Does A Gluten Free Diet Cure Adult Acne?

I love to talk to people that have quit eating a gluten free diet because I’m curious as to why they stopped. Was it because they didn’t enjoy the food? Was it too much trouble? or something else entirely?

One answer that I often hear is that they quit eating gluten free because they weren’t seeing results. I’ve already written about a lot of these issues, so I wanted to take a different tack today and look at a couple of ways that we’ve tweaked our gluten free diet to get better results.

In this post, I’ll tell you about how we tweaked our gluten free diet to vastly improve adult acne. It later posts, I’ll tell you what we did for chronic back pain and gout.

How I Cured Adult Acne on a Gluten Free Diet

I have suffered with acne for decades. When I was a teenager I hoped that I would grow out of it. When I was in my twenties, I still hoped that I would grow out ofit. When I was in my 30s, I learned how to cure it.

During those several decades, I tried everything: antibiotics, creams and lotions that are available only by prescription, birth control, Proactive, Bare Minerals, and completely eliminating make-up altogether. Nothing really helped.

When I started eating a gluten free diet, I had high hopes that it would stop the acne, but that didn’t help either.

I randomly stumbled across my cure when we started supplementing our gluten free Slow Carb diet, featured in the book: The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman, with Omega 3 fish oil pills. After a few weeks of supplementation, my face became amazingly clear! I was overjoyed.

John and I dug a bit more into the research on acne and omega 3 supplements and found that there was indeed a connection.

After a few months, we started the Great Gluten Free Pie Crust Testing of 2012 and started eating gluten free grains and sugar on a regular basis again. I kept up the fish oil supplements, but my face started breaking out again.

Once I’d mastered gluten free pie crusts, we started back on the Slow Carb diet, and completely eliminated gluten free grains, sugars, and starch vegetables from our diet for 6 out of every 7 days. Slowly but surely my skin cleared up again.

Why a Gluten Free, Grain Free, Sugar Free Diet + Omega 3′s Cured Acne:

Let’s do a quick review.

The Slow Carb diet which is gluten free, grain free, and sugar free did not cure my acne.

Omega 3 supplements by themselves did not cure my acne.

The Slow Carb Diet + Omega 3 supplements did cure acne. Why is that?!?

It all comes back to inflammation. When my face breaks out it’s because my body is experiencing chronic inflammation. In order for my face to clear up, I have to get the inflammation below a certain threshold.

A gluten free diet does result in lower inflammation because my wheat allergies are not being triggered, but it doesn’t lower it enough to clear my skin.

A gluten free, grain free, sugar free, diet results in even lower chronic inflammation (all grain and sugar tend to increase inflammation), but still not enough to clear my skin.

Omega 3 supplements help your body turn off the inflammatory response, but when we did the Great Gluten Free Pie Crust tests, we found that the Omega 3 supplements by themselves could not offset the higher inflammation from eating gluten free grains and sugars.

It took a combination of a gluten free diet, grain free, sugar free diet plus heavy Omega 3 supplements to significantly improve my complexion acne.

I’ll be honest, my skins is still not completely where I’d like it to be. If I skip a day of Omega 3 supplements, my face will break out. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what dose I need. But for the first time ever, I’ve found something that is solving the underlying problem, rather than just covering up the symptoms.

Here’s a picture of me – fresh out of the shower and no makeup. Never thought I’d post a picture of myself without make up on here. I’m starting the year out with bare-faced honesty =)

Here’s another from later in the day. Again, no makeup!


  1. I’ve been in the same boat as far as acne. I’m 46 now and I’ve used all of the same things you did (I didn’t see Accutane on your list, but that’s one I used while in my twenties–twice). Nothing stopped the acne until I went gluten free two and a half years ago. But it is stilled triggered by one other substance I stopped regularly ingesting at the same time: caffeine. If I consume caffeine, I can count on a large, painful nodule somewhere on my face within days. Once in a while, I’ll deceive myself and decide I have to have a cup of coffee for a “pick me up.” It always results in my face breaking out.

    I can keep my diet totally gluten free and have clear skin only if I also stay away from caffeine in any amount. I absolutely do think it is a threshold issue as you say. I irregularly take fish oil and I consume small amounts of sugar, so I know for me that’s not the key needed to have clear skin. It’s maintaining a low enough level of inflammation by eliminating *my* triggers.

    What makes me shake my head is that none of my dermatologists ever pointed me to eliminating certain foods to stop the acne. I was always offered medications. It took a sciatic nerve problem in my leg and back almost three years ago to make the connection to inflammation…then to acne.

