Keratosis pilaris or KP, is a frustrating skin condition. There are many treatments that can help, but treating keratosis pilaris with diet can lead to significant improvements for some people. Learn how to treat keratosis pilaris with diet and other natural remedies in this post!
Disclaimer: this post is not to be taken as medical advice and should be used for informational purposes only. Always discuss any nutritional or diet changes with your doctor or other health care practitioners.
Chances are if you made it here you have tried other things to try and heal your keratosis pilaris (KP) and are just not having success. Well I'm glad you stopped by. Since I shared "How I Healed My Keratosis Pilaris (KP) Naturally" a few months ago, it has quickly become the most popular post on the blog. In that post I shared the external, and topical treatments that I used to help heal my KP within 3 months. If you are interested in more information I encourage you to read about how I healed my KP naturally.
But since that post, one of the most frequent questions I get asked is "what are the best foods to eat to help heal KP?" and "how can I heal keratosis pilaris with diet?". So I finally decided to address your questions.
If you follow my blog you know that I believe that food is a form of medicine. What you put into your body affects your entire system. And for me at least, this was true when it came to my KP as well. Changing my diet was a crucial factor in healing my keratosis pilaris.
Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and so increased inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, allergies, hormonal imbalances, etc. can all present with various skin manifestations or skin issues. As well, the importance of our gut microbiome or gut bacteria are becoming increasingly recognized as playing a very important role in skin issues. If your gut bacteria is imbalanced it can lead to various skin conditions including acne, rosacea and more.
Table of Contents
Now, before we get to the dietary changes that can help with KP or chicken skin, let's review what keratosis pilaris is:
What is keratosis pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris, commonly referred to as "chicken skin" is a common condition that causes small, rough bumps on the skin, most commonly on the back of arms. Keratosis pilaris is harmless and does not require treatment, although for cosmetic reasons many people do try and treat it.
The most common treatments for keratosis pilaris focus on external treatments like exfoliation, creams and topical ointments, but there are a lot of anecdotal reports of people healing their KP through diet and nutrition, which is why I wanted to make this post.
Unfortunately, there have been no studies published looking at the role of diet or nutrition in treating KP, so this post is based on my personal experience, experience of my patients and readers, and research that has been done on other skin conditions that are related to keratosis pilaris (please refer to the references at the end of this post if you are interested in learning more).
I used to struggle with keratosis pilaris and often picked at it which made it look even worse (see the photo below). However, I found that by making dietary changes I was able to heal my KP from the inside out. You can see my before and after keratosis pilaris photos below.
As you can see I still have a little residual scarring, but even that is fading compared to the photo from my first post (you can see it here) which was taken at 3 months.
In this post I will share what I did to heal my keratosis pilaris though diet. I have heard from numerous people that making these diet changes healed or significantly improved their keratosis pilaris so I hope they help you too. Of course I always recommend discussing any diet or lifestyle changes with your doctor or other health care practitioner before initiating them.
Keratosis pilaris diet:
1. Eliminate gluten (and possibly other grains)
If you follow the blog you might remember my recent post, why grains are not healthy. The high intake of refined and processed grains that is typical of most modern diets has been linked to many different health problems. A few key reasons why include their high lectin content, their high phytic acid content, their gliadin content, and their high omega-6 content. In some people it seems that these substances can damage your intestines leading to leaky gut syndrome, decrease your absorption of vitamins and minerals and increase the inflammation in your body.
Leaky gut syndrome (otherwise known as increased intestinal permeability) allows food particles, toxins, bacteria and other foreign particles that should remain in the gut to cross the gut barrier and thus enter the blood stream. This can lead to systemic inflammation, and in susceptible people, can contribute to the development of different health problems. In my case, when I was struggling with leaky gut, my KP was at its worst. Once I was able to heal my gut my skin began to heal.
Food sensitivities to gluten area also common. There is a condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity which can cause many different health issues, with some patients reporting various skin rashes and skin issues associated with this condition. Other skin issues that have been shown to improve with a gluten free diet include but are not limited to psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, and palmoplantar pustulosis.
To help your KP one thing you can try is removing gluten from your diet or going on a gluten free diet for at least one to three months to see if you notice any improvements. You may need to remove additional grains to help fully heal but I find that often going gluten free is enough.
I personally followed a paleo diet for 10 years and didn't eat any grains during that time. That diet is what my body personally needed to heal from many different chronic health issues, including my KP, but I know that diet or protocol isn't perfect for everyone, so you always need to do what's best for your own body.
2. Increase omega-3 intake
Omega-3-fatty acids are crucial for skin health. Omega 3 supplementation has been found to help treat acne, psoriasis, eczema, dry skin, and a number of other health conditions. As well, increased omega 3 intake makes you less likely to get a sunburn (reference).
Unfortunately, modern diets tend to be very unbalanced in essential fatty acid intake. A healthy, balanced diet should consist of roughly one to four times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids, but the typical North American diet tends to contain 11 to 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3.
Even foods that traditionally were not very high in omega-6 fatty acids now are because of the processing and methods use to produce them. For example, cows raised on grass produce meat with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1-4:1. However, cows fed grains (as they are on most modern farms or factory farms) produce meat with an omega- 6 to omega-3 ratio of 8-13:1. This excessive intake of omega-6 is believed to increase inflammation in the body and contribute to various health issues.
Unfortunately, like diet, no studies have looked at the role of omega 3 and 6 in keratosis pilaris development, or treatment, but myself, as well as many others, have seen success when we fix this ratio.
