Ahhhh…. Here we go…
Let’s just dive right in shall we?
What Are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are sugars. Sugars are known as saccharides. Carbs get broken down into single sugars called monosaccharides (mono means one, and saccharide means sugar, so monosaccharide means one sugar molecule).
There are three monosaccharides:
Our body runs on glucose. The body usually runs on sugar from our muscles for some very quick energy. Then it taps into our glycogen (sugar) stores in our liver. Once these two sources of glucose are used up, fat becomes the primary fuel source. People usually eat lots of carbs (good or bad carbs) and so their glycogen tank is always full. If you want to run on fat, you can enter a state of ketogenesis where you run off of ketone bodies derived from fat. To get into ketogenesis, you need to have very, very little carbohydrates and lots of fat, or you can perform a water fast for two or more days and your body will naturally start using fat as fuel because all of the sugar in your body will be used up. This might be a good idea for a few days, but I’m not in favor of long term low carb diets. What’s important is that we get our carbs from good, healthy sources.
A note on fasting: I have done a few water fasts and believe they can be beneficial when people are doing detoxes. I’m a fan of fasting and also juice cleansing. The logic that I like to have in regards to water fasts is this: For millions of years, humans have gone through periods of abundant food availability and short periods where there was no food. During these times of scarcity, primitive people may have gone anywhere from a day up to a few days without eating food. Since the underlying DNA of humans is the same today as it has been for hundreds of thousands of years, it seems logical that at some point during our lives (or multiple times throughout our lives) we should perform a fast. Also, when we fast, it rests our digestive system and gives the body a chance to clear out its cells and detoxify at a much more rapid pace, which can be beneficial.
I don’t believe we should go overboard with fasting though. Some people take it to the extreme and go to water fasting retreats where they drink nothing but water for 5, 10, 15, or even 20 days. I contemplated doing that but I decided against it and I don’t recommend to water fast for more than one day now.
I also advise listening to your body. If there’s a day where you’re just not hungry at all, then that can be used an as opportunity to fast. Never do prolonged fasts without the care of a qualified physician.
The Concerns With Carbohydrates
One thing that is definitely a must is to choose the right carbohydrates for our diet because the carbohydrates we eat affect our blood sugar. Blood sugar imbalance is a major contributing factor in the acne process and if it’s not addressed properly, then acne probably won’t go away. Blood sugar problems are one of the main causes of acne. Even if someone is not overweight, they can have blood sugar problems.
All carbohydrates have an affect on blood sugar. I used to think that it was OK to eat the non-gluten grains like quinoa and rice, but after further research, I learned that all grains can be problematic if someone has blood sugar and digestive problems. All grains can raise insulin levels and subsequently raise insulin-like-growth-factor-1 (IGF-1), which can exacerbate the acne process. So blood sugar is concern number one when it comes to carbohydrates, especially grains.
For people with gut issues, grains can cause lots of problems. Another big concern with grains is their gluten content. Gluten is a class of proteins that can damage the intestines, and grains are subject to gluten contamination. According to renowned gluten expert Dr. Tom O’Bryan, up to 30 percent of non-gluten grains can be contaminated with gluten. Gluten so detrimental toward your health and acne for many reasons which are discussed below. So gluten is concern number two with carbohydrates, particularly grains.
Then there are lectins, saponins and other factors that are predominantly in carbohydrates. We’ll go into all of these things. Let’s start with gluten because that’s probably the most important.
A Quick Note On Vegetables And Fruit
Most people question vegetables and fruits as they are also technically carbohydrates. For most cases, in healthy individuals without serious medical complications, vegetables can and should be eaten in copious amounts. Real, whole food vegetables, even starchier vegetables such as sweet potatoes, are healthy foods. Fruits are also healthy unless one has serious blood sugar problems. However, fruit can aggravate the gut in certain circumstances and can be mismatched with someone’s needs if they are living in an environment that isn’t conducive to growing fruit. Fruit also isn’t advisable for those with candida and certain infections. Otherwise, having some fruit is not a bad thing. Same thing goes for sweet potatoes, yams, squash and other vegetables. We will talk more about these things in other posts in more detail. Now we will talk about gluten.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a class of proteins found in grain products. There are different kinds of gluten. The kind that gets condemned — for good reasons — is specific to wheat, rye and barley. When gluten-sensitive individuals eat gluten, a reaction of intestinal damage followed by inflammation occurs. Sometimes the immune system is activated when people eat gluten. In those with celiac disease, their immune system attacks their intestines when they eat gluten.
