When I first wanted to heal my acne through nutrition, Google became my best friend. I honestly didn't know much about nutrition, and I definitely didn't understand how food affects our body and our skin. One of the first concepts I encountered while researching adult female acne was a vegan diet.
Vegan noun, a person who does not eat or use animal products.
While my cystic acne was at it's height in severity, I went vegan for many months. In the beginning I did notice some improvement in the appearance of my acne. However, in the end being vegan didn't win out for me. While my diet is still largely plant based, I don't eliminate all animal products. I want to share with you my thoughts on the vegan diet, specifically as it relates to acne.
The benefits of a vegan diet can be the large number of plants consumed. When you're not consuming animal protein, you need more fruits and vegetables to fill you up. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which help fight inflammation in the body. Acne is a sign of too much inflammation in the body so, logically, it makes sense to consume more fruits and vegetables. The problem that often arises here, and the reason I put can be in italics, it's easy to be vegan and lose sight of nutrition. It's easy to become so focused on whether a not a food is vegan that you forget to evaluate nutritional value. Technically, Oreo's® are vegan. Although I don't think anyone would argue that eating these cookies will help clear your skin. I've seen many times, including in myself, where consuming a vegan diet quickly turns to lots of vegan baked goods, pastas and baked potatoes. These things are fine in moderation but they aren't the super-foods needed to boost our immune system, and can give acne a kiss good-bye.
The downside to a vegan diet is its neglect of healthy fats. When researching a vegan diet I was quite alarmed at how many proponents of this diet still had the low fat mentality that plagued the 90's. The concept of following a low fat/no fat diet is outdated information that was never actually correct. In fact, during the 90's when the low fat craze really took off, heart disease increased as people's waist lines grew. Why did this happen? Most likely it was due to high insulin levels. Instead of eating healthy fats, which keep you fuller, longer, people were eating low- fat crackers, highly refined pastas and low- fat yogurts. All these things spike our insulin levels which leads to excess belly fat, AND many people felt constantly hungry because the very thing that helps keep us full fat was removed from food. What I'm discussing here pertains to weight gain and heart health but, please make no mistake, it's also connected to the appearance of your skin. Warning signs of internal excess inflammation in the body, such as acne, should help us connect the dots: a low-fat/no fat diet won't give us the skin, or the overall health we want.
Vegan diets also eliminate the intake of wild-caught, sockeye salmon. I really can't overstate its benefits to our skin health. First, wild-caught salmon provides a hefty dose of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids simply means our bodies don't make these fats, therefore, we must get them from food. Omega-6's are also essential fatty acids. However, because of deficiencies in our food supply these days (such as eating grain-fed instead of grass-fed beef, or consuming processed foods containing unhealthy, shelf-stable oils) we are ingesting too much omega-6's and not enough omega-3's. The ratio of these oils should be 1:2 omega 3 omega 6. Unfortunately, our modern diets tend to have a ratio of 1:10 of omega-3 (anti-inflammatory) to omega-6 (inflammatory). [William Sears, MD, The Inflammation Solution,©2015]
Vegan diets also lack astaxanthin. Here we go again with salmon the prize winning fish! Astaxanthin is another reason to love this fish. Astaxanthin gives salmon its beautiful pink color. It's a nutrient that has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. Astaxanthin paired with beneficial omega-3's in wild-caught salmon make this fish vital to our diets. Notice I keep writing wild-caught. It is important that you avoid purchasing farm-raised salmon. It doesn't contain the same amounts of the powerful antioxidants. In fact, farm-raised salmon may have pink color added, so it appears more like wild-caught. I also take a fish oil supplement and have noticed a difference in my skin, hair and nails.
Tip: On the days you enjoy salmon for dinner it's okay to skip your fish oil supplement. This will help you stretch your budget a bit farther as well!
Lastly, I encourage you not to place yourself in a "diet camp." What I mean specifically is avoid anything that promises weight loss as its single goal. It can lead to an all or nothing mentality, in which you feel guilty if you are ever in a situation that makes it impossible to eat and still stay within the diet's strict guidelines. What I do encourage, instead, is focus on real, whole-food nutrition. Shop the perimeter of your grocery store. Opt for organic produce and meats when possible. If unavoidable, be very selective in the purchase of processed foods. If you're curious what to look for when purchasing processed foods, you can read more here.
Have you ever tried, or are you currently following a vegan diet? Have you noticed an improvement in your skin, hair, and nails? How are you currently eating, and how does it make you feel? Please comment!
