On food allergies
Want to know something crazy?
YES, diet influences our skin.
But NOT how we think it does. So often we go crazy cutting out entire food groups and it makes our lives hard and painful. But so often, it’s really only a FEW foods that are truly doing the damage. And stress? It hurts more than you think.
For me, I am somewhat sensitive to dairy and sugar, but HAVE NO PROBLEMS eating them in moderation and eating the right KIND of dairy. I repeat – I do not cut them out. Instead, I’m smart about them. Drinking tons of milk – especially skim milk – no bueno. Butter, heavy cream, yogurt, cheese? MUCH better.
Also, something else I’ve noticed about myself – triggers CHANGE. Foods you were once sensitive too may without any seeming cause all of a sudden be fine. While foods that were once fine may all of a sudden wreak major havoc. For me personally, sugar used to be a HUGE issue, but honestly – it no longer is! So weird. Whether or not I’m eating (moderate) amounts of sugar, my skin is oblivious.
However, what is causing my skin to freak out hardcore right now? Alcohol and caffeine. All of a sudden my body has become so sensitive to these two substances that even my bladder is aggravated.
Here’s how food allergies work: when you eat a LOT of something, you’d think your body would get used to it. But the OPPOSITE happens. It gets sensitized. Then allergic. And even if it doesn’t, other things can happen that show imbalance.
Imbalance and sensitization do not show up just in the gut. They can show up in other ways too, even if your digestion seems totally fine. Some of these ways include, but are not limited to, allergy-like symptoms like irritated watery eyes, itchy, dry skin, runny nose, sinus issues (basically any sign you would associate with a seasonal allergy).
Or abnormal inflammation in other parts of the body. ANY part of the body can become inflamed. Joints. Bladder (resulting in a condition called Interstitial Cystitis). Even the tissues surrounding the heart can become inflamed (Pericarditis) and create acute chest pain.
Infections – ear, yeast, sinus. If these happen to you a little too often, then this can also be a sign.
Finally, symptoms like fatigue, irritation, loss of memory, fogginess can also signal food imbalance or sensitization.
Just to show you how diverse the signs can be consider these things: when you eat too many carrots, what happens? Your skin turns yellow. A sign. A colleague had a kidney stone at an unusually young age. The prognosis? Too much kale (which contains large amounts of oxalates, kidney stone forming compounds). Kidney stones are a sign. Thyroid problems – a sign.
Signs are everywhere – not JUST your skin. When you stop over-focusing on your skin, and open up your awareness to your whole body and being, you can triangulate and resolve the problem more accurately – you have more data points to work with.
food trigger case studies
Let’s use me and a dear client of mine as examples. 🙂
Me: My skin’s not great. Not sure what it could be. Frustrated. Eating pretty healthy (By the way, I’ve NEVER had a client who DIDN’T think their diet was “healthy.” Even I’m guilty of this blindness and conviction!). Then: diagnosed with IC – bladder inflammation. Look up IC and causes. Stress is a huge factor. Noted. Dietary factors include: citrus fruits, tomato-y things, chocolate, and top of the list: alcohol and coffee. I do an honest check-in: I barely eat any citrus, so not that. I have been eating a lot of tomato-y things, a lot of chocolate, and boatloads of coffee and alcohol. Hmmm. Instinct tells me its not tomatoes or chocolate. The clear and most obvious offenders are alcohol and caffeine. Immediately, I cut them out. 100%. Symptoms improve almost immediately. Now – I’m still not completely 100% better. Where to go from here? I instinctively sense it’s the stress. Which brings us to the present. Will keep you updated. 😉
My client: Skin’s not so great. Daily diet is consistent. Same smoothie for brekkie every morning. Same afternoon snack. Dinners are simple and vary between a few things. SO. Even if EVERYTHING looks innocent, SOMETHING has to be guilty. Just like above – who would EVER blame kale? But yes, sometimes even kale is guilty. So really, it’s easy. Cut out the smoothie and replace. See what happens. Cut out the snack and replace. See what happens. These are the two most obvious culprits. Why? Because they are the most CONSISTENT. Now they also happened to SEEM the most healthy. And for all intents and purposes, maybe they were. But her skin was not happy with them. C’est la vie. We can resist these little mysteries or we can accept them.
any food can be a problem
I guess the lesson here is:
Healthy is not enough. A “healthy” food could actually be your main trigger. Don’t let “healthy” get any foods off the hook.
Now, even I’ve been guilty of this myself – always telling my clients to eat more veggies, like they are the magic, get-out-of-jail free card. Like they are the only thing that is safe.
But guess what? Too many veggies can cause acne! How? Many different ways. Eating too much of ONE veggie. Eating too many RAW veggies. Eating veggies that you are unknowingly sensitive to. So you see.
Now – the MOST important thing? Everything in MODERATION. Yep.