Inflammation by gluten doesn’t just happen in those with celiac disease though. You do not have to have celiac disease or a wheat allergy to be negatively affected by gluten. The actual number of people that are sensitive to gluten ranges depending on the source, but I’ve heard that up to 80 percent of the population has adverse reactions to gluten in their diet. If you have acne, I would be willing to bet my life’s savings that you have a gluten sensitivity. Eliminating gluten from the diet is so important for acne sufferers that it is the second highest recommended food to avoid. The first food to avoid for acne sufferers is dairy.
Even health authorities that advocate vegetarian and vegan diets understand how terrible gluten is for most people. It wrecks havoc on the digestive system. It can cause irreversible damage to those with celiac disease. It causes inflammation in nearly everyone. Top athletes go on gluten-free diets because they recover faster since there’s less inflammation in the body. These people don’t have celiac disease. The inflammation might not be much, but when competing in athletic events at high levels, a 5-percent increase in inflammation can make the difference between winning and losing an event. Maybe the gluten itself isn’t causing your acne, but if it is contributing to overall inflammation than that can feed the process. If gluten causes inflammation in even non-celiac individuals who show no signs of ill health, then what is it doing to someone who has signs of poor health on their face and skin?
Zonulin – The Mechanics Of How Gluten Affects Us
Zonulin is one of the most important proteins in the body. It is the only known physiological modulator of intercellular tight junctions in the intestines. What that means, in English, is that when zonulin is activated, it opens up the tight junctions between our intestinal cells.This can lead to things passing through the intestinal wall and can cause inflammation.
The No. 1 substance that activates zonulin is gluten. If gluten activates the zonulin proteins in our guts, it opens the doors for undigested food particles and inflammatory molecules to sneak past the intestinal wall and cause damage in our body. This damage can show up anywhere. It is not contained to the gut. The damage gluten causes by activating zonulin and allowing particles to pass into our body can cause symptoms in every system in our body. Symptoms can include acne, rashes, headaches, aches and pains, weakness, forgetfulness, constipation and diarrhea and pretty much any other symptom you can think of. This is because once things pass through our intestinal barrier they can travel anywhere throughout our body and cause damage wherever they land.
We make zonulin ourselves and doctors aren’t really sure why. A theory is that some things in mother’s milk need to be absorbed, so the zonulin act as an insurance policy to make sure they get inside our bodies, but that’s not conclusive. Our intestines are where we interact with the outside world. The tight junctions in our intestines are the tiny spaces in between the cells that allow particles to either enter our body or continue on their path to the toilet. If high amounts of zonulin get released, these tight junctions open and more particles are allowed in.
So Gluten Is Bad, But What About Gluten-free Grains?
Gluten is in wheat, rye and barley, and many times cross-contaminated into oats unless they’re labelled “gluten-free.” It’s not found naturally in oats, but the same trucks used to transport oats also transport wheat and gluten-containing foods. Also, the oat fields can be close to the wheat fields and cross contaminate. There are non-gluten grains like rice, quinoa and buckwheat that some individuals can handle. In the beginning of any healing diet, I recommend going completely grain-free because grains seem to cause the most distress on the gastrointestinal system. They’re also some of the least nutritious foods available. If we’re showing signs of ill-health on our face, it can be coming up because of ill health in our guts.
Going gluten free is an absolute must in my opinion. If you go grain-free, you’ll be avoiding gluten. If you don’t go completely grain free, it’s important to make sure that whatever grains you do buy are labelled “gluten free” to be sure they are tested. Even then, I still wouldn’t eat much of them on a regular basis.
There is so much more I want to say about gluten, but the only thing you need to know is that it causes damage to the intestinal lining and can allow unwanted material to slip through your gut into your bloodstream. The books Wheat Belly and its follow up Wheat Belly: Total Health by William Davis, M.D. are great resources to check out and learn even more about gluten. Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmutter also has some useful information about grains.
One other reason why staying away from the grains wheat, rye and barley can greatly improve your health is because they are also highly fermentable by the bacteria in your gut. A lot of new research is showing that foods high in things called FODMAPs can cause digestive distress. Grains, especially wheat, rye, and barley, contain both gluten and FODMAPs, so cutting them out will kill two birds with one stone essentially.
Grains and other foods, and their relationship to acne are discussed in detail in the book ClearSkin Nutrition. For now, what to know is that during the beginning phases of a healing diet, grains should be excluded. Later down the road (60-90 days after being grain free) properly prepared grains can be explored.
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