It seemed to be the year that all of my previous notions about my body went out the window. From my exercise routine to my diet to my skin, nothing worked or felt the same anymore.
In the summer of 2015 I began experiencing this insane skin eruption. My skin was bumpy, oily, red, generally puffy and dry around my eyes.
The first photo below is during the beginning when my face my oily and flushed easily. The second photo is a few months later when my skin was super dry, especially around my eyes and inflammation was high.
The last photo is my skin now (most days). Today when I experience symptoms, it's typically around my nose and eye areas and chin in the form of small bumps or flat red spots. Most often my flares are linked to the days leading up to my menstrual cycle. I don't generally exhibit the flushing and redness on my cheeks unless I overdo alcohol, sugar (sometimes you just need cake or chocolate, am I right?) or some of my other triggers I talk about below more in-depth.
At the time this all began, I was on and off dairy, gluten, grains, soy and sugar; I was not consistent with my approach (especially in social situations or celebrations). I also threw everything I could at my skin to help heal it. I tried homemade masks (honey, turmeric, charcoal, baking soda, etc.), ointments, salves and a couplea MLM skin care companies. When I finally went to the dermatologist to get a diagnosis, I was met with yet another topical product.
I vacillated through different regimens for a good year before getting serious about my approach. Of course, it's always a work in progress, but I feel like I can now share this part of my story.
As I always tell you, one person's approach may not wholly work for another, but I hope you can take bits and pieces from my journey and allow them to work for you.
My stumbling blocks can be your stepping stones!
Onto what worked for me...
I cut out dairy, refined sugars, gluten and soy
I limit grains, beans (see oligosaccharides discussion below) and natural sugar (fruits, honey)
I limit alcohol
I cut out caffeine (I've found I can tolerate decaf coffee)
I've also learned to tune into my diet to see what triggers I may have.
For example, I found that foods high in oligosaccharides, a type of fructose that beneficially ferments in the large intestine and acts a prebiotic, can cause a flare if I consume them in large quantities. If you've ever heard of the FODMAP diet, this is the premise of that diet. The list of foods considered high FODMAP is quite extensive. Here's a link if you'd like to read more in-depth.
Just to give you an idea, here are some foods I eat in moderation to limit my exposure to FODMAP foods:
Sugar Alcohols (mannitol, sorbitol, etc.)
Raw & Roasted Nuts
Interestingly enough, after my research led me to oligosaccharides, I realized the probiotic I was taking at the time contained a prebiotic in the form of fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) as well as milk! I immediately stopped taking it and switched to a brand that didn't contain either products. I've shared my go-to probiotic brand before, but here's another link.
Also, you'll notice that the foods I mentioned are, for the most part, types of food that I often encourage you to include in your diet, and you still should! However, if you are struggling with skin and/or digestive issues, following a guideline of balance when it comes to FODMAP foods MAY significantly improve your overall health.
I limit sun exposure, especially on my face (SPF 30 and a rosacea friendly sunscreen and a HAT)
I cleanse my skin following a sweaty workout, ALWAYS
I never go to bed without cleansing my skin
I try not to overheat (sometimes that's hard because I warm easily)
I limit makeup and when I do I use products I trust
Same with skin care products (believe me, I have tried them all)
Hormone Balancing Health - I wrote about this before, you can read about my approach here
As I mentioned before, these are things that worked for ME. However, they are also things I implemented through personal research and reading other people's stories.
I'm always happy to answer any questions you may have about anything really! Comment below, message me or email me!
Thank you as always for reading, I hope it was helpful!
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with their loved ones!
The timing of this blog post couldn't be any better. My family and I spent the holiday weekend away with my family in the Poconos. We had a BLAST! We played board games, corn hole, ate, played ping pong, ate some more, had cocktails and wine then ate some more. It was filling on so many levels.
However, my body was all like, oh no you didn't, by Sunday.
Do I know what my triggers are?
Did I pay FULL attention to them this weekend.
Did I feel like poo by Sunday.
Let me rewind a little to refresh your memories.
I have suffered from gut health issues for a very very long time.
At their peak of dysfunction, I was bloated, exhausted, arthritic, anxious, depressed and either experiencing constipation or diarrhea.
Over the past couple of years I have made it my quest to optimize my health. You've read my journey through hormone health and now I'd like to share with you my journey to optimal gut health.
Before you log off thinking gut health isn't linked to anything I described above, give me a few minutes of your time (please).
It's a scientific fact that 70% of our body's serotonin is made in our digestive tract.
70% folks, 70% (not in your brain but in your G U T)
It's also a fact that an imbalance in serotonin is linked to mood disorders, osteoporosis and digestive disorders.
Let's not forget that the strength of our immune system is directly proportional to the strength of our digestive system too.
You see where I'm going with this?
Everything I described to you about how I was feeling was connected, and the common denominator was my gut health.
Not only was I suffering from leaky gut, where my food was being absorbed improperly, causing immune/mood issues, I also had an imabalnce of serotonin, causing further immune/mood issues.
Wow...no wonder I wanted to curl into a ball and sleep most days.
