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TYPICALLY ASSOCIATED  with oily or greasy skin, acne usually starts in adolescence, when hormones stimulate the skin’s oily sebaceous glands to become more active. Severe acne is usually treated topically with antibiotics or retinoid products prescribed by a doctor.

The link with diet

While there’s no concrete evidence that certain foods cause acne, research suggests high-GI foods, such as white bread and white rice, may intensify acne if eaten in large quantities, while other studies have found a low-GI diet can help to improve symptoms. A richly plant-based diet is your best defence, along with drinking plenty of water.


THIS COMMON CONDITION has various causes and can make skin appear inflamed, red, itchy or dry and sometimes weepy. Triggers vary, and may involve diet (see below). Atopic dermatitis, the most common form, often runs in families and may develop alongside other conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. Eczema impairs the skin’s barrier function, which is how skin stays hydrated, pliable and resistant to infections and allergies. The link with diet Some people with eczema also have food allergies, which may act as ‘triggers’ for eczema. A health professional can test for allergies and, if present, an
elimination diet can help decrease the severity of the eczema. It’s important for people with food allergies
to be regularly reassessed because allergies can spontaneously resolve.

Probiotics as prevention


Our skin is covered in helpful micro-organisms that protect against disease, but overuse of antibiotics can tip this off balance, leading to skin problems. There’s some evidence to suggest probiotics may help prevent this happening, although there’s no significant scientific evidence that supplements reduce eczema already present. Taking probiotics during pregnancy and post-natally may decrease the risk of atopic dermatitis in offspring.


PSORIASIS is an autoimmune skin disease that results in uneven, red, scaly skin. It affects around 3% of people in the UK and can start at any age. There’s no cure, but if it isn’t too widespread, symptoms are treated topically. Severe psoriasis needs treatment by a dermatologist.

The link with diet and exercise

Research suggests  that a calorie-controlled diet with the addition of omega-3 fatty acids may help to reduce inflammation and symptoms of psoriasis, while in a separate study, overweight psoriasis sufferers  reduced their symptoms  by exercising more often.

The gut-skin connection

Latest research indicates conditions of the skin may be down to imbalances in the gut. A recent Japanese study suggested that addressing microbial imbalances in the gut could help to treat or prevent atopic dermatitis (see eczema, left). A Russian study also found acne patients had an imbalance of gut microbes, while an animal study noted visible improvements in the skin and fur condition of mice when treated with the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri, as well as reduced inflammation and signs of repair in the skin and gut barriers. Research is ongoing but British Gut, an initiative by King’s College London, is optimistic, saying: ‘Initial indications show that microbial diversity is key.