I know you people. You’re just like me. You read an article about how zinc helps with acne, and all of a sudden you’re ODing on pumpkin seeds. You hear that goji berries are the next skin saving superfood and you’re going through a bag a week. You pick your superhero foods and you worship them with daily consumption. You happily banish not just entire food groups but entire MACRONUTRIENTS. NO CARBS. NO MEAT. No this, no that. Am I wrong?
Here’s the trick with diet. Everything in moderation. Key words: EVERYTHING. Yep. Meat, dairy, fruit, sugar, fat, veggies, carbs, cupcakes, quinoa, kale, koolaid. Second key word: MODERATION. A cup of coffee every morning? No prob. 6 cups a day. No way. Buy some kale every once in a while. Challenge yourself to prepare it in a tasty way. Juicing kale every day? I say: sounds healthy, right? Sounds like some serious supermodel sh*t right? I disagree. Switch it up with some hot chocolate every once in a while. Yep, I just told you to drink sugary milk. Sure did.
NOW. If you’re allergic to gluten, by all means, sorry, you can’t have bread. The rest of you: bread is not the enemy. Eat some really delicious ciabatta with fresh butter every once in a while.
If you have candida overgrowth (common in those with acne), sorry. You can’t have sugar. Or carbs. But only for a little while! Go super hardcore for 2-4 weeks and ELIMINATE that sh*t. Then eat it again. Yep. Have that brownie. You heard me.
If you have acne, and are eating healthy, you’re probably pissed. My honest advice? You probably want to restrict MORE. Get even HEALTHIER. I say: relax. Because guess what? Chances are, something in your “healthy” foods is aggravating your acne. The solution – eat less of what you’re currently eating. How? Let back in all the forbidden foods. UNRESTRICT.
Check out this note from my client to see what I mean:
“I wanted to thank you again for your help with my skin consultation.
I have an interesting update on my skin actually. The week that we went out of town I couldn’t take all my smoothie stuff with me and only had a handful of supplements (my multi, things we went over in my appointment) and I tried my best with food.
I wasn’t getting as many veggies but I did my best. Believe it or not, my skin cleared up amazingly fast. A huge difference in just a week or so.
I tried making my smoothie again when we got home and I broke out all over again. I tried having that Rebel herbs coconut milk drink and as I suspected, I broke out with that too. I don’t know if it’s the coconut milk and the nuts, but I have stayed away from both and my skin has continued to get better even with dairy here and there.
I over did it with some junk food (I got so excited over eating things I hadn’t eaten in years) and am having some skin issues again but I think that as long as I go right back to loads of green veggies and keeping it clean it will straighten itself out soon. Just wanted to thank you again! Your advice has made a huge difference and I wouldn’t have ever considered cutting out my smoothie if it wasn’t for you and I think it was messing with my skin big time.”
So check it out – even though she went down on her veggie consumption, her skin got better. And the things that were probably the cause? They seemed so innocent – even healthy: coconut milk and nuts. She’s even reintroducing dairy. Can dairy be safer for her than coconut milk?
The answer is YES.
Who knows why her skin is reacting to the coconut milk? Yet, it is. And that’s reality. And that’s her trigger. EVEN if it doesn’t sit right with “common sense.”
I also highlighted the part about the loads of green veggies, because if I could go back and redo that consult, I would have been less into the idea of stuffing yourself crazy with veggies, and more into EVERYTHING in MODERATION.
how to find your trigger
Even foods that are big triggers for you, will not cause huge issues if you only eat them once in a while. That being said, ACNE IS USUALLY TRIGGERED BY DIET.
So, it IS in your best interest to not only eat everything in moderation, but ALSO to KNOW your triggers. Mine are coffee and alcohol. My client’s seem to be nuts and coconut milk. To be even more safe about it, they seem to be her smoothie and snack.
Yours MIGHT be a huge category like gluten, in which case you will have to avoid a lot of foods. MORE LIKELY, however, yours are just as specific/unusual and small as mine and my client’s.
Your triggers could literally be soymilk and cashews. Or onions and beans. Or artichokes and cauliflower.
But here’s the best part. Don’t get all freaked out about how in the hell will you ever discover this mystery trigger food? It’ll be like searching for a needle in a haystack, you’re saying! Nope. It’ll be easy. Most of you are like my client and myself. It’ll be something you eat a lot of, every day. It will be something you like. It will be something that seems innocent and healthy. It will even become, dare I use the word, obvious, when you realize your haystack is actually quite small and the needle is quite big.
I will EVEN give you some hints.
Love and Holidays and Food
Hahaha! I crack myself up – are you guys even still reading? I feel like I’m all over the place, leading you on a wild goose chase. Oh, geez.
You’re probably asking – how is this a love letter? And wtf – what do acne, food and the holidays have in common?
