How Does High Fructose Corn Syrup Affect the Skin?

Written by Rachael Pontillo, L.E., owner of Holistically Haute

Inflammatory conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis seem to be more prevalent now than ever. While certain conditions such as acne used to manifest mostly during specific times of life, it, along with some of these other conditions are now seen in all ages starting with children and extending into the post-menopausal years. Despite the many prescription medications, advanced treatments, and ever-developing product formulations, these conditions continue to rise. Why is this?

Holistic realms of thought such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, naturopathy, and even nutrition believe that all skin conditions start from imbalance or dis-ease within. While imbalance of organs such as the kidneys, liver, and heart lead to certain conditions, dysbiosis in the gastrointestinal tract is most commonly the culprit. In holistic medicine and healing modalities, skin conditions are not just symptom, they are messengers trying to express that something is wrong inside. While western medicine and conventional aesthetics aims to eradicate the problem on the surface with everything from acids to vacuums, to electrotherapy, to lasers – all this does is proverbially shoot the messenger. None of these methods do anything to address the reason the condition appeared in the first place.
It is certainly not the aesthetician’s fault – or even the doctor’s fault for that matter; because finding and addressing the cause of an issue is not part of the education these professionals receive. Fortunately, we are in a time where holistic and conventional philosophies and methods are beginning to merge, so more treatments to address common causes are now available. We are also in a time where large organizations are working hard to spread awareness of more holistic modalities, which gives aestheticians more professionals with which to create referral relationships, as well as new providers and services to bring into the spa. Many aestheticians are now partnering with chiropractors, nutritionists, health coaches, aromatherapists, and other holistic providers to offer their clients a more through experience and treatment plan that extends past the surface of the skin.
One of the greatest causes of gut dysbiosis is the overabundance of Candida albicans. Candida is a particularly unfriendly strain of yeast that lives in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as other parts of the body, among various other organisms – bacteria and flora – that are mostly beneficial. The beneficial strains of bacteria, yeast, and other microbiota are there to help us fully digest our food, prevent toxic build-up, and boost our immune systems by attacking invading pathogens. In an ideal scenario, the level of Candida is kept in check by the beneficial microbiota and do not cause much harm. However, the majority of the population has an imbalance of good versus bad bacteria and yeast in the body due to many factors including environmental pollution, stress, lack of sleep, and poor lifestyle choices – but none as much as poor nutrition.
Sugar is the main substance that feeds yeast, and there is an overabundance of sugar in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Many people and families do not eat meals made from fresh, whole foods. Instead, they choose restaurants, fast food establishments, cafeterias, and frozen or prepackaged meals. These food-like substances offer little in terms of nutrient density and a lot in terms of sodium, unhealthy fats, and sugar – the most common form being high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is especially widespread because it is cheaper than other forms of sugar, and processed food and beverage companies most often choose the cheapest ingredients in their recipes and formulations to ensure the best profit – completely overlooking any public health consequences. It is most commonly used in soda and other sweetened beverages like iced teas, fruit punches, flavored milk and coffee drinks, and even in salad dressings served at restaurants. It is hard to avoid when eating out, even for health conscious consumers, since it is rare to ask to see an ingredient list when ordering salad.
WHY HFCS IS SUCH A PROBLEM FOR THE SKIN
There is a lot of misinformation regarding the nutritional value of HFCS when compared to sugar. Manufacturers of HFCS – also referred to as “corn sugar” – are quick to advise that HFCS is indistinguishable from regular table sugar to the body and therefore is no worse. This is true –but then that implies that regular sugar is fine, which just is not true. Most people are aware that the overconsumption of these substances wreaks havoc on the pancreas, causing blood sugar issues and build up of excess fat, in addition to other health problems. “When the pancreas releases insulin, this triggers our glucose receptors to open up and then the sugar gets stored as glycogen in the liver or in the cell as fat. The liver can only store so much sugar, so when there is excess most of it gets stored as fat.”1 Toxins are stored in fat cells, which many aestheticians have learned in training classes for dry brushing, body wrapping, and other methods of detoxification and cellulite removal. As you know, the skin is an organ of elimination. Subcutaneous fat cells are very close to the surface of the skin and when they become engorged, some of the excess toxins are sent to the skin for disposal.2 This often materializes on the surface as acne.
Excessive sugar and HFCS in the body also produces an overly-acidic environment in the gastrointestinal tract, which makes it a more habitable environment for pathogenic microorganisms such as Candida, and also leads to systemic inflammation which could eventually appear on the skin as rosacea, acne, or another chronic skin condition.
While it is not in an aesthetician’s scope of practice to make dietary recommendations, there is no harm in advising clients to read food labels and encourage them to cook more meals at home in order to avoid excess sugar and HFCS. It is just one small step to take to make a positive improvement in the client’s skin that will last.
References:
1Perkins, Cynthia, M.Ed. (2011). High Fructose Corn Syrup (AKA) Corn Sugar vs. Cane Sugar, Holistic Health Talk, Holistic Health Solutions. Web.
2Pontillo, Rachael. (2013). Love Your Skin, Love Yourself: Achieve Beauty, Health, and Vitality from the Inside Out and Outside In, Sennin Group. Print.

rachael pontillo-2013Rachael Pontillo is the bestselling author of Love Your Skin, Love Yourself: Achieve Beauty, Health, and Vitality from the Inside Out and Outside In, and creator of www.holisticallyhaute.com. She is also an award winning AADP board certified holistic health and image coach, licensed aesthetician, writer, and public speaker. Her writing has been featured in several leading health and beauty publications around the world, Pontillo is a recipient of the Institute for Integration®’s esteemed Health Leadership Award and is also a skincare expert and speaker for NeoCell™.

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