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Is Imbalanced Blood Sugar Responsible For Acne?

Updated: Jun 13


So you might be wondering what exactly blood sugar (aka blood glucose) is? Essentially it is the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream and it can be influenced by various factors such as sun exposure, minerals, medication, stress, lifestyle and dietary choices. Even though it might not be something you think about for acne, the reality is, regulating blood sugar is essential for overall health and maintaining clear skin! When you consume any sort of carbohydrates, blood sugar levels rise. This is a normal biological response. However, problems arise when blood sugar is consistently spiking and crashing. Eventually, your cells stop responding to all the insulin that your pancreas is pumping out in order to get glucose into the cells. This is what is known as 'insulin resistance'. After years of working with patients, I noticed insulin resistance is a massive cause of acne and we need to teach our bodies how to properly utilize glucose as fuel to foster insulin sensitivity. Glucose is your cells primary source of fuel after all!


Achieving true balance does not involve cutting out sugar and carbohydrates nor does it involve eating a low glycemic diet. You can't expect to heal when you cut off your cells primary fuel source. True healing is about finding the right combination of macronutrients and eating + living in a way that is supportive of YOUR individual metabolism! This means skipping meals or "fasting" could be doing your skin and blood sugar a disservice and so can all the hard to digest plant based foods you are eating. Not to mention stress. Let's further explore how insulin resistance can affect acne and learn strategies to optimize blood sugar levels.


A spoon pouring sugar in to a sugar bowl

Glycemic Index and Skin Health:


The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-containing foods based on how quickly they raise blood sugar levels. Foods with a high GI cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, while those with a low GI result in a slower, more gradual increase. Some people suggest following a low GI diet to address issues like acne. The reasoning is that high blood sugar levels can stimulate the production of insulin and other hormones, which may contribute to skin problems. However, solely focusing on the glycemic index is not the most effective approach because it overlooks the fact that sugar is your cells' main energy source. When you consume carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose during digestion and absorbed into the bloodstream. This glucose then travels to cells throughout the body, providing the energy needed for various cellular functions, including metabolism, growth, and repair. Restricting carbohydrates too severely can deprive the body of the fuel it needs to function optimally, so don't be afraid of carbs!!! One thing I always tell my patients is to pair high glycemic foods with sources of animal protein and fiber. This combination not only slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream but also helps sustain energy levels over time. While carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels, protein works in the opposite direction, promoting a more gradual release of sugar into the bloodstream. By pairing these macronutrients, you create a balanced meal that supports stable blood sugar levels and provides sustained energy throughout the day. Keep reading for more blood sugar hacks like this!


The Role of Fiber & White Sugar:


Fiber is really important for keeping your blood sugar levels steady. Think of it as a sort of traffic controller in your body, slowing down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream. This helps prevent those sudden spikes and crashes in energy that can leave you feeling tired or irritable.

Of course, refined sugar like white sugar, doesn't have any fiber or nutrients - but, it's not all bad! In moderation, white sugar can give you a quick burst of energy when you need it. Refined sugar is still a good source of energy and if your trying to heal from any sort of imbalances or conditions, cutting out one of your bodies MAIN sources of energy is not going to help you! However, because it lacks fiber and essential nutrients, it's shouldn't be your sole source of glucose.


On the other hand, fruits are like nature's sweet treats. They're not only delicious but also packed with fiber and important nutrients like vitamins and minerals, and they are one of the most healing foods you can eat! This mean they are one of the better choices for keeping your skin clear and blood sugar levels stable. Many acne sufferers can't tolerate carbohydrates so they cut them out but the best solution is to actually teach your body how to become more receptive to insulin, and how to utilize glucose more efficiently! This is what I help my clients with!


Blood Sugar and Metabolism


Metabolism and blood sugar levels are closely intertwined. Your metabolism functions optimally when it receives a steady supply of energy from the food you eat. However, disruptions in this delicate balance can occur. Excessive energy intake (aka over-eating) overwhelms the metabolism, leading to the storage of excess glucose as fat. This typically happens with slow oxidizers because your body is having a hard time converting the food you are eating into energy at an optimal rate. On the other hand, inadequate nutrition deprives the metabolism of essential nutrients, pushing the body into a catabolic state where it breaks down not only fat but also muscle and other tissues for energy. Remember, it's not necessarily about what you are eating but also what you are absorbing. I recommend eating foods with high bio-availability like animal protein, fruits, root veggies, dairy etc. Metabolic dysfunction is the ROOT of all acne which is why this should be the starting point! Consistent blood sugar imbalances can trigger inflammation and hormonal fluctuations, which can create acne. So now you may be wondering how do you prevent this?


