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Hi I'm Leonie, Collector of feathers, pebbles and words, with ink-stained hands, an overactive mind, and a sunshine-filled heart.

This blog is all about: ART > FOOD > LOVE > RUNNING > NAVEL-GAZING > ASPERGERS > SELF-DISCOVERY


What I eat doesn't affect my acne and other discoveries.



For years, I have thought that my acne was due to my *ahem* 'above average' chocolate consumption. A friend in high school (oh, what a reliable source) once told me that pimples on my chin were caused by food. For some stupid reason this has stuck and I always assumed with the amount of sugar I ate that I would have to just put up with the acne, as I sure as hell wasn't giving up sugar.

Till I gave up sugar.

And nothing changed.

This was really frustrating. I've eaten really well since January 2013. I've exercised on average 3 or 4 times a week, and sometimes 7 days a week.

I've lived a mostly healthy lifestyle for months and months - why is my skin still so shitty? Ok I didn't entirely give up sugar, but this year has been 95% refined sugar free. This has cleared up the persistent eczema on my tummy and mild rosacea on my upper arms, but my spots seem to be driven by something else.


Accepting sugar addiction


Deciding to avoid sugar was a big deal for me. I'd been dependent on it for so long that when my dentist told me a few years back that my teeth were 'pretty horrific' and I'd need to 'stop eating chocolate, just stop completely', I burst into tears when I stepped out of his office. You asshole, I thought, how dare you make me feel so awful. I'm not giving up sugar. I refuse to. Screw you.

Well, if that isn't a sure sign of addiction I don't know what is, but of course I didn't recognise that at the time.

Fast forward a few years and I mostly feel good about myself and I'm starting to learn what it feels like to walk tall, and be ok with who I am. I did mostly give up sugar (are you happy now, Dr Jackson?!). I recognise it's an addiction for me and even a little bit can be dangerous. So I stopped eating it. I ate a heap of fruit and veggies instead. I had to buy new clothes because my pants were falling down. Everything is slowly falling into place. Except..... my skin. So I started to research natural acne remedies. I talked to my doctor. I had a blood test. I really tried to focus on getting to the bottom of this.


Journal everything


I also started to record what I ate each day and more importantly, how I felt, and how my skin was. I started this experiment on the first day of daylight savings time, back in October '13. This was also when I was transitioning to becoming vegetarian (although I'm now settling into plant-based as opposed to strict vegetarian). I religiously kept a food diary for a month, then had a relaxed weekend away where I chose to enjoy myself rather than be anal about recording what I ate. Then I forgot for a week when I came home, then I recorded some more, then I forgot again. But memory lapses aside, I totally recommend keeping a wholistic food diary, noting as many different functions as you think are important to your own journey. I'm not in the least bit fussed about how many calories I eat, or how much fat or whatever, but what I am interested in is the correlation between food, sleep, water, gut health, acne and mood. So I made little notes about all these things each day. I also get seemingly random lower back pains when I wake up some mornings. We've changed mattresses a few times so I don't think it's the bed. It is so bad that I have to get up as soon as I wake, or else curl into the fetal position to try and relieve the ache. So I've been using my journal to record when I get these pains too.

Anyway, I got to the root of my problem.





Damn you, hormones


Through lots of reading, research and following the trends in my food diary, I discovered I most likely had hormonal acne; which was confirmed by my GP. I didn't even know this was a thing. I thought spots were spots. Oddly, when my testosterone spikes about two weeks before my period I get a bout of horrible painful oily spotty skin. I would have thought that female hormones would have been the culprit, but it seems that testosterone is what sets it off for me. Unfortunately, apart from going on the pill, which I don't want to do, there's not much the doc could do for me. I told him I didn't want to go on any tablets or use the horrible skin-burning benzoyl peroxide creams I had tried in my early twenties. Were there any natural ways to manage this? Short answer no - although he did suggest some people have success with naturopathic treatment, but the budget won't allow for that at the moment.

So, how am I managing it then? Well, this week I'm in a happy patch. My skin is dry but clear. But I've decided to try a few simple things for a few months and see if there is any improvement.


