Acne is a very common inflammatory condition that can be caused due to various factors in women of all ages. Although the exact factors that trigger or worsen the condition are not always clear, most of the cases are linked to the diet of the person. In that, gluten sensitivity is often considered to be a prime triggering factor for acne breakouts.

Gluten is a group of proteins, which occur naturally in many types of grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. It is also found in triticale, which is a mixture of rye and wheat. Most women think of pasta and bread when they hear of the word “gluten”, maybe because of its elastic nature that relates to a kind of “glue” that holds such foods together. However, gluten from wheat can be found in a lot of other food products as well, such as in soups and salad dressings.

Some of the grains that are naturally free of gluten, such as rice and oats, can also be contaminated with gluten-rich grains. That is why it is recommended to check the labeling on the food product carefully to ensure that it is actually gluten-free. Note that gluten by itself is not a harmful protein unless you are sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease.

Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity

Normally, the intestines in our body break down gluten into a byproduct called gliadin. Yet a few factors like a genetic predisposition can create antibodies to the gliadin protein that can lead to the developing of celiac disease symptoms. In case of celiac disease as well as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), when the person consumes gluten-containing food, he/she would experience frequent headaches, excessive fatigue, and gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. In some patients, it may also lead to rashes on the skin.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, wherein the person having the condition finds it difficult to digest gluten. In severe cases, it can even lead to damages to the walls of the small intestine. Therefore, patients experiencing the symptoms of celiac disease and NCGS are recommended to avoid all kinds of food that contain gluten content.

It is to be noted that wheat allergy and gluten sensitivity can also happen with or without celiac disease or NCGS. The condition can also lead to gastrointestinal symptoms as well as skin rashes and hives. In severe cases, wheat allergies can lead to breathing difficulties as well. As that would require immediate medical attention, it is recommended to see a doctor at the nearest community healthcare center as soon as the early symptoms are noticed.

Can Gluten-Free Diet Help to Cure Acne?

There is no clinical evidence that supports following a gluten-free diet to cure acne. In fact, there is not much proof to state that gluten triggers acne breakouts in the first place. However, gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are found to be associated with many other skin conditions.

  • Alopecia areata – This is a type of autoimmune condition, which causes patchy or extensive hair loss. A recent study says that alopecia areata can start to develop in the younger ages. Nonetheless, there is not much data to establish that a gluten-free diet could provide relief from the condition.
  • Atopic dermatitis – This condition is also known as eczema. It is usually seen among children and young adults, which causes itchiness and irritation on the skin. The inflammatory disease is linked to immune dysfunction, which can be aggravated if the patient has celiac disease. Still, there is no evidence that a gluten-free diet could help to ease the symptoms of eczema.
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis – This skin condition refers to a blistery rash that is caused in people with celiac disease who consume gluten. The condition is very common in the US and around 10% of the people with celiac disease experience the symptoms of dermatitis herpetiformis.
  • Urticaria – This condition refers to the formation of hives or welts on the skin, which can be due to a variety of reasons. In most cases, allergic substances in some specific medications and/or some food products lead to the condition. However, it may or may not be associated with celiac disease.
  • Psoriasis – This disorder is associated with the dysfunction of the immune system of the body. A few studies say that following a gluten-free diet may help to ease the symptoms in people who have celiac disease and plaque psoriasis, but more data is needed to confirm the findings.

Diet and Acne

While some foods can potentially increase the risk of skin conditions, there is not much evidence to establish any link between acne and the diet of the person. Still, those who are prone to skin problems should avoid foods that have high glycemic content, such as white rice and white potatoes. Similarly, consuming dairy products and whey protein supplements can also lead to the onset of acne in some people. A family y

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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