Pumpkin pie has always been a favorite of mine - regardless of the time of year! After the birth of my second child I began dabbling in a gluten free diet after reading the book, Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. I was trying to eliminate those last stubborn pounds of pregnancy and sure enough ditching wheat really helped. During this time I would make pumpkin pie without the crust and literally eat it for breakfast. I'm now gluten free for reasons other than simply maintaining a healthy weight (although it does help). I discovered gluten is related to a lot of digestive issues and was contributing to what seemed like an endless cycle of my skin breaking out. Whatever your reason for being gluten free, this pie won't disappoint.
While the crustless version of the pumpkin pie is certainly delicious, I feel for social gatherings and holidays it makes a much prettier presentation to present a pie with a crust.
This version of pumpkin pie also happens to be free of dairy as well as refined sugar. I imagine if you keep it a secret, no one will know the difference. It's simply delicious!
For the crust I used this recipe. Although I altered the instructions a bit. I did not chill the dough and I also did not roll out the dough. I simply worked the crust into a ball and then gently pressed it into my pie plate.
For optimum health it is better to avoid processed foods. But it's difficult these days to do that.. Life seems to be busier than ever and it seems we have less time to dedicate in the kitchen than in years past. It's no wonder women resort to picking up boxed packaged items, and foods in the freezer section.
I'm all about balance nutrition shouldn't be viewed as all or nothing. When clients come to me for coaching I make it a point to meet them where they are. It's all about giving yourself grace. Do what you can with the knowledge, information, budget and time you have.
While I do cook mostly from scratch there are a few things I purchase prepackaged. However, there are KEY things I look for before buying a processed food; and there are certain factors I won't compromise on.
In order to manage acne it is best done from the inside out. Focus on nutrition to bring your skin to an improved state of health. Examine all facets of your diet.
If, for example, buying jarred marinara sauce works for you right now, great! That's what works in my house as well. Let me share with you some key things to look for in any packaged food you buy.
We live in a world of quick fixes. It seems like everywhere you look there is an advertisement for something that will help you to "look good and fast." This can be tempting and many of of us fall prey. After all who doesn't want to look good in a bikini by Friday or have perfectly clear skin in only one month? I know there was a time in my life when I fell for this stuff all the time! And guess what? Some of it worked! The problem was nothing worked for long and then I was right back where I started.
Today I want to talk to you specifically about treating acne and how those changes may look.
We tend to think of acne as being only an external issue. After all, it's clearly visible on our skin so a really good face wash should clear that up, right? It's not that simple. Acne is often a sign of a deeper internal issue. Where I see women face trouble is they only address the visible signs the acne. By failing to look deeper their acne continues to resurface causing them to move on to the next greatest skin care.
Our skin is an organ. In fact, it's our body's largest organ! When we view our skin this way, instead of simply an outer barrier, it's rather silly to think our skin doesn't paint a larger picture.
For years I was on an acne skin care line. My face remained clear as long as I continued using the product and it worked for 8 years! This led me to believe my acne had been eradicated. I thought it was gone and all I had to do was continue to buy this certain face wash. I could not have been more wrong!! The acne skin care line was simply a band aid, masking a much bigger problem. All at once the product failed to deliver it's usual results and I was left with an enormous mess my skin had never looked worse. I was devastated.
For the first time in my life I was forced to look at other options. I naturally tried a few other skin care lines all to no avail. After a bit of research I learned there was a holistic side to healing acne. What?! I had never before even considered that there was a root problem to my acne, never mind addressing it.
The most important shift I made was my mindset. You can read about that here. The second shift was changing the way I ate. I created a plan and stuck with it for a solid 6 months no cheating, no slipping. What I noticed were slow changes and sometimes the healing was cyclical there were a few times my skin 'purged' during this period.
Because of this, some people thought I was nuts. Some questions I received:
Shouldn't your skin be completely clear with all the dietary changes you've made?
Is your body getting proper nourishment?
Why are you doing this to yourself? Aren't you miserable? You know I have a friend who sells acne skin care. You should call her.
Maybe you've heard a few of these yourself?
I do believe all these things were said with good intentions. Spoken by those who cared about me, it really was an act of love not malice. However, I knew deep down inside that I was on the right track and I had to tune these voices out.
I have seen this same scenario with my clients who are working so diligently to get to the root problem of their acne. Family members and friends think they are nuts! I think the two main reasons why are: