What is Intermittent Fasting | What is Acne | Intermittent Fasting & Skin Health | Drawbacks of Fasting and Acne Formation | Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Acne Prevention
A common question we have received over the years, Does Intermittent Fasting Cause Acne? Let’s explore. Health experts, celebrities, and other well-known people have been hyping up intermittent fasting (IF) for quite some time now. More and more people are using IF for weight loss, prevention of chronic diseases, and increased productivity, among other things. Intermittent fasting has scientifically proven health benefits like immune system support, antiaging effects, lower oxidative stress, blood sugar control, and cancer prevention, as well as its most popular effect; fat loss.
However, many people want to know if intermittent fasting can cause acne and skin problems. Paradoxically, many want to know if intermittent fasting can prevent acne too. To set the record straight, this blog dives into the science behind intermittent fasting, the root causes of acne, and whether intermittent fasting can help reduce acne. Keep reading, this is going to be enlightening for you!
What is Intermittent Fasting in a Nutshell?
Intermittent fasting is an eating schedule where you consciously fast for a certain number of hours in a day and eat all your calories in the remaining few hours. Intermittent fasting is not a diet; it is a particular method of eating. You can check out an intermittent fasting guide to know how to go about it, and there are many free and paid apps out there that can help you to adhere to a particular intermittent fasting schedule. If you are a result-oriented person, check here to see what to expect after one month of intermittent fasting, the rewards are substantial.
People have long known that inflammation plays a key role in acne formation. For a long period, the belief was that inflammation occurred because of the colonization of the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria in the sebaceous follicles of the skin. While this theory still holds, modern researchers claim that acne is an inflammatory disease, with inflammation being the driving force behind acne formation.
What is Acne, and What Causes it?
Before we go deep into the relationship between acne and intermittent fasting, it is important to understand what acne is. Acne is a common skin condition that occurs when hair follicles get clogged with dead skin cells and oil. It can cause pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads. You will find acne on the face, back, chest, and shoulders. Acne can happen to people of all age groups. However, it is most common in adolescents.
Let us take a look at the root causes of acne; it will help us understand it better and also see how intermittent fasting can affect it.
There is a positive correlation between high-glycemic diets and the formation of acne. A high glycemic diet is high in dairy products and carbohydrates, especially sugar. The higher the position of the food on the glycemic scale, the faster the glucose from that particular food gets into your bloodstream and goes on to cause an insulin spike. The Western diet, by default, is a high-glycemic diet, which is why people who follow this diet have issues with the skin, like acne. High dairy consumption is also a factor, along with fast food consumption.
Hormones and Hormonal Imbalances
During the adolescent period, there is a significant fluctuation of sex hormones in both boys and girls, and increases in androgen hormones can cause acne. While androgen hormones are male sex hormones, females also have them in small quantities, and when there is a hormonal imbalance, both females and males could experience skin breakouts in the form of acne.
Again, if you are following a high-glycemic diet, it can affect your hormones. When you consume carbs, the body will produce insulin from the pancreas to lower the blood sugar levels and help utilize carbs to get energy. When insulin is produced, it also increases the synthesis of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). IGF1 has many roles, including increased sebum production in the sebaceous glands. Sebum is an oily, fatty substance that keeps the skin moist but can also clog pores and cause acne breakouts.
One of the biggest benefits of intermittent fasting is improved mood and reduced stress. This makes sense when you consider fasting from a historical perspective. The ancient man grew accustomed to sustained high levels of performance while in a food-deprived state.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Improve the Health of Your Skin?
Here are the ways intermittent fasting can help with acne.
Intermittent Fasting Reduces Inflammation
Significant recent research shows that intermittent fasting reduces inflammation by reducing pro-inflammatory markers and enhancing immune system function. Because inflammation is the main contributor to acne formation, following intermittent fasting will mitigate the inflammatory pathways in your body, leading to better-looking and clearer skin.
Besides controlling acne formation, research suggests that IF can assist in treating other significant skin conditions like psoriasis with the shifting of gut bacteria. There was a study done where it was found that two days of fasting a week led to significant shifts in psoriasis symptoms, which included less itching, scaling, and skin thickening.
Intermittent Fasting Leads to Improvements in Levels of Insulin
Intermittent fasting can improve the body’s control of insulin and glucose homeostasis. When you are fasting, there is no requirement for insulin, as no blood sugar enters the picture. However, the changes occurring in your body during a fasted state will make your body more receptive to insulin, improving how glucose is managed.
There was one study conducted in which researchers observed that with an intermittent fasting window of 8 hours, from 7 AM to 3 PM, there were significantly lower levels of insulin alongside an improvement in insulin sensitivity, This research went on to show that fasting optimizes your body’s insulin use. Hence, you do not need to produce excess insulin.
When your body produces insulin in regulated amounts, it directly impacts the production of the IGF-1 hormone, which is a key factor for excess sebum production. Again, insulin has a close relationship with androgen hormone production. When the insulin levels are high, there will be excess production of androgens, leading to acne breakouts. Hence, optimal insulin production means optimal androgen production too.
