Updated: Feb 15, 2021
If spending more time indoors and exercising less wasn’t enough, the global pandemic has also introduced another problem; acne caused by wearing masks, or in other words ‘maskne’. With the constant irritation caused by wearing masks in combination with humidity and air pollution, it is not surprising that it is taking a toll on our skin.
Acne is also a by-product of inflammation in the body, caused by a combination of factors such as hormonal imbalances, stress, diet and medication.
Luckily there are many foods that have proven to reduce inflammation in the body, and as a result can be used to prevent and attenuate the negative effects of mask wearing.
1. Fruits and Vegetables
Not surprisingly, fruits and vegetables which are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are associated with decreased inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. Eating fruits and vegetables which are particularly high in Vitamins C, E and folate such as red bell pepper, goji berries (Vitamin C), almonds, avocados (Vitamin E), broccoli and leafy green vegetables (folate) can help reduce inflammation and clear our skin.
2. Low Glycaemic Index (GI) Carbohydrates
It has been found in various scientific studies that a low GI diet for example, wholemeal bread, brown rice, brown pasta and rolled oats, significantly reduces chronic inflammation as compared to high GI foods such as white bread, chips and pastries. 3 portions of wholegrains a day is the recommended amount in lowering inflammation in the body. These foods are rich in bioactive compounds such as phytic acid, polyphenols and lignin.
3. Olives and olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil, which is a main component of the widely celebrated Mediterranean Diet has been found to have potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, as well as antioxidant activity. Extra virgin olive oil in particular has the most anti-inflammatory benefits and this is owing to the polyphenolic lignan content, which could explain why the Mediterranean diet results in a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Studies have shown that when 2 servings of meat are replaced by 2 servings of legumes, inflammation decreases significantly in just 8 weeks.
Soya has shown to create an anti-inflammatory response in the body through suppression of pro-inflammatory cytokines by immune cells. 40g of soya protein a day for 3 months has also been found to reduce chronic pain caused by inflammation in patients with osteoarthritis. The isoflavone in soya is genistein, and this is what is responsible for it potent anti-inflammatory effects.
Yoghurt contains live bacterial cultures that are beneficial for the gut and increase our immunity. Furthermore, it supresses pro-inflammatory cytokines and restores the equilibrium of healthy bacteria in the gut, which can be disrupted due to antibiotic use, processed food intake and diseases.
Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, flaxseeds, grapeseed, and pumpkin seeds and their oil derivatives are all excellent agents in the reduction of inflammation in the body. In particular, pistachio has been found to be particularly potent in supressing inflammation in the body due to high vitamin K, B vitamin, phytosterol and carotenoid content.
Flax seeds are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA), and are also particularly known for their anti-inflammatory effects.
8. Spices: Turmeric and Ginger
Turmeric and ginger are known for their effectiveness in relieving chronic pain and this is due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin is the main compound found in turmeric that is known to reduce pain by inhibiting pain receptors. Additionally the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin can be extremely useful in reducing irritation and inflammation in the skin.
9. Red wine
A small glass of red wine (125 ml) for women or 2 glasses for men a day has been found to have significant anti-inflammatory effects, possibly due to activation of an enzyme in the body called SIRT1. The activation of this enzyme has also been associated with anti-aging effects in humans. The anti-inflammatory effects of wine can be attributed to its high flavonoid content such as catechin and epicatechin. However, less is more when it comes to red wine as more than 125 ml a day can actually have opposite effects, and can drive inflammation back up.
Eggs are also another food that have anti-inflammatory effects in small doses. Eggs contain lutein and zeaxanthin which are types of carotenoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body. However, eggs should be consumed twice per week to limit the intake of cholesterol.
Ishika Sharma (ANutr)
Ishika Sharma is a registered associate nutritionist from London, specialising in weight loss, gut health and healthy ageing. She graduated from King's College London in Nutrition BSc, and has had clinical dietetic training in the NHS in weight loss, malnutrition, paediatrics and gut issues such as irritable bowel syndrome. She keeps up to date with nutrition research and critically appraises scientific literature to ensure all nutrition advice is current, and evidence-based.
Ishika sees patients who wish to lose weight and want a personalised approach, with regular guidance and check ins. She also gives nutrition advice for gut issues, skin problems, optimal ageing through nutrition and fatigue issues.
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