Factors Affecting Blood Sugar


Various factors mentioned above can mess with blood sugar levels. When you under-eat or are stressed, your body starts pumping out stress hormones. Those hormones kick in to help boost your blood sugar by breaking down stuff like amino acids in your body. You want to avoid this as much as possible to keep your whole body in balance. I mean... why would you call up cortisol to raise glucose? We're already stressed out enough in this society! Ideally, your meals and snacks should be balanced (ie. contain carbs, fat, protein and fibre) and keep you satisfied for about three to four hours. but what kinds of foods should you avoid to maintain balanced blood sugar?


Processed Foods


Processed foods, which are filled with cheap sugars and unsaturated fats, can be a huge burden on both your metabolism and skin health. When you consume these foods, they are rapidly digested and absorbed by the body, causing a sharp increase in blood sugar levels. This spike triggers a surge in insulin production from the pancreas to help get glucose into the cells. However, the rapid influx of glucose can overwhelm the body's regulation systems and continuously eating processed foods can lead to chronic elevation of insulin levels, contributing to insulin resistance. These metabolic issues can then start to manifest as acne. High insulin levels also increase androgens, which can lead to acne. Additionally, eating processed foods without essential nutrients robs the skin of what it needs to stay healthy. This lack of nutrients causes inflammation, stress, and hormonal imbalances doing no favours for your skin! I always recommend trying to stay away from processed foods filled with seed oils (see our previous blog post to learn more about this!), and stick to a whole-food, metabolically supportive diet when possible.


Alcohol


Alcohol can have a significant impact on your blood sugar levels, particularly when consumed without food. When you drink on an empty stomach, it can lead to a rapid drop in blood sugar levels, leaving you feeling shaky, dizzy, or light-headed.


My advice to clients who don't want to cut alcohol out completely is to consume food alongside your drinks or opt for mixers that can help stabilize your blood sugar levels. Eating while drinking can slow down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream and choosing mixers that contain carbohydrates can help balance out the effects of alcohol on your blood sugar levels. The night before, ensure to hydrate by drinking 1 litre of filtered water with added electrolytes, and consider including some liver support like chlorophyll. Additionally, taking 2-4 capsules of a binder, like the one from CellCore in my shop (with discount) can help support your detox pathways. When you wake up the next morning, its always good to replenish your body with essential nutrients by taking a B vitamins supplement, such as LifeBlud Energi+ in my shop (with discount), and also incorporating a magnesium supplement into your routine.


Coffee


Starting your day with a cup of black coffee on an empty stomach can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels by triggering your body's stress response. While coffee can offer benefits in generally healthy individuals, opting for black coffee can pose challenges for your body's stress hormones.


To make your coffee more blood sugar-friendly, try these tips:


  • Choose an organic coffee that has been tested for mold and heavy metals, such as the selection available at Purity in holistico.ca shop (discount code in shop).


  • Enhance your coffee with a natural carbohydrate source like honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar, along with a source of fat such as whole milk or coconut milk, and a protein boost like Perfect Supplements bovine collagen in holistico.ca shop with discount!


  • Aim to consume your coffee before noon and limit yourself to just one cup to avoid disrupting your blood sugar levels later in the day.


  • Never drink your coffee before breakfast or use it as a replacement for a meal. Instead, enjoy your coffee after you've had some food to help stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent unwanted spikes and crashes.


Incorporating these simple strategies can transform your morning coffee routine into a blood sugar-friendly experience. Now, let's explore another essential aspect of maintaining stable energy levels: the role of glycogen in our body's energy reserves.


Understanding Glycogen: The Body's Energy Reserve


Glycogen, also known as stored sugar, functions as the body's primary energy reserve which is important for sustaining energy levels and maintaining metabolic functions. Primarily stored in muscles and the liver, glycogen provides energy to critical organs like the brain and red blood cells. During periods of stress (even exercise or missed meals), glycogen serves as the first line defence in maintaining blood sugar levels.


Liver glycogen plays a crucial role in supporting liver function and regulating blood sugar levels. A healthy liver can store approximately 100-200mg of glycogen, but liver damage can diminish this capacity, leading to difficulties in blood sugar regulation. Muscles also store glycogen, primarily for their own energy needs. Depleting muscle glycogen can create "weight loss", but in reality, this is just glycogen and water loss, which is neither sustainable nor healthy in the long term.


How often you eat depends a lot on how your liver handles glycogen storage. If your liver isn't so great at storing glycogen, it might be better to snack more often. Going for smaller, more frequent meals keeps the nutrient and energy flow steady, stopping any extra energy from getting stashed away as fat. Think of these little meals as stepping in for your liver when it's slacking off on the blood sugar maintenance between meals.


