Are Nutrient Deficiencies and Food Allergies Harming Your Skin?

What you’re eating — or, in some cases, not eating — could be harming your skin. In fact, your skin can be a road map to a number of food allergies and nutritional deficiencies you may not even know you have. Food allergies and nutritional deficiencies can cause excess inflammation in the body, which in turn can cause such skin conditions as eczema, acne, rosacea and premature aging. In many cases, nutrient testing and simple dietary changes can help you combat these conditions. And when they can’t, there are numerous treatment options available to help improve your skin.

Premature Aging

Premature aging can be an obvious sign of nutritional deficiencies. Free radicals, unstable molecules that damage the structure of healthy cells, are a major cause of premature aging. While normal biological processes do cause some free radical damage to the skin, most results from such environmental aggressors as pollutants and sun exposure.

Antioxidants — vital nutrients that include vitamin C (found in citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables), vitamin D (found in sunlight and such foods as milk, eggs, cheese, salmon and tuna), and vitamin E (found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables and vegetable oils) — protect the skin from these free radicals. If your body is deficient in one these, your skin can age prematurely. A nutrient test can determine what you are lacking and what your body needs to fight free radical damage.


Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is an itchy inflammation of the skin that often appears on the arms or behind the knees. While the exact cause is unknown, researchers believe it may result from a combination of inherited sensitive skin and a malfunction in the body’s immune system. Food allergies — typically dairy products and gluten — can make eczema worse.

Eczema can be treated with topical medications, such as hydrocortisone, pimecrolimus (Elidel) and sulfacetamide, and with creams and cleansers containing oatmeal preparations. Although these creams treat the symptoms, they don’t treat the underlying cause. A food allergy test can identify potential triggers.


Acne, an inflammatory skin condition characterized by clogged pores, blackheads and pimples, is the most common skin condition in the United States, affecting about 40 million to 50 million Americans, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. But it doesn’t just affect teenagers. Adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s can develop it, too.

Acne is caused by an overproduction of oil by enlarged oil glands in the skin, a blockage of the hair follicle that releases oil and the growth of bacteria in the hair follicle. Some studies suggest that processed foods and refined sugars can exacerbate acne. But hormonal imbalances, food allergies — typically to dairy products — and nutrient deficiencies also can trigger acne outbreaks.

If you suffer from acne, it’s important to get a nutrient test or food allergy test to identify possible triggers. Clearing your acne could be as simple as avoiding certain food groups or replenishing zinc stores.

For some, however, dietary changes may not be enough. Topical treatments, such as retinoid medications, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, can be highly effective in combating acne. Laser light treatments, including blue light therapy, can help eradicate the bacteria in the skin to reduce outbreaks.

Chemical peels also can be used to treat acne. SkinMedica’s Illuminize, Vitalize and Rejuvenize peels use a unique blend of alpha and beta hydroxy acids to dramatically improve the tone and texture of your skin. These exfoliating peels have been clinically proven to help pigmentation problems, including sun damage and acne scarring, while stimulating collagen production in the cells beneath the skin’s surface.

  • The Illuminize Peel is a gentle, superficial peel for all skin types that uses a newer generation of alpha hydroxy acids (mandelic acid and malic acid) in conjunction with phytic acid, salicylic acid and resorcinol to rejuvenate skin with little irritation. This peel improves skin clarity, color and texture, increases skin radiance, and tightens the skin with little or no visible peeling.
  • The medium-strength Vitalize Peel uses salicylic acid, lactic acid and retinoic acid to address pigmentation problems, melasma, sun damage and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It can be customized to treat each specific condition. Visible improvement can be seen after one treatment, with more significant results after a series of peels. The Vitalize Peel has little or no downtime and can be used on all skin types.
  • The Rejuvenize Peel, SkinMedica’s strongest, uses salicylic acid, lactic acid, resorcinol, panthenol and isoceteth-20 to exfoliate damaged layers, revealing fresher, healthier skin. This peel is particularly effective for treating sun damage, melasma, pigmentation changes and acne scarring. It is recommended after tolerance to the Vitalize Peel has been established, and requires little downtime.


Rosacea, an inflammatory, vascular condition often characterized by flushing of the face, affects about 14 million Americans between the ages of 30 and 60, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

Although its exact cause is unknown, researchers have identified a number of common triggers for rosacea flare-ups. These include genetics (particularly in fair-skinned individuals of Irish, English or Scottish descent); environmental factors, such as sun exposure, wind, extreme temperatures (hot or cold), hot baths and saunas; harsh skin care products; stress and other emotional influences; and such medical conditions as menopause, high blood pressure, immune system problems and gastrointestinal imbalances. Rosacea flare-ups also can be triggered by a number of foods and beverages, including alcohol, hot or spicy foods and drinks, and foods that either contain high levels of histamine — a chemical produced by the immune system during an allergic reaction — or trigger the release of histamine.

If you suffer from rosacea, it is important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Treatment options include intense pulsed light (IPL) photofacials, topical medications and oral antibiotics. But identifying gastrointestinal triggers and inflammation-causing food allergies can keep rosacea at bay for years.

Identifying Food Allergies and Nutritional Deficiencies

If you suffer from acne, eczema, rosacea or premature aging, it’s important to get a nutrient test or food allergy test to identify possible triggers.

Dr. Thalia Farschian, ND, a naturopathic doctor at Current Health in San Francisco, specializes in diagnosing and treating food allergies, nutrient deficiencies and hormonal imbalances. Her nutrient tests assess each patient’s supply of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants over a period of 3 to 6 months, so testing is consistent and not dependent on what you ate the day before.

The nutrient test includes testing for vitamins B12 and D, selenium and glutathione. The food allergy test looks for allergic responses to 95 foods, including gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, corn and soy. For more information about these tests, visit Current Health or call (415) 732-7029.

Identifying Other Treatment Options

To find more about other treatment options for acne, rosacea, eczema and premature aging, including topical medications, oral antibiotics, IPL phototherapy, laser treatments and chemical peels, contact our office at (415) 927-7660 or email

[hr] Photo by Victoria Ushkanova/Creative Commons attribution license

Posted on June 30, 2012 and filed under Skin Care.