The journey to clear skin


  • Coconut oil - as a moisturiser. It seems counter-intuitive to put oil on oily skin but it appears to work for some people as your skin reduces the amount of oil and sebum it produces internally if it is adequately oily already. I can't bring myself to smear it everywhere and gross up my pillow but I have been dabbing it on offending spots at night before bed and I have actually been seeing a bit of improvement in the morning. 

  • Avoiding plastic containers and drink bottles - I drink an enormous amount of water each day and up until recently this was just from whatever disposable plastic bottles were laying around. I'd refill the same one for months on end, often after leaving them in my extremely hot car all day. Since I've learnt more about BPA in plastics acting as a synthetic hormone, I'm trying to be more vigilant about reducing plastic that comes into contact with food. So I've got myself a giant 1.5L BPA free bottle on my desk at work, and at home I use a pint glass that was appropriated from a pub many years ago. And I've bought some great glass lunchbox containers from Target although it's going to take me a while to swap out my extensive plastic container collection for glass; these cost more than el-cheapo plastic ones so I'll change them over a bit at a time. 

  • Evening primrose oil - I'm taking a capsule each day as the high concentration of Omega-6 is reported to help with healthy hormone function. And whilst I'm pretty sure I get a good dose of omega 3 in my normal diet, I am taking a supplement as well to ensure my omega 6 / omega 3 levels are balanced out. Plus, I take my usual Centrum multivitamin.

  • Sleep. A constant challenge for me. I don't have many problems actually falling asleep, nor do I wake in the night unless the kids are screaming for me ('mama, my pants are wet'). It's dragging myself off the computer (damn you Pinterest, Facebook et al) when I know I'm tired and should start getting ready for bed. So this is kind of an ongoing balancing act for me. Enjoying my night, getting things done, blogging, reading, doing an online course, having my me-time after the kids are asleep... it's all lovely, but I really must get some proper sleep hygiene organised. This means a proper bed time, a period of screen-free time before I actually go to sleep, having a bed time ritual, reading more. (Real paper books that is. I don't do e-books). 


So that's where I'm at right now. I'm embarassed about my skin and it really gets me down so I am hoping I can find a way to manage it.


Update 


Six weeks after writing this I have actually found some improvement, even through the blow-outs of the holiday season. I've had minimal pimples - still there but small, manageable and not nearly as sore as usual.

And if you're interested, below I've shown a snippet of my food journal... this is pretty much an average fortnight for me food-wise. There's a few decadent meals in there where I've enjoyed being out at a restaurant. And a hormone driven blow out at the end of the first week where I felt shitty and ate half a block of chocolate. This is pretty unusual. I haven't done this for ages and felt yuck afterwards.



A fortnight of journalling 


Sunday

Breakfast Grilled tomato and mushrooms, half and avocado, handful of spinach. 1 slice Burgen bread with peanut butter. Piccolo latte.

Morning tea None

Lunch (a day out at Manly beach) Fried fishermans basket with potato wedges and salad. Capuccino. Mocha cheesecake. Coke zero. OJ.

Afternoon tea Half of Holly's water iceblock and half of her banana. Raw cinnamon roll.

Dinner Chickpea patty. Half a cup of couscous with corn, peas, broccoli, sunflower seeds and teriyaki sauce.

Health
Skin - normal. A few persistent pimples around my jawline. 
Bloating - yes. Thanks to the big pub lunch.
Water - ok
Energy - great
Back pain - pretty sore
Mood - generally good. 
Exercise - none


Monday

Breakfast Homemade muesli with almond milk. Espresso.

Morning tea None

Lunch Avocado sushi roll. Apple crisps. Piccolo latte.

Afternoon tea Apple pumpkin slice.

Dinner Tofu and glass noodle stirfry. Raw cinnamon roll.

Snack Blueberries. Small scoop of gelato. Half a bag of rice crackers. Black tea.

Health
Skin - normal 
Bloating - yes
Water - ok
Energy - a bit low - slump post-lunch
Back pain - none
Mood - good
Exercise - 3km run + 3km walk


Tuesday

Breakfast 1 slice Burgen bread with peanut butter. Cappuccino and the free tiny shortbread they gave me at the coffee shop :)

Morning tea Half a cup of strawberries and blueberries. Green smoothie.

Lunch Tofu, brown rice and spinach with seeds and nuts. Tea with milk. Plain yoghurt with rhubarb puree.