  2. I believe there is a very strong connection between gluten and acne , gluten is a cause of many health problems but you ask doctors about gluten and they raise their eyebrows.
    Took me years to research on my own why i had so many bad reactions after eating certain foods and every visit to the doctors would always end up on more trial pills they would give me , i was tested for celiac negative , allergies to gluten – negative but the moment i stopped eating food with gluten 90% of my problems

  3. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for posting all this good info. I’m 45 and have suffered from adult acne off and on since my early 30′s. Back then I went on natural hormone supplement cream which did help but I have had major cystic acne breakouts off an on since then. I went gluten-free about 6 months ago for other reasons and after about a month my skin was consistently clearer than it had been in a long long time. For other reasons I started taking Evening Primrose Oil. I felt great for about 2 weeks. Then about 3 wks into taking 1000mg a day – BAM! Major breakout over a 4 wk period. Huge cystic pimples above my lip? Crazy – chin, forehead and cheek. I immediately stopped taking the EPO. Bought some good topical ointment and I’m finally starting to clear up. I want to take Fish Oil supplements but I am so scared to try anything new again!

    • Jennifer » I’ve been focusing on making dietary changes that reduce inflammation. That’s been my guide for what changes to make, and so far I haven’t had any horrible reactions. My FIL has warned me that fish oil is a blood thinner, so I try to note how much I’m bleeding when I cut my finger =)

  4. John tut says:

    i’m 30 and still have acne, not bad acne at all, but occasional breakouts. I have no idea why but I know it’s called “Adult Acne.” Depending on how bad your acne is have you tried Citrus Clear?
    I have used Citrus Clear for the last year and it cleared my acne, and took away all the redness, since its a natural product.

  5. Rosina Albano says:

    Mary, I’m on the same boat. Since I’m gluten/sugar free my skin has improved but still have some breakouts. You mention grains, I’ve read it also in other sites. Dr Mercola mentions nuts. My concern is that I’m a vegetarian. If I don’t eat brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, lentils, beans, nuts… where do I get my protein?

    • Rosina, we were vegetarian for several years, and are now both healthier and happier on a meat-eating diet. We’re currently eating a largely Primal-style diet.

      Honestly, my advice would be to start eating meat. You may not want to do that, but I don’t see any way to avoid everything you mentioned + meat and still get adequate protein. Hope that helps.

  6. Thank you for sharing and braving the no make up photo! I’ve cut wheat and gluten from my diet and noticed an improvement in about 6-7 days, my skin isn’t entirely clear, but the cystic acne somehow surfaced and dried and healed in days. I am also on candida defense and probiotics. I also drink a glass of lemon juice and organic coconut oil every morning. I think it’s a combination of all these factors. I don’t always remember to take my omega 3 pills, and it’s interesting to note that the slow carb diet has to work in tandem with supplements.

    I mostly breakout on my chin and Chinese doctors always warn of poor digestion, but they never identified a gluten and wheat sensitivity.

    I’ve also adapted a candida diet that works for me and will report in on results

  7. Grains, beans, buts and legumes when not prepared properly contain phytic acid. They must be soaked in an acid medium before eating. I found that soaking wheat flour 3 cups of flour and one cup of water with lemon juice for 12 hours really helped.

  8. Nice to run in this site. I am gluten intolerant, plus grains. Cystic acne on the chin. Currently on sdc/ paleo diet, together with topical treatment. Acne just starts to recede after three months’ hard battle. The rest of the face looks supple and fresh. Can’t say having won the battle yet. But sure things are looking up. Good luck every one.

  9. Thanks for all the info, this is my fourth day eating gluten free. Suffer from cystic acne tried EVERYTHING that exists from topicals, pro active, antibiotic, cortisone injections and accutane for 6 months. Nothing helped. I didn’t get tested for gluten sensitivity but giving it a shot because experience stomach problems and eczema along with acne. Hoping to see results!!! Just curious how long it should take to notice a difference if this is a problem. Also using apple cider vinager (organic) as a toner.

  10. Great post! I will have to check out your gluten free pie crust recipe as I’m looking for a good one. I just finished a candida cleanse diet (gluten free as well) and found that it is helping my skin immensely. And I’ve tried everything over the last decade! I also take Fermented Cod Liver Oil daily and it is AMAZING! I heard about the Blue Pastures brand over at the Love Vitamin blog. It’s probably the best source of omega 3s and fat soluble vitamins. Worth checking out. :)

  11. Hi guys;

    I am gluten free dairy free for 3 week and have improvements;
    That feel cool,to be clear from acne :)

    Somebody let me know it is ok to use gluten free bread?
    And diary free butter?

    anybody tried that?

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