In this post, I introduced you to my struggle with acne that started in my preteens and has persisted through my adult life. Next, I shared the link that I discovered between my acne and the consumption of dairy products. Today, I am going to offer “the rest of the story.” At least until my acne rages again and I have to go hunting for more clues about what’s going on with my skin.
After I cut dairy from my diet, my skin was better but by no means clear. I always, always “enjoyed” at least one cystic lesion, and often suffered from 3-4.
During the late summer and fall of 2010, my second child, whom I had been breastfeeding since her arrival in August 2008, started to cut back on her nursing sessions. The pregnancy-induced melasma that I had acquired while pregnant with her began to fade. And oh my sweet goodness, the acne appeared with a vengeance.
I developed horrible, horrible lesions all over my face. They were huge, angry and ever-present. It hurt to put my head on the pillow at night.
I used to eye teenage boys in the grocery store and compare my face to theirs. Usually, they came out ahead.
It was awful.
In addition to the horrific acne, I also experienced other odd symptoms as my daughter’s nursing scaled back. I was frequently dizzy and began experiencing what I eventually learned were hormonally-induced, asymmetrical optical migraines. I was also super, super emotional and sad. It was worse than my postpartum experience with her.
(In my opinion, people don’t talk enough about the side effects that can accompany weaning. But that’s another subject for another day!)
I spent hour after hour each night on acne.org, reading every anecdote and success story. I tried everything under the sun. I shelled out serious dough for every possible elixir. I scoured PubMed for the latest research.
In July of 2011 I made the choice to eliminate gluten and grains from my diet. I wasn’t so much trying to cure my acne problem as I was trying to improve my overall health. Truth be told, I had largely given up hope that anything would work beyond time and patience.
Not only was my face physically painful, my skin kept me from living life fully. I declined invitations to events and outings because the idea of trying to hide my reality just wore me down.
Sometimes my children would tell me they didn’t want to kiss my face because of the pimples.
Enter Chris Kresser. I was fortunate enough to get in as a patient with Chris just before he stopped taking new clients. In our first phone consultation, we talked about my skin and mapped out a plan of action as far as the tests he would run. At the end of our call, he told me that in the course of treating migraine patients he had discovered that many of them experienced clearer skin after adopting his anti-migraine diet. He emailed me a one-pager but you can read a bit about it in the transcript from a podcast with Robb Wolf on the subject of migraines. (Start at the top of page 4 for the relevant information.)
Chris advised elimination of foods high in tyramine, arginine and histamine. These include many foods I was already avoiding and some that I wasn’t. (Use google to explore these foods beyond what was mentioned in the podcast.)
Chris is a leading proponent of the “gut, skin, brain axis” hypothesis. He believes that “If you want to heal your skin you have to heal your gut.”
Intuitively, this made all sorts of sense to me. If the money and time I have spent on health and healing was in a pie chart, a disproportionate chunk of that pie would be allocated to my skin and my GI system.
So, I dedicated myself to healing my gut. That’s when I started consuming bone broth. I eliminated nightshades. I played with Chris’s migraine list. I changed up my probiotics.
To my astonishment, I discovered one of my worst acne triggers is bananas, a fruit I was eating nearly every day.
It’s been about nine months since I started working with Chris. My GI symptoms are gone. And while I still get a pimple or two every month, they are never as angry and ferocious as they used to be.
I’ve told Chris that he did more for me in that initial phone consultation than more than twenty years of dermatology appointments had accomplished. I believe he is on to something important with his work on the gut, brain, skin axis and I look forward to new information he uncovers. To learn more, you can visit this page on his website.
I’m curious if others have experienced a link between their acne and GI symptoms? What foods have you found to be your triggers?