Here are a few easy ways to increase the omega-3 content and decrease the omega-6 content of your diet:
- Eat grass fed and grass finished beef - besides being high in omega-3, grass fed beef is also a really great source of vitamins and minerals.
- Use less crop oils (also referred to as vegetable oils) and switch to oils that are higher in omega 3 such as olive oil and avocado oil.
- Eat wild (not farmed) fish including salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies, trout and oysters.
- Eat pasture raised eggs
If you are not able to eat the things I mentioned, you may need to supplement your diet with omega-3. Now, I always recommend that you get as many nutrients as you can from food, rather than supplements, but sometimes it is challenging and expensive to eat as well as we should so if you do need to supplement just make sure you are choosing a reliable and safe brand.
3. Eliminate dairy
As I mentioned previously, in some people skin issues can be linked to food sensitivities or allergies, and sensitivities to dairy are common. More specifically, intolerance to casein (a protein found in dairy) and lactose found in dairy can be a problem for some people.
Now, I also realize that there are significant health benefits related to consuming dairy products, so not everyone will need to eliminate dairy from their diet. If you find that you are sensitive to dairy, eliminating it from your diet for 1-3 months to see if you notice any improvement in your skin might be worth a try. Of course if you have a dairy allergy you should also not consume dairy products.
4. Remove processed sugars and processed food
Processed or refined sugars can wreak havoc on the skin. A diet that is high in high glycemic foods and refined sugars has been linked to the development of acne, but so far no studies have been published regarding sugar intake and keratosis pilaris. As well, the modern North American diet also tends to be high in processed foods. Processed food intake has been linked to increased rates of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and many other health conditions. There have been few studies looking at the role of processed foods on skin health, but one study did show an increased rate of atopic dermatitis in people eating a diet high in processed food.
In order to improve our overall health we should all aim to limit our intake of processed foods and processes sugars, and if your KP improves as well that would just be an added bonus.
5. Increase fat soluble vitamin intake
The fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K are all very important for healthy skin. And unfortunately, based on our modern diets and lifestyles, many people are deficient in some or all of these important vitamins.
For example, vitamin A deficiency has been shown to cause an increased susceptibility to skin infections and inflammatory skin diseases. Vitamin A deficiency is known to cause a skin condition called Phrynoderma, which is related to KP as it is also a condition involving keratin, and vitamin A supplementation has been shown to treat this disorder. Of note, too much vitamin A can also cause skin issues, so it is important not to over-consume or over-supplement with vitamin A.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many different health problems including autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes etc. There is also some evidence that vitamin D deficiency is involved in acne, and while there have been no studies looking at vitamin D deficiency and keratosis pilaris directly, many people do report that their KP improves if their vitamin D deficiency is corrected.
There are fewer studies looking at the vitamin K when it comes to skin health, but there is evidence to suggest that topical vitamin K can help the skin heal faster after medical procedures.
Here is a list of foods that are high in fat soluble vitamins to help you increase your intake:
- Vitamin A: liver from pasture raised animals, and wild fish
- Vitamin D: fresh, oily fish, including salmon, sardines and oysters. Of note, one of the best sources of vitamin D is sun exposure.
- Vitamin E: almonds, hazelnuts, flax seed oil, green leafy vegetables
- Vitamin K: cooked kale, raw swiss chard, dandelion greens, raw radicchio and spinach
Now, another quick word about vitamin D. Most people live in places where you cannot obtain enough vitamin D through sun exposure alone, so if you live above the confederate line in the USA you will likely need to supplement with vitamin D. You can have your level checked through your family physician to determine how much you need to take, and ensure that you are not taking too much (as taking too much vitamin D can be dangerous).
To date there have been no studies examining the role of diet and nutrition in relation to keratosis pilaris. However, some people find that focusing on a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet that is low in refined sugars and processed food can be helpful. If you have gluten sensitivity, trying a gluten free diet may help, and making sure that you obtain optimal intake of omega-3 fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins has been shown to be essential for overall skin health.
One important thing to note is that if you have a child with keratosis pilaris, I would not recommend making any dramatic changes to their diet (such as going gluten free) unless recommended by their own physician or health care provider. Kids are more susceptible to vitamin and mineral deficiencies and so it is generally not recommended that they be given restrictive diets, unless it's under the guidance or recommendation of a health care provider.
I hope you found this helpful! If you have any questions please let me know. And please refer to the references at the end of this post for further reading if you are interested.
And if you are interested in the skincare products and methods that I recommend for healing keratosis pilaris I have a full post on this topic as well.
Be sure to download my full guide, How to Heal Keratosis Pilaris from the inside out by leaving your email below:
- How I Healed My KP Naturally
- Healing Keratosis Pilaris from the Inside Out
- How to choose non-toxic cookware
- Deodorant health risks
- How to choose a safe sunscreen
- How I healed my acne naturally
Frequently asked questions:
To heal my keratosis pilaris I avoid gluten, other grains, dairy, refined sugars and processed foods.
There have been no studies done to answer this question. I personally found that when I increased my fat soluble vitamin intake that my KP improved.
There have been no studies done to examine whether certain foods cause or contribute to Keratosis Pilaris but I personally found that gluten, dairy, refined sugars and other grains all contributed to mine and removing those foods allowed me to heal.
1. The statements made on this website have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration or Health Canada. The information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. You assume full responsibility for how you use this information. Always consult with your physician or other health professionals before making any diet or lifestyle changes.
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