This post is a little nerve-wracking for me to share as it’s touching on a sensitive topic for me, but I’m putting it out there regardless in case anyone else is facing some of the same hormonal skin issues that I am. I am also writing this just as a personal note-to-self; something for me to look back on in the weeks and months to come as I continue on this path.
Last week, I had my first appointment with a holistic nutritionist – I made the appointment in hopes of getting to the bottom of my chronic acne woes. I’ve mentioned in several other posts that I initially transitioned to a plant-based diet in order to sort out these issues, and while giving up dairy in particular did help my acne, it has not cleared up and continues to flare and flux. The root of the acne is definitely hormonal and also related to digestion. I won’t go through my history with it, but suffice it to say, it’s been a long-term issue for me. Prior to making the appointment with the nutritionist, I’d been going for acupuncture for about two months, and while it was helping, I realized that I really needed to sort out my hormones and digestion to have long lasting effects. In order to do that, I needed to sort out my eating habits and nutrition. The appointment with the holistic nutritionist was enlightening and also comforting in that she seemed quite confident that my acne and digestive issues are clear markers of three specific, and related things:
- My gut microbiome is imbalanced and I have an overgrowth of yeast in my digestive tract. These symptoms were partially caused from a decade of taking hormonal birth control, and also rounds of antibiotics that I’ve been prescribed over the years. In particular, my family doctor prescribed some antibiotics specifically for my skin last year that I took for about 40 days. While both the birth control pills and the antibiotics did clear my skin while I was on them, they both led to some sometimes scary and unfortunate side effects, as well as making my system go haywire upon stopping the treatments. Not only that, my skin flared up terribly after finishing that round of antibiotics – it was worse than before I’d started the treatment.
- My digestions is too slow, and therefore my liver is overtaxed. Because my body doesn’t digest food very well, the food that I eat lives in my system too long and begins to ferment. The fermentation expels more toxins that then need to be processed by my liver which leads to liver congestion. The toxins, since they are not being filtered properly by my digestive system and my liver, are being expelled through my skin.
- Hormones influence gut bacteria. This is evident based on the symptoms I experience and the cravings I have at specific times during my cycle. In order to heal my skin, I need to balance my hormones, and heal my gut.
- Quitting Sugar! I will be omitting added sugar from my diet, and also drastically limiting my intake of natural sweeteners like maple syrup, and high sugar fruits: bananas, grapes, and dried fruit. (No more Oh She Glows Yolos for me for a little while!) I’ve always had an intense sweet tooth and as I said before, I get some strong sugar cravings, so this is going to be a challenge for me, but I am looking forward to not feeling those niggling hits of “I need chocolate” or “I REALLY want a cookie right NOW!” According to my nutritionist these sugar cravings are due to the proliferation of an unhealthy microbiome.
- Eating veggies, protein and starches at every meal in the right ratios. While I do generally eat veggies, starches, proteins, and fats in every meal, I’ve never really focused on the ratio of each element on my plate. The nutritionist explained that half of the plate should be veggies, a quarter of the plate should be starch with a bit of fat, and the other quarter should be protein. Part of what exacerbates my sugar cravings is eating meals that are too high in carbohydrates, without enough fats and proteins to slow the burn, resulting in a blood sugar spike. Once my body burns those carbs, I’m hit with sugar cravings to get my blood sugar back up.
- Thinking about portion sizes more consciously. This goes along with making sure I am eating foods in the correct ratios. In the nutrition plan that she gave me, it includes visuals to gauge what a serving size of starch, protein, fats, non-starchy veggies should look like. The proportions are based on the size of your hand. For example: a serving of nut butter should be no more than the size of your thumb; a serving of rice or grains should be half the size of your fist; a serving of protein should be the size of your palm; a serving of non-starchy vegetables can be as large as you want but at least the size of your open hand.
- No Wheat! I’ve contemplated trying to give up wheat and gluten in the past but at the time, after having already cut out animal products, the thought of eliminating more from my diet felt too restrictive. While I do think it will take some time to get used to this, I am curious as to whether or not cutting out wheat from my diet will have positive effects on my skin. I don’t feel as much dread about this as I would have a year or so ago because over the last few months I have noticed that I generally do feel better if I don’t eat any bread or wheat products. I know that I don’t have Celiac disease but I do tend to get quite bloated from pasta, bread, etc, and just generally don’t feel like those move through my body very well. James is pretty sad that I won’t be making cookies for a while now. And if I do, they’ll be gluten and refined sugar-free! Are those even cookies though? haha…
- More probiotics! Along with taking probiotics as part of my supplement regime (more on that below), I will be making a concerted effort to add probiotic rich foods into my meals: kimchi, sauerkraut, non-dairy yogurt with added cultures, water kefir. So far I’ve been really liking the Yoso Coconut yogurt with my steelcut oats, berries and nuts in the mornings. I’ve always been a big fan of sauerkraut and kimchi, so I will try to remember add a tablespoon of those to lunch or dinner every day.
- More supplements! The only supplement I’ve taken consistently are the B12 and D3 gummies from Herbaland. It’s pretty easy to remember to take a supplement when it tastes like candy (hehe). They are vegan, gluten free, refined sugar-free, and pretty much the easiest way and yummiest way to get those vital micro-nutrients. My nutritionist has also encouraged me to take digestive enzymes with every meal to get my digestive system working more quickly, pro-biotics to add good bacteria back into my system, and a liver supplement to help with my liver congestion. I went from taking one little gummy supplement in the morning, to taking half a dozen supplements throughout the day: two probiotics in the morning, two liver supplments twice a day, and two digestive enzymes with every meal. It is a lot to get used to but after only a couple of days, I already feel the difference.
Overall, going to the nutritionist was an empowering appointment for me. It was nice to hear all my various symptoms make sense to someone and to find out that they are indeed related and treatable. Obviously, it has not been very long, so I will report back in a few weeks to relay how it is going, what the challenges have been, any tips I’ve gleaned to make it easier, and most importantly, if my skin is clearing up.