So what's a girl, with a messy digestive system, to do?
First, I researched and read and read some more.
If you want the quick and dirty:
Phase 1: eliminate all trigger foods & beverages
Phase2: repair and rebuild your digestive system
F O O D
If you recall, I was in my hormone health discovery phase at the same time. So, I was already eliminating foods from my diet that were hormone disrupting (gluten, dairy and sugar). As it turns out, these are also common triggers for people with IBS or sensitive digestive systems (as are legumes, coffee and alcohol).
I think coffee was the hardest for me (I still crave it sometimes). It powered me through my days (eh hem...adrenal fatigue) but it was doing a number on my stomach. I weaned myself off slowly, going black first then decreasing the amount each week until I was drinking 1/4 cup in the morning.
The food part was messy at first too, I had no idea gluten came in so many forms and had to read every stinkin' label. I also fell into the gluten free trap. You know, the one where you think because it says gluten free on the package means it's good for you. I eventually weaved my way through millions of products to find those that work for ME.
I now live grain free (no gluten free grains either), dairy free and refined sugar free (honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup are my sweeteners of choice), 90% of the time. I still enjoy gluten free oats once or twice a week.
R E B U I L D & R E P A I R
Our digestive system is also full of healthy bacteria (and bad bacteria).
We have more bacteria in our body than we do cells!
When we talk about rebuilding our gut health, it has a lot to do with regaining a healthy balance of bacteria in our gut so that the good out number the bad!
We can achieve an optimal balance through food and supplements. Always food first.
Fermented foods are a powerhouse of good bacteria, and adding a small amount to your daily diet can shift your gut bacteria back into balance over time.
-cultured yogurt (dairy & non-dairy)
I have also gotten on the bone broth band wagon! As soon as I read about the benefits and how simple it is to make I was hooked. Bone broth is basically stock, cooked for a much longer period of time. I like chicken broth the best and cook mine for 24 hours. Here's my recipe. Bone broth has two main components that help to heal your gut. L-glutamine and collagen. Both are leeched out of the bone as it cooks down, so make sure you are cooking with organic or pasture raised/grass fed bones. I save bones from whole chickens we cook and am even using the turkey bones from Thanksgiving. I also purchase chicken feet from my local organic market, they provide a much higher collagen output. Squeamish about the feet? No worries, just use regualr bones and you'll achieve the same effect. Whole Foods now has organic frozen bones to purchase too! You can also check with your local organic farms.
Probiotics greatly increase your success in healing your gut. I went through quite a few before I found a brand that works with my body. You'll want to look for one that has a variety of strains of bacteria, has 15-30 CFUs and is from a reputable brand (Renew Life, Garden of Life, ect.). If you experience any side effects (gas, bloating) either try a lower CFU or switch brands. If it's not your thing to supplement then you can simply add one of the fermented foods into your diet on a daily basis to gain the same benefits.
The latest and greatest trend in the world of gut health is powdered collagen and gelatin. Collagen not only works to heal your gut lining, it is found throughout our body in our hair, skin, nails and bones. I like to supplement with collagen peptides, I use them in my smoothies, oats and morning hot elixirs. My go-to brand is Vital Proteins. I like that they use high quality ingredients and source their collagen from grass fed animals. They have a great blog article about how to use collagen and gelatin for better gut health.
I've partnered with Vital Proteins, to get collagen and beef gelatin into one of my reader's hands. If you hop on over to my Instagram page you can enter my giveaway to win a box of peptide sticks and a canister of beef gelatin. You'll be rolling in gut health soon!!!
Curious about ALL of the benefits of collagen? Check out this article I wrote!
Like anything else, you are looking to maintain a balance. You don't have to do ALL of these things EVERY day, but incorporating these gut healthy solutions into your life will help you in your quest to heal your gut and achieve overall optimal health.
Oh and speaking of balance! How do you manage stress? If you're laughing or thinking of your nightly glass of wine, then you're probably not managing it optimally!
Stress increases our cortisol levels which can also contribute to poor gut health. SO...get your stress levels down with anything that brings you joy or peace. That might be a walk in the park, a warm epsom salt bath, the smell of essential oils, meditating, exercising (but not too much), date nights or even a night on the couch watching a movie with the fam.
Slow down. Give yourself a time out and listen to what your body is telling you.
Getting back to last week...
I enjoyed myself over Thanksgiving break.
I had wine or a cocktail each night.
I had stuffing made with GF brown rice bread.
I ate apple and pumpkin pie (not GF).
I stayed up late and snacked late.
I was exhausted, achy and my face looked like it was going through puberty.
I'm sharing this because I think it's important to understand that while there are eating trends that seem to pervade social media, there are also real reasons that people post about or write about particular ways they live. I eat and live the way that I do so that I DON'T feel like I did on Sunday all the time.
I also believe that by sharing my story, I am paying it forward. Hopefully the me two years ago is reading this and finding hope.
Our health is vitaly important. If you aren't feeling well or feeling quite like yourself, take the time to figure out why.
You are worth it.