Can food cure acne?

Can what you eat cure your acne? It’s an interesting question. One thing many people find when they switch to a Paleo diet is that their skin clarity gets better, if you have adult acne it usually clears up with the elimination of excess omega 6s and other inflammatory foods like grains, legumes, and specifically diary from your food. I noticed a big improvement in my skin clarity when I went full Paleo and cut the dairy – as a girl that has been on anti-acne medication pretty much since I was 13 and have been through 3 courses of accutane (trust me you don’t want to try this) learning that what I eat or don’t eat could cure my acne was ground breaking.

Avoid this...

So I learned about the dairy trigger, if I have some dairy 2 -3 days later it manifests itself on my face as a lovely reminder. That’s one reason why I may appear to have such great willpower – eat that piece of cheese now for 1 minute of satisfaction and then I have to deal with the aftermath in the form of pimples, usually on my face, for a full week. That direct reaction makes it much easier to pass on cheese, milkshakes, and anything else dairy related.

Eat right so you skin looks like this!

Now that I’ve been Paleo for a while, I’ve learned what foods I’m sensitive too and am more in tune with what my body is doing and how it reacts to things. I noticed that my skin clarity has been on a downward slope since the fall – I had attributed it to eating all the Gus from training for 2 half ironmans…but its months later now and I still am not where I would like to be. So I decided to start an n=1 experiment, just me, trying a skin healing protocol outlined by Chris Kresser on his podcast Naturally Get Rid of Acne by Fixing your Gut. So for the next few weeks I’ll be trying a modified version of Paleo, I know I may not be perfect, but I’m going to give it a try, here are the things I’ll be tackling.

  • No more butter, only Ghee — I have Ghee and butter from a local dairy farm, so now I’ll just use the Ghee
  • No nightshades — that means no potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant
  • No fodmaps – these are foods that are high in fructose and may cause irritation to the gut, these will restrict my choices of fruits and vegetables within the Paleo realm

  • Add bone broth — I made some this weekend, there will be a post coming soon with the details
  • Increase glycine rich foods — looks like unflavored/sweetened gelatin & pork rinds…we’ll see how I do with this category
  • Consider removing eggs — I’m not going to do this right away, if I don’t see any change in 2 weeks I may try a week without eggs, but I love eggs and eat a lot of them and am not sure I’m willing to give them up!
  • Add probiotics – raw sauerkraut, or supplement

Starting tomorrow my goal is to follow this protocol to the best of my ability and will see how Chris Kresser’s skin healing protocol works!

About Laura Pappas

Laura Pappas is a health coach whose passion is achieving optimal health and fitness. Her health coaching approach helps busy people balance their lives, training, and food choices in a way that is easy and sustainable. She believes in the power of eating real, whole foods, avoiding processed sugar, and applying the principles of the Paleo Diet to modern living.


  1. Chris P. says:

    interesting protocol, but it all makes sense. This is all about priorities and for someone who wants their skin clarity to be a priority, other things will take a back seat. On the other end of the spectrum, let’s say I have an athlete who wants to get 70s big, well I’m going to put them on a high dairy (raw or organic milk) diet in order to satisfy their priority of getting big in a short amount of time. Everything depends on the person, which is why I like your statement of n=1. For me, dairy in the form of most protein powders and some forms of gluten will make my face break out a few days later. It’s not severe that I am 100% strict, but it’s good reason not to go crazy.

    Btw, who is Gus and why are you eating him?

    • Laura Pappas says:

      @Chris P, lol on the Gus – GUs like the PowerBar Gel, carbohydrate gels used for endurance activity 🙂 Love that you read it as Gus and thanks for pointing out not everyone knows what a Gu is!

  2. I love this post, Laura! Since you also went through so many rounds of accutane, you may want to give a herbal cleanse a try. Candigone from Renew Life is a great one to rebalance the gut flora and rid the body of excess yeast. Good luck and excited to hear how this goes!

    • Laura Pappas says:

      @Jennifer @Gluten Free Shcool – I may try the Canigone after I’m finished with this experiment. I don’t want to mix and not know what actually worked! Thank you for the recommendaiton, I had never thought about the accutane courses since they were in ’99, ’01, and ’03 and it seemed too long ago to me to consider that could still be impacting my gut.

  3. Megs says:

    I saw pork rinds used to coat scotch eggs so along those lines maybe as or in a breading?
    Almond meal, rinds, seasonings to coat chicken or fish!

  4. Melanie says:

    Very excited to see/hear how this goes for you. I too went through 2 rounds of accutane and have been on every other acne medication known to man. You have way more will power than I do though! Will you treat this as an elimination diet and then start to introduce some of these things back into your diet and see what happens? I feel somewhat restricted already on a paleo diet and couldn’t imagine cutting out Nightshades and the veggies or fruits on the FODMAPs list would be really hard for me. I definitely feel that my skin has improved significantly since cutting out grains, and eating a more paleo focused diet. For now, I am dealing with the break outs that I do get because at least they are less than they have ever been in my life. But I will be interested to hear how your experiment goes. So good luck and thank you for sharing this with us since there are many that share your epidermal frustrsations!!

    • Laura Pappas says:

      @Melanie yes i will see how this goes, it is very restrictive and I am having trouble with the nightshades/fodmaps part of this. I do plan to do an elimination type experiement, clean up for 2 weeks (ideally) then add in fodmaps for a week, then the next week nightshades. The protocol also mentioned considering cutting eggs, but that was too much for me to do! I’m still learning on the fodmaps and it seems that there are many differnt lists out there so I’m doing my best and will see what happens.

  5. Wow, that sounds way difficult! I started paleo about a month ago…I don’t know that I could cut more stuff. But it will probably help! I saw a huge improvement in my skin with paleo. I also cheated for my birthday dinner…and promptly broke out 48 hours later. That’s certainly motivating. Sending you lots of luck. It sounds complicated and tough, but I think you can do it!

    • Laura Pappas says:

      @Ashley Thank you for the support. I can absolutely see how this sounds almost impossible to someone that just started Paleo – I’ve been Paleo for a few years now and even though I “know” what I’m doing its still a bit hard. Glad to see that you’ve been seeing an improvement with the switch to Paleo foods so far, and keep track of those things that make you break out to keep in your n=1 file!


  1. […] so it’s been about a week since I started on the protocol that I outlined in my post: Can Food Cure Acne? recommended by Chris Kresser.  The basis of the protocol is a strict Paleo diet, and since I was […]

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