Ok so I've been having some issues with my skin that began a few months into my change to going strictly vegan! This perplexed me because I heard from so many others that the vegan thing has been wonderful for skin! But since early November, my previously pretty perfect skin (and yes, this is my one vanity--first of all its genetic so I didn't do anything special and second of all it was the only thing I could really feel pretty about when I was obese so indulge me!!) broke out into spots that my new dermatologist calls "folliculitis" or irritation of the hair follicles. It looks like teenage acne but it isn't.
|After (this past month)!|
Anyways, so when this all happened I started trying to figure out where I went wrong. Nothing major in my life had changed--I had the usual stressors with work and family members being ill but this was normal for me. So I started looking at what I ate. The only new food that I can ascertain that I added in a major way in early November was that we went from eating soy maybe once every few months to soy everyday. And before you point out the obvious--yes I know that I also eliminated animal products, but dairy and other meats are known to be a huge pro-inflammatory agent that cause skin issues so I really don't think the animal-free diet was the cause. With this in mind, as a first step I eliminated soy.
I have to be honest and share that this soy elimination has really, really upset me. My dietary program is already quite restrictive in many ways--no sugar, no gluten, vegan....so to add soy to it too! Argh!! But I'm attempting to embrace a new cooking opportunity (trying to stay positive here!), so I'm searching out non-soy recipes. So let me know if you all have any low-fat/no-fat non-soy, gluten-free, sugar-free recipes please? Much appreciated :-)
Anyways, back to the skin problem. With the elimination of soy I did notice that my skin started to improve. But it was still not back to normal. So I bit the bullet and went to my first dermatology appointment. And there, I really hit the jackpot. I expected a very traditional doc as I knew he had a military background and was well over the age of 70 but much to my surprise, within the first two minutes of the visit he started talking nutrition!! And then he actually complimented me on my dietary choices. Whaaaat? I know, you are all shocked here but he actually liked the vegan thing and the gluten-free thing and the sugar-free thing.
Full disclosure, he wasn't 100% on board with my soy theory--mostly he thought it was likely not a true allergen but more like a "trigger" for beginning eczema (which is what he described my spots as!). And of course now my skin bumps were infected (helllo work in health care, land of disease!) and so I needed oral antibiotics on top of everything else! He also gave me an excellent skin product regimen which I'm happy to share with all of you if you would like. I say excellent because its been less than a week since the appointment and my skin is nearly completely clear (of course I also haven't had any soy for 2 1/2 weeks so I can't give the products all the credit but my skin certainly feels really nice!):-)
Soy Free, Omega-3 rich,
Dermatology Products & Antibiotics
Back to what he said about nutrition. You all know I'm a fan of food-based treatment so isolating a soy allergy or "trigger" was not enough in my book. I started wondering why I, with my anti-inflammatory diet, had developed a completely inflammatory disease (eczema)! I have a strong family history of eczema so this diagnosis actually wasn't all this surprising but hearing that it was a potential diagnosis brought me back to reflect on whether I had made the right anti-inflammatory food choices. Remember my list in my post HERE?
I found the answer in a book my dermatologist recommended: The Clear Skin Diet by Dr. Alan Logan (ND) and Dr. Valori Treloar (MD). I'm not finished reading it yet but I can tell you that from what I've read so far it is AMAZING!!! It definitively demonstrates that diet DOES have a major impact on skin AND also reinforces my assertion that the reason most physicians don't prescribe nutritional treatments is that we are generally not educated in nutrition at all & therefore are very skeptical of data supportive of nutritive cures! Don't get me started on the need to change medical education or else this post will be ridiculously long! Suffice to say (and I'll write more about this in a second post because this one is getting too long), Drs Logan and Treloar give some fantastic advice.
From what I can tell so far, my main issue appears to be a omega-3 deficiency. This makes sense to me because the only other major change in my diet except for the soy was dropping my fish oil daily in favor of flaxseed meal! Despite my own advice, I obviously wasn't loving the flaxseed meal (I ate it VERY inconsistently) so I have started to search out other plant-based omega-3 sources (in the meantime I'm back to fish oil daily).
I do still strongly believe soy is at the root of this as well because it IS considered an inflammatory food for some, so I'm going to continue to eliminate it for another month & then start a few gentle food challenges to see if it really does have an impact. But for the omega-3 issue I'm going to start taking The Healthy Librarian's advice and try a seaweed-based omega-3 supplement with DHA (good for the brain). In the meantime, I'm going to keep reading this book!
I'll end with Drs Logan and Treloar's assessment of what the native Japanese & other ethnic groups with gorgeous clear skin eat (and we should too!). From p.163 of , ethinic groups with beautiful skin eat:
1. Less processed foods (my side note: this can be a vegan problem too--a lot of the "fake meats" are very processed)
2. More colorful antioxidants
3. Greater intake of omega-3 fatty acids
4. Fewer foods capable of spiking blood sugar
5. More fiber
Sounds pretty darn good to me! Tune in to my next post on skin to get Drs Logan and Treloar's list of the highest antioxidant-rich foods that feed your skin and the doctors' advice on the specific types of food to embrace to have clear, healthy skin!
- Treating Pain with Food--more thoughts
- Foods That Make You Feel Good (A New Series Featuring Individual Foods & Their Nutrient Power)
Coming Up on Medical System Tuesdays:
- A Toolbox for Health: Communicating with Your Doctor (Part 2)!
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