Intermittent Fasting Reduces mTOR
The mTOR pathway, simply put, is a metabolic pathway that kicks off growth in the body. With high mTOR, growth and synthesis happen; with low mTOR, the body will switch to maintenance and repair mode. For growing children, it is important to have activated mTOR. However, as an adult, mTOR activation can potentially inhibit crucial processes like autophagy, which is essential for healthy skin and body.
Research has shown that with over-activated mTOR, there is an increase in the secretion of the androgen hormone, which will increase sebum production in the skin follicles. So what is it that fuels this mTOR pathway? You eat the amino acids and glucose from the protein and carbohydrates.
Hence, following IF and keeping glucose and protein levels moderate can activate your body’s inherent repair mechanisms by inhibiting mTOR activity levels. When you do intermittent fasting, it will reduce the mTOR pathway. And with a reduction of mTOR, there is less production of sebum and, consequently, less acne!
Intermittent Fasting Reduces Stress
Emotional stress is one of the most potent yet overlooked causes of acne. While the exact biological mechanism is unclear to researchers, research shows a strong correlation between stress and acne breakouts.
When you fast, it will activate your primal desire for survival, and this will improve your resilience- both mental and physical. Resultantly, a lot of people doing intermittent fasting report that they are better equipped to handle stress and that it takes a lot more to stress them out than before.
Intermittent Fasting Leads to Better Sleep
If you are deprived of sleep, it will lead to high levels of the hormone cortisol, which is a fight-or-flight hormone. Cortisol increases insulin resistance. It also weakens the digestive system and causes acne. If you have not slept well the last night, the next day, you will have increased insulin resistance, leading to acne. Again, poor sleep causes poor immune health, and it can increase inflammatory chemicals, worsening existing pimples.
Intermittent fasting will lead you to get better sleep, enhancing the overall effectiveness of the circadian rhythm activators. If you do intermittent fasting, it will help you fall asleep earlier and stay asleep longer. This reduces cortisol levels in your body and helps prevent the formation of acne.
Potential Drawbacks of Fasting Regarding Acne Formation
The pros of intermittent fasting vastly outweigh the cons, but intermittent fasting is not entirely foolproof. The biggest negative side effect of intermittent fasting on acne is increased cortisol levels.
Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone, and it gets released whenever your brain thinks it is in a stressful situation and resources need to be conserved. And intermittent fasting signals to the brain that it needs to conserve its resources as you go through an extended period without food (even if you do it by choice). This can increase cortisol levels in your body, leading to acne breakouts.
Hence, it is suggested that if you experience stress regularly, do not go in for intermittent fasting. Instead, try to decrease your stress levels with yoga and mindful meditation. See if exercise helps in reducing your stress before you try intermittent fasting. Listen to your body. If you feel stressed out when you fast, do not do it. There are alternate ways to lose weight out there too.
Quick Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Acne Prevention
Choose Your Fasting Schedule
Your first step is to choose the right fasting schedule. Discussing this with a healthcare professional who can weigh the risks and benefits will be wise. Some popular fasting schedules are 16/8 fasting, the 5/2 method, and the alternate-day fasting schedule.
Eat the Correct Foods
You should keep an eye out for inflammation-inducing foods. Carbohydrates, dairy products, and gluten can be sneaky contributors to acne, and you don’t want that. You have to be disciplined in what you eat. Go for the following foods:
- Leafy greens
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Lean proteins
- Sweet potatoes
You may also discuss a keto or paleo diet with your nutritionist. Eating the right foods will be the cornerstone of your fight against acne.
Keep Track of Your Progress
Watch for what occurs when you effectively reduce inflammation, balance your hormones, increase your sleep quotient, and get a handle on your gut health. You should be mindful of what fasting method suits you best and when you see good results with your skin.
Your fasting routine can always be tweaked, but you should listen to your body. Another helpful tip is keeping a journal and taking photos of your skin to compare before-after photos to see if you have improved skin health.
Conclusion – Does Intermittent Fasting Cause Acne?
With the right food choices, and making sure you reduce the stress in your life, and following a good intermittent fasting routine, Intermittent fasting will not cause acne as some may suspect. Acne is a common problem for many people, especially adolescents and teenagers. Your skin is an organ of elimination, a channel for removing toxins, and it is a good idea to let your skin breathe during intermittent fasting so that acne is reduced.
Also, cut down on skincare products and know your skin type, whether it is clear skin, oily skin, sensitive skin, or dry skin. Have a consistent skincare routine alongside IF to reduce skin inflammation and better the health of your skin. Avoid a poor diet, as it can lead to the development of acne, and check with your doctor to see if you have any autoimmune disorders causing skin issues like acne-prone skin and pimples. Intermittent fasting can be a great tool for fighting acne and paving the way for healthy, clear skin.
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