nutrition for skin, liver spots, look younger

Skin Care from the Inside Out | Acne, Wrinkles, Spots & Bumps


Noticing changes in how your skin looks can be a big motivator for adopting a healthier lifestyle. You’ve learned through experience that too much alcohol will give you bags under your eyes the next day, or overindulging in sweets will cause puffiness.

But when it comes to wrinkles, redness, spots or acne the triggers may not be as obvious.

Intuitively, you may know that what you eat has a big impact on the appearance of your skin yet, as a culture, we still tend to promote treatments that can make the problems worse in the long run or cause additional problems:

  • Antibiotics for acne – kill good gut bacteria resulting in problems with mood, energy, and bowel function.
  • Cortisone crèmes – for rashes or itchiness. They provide temporary relief but at the cost of your adrenal glands. They can affect sleep, reduce bone density and impair your immune function.
  • Other drugs – like Accutane interfere with DNA transcription which can reduce your overall ability to heal and repair.


Your Skin Helps You Eliminate Toxins

Skin is a vital indicator of health because it’s the largest organ in your body (about 15% of your body weight). And it is an organ of elimination. It works with other organs to help your body eliminate toxins.

  • Your liver processes fat-soluble waste (such as hormones) and eliminates them through the bowels
  • Your kidney gets rid of water-soluble toxins through your urine
  • Your lungs breathe out excess acidity in the form of carbon dioxide

And your skin picks up the slack when those organs or stressed.

Just think about the last time you ate garlic. Your skin excreted a sulfur based component of garlic (allicin), which was acted on by bacteria, resulting in the nickname “the stinking rose.”

Luckily not everything your skin tries to eliminate creates an odor, but some of them create bumps or spots in the skin.

Even if you don’t have acne, dryness or spotty skin you still want to pay attention to making sure your skin gets the nutrients it needs. Keeping your skin well-nourished can minimize wrinkles and reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Before we look at the key nutrients to keep your skin happy let’s look at what your skin is trying to tell you.

Skin Signs in a Physical Exam

Spots. Flat brown spots, also called “liver spots”, are a sign of the aptly names A.G.E’s – Advanced Glycation End Products.  These occur when a protein is chemically linked to a sugar. In cooking, this is produced by the Maillard reaction – the browning process that occurs when you grill steak or caramelize onions, or even bake bread.

While the browning makes for a yummy flavor it is also “browning” you – inside and out. AGE’s make your internal organs and arteries less pliable and flexible. They also increase your body’s burden of compounds to detoxify.

Serious Damage Caused by AGE’s

In addition to dietary sources of AGE’s your body will also produce them under certain circumstances – when excess dietary sugar (think – anything that has sugar added to it) combines with dietary protein. You don’t need to completely avoid browned foods but there is one food combination that is particularly harmful – consuming protein in the presence of significant sugar will result in your body producing its own Maillard reaction.

In addition to creating those liver spots on your skin AGE’s bind to your immune cells, producing an inflammatory response that contributes to heart disease, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

When you look at the popularity of these American favorites you can see why we have higher rate of diseases of aging than many other countries:

  • breakfasts that include bacon and maple syrup
  • dinners of burgers with soda
  • or steak followed by dessert

Skin Tags & Bumps

Little flesh colored bumps, called skin tags, can show up on the neck, shoulders and where there is skin irritation, like under your bra straps or waistband. Research has shown that these are an early warning sign of blood sugar imbalances.

If you’re thinking “my blood test was normal, so I’m fine” then you’re missing the obvious – by the time your blood sugar is outside the normal range we’re no longer talking “early” warning sign.


Stress, through its effect on the adrenal glands and cortisol, has a direct impact on blood sugar. If you have skin tags further testing is indicated. We’ll talk more about helpful tests later in this series of articles.

Another common “bump” is the scaly, brownish type called seborrheic keratosis. They tend to show up primarily on the torso and they can grow, darken and become itchy.

While there is significant medical literature about AGE’s and skin tags and the association with blood sugar, there is little about nutritional factors and seborrheic keratoses. I’ve discovered through clinical experience a direct correlation between gluten sensitivity and these types of spots.

Acne and Rosacea

I had a 19 year old male come into my office for cystic acne. He had taken antibiotics daily for 3 years, which did initially help and had also taken Accutane, which did not help.

He stopped taking the antibiotics several months before I saw him and he did not notice any worsening of his condition. He had moderate cysts and papules.

After evaluating his health history and doing an exam I recommended a few simple diet changes and several homeopathic remedies to support liver and lymphatic function. Two weeks later his mom called to say his skin looked better than it ever had.

There are two primary factors underlying acne and rosacea: ability to manage hormones, and gut problems.

Acne, Hormones and Your Liver

Trouble metabolizing hormones – which is why acne can flare-up at puberty. Acne is NOT a normal part of puberty, and does not indicate an antibiotic deficiency. While every teen undergoes a significant increase in hormone production not every teen has trouble processing them.

Hormones can be a trigger for both adolescent acne and acne that occurs in middle age, but the underlying cause is either an imbalance of gut bacteria or a stressed liver.

The liver has the job of breaking down excess hormones into their components to be recycled. If the liver is missing the specific cofactors it needs (methyl groups, sulfur groups and antioxidants) the result can be a build-up of toxic byproducts that create inflammation.

While you can find many “liver cleanse” products on the market I find that many patients do not benefit from this approach. They put additional stress on an already over-taxed organ. Providing simultaneous support to the lymphatic system, liver and kidney usually produces dramatic improvement in acne.

Acne and Your Gut

The other significant factor in cases of acne is a bowel problem. Ironically this may be the result of antibiotic use. Other triggers can be an intestinal infection or chronic constipation.

Constipation means you have a bowel movement less than once a day. If the body is not able to regularly eliminate waste through the bowel, it will send the workload to the liver, which will in turn recruit the skin to help with the burden.

If you have acne and any type of bowel issue it is important to have your gut bacteria evaluated.


Wrinkles, bumps, dryness

I’ve lumped these together because the common factor in all of them is a fatty acid deficiency. Do have kittle bumps on the back of your upper arms? Dry skin on your lower legs? Do you have more wrinkles than your older siblings?

There can be several contributing factors but there is one that they all have in common – a fat deficiency.

Surprised? Maybe you’re thinking that with the extra 15 pounds you’re carrying around there’s no way your could have a fat deficiency. But there’s a difference between the fat that your body is storing and the fat you need available as building blocks to make things like hormones and healthy skin.


What are the right building blocks?

Omega 3 fatty acids, found primarily in fatty fish, like salmon, as well as grassfed meat and dairy. Conventional raised meat and dairy on the other hand have Omega 6 and 9 fats instead which can increase inflammation.


Either you’re not getting the right building blocks in your diet, or your body is not able to break them down and absorb them in a usable form. If you have digestive symptoms like acid reflux, belching, bloating, constipation, or nausea you may want to see a practitioner with experience in addressing liver and gallbladder issues.

Improving your intake of, and ability to process, the right fats can dramatically improve wrinkles, bumps, itchiness and dryness.

This is Part 1 of a series of articles on Healthy Skin. We’ll be looking at:

  • what your skin is telling you about your overall health
  • some of the underlying causes of skin problems
  • which lotions, crèmes and cleansers should be avoided and
  • what nutrients can help heal and repair your skin.

Questions about what your skin is trying to tell you? Ask Dr. Rose in the comments below.


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