But here's the good part: As you learn to support your liver and its detoxification processes—cleaning out toxins, ditching polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs)-packed foods, and getting the right mix of fats, proteins, and carbs—glycogen storage abilities can improve. With a happier liver, you might find you can stretch out the time between meals a bit more comfortably, keeping your blood sugar levels steady! My favourite and super gentle liver support hack is utilizing Queen of The Thrones castor oil topically over my right abdomen. You can find this in the holistico.ca shop with a discount! Of course, optimizing minerals and nutrition comes first.


The Impact of Blood Sugar on Acne


Elevated blood sugar levels aren't just about metabolic health—they can also wreak havoc on your skin. Research shows a direct link between high blood sugar and acne as well as premature aging. When blood sugar spikes, it triggers increased hormone production and collagen damage - enter skin issues!


Here's how it works: When your blood sugar levels soar, your body produces more hormones, which can lead to acne breakouts. As we learned previously, blood sugar spikes can occur for various reasons. When your system is flooded with glucose, your pancreas kicks into high gear to produce insulin and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) to restore balance. But when there's an excess of insulin and IGF-1, your body starts creating androgen hormones, leading to increased oil production and clogged pores—hello, acne! You might have noticed that sometimes, around the time when you ovulate, acne decides to make an appearance on your skin. Well, there's a reason behind this called insulin resistance. Now, what does that mean? It means that your body isn't quite as good at using insulin as it should be. When you are insulin resistant your bodies cells are no longer responsive to the insulin your pancreas is producing and therefore your cells are not using the glucose to make energy. As a result, your blood sugar levels can go up, and this spike might just be the trigger for those monthly acne breakouts.


Additionally, high blood sugar levels can cause collagen damage through a process called glycation. This occurs when sugar molecules attach to proteins in the skin, forming harmful compounds known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These AGEs disrupt collagen and elastin fibres, making your skin less elastic and more prone to sagging and wrinkling.


These cycles can quickly spiral out of control, leading a vicious cycle of hormone-induced breakouts. So, how can you prevent these blood sugar spikes?


Balancing Blood Sugar: The Right Approach


One of my best tips to ensure blood sugar is balanced is to slow down and enjoy your meals. I know life is busy and sometimes eating on the go is your only option, but when you do have the time, turn off your screens and focus on the food in front of you! Eating too fast can trick your body into thinking it's still hungry, leading to overeating and cravings. If you are looking for clues as to whether your body might struggle with blood sugar regulation, a good thing to look at is your sleep! I always ask my clients if they find themselves waking up between 3 and 4 am. If this is the case it is usually a blood sugar issue. I recommend eating a blood sugar-friendly snack before bedtime, like raw milk with honey and collagen to help fuel your liver overnight and keep blood sugar stable.


If you're looking to test your blood sugar, HTMA tests can provide amazing insight. While an HTMA itself does not directly measure glucose or insulin, it can show us potential imbalances and mineral deficiencies that may impact metabolic function, including blood sugar regulation. Minerals such as chromium, magnesium, zinc, and calcium play crucial roles in insulin function and glucose metabolism. These minerals are essential for your hormones and greatly affect your skin! You can also get a continuous glucose monitor to test glucose levels and how they fluctuate throughout the day. I like Nutrisense in the holistico.ca shop (discount code listed) as it's very reliable and accurate.


If you're lost... this is good place to start when trying to regulate blood sugar:


  • Remove PUFA's (nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, fish oils, corn, soy) and replace them with saturated fats (butter, ghee, coconut, animal fat, dairy)


  • Add white flakey sea salt to your food and to water


  • Eat potassium-rich foods daily (think bananas, apricots, kiwi, potatoes, coconut water, beets)


  • ALWAYS eat protein and carbs together! NEVER alone!


  • Remove sugar alternatives (stevia, monk fruit, artificial sweeteners) and replace them with real sugar (coconut, cane, raw honey, pure maple syrup)!


  • Add ceylon cinnamon to foods regularly for chromium


  • Get at least 15 minutes of movement in after every meal


  • Eat regularly!!! Every 3-4 hours have a balanced snack or meal and eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking.


  • Expose your bare skin to the sun (safely) every day that you can!



If you're unsure where to start and need guidance, booking a free call with me can be a great first step! Overall, understanding and managing blood sugar levels is not only vital for overall health but also essential for clearing your skin. An ancestral approach to nutrition and optimized lifestyle will support metabolic function and minimize the risk of insulin resistance!


P.S. Watch my FREE Clear Skin Masterclass to learn exactly how to get to the root of your acne. This is a must watch if you are starting your natural skin healing journey! You will learn the steps I take to get my clients life-long results. 


None of the above is medical advice.


Love Katie

xoxo

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