To recap, I am one of very few acupuncturists and herbalists in the Boston area who focuses heavily on skin conditions. Acne, eczema, rosacea, premature aging - I treat it all. When a new patient comes in, their treatment protocol nearly always consists of 5 pieces: acupuncture, herbs, diet modification, skincare, and mindfulness.
According to my very official instagram poll, tons of you are interested in how diet affects the clarity of your skin. Today I’m kicking off a series where we take a look at how the food in your mouth dictates what the world sees on your face. Bye bye, acne!
Up first? How the meat you eat may be affecting your hormone levels, and how this can impact your skin.
You probably already know that balanced hormones are key to a glowing complexion. What you may not know is that high quality beef can be your best friend (high in protein, iron, zinc, glycine, proline, and collagen!), but low quality beef and dairy products are a major driver of hormonal disruption.
How can beef disrupt our hormones?
Farmers give cows "recombinant bovine growth hormone" (rBGH) to help them grow more quickly, or produce more milk. The FDA maintains that rBGH is safe in humans (although it is banned in Canada, the EU, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand), but in the cow, it acts to increase milk production by increasing levels of another growth factor, IGF-1. Both the milk and meat from cows treated with rBGH have elevated levels of IGF-1. When you eat meat or dairy from a cow treated with rBGH, the high levels if IGF-1 can throw off your own hormonal balance, and has even been linked breast, colon, and prostate cancer growth.
"Pesticides?! We're talking meat and dairy! No one sprays a cow with pesticide!" True, BUT cows are high in the food chain. On industrial farms, cows are primarily fed corn and soy. 88% of corn and 93% of soy grown in the US is GMO, specifically monsanto "roundup ready." What this means is that corn and soy farmers can spray the bejeezus out of their plants with pesticides, and the plants will be just fine. The cows eat the corn/soy, and the toxic pesticide residue is stored in their fat. If you'd like some disturbing graphics on just how much of various pesticides is built up in there, spend some time clicking through this site. Many pesticides are known "endocrine disrupters," meaning they alter hormone levels in humans. When you eat the meat, you eat the pesticides.
This is not a discussion on the ethics of industrial meat farms, but it is important to note that cows are not adapted to eat corn and soy, they are adapted to eat grass. When cows eat grains, it massively disrupts their digestive system. They get huge amounts of inflammation in their gut, and then are given antibiotics to prevent the inevitable infection. If you have a strong stomach and want to see an extreme form, google "bloat in cows" to see what eating corn can do to them. Inflammation is a systemic problem. This means hormones and other chemicals that tell the body "WE HAVE A PROBLEM. GET THE IMMUNE SYSTEM CRACKING" are in the cows blood stream and travel all throughout their body. When you eat meat from a cow with an elevated level of systemic inflammation, those same chemicals that were present in the cow, are now in your digestive system and blood stream. This is why red meat is often linked to inflammation and cancer in humans. The problem isn't that red meat is so bad, it's that *poor quality* red meat is truly awful.
So what should I do?!
Eat only organic and grass fed beef and dairy! Beef contains critical amino acids (proline and glycine) that help with acne, anti-inflammatory zinc, iron to keep your cheeks rosy, and collagen to fill out fine lines. It's a great food to keep as part of your diet, but be sure you're eating only high quality meat to distance yourself from the hormonal upset.