Allow me to explain. The holidays suck for people with acne. Or for people trying to lose weight. They are rife with parties. Parties have alcohol and unhealthy food and lots and lots of sweet treats. Parties are full of things we can’t have. Or are they?
Guys. The holidays are for celebrating. They are for indulging. They are not for restricting and shaming. They are also not for binging and letting ourselves go. They are for loving self, loving others, and celebrating love.
Go to a party. IF THE FOOD ISN’T A STRAIGHT UP DESSERT, eat it all till you’re happy and full. At potlucks – take a little bit of EVERYTHING. And with the desserts? Take a good, long look at them all. Pick the one (or two) that look the most delicious. Grab them. Take a bite. If they’re everything you were hoping for, oh my god, enjoy them. Luxuriate in them. If that bite wasn’t amazing, do over. Throw it out, and grab another dessert. Yes, desserts should be divine. Don’t waste your time on shitty desserts.
Because here is the thing: All that restricting? All that worrying?
IT’S PROBABLY (ACTUALLY DEFINITELY) NOT HELPING AS MUCH AS YOU THINK.
So let go.
Eat the fucking cookie.
Want to know something crazy?
If you eat a cookie, and you’re stressed about it, you might break out. You will naturally think: Oh no! I was right to try to resist that cookie! I ate it, and OF COURSE I broke out!
I guarantee you – GUARANTEE – that the stress over eating the cookie had as much to do with the breakout as anything.
Now – when I’m stressed, it doesn’t matter WHAT I’m eating (although usually my diet predictably suffers), I break out.
So, these holidays, the rule is DO NOT STRESS ABOUT FOOD.
So you’re indulging a lot. You’re partying. Eating sugar. Drinking alcohol.
I say: DO IT.
Shortcuts to support your skin
But here are some sneaky tips to help in case you overdo it. Which you might. Which I DEFINTELY will! Why? Cause we’re only human and y’all, let’s be real – this stuff tastes good!
- Water will save you. Drink loads of it. It will help dilute all the stuff that isn’t so great that you put into your body, which will help your system process it. Want tips on how to drink more water? Check out this post.
- Supplements. While I don’t recommend these as a long-term bandaid that ignores the real issues, as a short term bandaid that acknowledges it is exactly that – a bandaid, supplements can be really helpful. Here are my recommendations (for more info on most of these, check out my book):
- Estroblock/DIM. If you’re drinking alcohol, the liver is less efficient at metabolizing estrogen. Estroblock helps with this.
- Reishi. If you’re taking Estroblock, take Reishi too. It helps support the liver. It also helps with stress!
- Green powder or spirulina. Just make sure there are no added sugars, fillers, or artificial flavors. No shame in getting your veggies is an “unconventional” (read: lazy and desperate) way. Short term, of course.
- B Vitamin Stress Complex. Holidays B stressful. I B B-deficient. LOL. Get your Bs. My favorite is Thorne.
- Haven’t personally tried these, but if you are insulin resistant or your acne is definitely aggravated by sugars, then try a supplement that mitigates the effects of glucose on your system, like nopal (cactus) or cinnamon. For more suggestions, read this more in depth article.
- Turmeric – really helps with systemic inflammation. Good to have during the holidays
- Sleep your ass off whenever you can. Get enough sleep! Omg, sleep is as important as water! It is when your body heals, rejuvenates and detoxifies.
- Consider intermittant fasting. Not to punish yourself for overdoing it the night before, but to give your system a rest. Here is how to fast properly: don’t think you can fast and go about your day as normal. A fasting day must also be a slow, easy day. A day where you can EITHER distract yourself successfully in sweet ways like massages or creative endeavors – NOT by stressful work OR where you can use the fast as a meditation and spiritual experience. Fast for anywhere between 16 and 24 hours. DO NOT fast if you have an eating disorder or food/body image issues. DO NOT fast too often. I usually fast before Thanksgiving dinner and once after all the holidays – like in January sometime.
- Use skincare judiciously. Do I use Zen a lot during the holidays? Yep, I sure do. Zen Physic, Renewal Matrix, Harvest Illuminé, and Sacred Ground help a ton. Oil intensifs and masques do save the skin.
I have created two packages with these products for Winter 2015.
Zen Physic + Sacred Ground = Skin CALM.
Harvest Illuminé + Renewal Matrix = Skin RENEW.
For Skin CALM use code umm, SKINCALM to get Zen + SG for $100 (usually $128).
For Skin RENEW, use code, let’s see, hmmm, what should it be…gosh….wait! idea! SKINRENEW to get RM and HI for $120 (usually $156).
For how long will this last? Not sure, to be honest.
Guys – whatever you do, do not give up the holidays just for your skin! Trust me – the holidays will do less damage than you think! So eat, drink, and BE MERRY!!!