 and iron. You can replace pork with chicken or beef. A vegetarian alternative is eggs, ‘fish’ or vegetarian burgers enriched with B1, B12 and iron.
Bread and other cereals due to gluten Vitamin B1, B11, iron and iodine Varied food from meat, egg, fish, (green) vegetables and legumes ensure that you get your vitamin B1, B11 and iron. For the intake of iodine you can eat gluten free bread provided that it contains iodised (iodine) salt.
Tomatoes, peppers, chilli pepper, okra, and aubergine (nightshade vegetables) These vegetables contain lots of different vitamins and minerals Eat lots of other vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce, green beans, carrots, onion, cauliflower, kale, peas, spinach and asparagus.


Kind regards,


Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology


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