I’m going to get right to it. I’ve had issues with acne since I can remember. Today you might not imagine but my history with acne involved not just a couple occasional blemishes, but rather chronic, inflamed acne.
In my world as a practitioner the skin acts as a partial reflection of the health within. In a sense it manifests or makes evident aspects of what is happening deeper inside the body. We can never overlook the story it has to tell.
Before I dig too far into this story about skin and food, I want to offer that in light of other more serious health conditions, my skin issues can seem insignificant. But at the same time for some people, skin issues like acne, psoriasis, eczema can be seem quite debilitating, if only in a different way.
Many serious conditions can plod along unnoticed deep within, or can be stuffed away, repressed. The qualities and health of your skin, however, are among the first things people notice about you; it’s part of how you present to the world. I don’t think I have to qualify that the health of your skin and how you present to the world can have deep mental and emotional implications. But from my view, your skin has a lot to tell about what’s going on just beneath.
For myself, I could never get a clear picture of what was causing my skin to breakout. I had the motivation. I have a fair bit of know-how. I have an abundance of varied health experts on speed dial. Regardless, there seemed to be no clear correlation with hormones, foods, digestion, bacteria, skin pH or any of the most common causes of skin issues. I managed it for years but it was clear that I had not addressed the cause.
I was stumped. Here’s perhaps why. It can be troublesome to believe everything you think.
We learned early on in school that when you’re working with common food sensitivities, you have the patient remove the food from the diet for 3 weeks. It’s the ideal amount of time on many levels. For simplicity, it’s long enough to get significant symptom relief while also short enough that a “food challenge” produces convincing results. You get a clear response of how the food is affecting your health.
When we created our Metabolic Cleanse, we built it around this approach (and added 9 other layers). The 21 days is no accident and the program ends with a challenge phase so you can identify which foods cause which symptoms. Having said that, over the years, we estimate about 85% of participants opt out of doing the challenge phase because they feel so good; they are eating so clean; they don’t care which food is causing the problem; and they simply want to maintain their new level of health.
Skin issues like acne are hallmarks of gut related conditions and food sensitivities are near the top of that list. Every time we run the Metabolic Cleanse, I get the absolute joy of watching everyone’s complexion change dramatically in just a matter of days. As the eyes whiten, bags disappear and energy returns, everyone really begins to glow. It’s fantastic.
So imagine how many times I’ve done the Metabolic Cleanse to figure out my skin stuff. Every time I tested a food, I did the 3 weeks and challenged. It took me years, about ten to be honest, to identify dairy as a major component to my acne. Dairy is usually a pretty easy one to spot so when I couldn’t identify it for myself, I moved on. Lo and behold, after so many years of suffering with acne, my skin cleared dramatically when I quit dairy for an additional 3 weeks. For me, it took a full 6 weeks to get the decisive results I needed. I should have read my own blog about why natural medicine doesn’t work but there’s so much to applying the right approach at the right dose for the right amount of time.
I love dairy and generally consider it a health food for most… and I still enjoy it, but I now recognize how it interacts with my body. I know how much I can have without overdoing it. So while acne is minor in comparison to many ailments, it’s a clear sign of inflammation and imbalance; at least partially acne reflects what’s happening on the my insides so I certainly don’t consider it trivial.
Personalized nutrition is just so fascinating to me. While we haven’t lengthened the Metabolic Cleanse, I do have a different perspective on timing and duration and realize that while most people notice major changes within the first week, others may need to be more diligent, particularly for skin issues. For me it was six weeks but I have seen some cases of eczema and psoriasis take even longer.
Now, here’s what has really blown my mind… another lesson in “finding what works for you”.
I love to explore food sensitivity panels and have throughout my almost 10 years in practice (gulp!). As useful as they are, they’re not perfect; no food panel is perfect. As I’m always looking into the newest labs and research, I was interested in a certain lab company and some fascinating testing I had heard good things about. As usual, I decided to test myself first before offering to patients (sometimes I test things on my family first, wink.). I was excited by its promise and the depth of the results but it certainly wasn’t cheap.
Here’s why I wanted the test. Two years ago, seemingly out of the blue, I started getting a strange skin rash. In many ways I guess all skin rashes are a bit strange but these were dime-sized circular blotches that would just appear singularly, mostly on my legs seemingly with out cause. Apparently, I had a mild form of a condition called granuloma annulare. I quickly discovered there’s no known cause and no known treatment. Really?!?! Challenge accepted! I became very frustrated by these persistent, itchy and painful lesions that lasted about 6 weeks each and for 2 years, they popped up constantly. By now you know I was concerned because I knew it reflected something deeper; something internal was not in balance.
So despite the cost, despite having already run several food panels and despite having tried several dietary changes without success, I decided to run this new food sensitivity panel.
When the results came back the test seemed to be a complete fraud! I spent a lot of money and my short list of reactive foods came back with a few food chemicals (from processed foods that wouldn’t be in my diet)… and lemon and apples! What? That’s it? I couldn’t believe it. I want my money back.
After enduring a few more weeks I decided I had to at least try eliminating lemon and apples, if only so I had definitive proof that this lab was a hoax. Within 1 week of getting off lemons and apples (and everything that contains them including apple cider vinegar, bleergghh) my skin for the first time in 2 years was completely clear of the granuloma annulare. No cause and no cure… hmmmm?
Here we have personalized nutrition knocking me in the head reminding me that one person’s health food may be another’s problem food.
The health and integrity of my skin will probably always be the first indicator of any dietary indiscretions and my level of stress. While I may never have perfect skin, I feel much more confident knowing the cause and pleased that my insides are healthier these days.
Let me know if I can help you discover what works for YOU.