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 or even a cure in some people. Learn how to treat keratosis pilaris with diet and other natural remedies in this post!
Note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and it was updated in August 2019.
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. You can find that post here.
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 this is true when it comes to 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, including keratosis pilaris (which is sometimes referred to as chicken skin). 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).
Note that this post is not to be taken as medical advice. Always review any nutritional or diet changes with your doctor or other health care practitioners.
You can see my keratosis before and after photos above. The “after” photo is 6 months after I started treating my KP. 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.
How To Heal Keratosis Pilaris With 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 grains that is typical of most modern diets is related to many different health problems. If you haven’t read my post about Why Grains Are Not Healthy I strongly recommend that you do to fully understand all the reasons why grains are not an optimal food choice for many people (at least in the high quantities that most people consume them). A few key reasons why include their high lectin content, their high phytic acid content, their gliadin content, and their high omega-6 content. 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. You can see read the full article here.
Food sensitivities to grains (especially gluten) are also very common. And many skin conditions, including keratosis pilaris can be caused or exacerbated by food sensitivities (acne and rosacea are other skin conditions caused or worsened by gluten).
To help your KP I suggest removing gluten from your 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 follow a paleo diet and don’t eat any grains and have seen dramatic improvements in my health since removing them from my diet (including healing my KP). If you want to learn more about the paleo diet I recommend reading this post:
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 (crazy right?). Unfortunately, modern diets tend to be very unbalanced in essential fatty acid intake with the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in Western diets being anywhere from 6:1 to 60:1 depending on the source you read. Ideally, the ratio should be more like 1:1, as this is the ratio our ancestors evolved on, and the ratio that is idea for optimal health. The problem is that the way our food is raised today (i.e.. animals fed grains, hormones, antibiotics etc), makes the omega 3 content in these animals to be almost non-existant. This increased omega 6 intake contributes to inflammation in the body, which has been linked to almost every health problem out there (including many skin conditions). And omega 3 is crucial to help balance and calm this inflammation. 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.
To get more omega 3 in your diet I suggest eating:
- Grass fed beef – Being grass fed is very important. Grass fed beef has an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of around 1:1 which is very different than animals that are fed grains, antibiotics and hormones who have very high omega 6 values. Grass fed beef is also a really great source of vitamins and minerals.
- Wild (NOT farmed) fish including salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies, trout and oysters.
- 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, keratosis pilaris can be caused by food sensitivities or allergies, and sensitivities to dairy are very common. More specifically, intolerance to casein (a protein found in dairy) is a problem for many people, which can irritate the skin causing issues like acne, eczema and KP. As well, dairy is high in lectins and can lead to leaky gut syndrome (just like grains) which can also cause, and make keratosis pilaris worse. Now, I also realize there are significant health benefits that are related to consuming dairy products (mainly full fat dairy from pasture raised animals) so you may not have to eliminate dairy forever. Everyone is different. I would try eliminating it for at least 6 weeks and see if your symptoms improve. You could then try reintroducing full fat, pasture raised, dairy products slowly, and see how your body responds.
4. Remove Processed Sugars
Processed or refined sugars can wreak havoc on the skin. Refined sugars have been linked to the development of acne, but so far no studies have been published regarding sugar intake and keratosis pilaris. However, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that when people eliminate sugars and high glycemic index foods from their diet their KP gets better. Coincidence? I think not.
I recommend removing all refined sugars from your diet for at least a month to see if this leads to any improvement.
5. Increase Your 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 these extremely important vitamins. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to all sorts of health problems, including autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes etc. There is also some evidence that vitamin D deficiency is involved in acne, and many patients swear that their keratosis pilaris and acne improve when they supplement with vitamin D. 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 supplementation has been shown to treat this disorder. Vitamin E has been shown to help treat atopic dermatitis and has been shown to be protective against skin damage from the sun by acting as an antioxidant. 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
- 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 need to take 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). I find that most of my patients need to take 1000-5000IU daily, but please work with your own health care practitioner to find out how much you need to take (I personally need to take 5000IU per day).
To help heal your KP with diet I recommend removing gluten (and possibly other grains) and dairy from your diet for 1-3 months to help your skin heal. Increasing your fat soluble vitamin and omega-3 intake is also important, and if you can, eliminate refined sugars from your diet as much as possible.
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 skin care methods and products that I recommend for healing keratosis pilaris, check out this post!
DON’T FORGET TO GRAB YOUR COPY OF MY FREE GUIDE, HEALING KERATOSIS PILARIS FROM THE INSIDE OUT WHICH OUTLINES THE 5 STEP PROCESS THAT I USED TO COMPLETELY HEAL MY KERATOSIS PILARIS FOR GOOD!
You Might Also Like:
- How I Healed My KP Naturally
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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.
And if you are interested, here are some references for further reading:
1. Diet and Acne
2. Cutaneous Manifestations of Nutritional Deficiency
3. RCT of Omega 3 in Acne
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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