Is There a Connection Between Gluten and Acne

Gluten and Acne: What Does the Research Say?

What is gluten?

Glucose, fructose, galactose, ribonucleotides (ribonucleic acid), fructans and polyols are all terms used to refer to carbohydrates found naturally in grains such as wheat or barley. They contain many different nutrients including protein, vitamins and minerals. However, they do not have the same nutritional value as whole plant foods.

Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat and other grains. It’s main function is to hold together the long strands of starch molecules within the grain so that it can be broken down into smaller pieces for digestion by your body.

Gluten contains amino acids which are essential for human health and development, but if consumed in excess can lead to digestive problems.

The most common form of gluten is gliadin, which is a protein found in wheat and related species. Other forms include glutenin, gliadins and even glutenin-like substances called amylase inhibitors.

All these forms of gluten are considered to be non-digestible carbohydrates because they cannot be digested by the small intestine.

How do you digest carbohydrates?

There are two main types of carbohydrates: soluble and insoluble. Insoluble carbohydrates, such as cellulose, are indigestible by the human body and have no known health benefits. They are commonly found in vegetables like carrots, cabbage, turnips and kale. Soluble carbohydrates dissolve in water and can be digested by your small intestine. The most common sources of soluble carbohydrates are fruits like oranges and apples.

Are gluten-containing carbohydrates non-soluble?

No. Gluten-containing carbohydrates are both soluble and insoluble, depending on the form. Gluten is a mixture of different types of carbohydrates and different types of proteins. The chemical structure of these carbohydrates makes them insoluble in water, but some types are still digestible while others will pass through your body whole.

Other sources of insoluble carbohydrates include foods like whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes and certain vegetables. While they won’t be absorbed by your body, these foods do provide other benefits.

They contain fiber which can help you feel full, control your blood sugar levels and keep your bowel movements regular. Foods with insoluble carbohydrates also tend to be higher in vitamins and minerals than soluble carbohydrates.

How does gluten cause digestive problems?

Most people with celiac disease have an autoimmune reaction to gluten. This means their immune system reacts to it as if it were a dangerous pathogen, even though it isn’t. The only way to manage symptoms of celiac disease is to completely eliminate gluten from the diet. Without gluten, the villi (tiny projections that line the small intestine) are able to heal themselves so your body can absorb nutrients again.

What about non-celiac gluten sensitivity?

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is an emerging condition that has only received widespread attention in recent years. Many people self-diagnose themselves with this condition even though there is no test to confirm it. Doctors and researchers are still debating whether or not it exists, let alone what causes it and how it can be treated. Some believe that it’s just a fad diet. Others claim that wheat is the problem, not gluten.

Do any drugs contain gluten?

Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs do contain gluten. These are mainly intended to be taken orally or topically (on the skin). Some examples include lip balm, lotion and certain forms of glue. Therefore, if you have celiac disease you may wish to double-check the ingredients just in case.

Can food affect acne?

It’s a fact that different foods can cause different reactions in peoples’ bodies. While eating a healthy and balanced diet is the best way to keep your body functioning well, some people do have allergic reactions to certain foods. This can even happen if someone has eaten a specific food many times before. It all depends on the condition of that person’s immune system at the time.

A reaction to a certain food won’t necessarily occur straight away. It may take a few hours, or even days before it becomes apparent.

Common symptoms can include headaches, rashes, itches and digestive issues such as nausea and diarrhea. In some cases a reaction can even cause a person to faint.

It’s not just foods that can have these effects. Other things such as animals, cosmetics, aerosols and medication can also trigger allergic reactions.

If you suspect that a food is affecting your skin, you should eliminate it from your diet and see if your acne gets better.

Is chocolate bad for your skin?

If you read any magazine or check out any beauty website, you’ll probably come across an article or tip claiming that chocolate causes acne.

Is there any truth to this or is it all just a big conspiracy by the chocolate industry?

Yes and no. Chocolate contains certain substances called “alkaloids” which can cause acne in some people. The most common of these is called “Theobromine”. You’ll find this in chocolate as well as other foods such as tea, cola, yerba mate and certain pharmaceuticals. There is also a similar compound known as “Caffeine”.

Not everyone is affected by these chemicals though. Some people can eat copious amounts of chocolate every day without breaking out.

Other people however will start to see acne develop if they only eat it once every couple of days. It all depends on your own unique biology. There is no way of knowing who will or won’t react to chocolate (or any other food for that matter) until they actually do.

Can onions cause acne?

Onion is a common food and has been eaten for centuries. Many people believe that it can cause acne andavoid it as a result. Acne is largely caused by inflammation, which is why some experts believe that onions can contribute to this. The chemical in onions known as “thiosulfate” is believed to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. While this is good for certain situations, it can make existing acne worse.

It should be noted that this doesn’t apply to everyone and there are no scientific studies to back it up. If you do get acne from eating onions, it’s unlikely to be serious.

You should be able to clear up any blemishes with topical medication.

Are artificial sweeteners bad for your skin?

As of right now, there are no scientific studies supporting this. Many people claim that they get acne from artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and Splenda but this is most likely a psychological reaction. If you think a product will cause you to break out then it’s likely that it will, even if it actually has no impact on your skin.

There is one “fake” sweetener called “Akin” which is currently under development. It’s entirely starch based and therefore contains no chemicals at all.

It also has no affect on blood sugar levels and is suitable for diabetics. So far there are no reports that it causes acne but it’s too soon to say whether it’s safe or not.

Are diet drinks bad for your skin?

As with artificial sweeteners, there are no scientific studies to confirm this. As with the sweeteners, if you think that something is causing your acne, it probably will even if it actually isn’t. Studies have shown that some people can lose weight when they switch to diet drinks but there is no proof that this causes long-term benefits to your skin.

Can chocolate cause cystic acne?

On the opposite end of the spectrum to milk chocolate lies dark or “bitter” chocolate. This type is made with significant amounts of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. It has a richer taste but is not usually eaten in anywhere near the quantity of milk chocolate. This makes it a far less likely to cause acne compared to its milk cousin.

Bars of sweet chocolate however usually contain other ingredients such as nuts and biscuits. These can cause breakouts just like other foods.

Check the ingredients list before assuming that your skin will like it.

What about other types of food?

Sources & references used in this article:

Diet and dermatology: Google search results for acne, psoriasis, and eczema by R Khanna, N Shifrin, T Nektalova… – …, 2018 – …

Aqueous vitamin A in acne vulgaris by DM Davidson, AE Sobel – Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 1949 –

Medicinal composition for treating acne and method of using same by US Patent 3,322,626, 1967 – Google Patents