If a food allergen were responsible for acne, you could simply cut that food out of your diet and have clear, smooth skin in no time. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Food allergens do not cause any kind of acne, including cystic acne. Instead, your diet may play a role by triggering an acne breakout, or making it worse, if you already have acne.
Several factors contribute to acne. Hormonal activity stimulates excessive skin oil production by oil glands. Dead skin cells and oil clog pores and create a welcoming environment for bacteria that lives on your skin. When bacterial activity increases inside your clogged pores, inflammation sets in and gives rise to a variety of blemishes such as whiteheads, blackheads and cysts. Cystic acne develops when inflammation reaches deep into your skin.
Allergens in Food
In adults, food allergies may contribute to acne breakouts, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. A food allergy is an over-reaction of your immune system to a protein in a particular food. Your body perceives the protein as an invader and releases substances, such as histamine, to combat the protein. This immune reaction sets off symptoms such as hives or itching in your mouth or ears. The most common food allergens are egg, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat, making up 90 percent of all food-allergy reactions, according to the Food, Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.
Other Allergen Concerns
One pimple, or a flurry of pimples, may be the least of your worries when it comes to food allergens. In severe cases, a food allergy may also cause an anaphylactic reaction, which can make breathing difficult and even be fatal. You can prevent allergic reactions to some foods, such as fruits, by cooking the food. In other cases, such as with nuts or soy, cooking has no effect.
What You Can Do
Eliminate food from your diet that exposes you to the allergen or offending protein for a few months. This includes anything that contains the food as an ingredient. See if your cystic acne improves. If not, it's likely that other triggers are responsible for your acne breakouts. Some of these triggers include stress or being overweight — both of which can disrupt hormone levels in your body.