Afternoon tea Raw cinnamon roll. Pumpkin apple cake.

Dinner Giant grilled mushroom, fetta and spinach on half a turkish bread.

Snack Rice pudding with pumpkin and date puree. Green tea.

Health
Skin - a few new small sore pimples
Bloating - less than yesterday
Water - good
Energy - a bit low - slump late afternoon
Back pain - minimal
Mood - good
Exercise - 1 hour strength training


Wednesday

Breakfast Homemade muesli with almond milk. Piccolo latte. Espresso.

Morning tea Half a cup of strawberries and blueberries. Green smoothie.

Lunch Greek salad with chickpeas

Afternoon tea Raw cinnamon roll. Rice pudding with pumpkin and date puree. Tea with milk.

Dinner Crumbed chicken and vegetables

Snack Pumpkin custard crumble with thick cream. Half a bag of rice crackers.

Health
Skin - a few more pimples around chin
Bloating - not really
Water - good
Energy - good
Back pain - minimal
Mood - good
Exercise - none



Thursday

Breakfast  2 slices Burgen bread with peanut butter. Cappuccino.

Morning tea Small Dare iced coffee (regretted buying this sugar laden crap immediately and threw half of it away). Apple pumpkin slice. Green smoothie.

Lunch Tomato sandwich on Burgen bread. Plain yoghurt with rhubarb puree.

Afternoon tea Tea with milk. Emma & Toms life bar.

Dinner Takeaway vegetarian pad thai

Snack Small handful of rice crackers. Pumpkin crumble with thick cream. 2 squares of organic dark chocolate.

Health
Skin - sore skin. New pimples on chin
Bloating - Late night after rice crackers
Water - good
Energy - slump in late afternoon. Perhaps not enough protein today?
Back pain - no
Mood - good
Exercise - 1 hour boxing / cardio session + 1 hour yoga stretch class. 



Friday

Breakfast  2 slices Burgen bread with peanut butter. Cappuccino.

Morning tea None

Lunch Leftover vegetarian pad thai. 2 squares dark chocolate.

Afternoon tea Apple pumpkin slice. Half a mango.

Dinner Grilled mushrooms with fetta. Half an avocado. Brown rice, chickpea and cranberry salad. Tiny serve of spinach and ricotta cannelloni. (A random mix... yes it was leftovers night LOL)

Snack 2 squares dark chocolate. Green tea. And half a failed recipe - cherry coconut coulis. Man, it tasted nasty.

Health
Skin - sore skin. oily.
Bloating - no
Water - ok
Energy - good
Back pain - no
Mood - good
Exercise - Just some housework



Saturday

Breakfast  1 slice Burgen bread with avocado. 2 scrambled eggs. Handful of blueberries.

Morning tea Cappuccino

Lunch 2 crab + avocado rice paper rolls.

Afternoon tea Piccolo latte.

Dinner Half a tomato, quarter avocado, beetroot, grilled mushrooms and spinach, small taste of leftover spinach and ricotta cannelloni, half a grilled cheese sandwich

Snack Plain yoghurt and rhubarb puree. 2 squares of dark chocolate.

Health
Skin - itchy, sore arms. sore chin spots.
Bloating - minimal.
Water - good
Energy - crappy post lunch. Slept for half an hour on Ty's bedroom floor.
Back pain - no
Mood - bit cranky
Exercise - 1.5km run


Sunday

Breakfast 2 slices banana bread with manuka honey and ricotta. Cappuccino. 

Lunch (at mum's house) 2 small white rolls with ham. Couscous salad. Antipasto. Tea with milk. Slice of banana cake with margarine. Tiny bowl of ice cream.

Afternoon tea Half a papaya

Dinner Brown rice, pomegranate, halloumi and mint salad. Half a piece of toast with parmesan cheese.

Snack A creme caramel dairy cup thing. Half a family block of fruit and nut chocolate. Small handful of tamari nuts. 

Health
Skin - shit. sore spots on arms, chest, chin. 
Bloating - some in the evening.
Water - good
Energy - low post-lunch. 
Back pain - a little this morning
Mood - cranky and impatient in the afternoon
Exercise - none




Monday

Breakfast 2 slices burgen bread with peanut butter. Cappuccino. 

