Can a Healthy, Low Carb Diet Help Your Skin


Contributed by Dr. Kellyann Petrucci

Skin conditions, such as acne and eczema, are often treated with topical creams and lotions. But the truth is, healthy skin starts from within. And by this I mean your diet and the health of your gut play a significant role in the health of your skin.

Further, a healthy, low carb diet may be particularly beneficial when it comes to beautiful skin.

Let me explain…

The Chocolate Myth

I’m sure you’ve heard that chocolate can contribute to breakouts. Well, fortunately for us chocolate lovers, this isn’t entirely true.

More likely, those sensitive to chocolate in this way are reacting to the obscene amounts of sugar in most processed chocolate treats. And this is often consistent with a high glycemic diet–the typical diet of the Westernized world.

This helps explain why the incidence of acne in native, non-Westernized societies is significantly lower than what we see here in the United State. In fact, it’s almost non-existent. Which tells us there’s more than genetics at play. Diet is a huge factor!

High Carb Diets and Acne

Because we’ve been taught to fear dietary fat, carbs have taken center stage. Instead of eggs for breakfast, most Americans are eating cereal and bagels. And drinking juice and supplementing their lattes with sugary creamers and syrups.

As we know, these high carb foods and beverages lead to higher blood glucose levels. This in turn raises the concentration of circulating insulin.

Now, you probably already know this is bad for your metabolism and waistline. But, research also tells us that insulin can increase the production of sebum and promote the synthesis and action of sex hormones (i.e., testosterone). Both of which have been shown to contribute to the formation of acne.

On the other hand, studies have shown that low glycemic diets successfully reduce inflammation and the size of sebaceous glands in those with acne. Ultimately resulting in a significant improvement in skin clarity.

Sugar and Skin Aging

Wrinkles and saggy skin are associated with a reduction in collagen production as well as damage to your existing collagen. And sugar and high blood sugar specifically have been shown to initiate a process known as glycation that negatively impacts the integrity of your collagen and reduces your skin’s elasticity.

On the other hand, research has shown that herbs and spices have the potential to prevent glycation.

In addition, sugar and high carb processed foods are external sources of free radicals. And these pesky molecules are known for damaging tissues, including your collagen and skin.

The Gut & Skin Connection

The lining of your gut is designed to allow digested nutrients to enter your bloodstream for circulation. However, it’s also designed to keep out large undigested food molecules as well as pathogens.

But, when the integrity of the lining is compromised, all bets are off. This condition, known as “leaky gut,” allows unwanted substances and foreign invaders to “leak” directly into your bloodstream.

Ultimately, this leads to systemic inflammation. And your skin isn’t off limits. Thus, many skin conditions are often a manifestation of a sick gut.

In addition, your skin is designed to act as a physical shield from the outside world. But, it also produces antimicrobial molecules to prevent and fight against infections. And there is evidence suggesting a leaky gut (as well as stress) can negatively impact these critical functions of the skin.

Further, the health of the microbiome in your gut also plays a significant role in skin health. An unhealthy flora has been shown to increase the production and secretion of substance P, which is a protein associated with skin inflammation. Evidence also exists that your microbiome may influence the presence of oils in your skin, whether it be too much, too little, or the wrong composition.

These are some of the many reasons why it’s so important to nourish your gut. And the ultimate gut-nourishing (low carb) foods are bone broth, collagen, and fermented veggies.

However, it’s also important to avoid foods that compromise the integrity of your gut.

Gut Compromising Foods

It’s probably no surprise that my list of top three gut destroying foods are also high in carbs.

  • Grains (even whole grains). All grains can be inflammatory. But gluten containing grains (i.e., wheat, rye, barley) have been shown to increase the production of a protein known as zonulin. And studies have linked zonulin to intestinal permeability (a.k.a. leaky gut).
  • Dairy. Many people don’t realize that dairy, especially low-fat or skim milk, is a high source of carbohydrates in the form of lactose. Milk also naturally contains growth hormones. And factory farming has led to the artificial addition of more hormones as well as antibiotics. These are some of the key reasons why dairy is often linked to acne.
  • Sugar. In its many forms, sugar raises blood sugar and insulin. It also feeds the bad bacteria in your gut, which allows them to flourish and outnumber the good guys.

A Healthy, Low Carb Alternative

While going low carb is a great start, it’s important that the low carb foods you choose are truly good for you. For example, “diet” or “zero sugar” junk foods won’t cut it. The sugar is often substituted with artificial sweeteners, which are just as bad for your metabolism and gut bacteria.

Your low carb diet should focus on whole foods. Those that don’t come in a package, such as:

  • A rainbow of vegetables
  • Low glycemic fruits
  • Clean proteins (i.e., grass-fed/pasture-raised meats and poultry, wild fish)
  • Healthy fats (i.e., coconut, olive oil, avocado)
  • Flavorful herbs and spices

Eating a healthy, low carb diet also naturally requires eliminating many of the foods that affect the integrity of your gut lining. In addition, you’ll be eating more anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich foods.

For example, salmon is an excellent source of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. And vegetables are packed with powerful phytonutrients that reduce inflammation and neutralize free radicals. Both of which are necessary to prevent skin cancer as well as the dreaded signs of aging.

You’ll also be happy to know that chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. But it’s important that you stick to minimally processed dark chocolate. Better yet, make your own chocolate treats with raw cacao or my chocolate SLIM collagen powder.

The Bottom Line

Many people embark on a low carb diet to slim down. But, doing so also promotes beautiful, radiant skin. Because (1) it balances your blood sugar; (2) eliminates gut irritants; (3) reduces your exposure to free radicals; and (4) focuses on anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich whole foods.

So, if you’re on the fence about starting a low carb diet, here’s just one more reason to dive in: low-carb diets can be healthy and delicious. Download my free low-carb recipes book for 20 delicious low-carb soups, salads, and treats and see for yourself.

If you’re already on a low carb diet and your skin still isn’t happy, be sure to check the quality of the low carb foods you’re eating. And don’t forget about your gut!

Because once your gut is happy, I’m confident you’ll notice an improvement in your skin. I’ve witnessed it countless times with my patients.

Keep thinking Big and living Bold,
Dr. Kellyann

A weight-loss and natural anti-aging expert, Dr. Kellyann Petrucci is a concierge doctor for celebrities in New York City and Los Angeles, a naturopathic physician, a certified nutrition consultant, and author of the New York Times bestselling book Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet and the soon to be released The 10-Day Belly Slimdown. She is also regular contributor on the Dr Oz show.

What are your favorite low-carb foods? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Louise Kettner says

    Love the article. I learned that what I eat affects so much of my body. Last year I was told I had to lose 10 lbs by my cardiologist and he had me go on the South Beach Diet and exercise more. So in 6 months I lost 17 pounds. By reducing the sugar in my daily diet I also noticed that the aching in my joints stopped. My knees didn’t bother me anymore. I didn’t have the acid reflux as much either. We are what we eat for sure!

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