How food intolerance can trigger acne

How Food Intolerance Can Trigger Acne<br />

Acne is a common skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide, often leaving them frustrated and self-conscious. While hormonal fluctuations and genetics are well-known factors contributing to acne, there’s another aspect that’s gaining recognition: the impact of food intolerance. In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore how food intolerance can influence the development of acne, shedding light on the intricate connection between what you eat and the health of your skin.


Understanding food intolerance

Before diving into the relationship between food intolerance and acne, let’s clarify what food intolerance means. Food intolerance is distinct from food allergies, which involve an immune response to specific proteins in food. Food intolerance, on the other hand, typically involves difficulties in digesting and processing certain components of food, leading to various symptoms, including digestive issues and skin problems like acne.


Common food intolerances

Several types of food intolerance can potentially contribute to acne by triggering inflammatory responses or disrupting hormone balance. Here are some of the most common ones:

Dairy Intolerance: Lactose and proteins found in dairy products can be problematic for some individuals. Dairy intolerance may lead to inflammation and hormonal fluctuations, both of which can contribute to acne development.

Gluten Intolerance: Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a condition characterized by adverse reactions to gluten-containing foods. Gluten intolerance may lead to gut inflammation and affect nutrient absorption, indirectly impacting skin health.

Sugar and Processed Foods: High consumption of refined sugars and processed foods can lead to blood sugar spikes, insulin resistance, and inflammation. These factors can disrupt hormone balance and potentially exacerbate acne.

Histamine Intolerance: Histamine is a naturally occurring compound found in many foods. Some people are unable to break down histamine efficiently, leading to histamine intolerance. This can result in various symptoms, including skin issues like acne.

Managing Food Intolerance-Related Acne<br />

The link between food intolerance and acne

Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is a known trigger for acne. Food intolerances can lead to gastrointestinal inflammation, and this inflammation can manifest in the skin as well. Inflammatory responses can affect sebum production and clog pores, contributing to acne formation.

Hormonal Imbalances: Certain food intolerances, particularly dairy, have been linked to hormonal imbalances. Dairy products can contain hormones and growth factors, which may disrupt the body’s hormonal regulation. Hormonal imbalances can stimulate the sebaceous glands, leading to excess oil production and acne.

Gut-Brain-Skin Axis: Emerging research suggests that there is a complex interplay between the gut, brain, and skin known as the gut-brain-skin axis. Changes in gut health, often associated with food intolerances, can impact the skin’s health and contribute to skin conditions like acne.

Nutrient Deficiencies: Food intolerances can lead to nutrient malabsorption, depriving the body of essential vitamins and minerals. Nutrient deficiencies can weaken the skin’s natural defence mechanisms and potentially exacerbate acne.

Leaky Gut Syndrome: In some cases of food intolerance, particularly gluten intolerance, the gut lining may become more permeable, leading to a condition known as leaky gut syndrome. This allows substances that would typically remain in the gut to enter the bloodstream, potentially triggering inflammatory responses that can affect the skin.


Managing food intolerance-related acne

If you suspect that food intolerance may be contributing to your acne, it’s essential to take proactive steps to manage your condition effectively. Here are some strategies:

Identify Problematic Foods: Keeping a food diary can help you pinpoint which foods trigger your acne. Consider eliminating suspected trigger foods from your diet for a period and then reintroduce them one at a time to identify culprits.

Dietary Adjustments: Once you’ve identified trigger foods, consider eliminating or significantly reducing them from your diet. Opt for whole, nutrient-dense foods to support skin health.

Gut Health: Focus on improving your gut health by incorporating probiotic-rich foods (e.g., yoghourt, kefir, sauerkraut) and prebiotic foods (e.g., garlic, onions, asparagus) into your diet. Probiotic supplements may also be beneficial.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Embrace an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fatty fish, and whole grains. Reducing processed foods, refined sugars, and trans fats can help reduce inflammation that may contribute to acne.

Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is essential for overall skin health. Drinking enough water helps flush toxins from the body and supports skin’s natural functions.

Skincare Routine: Implement a gentle skincare routine that includes cleansing and moisturising. Avoid harsh cleansers or abrasive treatments that can exacerbate acne.

Stress Management: Chronic stress can exacerbate acne. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises into your daily routine.

Consult a dermatologist if your acne persists or worsens despite dietary adjustments, consider consulting a dermatologist. They can provide targeted treatments and advice tailored to your specific skin condition.



Acne is a common skin concern that can significantly impact one’s self-esteem and quality of life. While there are various factors that contribute to acne, including genetics and hormonal fluctuations, the connection between food intolerance and acne is becoming increasingly evident.

By understanding how food intolerance can influence the development of acne, individuals can take proactive steps to manage their condition effectively. Identifying problematic foods by taking a food intolerance test, making dietary adjustments, and focusing on overall skin and gut health can help mitigate the impact of food intolerance on acne and promote clearer, healthier skin.

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Sian Baker

Medically reviewed by Sian Baker, Dip ION mBANT mCNHC
on September 04, 2023. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Check My Body Health blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.