I know. I know. That’s a very grand title. But I promise by the end of this post you will have the secret to your best skin ever.
Seriously. I’m not even joking.
For me, this journey for better skin (I had very acneic skin) began a long-ass time ago. I mean over 2 decades ago, when I was 14-years-old. It began when my periods became so painful that kept me home from school coupled with the pimple-laden skin that comes with being a hormonal teenager (sorry for those dudes reading this, I'll just warn you now that this will be about hormones and the like). I sought out several medical opinions and was told by all of them that the best and only course of action to kill both birds with one stone was to get on a hormonal birth control pill.
So, at the young age of 14 I started on The Pill. As promised it was a miracle. It helped almost immediately with the painful periods and cleared up most of my acne. However, my periods were still painful, but just slightly less so that I could attend school and participate in other activities. I was still popping the 500-800 mg of Ibuprofen that my doctor said I safely could. Not once did anyone mention changing anything else in my life, diet, exercise, etc.
A few years later, when I moved across the country to the east coast to attend college, my acne came flooding back. Naturally, my first reaction was that this magic pill wasn’t so magical anymore and I must need something else. I found a new doctor and got on a new pill. Once again, it seemed to help a little but not to the extent I would have liked. I still had acne and I still have physical and mental pain from my cycle.
I thought there had to be something else I could do. I started getting regular facials and buying all the products I could afford (in hindsight, I couldn’t even afford that, I left school with more loans than I could repay). After all the pills and money spent, my acne was no better than before. Sure, for a few days after my facial it would be better, but it always came right back.
Four years later, I moved back to the west coast. I went into more debt, this time in credit card debt, still getting facials and buying products I couldn’t afford. I mean, now I was in Los Angeles after all, the city known for its good looks. Where money is just an illusion, Bentley's are everywhere and everyone lives on credit. I had to do everything that I could to fit in and I knew acne was NOT tolerated.
It was during one of my monthly book club gatherings that one of the gals mentioned how bad birth control was for our bodies and that she decided to get off it after over a decade of being on it. I didn’t think too much of it at the time and rationalized that she was in a long-time committed relationship and could “afford” to try that experiment.
Slowly, one by one the ladies of book club all jumped on the no-birth-control bandwagon. I thought long and hard about it. But it wasn’t until I met my now husband in 2010 that I felt like I had the freedom to do this as well. In hindsight, I know that’s not true, but I was not the most responsible 20-something in Los Angeles. We all have the choice to do what ever we want. But it’s just that: how much do you want it?
In 2011, I finally decided after being in a committed relationship for over a year that I could and would finally get off this darn prescription. I quickly educated myself with the help of the internet and my doctor on how get off the pill and still not get pregnant. In addition, to good communication with my partner and using the Fertility Awareness Method, I could confidently get off the pill after over a decade of being on it.
At this point I was now in my late 20s. I thought all my hormonal issues from my early teens would surely be over. Oh, how wrong I was.
Not long after ditching the pill, the oh-so-painful periods flooded back and now with a new addition...painful ovulation (as you may-or-may-not-know the pill stops pregnancy by not allowing ovulation). Now, I was in pain twice a month, as well as, the ugly, painful acne I had as a teen was even worse now than I remembered in high school.
How was it that I was an adult now and still having all these issues?!?!
I started doing research on what else I could do to help my skin and menstrual pain. I knew getting off birth control was in a large part getting back to a more natural state of being. So, I knew I didn’t want to turn to western medicine again. It was clear to me that that didn’t solve anything, just merely masked the symptoms of a larger problem. I didn’t want to blame a doctor for thinking that this or any pill was magic and would solve my problems, but at the time I had a hard time maintaining any faith in allopathic medicine.
Here's a fun fact: while I was in nutrition school I learned that most doctors only take the minimum required one to two classes in nutrition as a part of their 8-year medical degree? I know now that western medicine doctors are only doing what they are taught. For most of them medicine and practicing means is to treat symptoms not get to the root cause.
So, now what?
I found a holistic esthetician in Los Angeles who shared all her tips and tricks on getting better skin. But even after a year of working with her, taking a fair share of supplements and thinking I was eating healthy, still nothing changed.
What was I still missing?
Even my esthetician was stumped. She mentioned seeing a naturopathic doctor, and at the time I was like, what? what kind of doctor is that? I did my research and booked an appointment. We did a lot of blood work and she introduced me to my first elimination diet. I had eliminated gluten before, but only because all my friends were doing it and I thought I should check it out to see what the big deal was and what I was missing. I had no idea what I was in for. The results from the blood work that was done (the ELISA test) showed that I was basically allergic to all the foods I was eating on a regular basis. And in hindsight, knowing what I know now as a nutritionist and as someone who knows about many of the different types of testing that can be done I am not in full support of this type of testing for food allergies. Though it did shed light on what was going on, it speaks more to leaky gut than specific allergies to specific foods. And the elimination diet that I was put on was not the right one for what I needed.
