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Is Gluten-Free the Answer to Clear Skin, Too?

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If you feel like you're already doing everything you can to get clear skin -- eating right and using good-for-you skin care products -- yet... you're still battling blemishes, acne or eczema or other skin issues that just won't die, you could actually have an allergy to gluten.

We've heard a whole lot about gluten-free lately -- I know, it's almost reached saturation -- but, for some folks, this just could be the missing link to getting your skin clear for the first time and for the long-term. What a relief that would be, huh?

Gluten -- found in about 80 percent of the protein found in grains -- functions as a sort of glue that holds dough together, giving it its elasticity. And, it's not just in bread, it's pretty much everywhere -- in beer, pizza dough, cereals, soups, sauces, even salad dressings (but don't let that scare you). There are so many gluten-free options now, that going without doesn't have to be a horror show.

While a relatively small percentage of the population has a serious gluten allergy (called Celiac disease), many more of us are simply intolerant or sensitive to the stuff.

So what exactly is the connection between gluten and our skin? Whatever our bodies view as an allergen, whether it's nuts, dairy or gluten, the response is the same -- inflammation. Basically, for those of us with a gluten sensitivity, the presence of gluten activates our immune system and can trigger inflammation of all kinds -- acne, eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, etc. That's why our skin can look red, angry and irritated -- it is! In addition to frustrating skin problems, those with gluten sensitivity may have a host of other symptoms that include gas, bloating, fatigue and joint pain. Even those who don't experience gas and bloating may suffer from other digestive issues that stop our bodies from absorbing the essential nutrients that keep our skin healthy.

According to the Mayo Clinic, wheat is one of the top eight most allergenic foods, so it's not surprising that most of us have sensitivity to wheat and/or gluten. Gluten allergies are hard to diagnose, even with a blood test, so the best way to figure it out is to eliminate it from our diet. And, going gluten-free can be one of the best things we can do for our bodies and our skin. There are plenty of hearty, healthful gluten-free grains out there including quinoa, millet, buckwheat, teff, amaranth, corn and rice. There are also more and more restaurants and retailers that are making it easier to live a gluten-free life. In many natural and even conventional grocery stores, there's now an aisle (or more!) devoted to gluten-free products, and there are a plethora of cookbooks to guide you to recipes that are fast, easy and delicious.

Those who have tried an elimination diet say that after giving up gluten, they begin to see their skin improve (as well as their energy levels) within as soon as one to two weeks. So, even if you don't have an allergy, it's worth giving it a try. You might find that just a few foods that are staples in our daily diet are contributing to skin troubles. Imagine... just skipping a bagel or substituting some rice pasta in your diet for regular could help pave the way to clearer more radiant skin!