Morning tea Banana. Espresso.

Lunch Salad made from chickpeas, spinach, orange, pomegranate, flaked almonds. Yoghurt with berries. 2 small date almond rolls.

Afternoon tea Banana chips. Ginger and lemon tea. Green smoothie.

Dinner Peanut butter roll. 1 corn thin with vegemite. Acai bar. 

Snack The other half of the family block of fruit and nut chocolate. Green tea. 

Health
Skin - not bad, drying out. Itchy arms. 
Bloating - some in the evening.
Water - good
Energy - good. 
Back pain - none
Mood - good
Exercise - set my alarm for a 5.30 run but couldn't face it. Sooo tired this morning. 



Tuesday

Breakfast 2 eggs, 1 slice burgen bread with peanut butter. Half an avocado. 2 cappuccinos. 

Lunch Greek salad with added chickpeas. Half a papaya

Afternoon tea Acai bar. Green smoothie.

Dinner Small serving of zucchini noodles with butter and pinenuts. Nut bar. Half a mango.

Snack Milo. 2 squares dark chocolate. A few slices of cheese and crackers. A creme caramel dairy cup. 

Health
Skin - getting better 
Bloating - no.
Water - good. Felt really dry at night. Sometimes my hands feel like an old lady's; despite drinking litres of water my palms are still extremely dry. 
Energy - good. 
Back pain - none
Mood - good
Exercise - 1 hour tabata workout



Wednesday

Breakfast Muesli with almond milk. Cappuccino.

Morning tea 2 small date almond rolls. Espresso. 3 corn thins.

Lunch Tomato and pasta soup with 2 slices burgen bread.

Afternoon tea Green smoothie. Bag of chips.

Late afternoon tea Muffin and cappuccino.

Late Dinner 2 sushi rolls, 4 small date almond rolls, handful of blueberries.

Health
Skin - getting better 
Bloating - no.
Water - good. 
Energy - good. 
Back pain - none
Mood - good
Exercise - none. Again, set my alarm to run but woke up exhausted and took the extra hour's sleep instead. 




Thursday

Breakfast 2 slices burgen bread with peanut butter. Cappuccino.

Morning tea Banana. Half a punnet of strawberries. 

Lunch Lean Cuisine spinach ricotta lasagne. Emma and Tom's life bar.

Afternoon tea Green smoothie. Yoghurt with rhubarb puree.

Dinner 1 vegetable sushi roll, piccolo.

Snack Yoghurt with rhubarb puree. Handful of mixed tamari nuts.

Health
Skin - dry and itchy 
Bloating - no.
Water - should have had more today 
Energy - good. 
Back pain - none
Mood - good
Exercise - 1 hour stretch class



Friday

Breakfast 2 slices burgen bread with peanut butter. Cappuccino.

Morning tea Piccolo and nut bread. 

Lunch Half an avocado, 1 roasted sweet potato, 2 scrambled eggs, strawberries and pomegranate.

Afternoon tea onwards..... Headed off to a special scrapbooking retreat with my sister in law Debbie. No recording this weekend, just relaxing and recharging. Had lots of coffee, one cocktail, 2 or 3 chocolates but mostly healthy meals - steamed veg, vegetarian wraps, cannelloni etc. Managed a morning walk with Deb around the resort, despite 2am bedtimes. Got home Sunday night and felt creatively recharged. A healthy dinner and early to bed.





Extra bits


A few links that might be a good jumping off point for your own journey if you are searching for answers about healing crappy skin (there were more but of course I didn't bookmark them... if I remember the rest I'll link them up later) :


The Natural New Age Mum talks about plastic, glass and the effects of BPA

Purely twins share a whole series of posts about healing acne

High on Clear Skin - Fran has some great information on hormonal fluctuations and how they manifest in our skin

Anna's Wild Yam Cream - I haven't tried this yet but I keep thinking about it. For $50 for a pot of cream I thought I might try some other avenues first, but by all accounts this stuff is awesome for various hormone issues.

Empowered Sustenance - Lauren has a few way-out ideas sometimes :) but there are a few good natural remedies here that could be worth a shot

The Wellness Mama shares a few tips for factors that affect acne

An article from the Huffington Post - Natasha Turner gives some food for thought on adult acne









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