To digress for a second, the term elimination diet is thrown around quite often these days and is pretty trendy. That being said, it is a great tool to healing the body and figuring out what is going on, as well. There are countless different types of elimination diets. The only true elimination diet is to exclude all the highly allergic foods (yes, there is an actual list) until you feel great. This could be as little as 3 weeks and as long as 3-6 months, depending on what is going on with your health and what the symptoms are. I have walked numerous clients through this process and support them with recipes, menu plans and emotional support as well, this process can bring up emotional issues along the way. If you’re interested feel free to get in touch with me for a free consult :) They can be key in identifying what’s going on and how to make you feel your best.
Ok, back to my story...the naturopath doctor didn't yield the results I expected. Ugh! Another dead end. I had little faith that this would even get solved. My family did have a history of bad acne. I was really starting to believe this was just something I would have to live with...
I was reinvigorated when my boyfriend of 4 years proposed to me on a summer vacation. It was the most wonderful surprise. But I remember being thankful there were no pictures of that night. I had no make-up on and my confidence was lacking, to say the least. I recalled thinking, how nice it would be to one day feel good, even great, without any make-up on.
Now there was the wedding to think about. And who doesn’t want to look and feel their best on that day!?! I had to do something!
I became interested in natural products, using food as medicine and holistic health. When I wasn’t working on design stuff that’s pretty much all I read. I discovered the Dr. Junger Cleanse. I found a new esthetician, Brandi (the absolute best, and miss her so much) at the Arcona Studio in Santa Monica, just a block from my work. My skin was starting to look much better.
After the wedding, I left my job of 3 years and career of over 10 years and we moved to Denver, Colorado. I went back to school to follow my new love, nutrition and health. After 18 wonderful months of wellness education at the Bauman College in Boulder, I had my holistic nutritional consultant certificate.
Somehow, I also left with only slightly better skin than when I started. How was it that I could have this amazing education and still manage to not fix my own health issues? I definitely wasn't ready for this. No one tells you when you finish your nutrition education that it doesn't necessarily mean you will have solved your own issues. I learned that even those that seem to have it all together, don't always have it all figured out. It's a process that's different for everyone. I don't know that I will ever have it ALL figured out. But that's why we keep learning new things and figuring out what works and what doesn't. It also keeps things interesting...gotta keep life interesting.
I digress... back to the story: after nutrition school, I sought out another naturopath. Despite my first experience not resulting in what I imagined, now I had a new education in health and wellness and thought maybe I was in a better position to use my education plus the doctors’ knowledge to get maximum benefits.
I went to see Dr. Caitlyn O’Connor at All Families Natural Health. She came highly recommended. Let’s be honest here, after now 5 years since ditching the birth control (of which I blame for 75% of my health issues), too much money on facials and supplements, and a new education in nutrition, I was willing more now than ever to try anything. She confirmed a lot of what I already knew and was already doing. However, she also wanted to do a few new tests, specifically the DUTCH test and a 3-day stool sample. Neither were particularly fun, but neither were particularly painful either. But the results from these two tests were ASTOUNDING! I found out exactly which hormones were working well and which ones needed help. I found out I was not digesting my proteins well, that my gut bacteria were ok but some were lacking, and so much more! With the guidance of Dr. O’Connor, I could now pinpoint what supplements I really needed and how best to eat for my optimal health.
After 6 weeks of this new regime I noticed a significant difference in my skin. After 3 months I felt so great I was confident going out in public without make-up on. And one added benefit I wasn’t prepared for was how great I would feel emotionally. A better balance in my body of nutrients and new-found self-confidence from clearer skin translated to better mental well-being and a happier me.
Here's a little before and after, note, that when I went looking for pictures of when it was at it's worst, I was surprised to find I didn't have any. I guess I was so self conscious I didn't take any pictures on it! Yikes!
I share a bit of this on my About page on my website. I thought it would be helpful to share the full journey and where I finally am today. My hope is that in sharing this it will shed some light on skin and hormonal health. And as in many health issues it can be a process figuring out what works. Don't give up! Don't cave in to what western medicine says. I do believe it has it's place in our world. But when anyone tells you, even a doctor, that you have to live with something or the only solution is prescription meds, you have other alternatives.
I definitely haven't solved it all, but I am so much closer now than ever! It's a journey for sure. I'd love to hear your health journey! What's going on? Have you ever struggled from soemthing you were told you had to live with? Maybe chalked it up to genetics? Please share!