Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ok Lets Talk Skin! New Book to Recommend: The Clear Skin Diet!


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)!
Of course it has caused me significant distress to look in the mirror every day (I think I was driving my husband crazy as I pointed out every new spot that cropped up!  His favorite phrase was: "welcome to my teenage years honey.")

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, 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!   

Coming Up:
  • 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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  1. It is amazing how much food affects the rest of our bodies. I mean, it seems obvious to me now, but before plant-based life I didn't think about a connection. I'm glad that you've been able to narrow it down. I'm betting that Julieanna Hever's new "Gluten Free" cookbook would be a great resource.

    I have actually been toying around with making a soy-free tofu.....I don't know if you ate a lot of tofu, but maybe this could be used instead? I was thinking about it because it is cheaper and I could just make it at home. The problem is that it seems to be a long-drawn out process.

    Also, you probably already know this, but the other day I learned there is gluten-free gluten. So in theory I could make gluten-free seitan. Crazy.

    1. @Meridith--I totally have to check out Julieanna Hever's new book! I didn't even know she did a "Gluten-Free Vegan" cookbook! Thanks so much for suggesting that! Yes I cannot believe that we can make (or buy for that matter) gluten-free seitan! I saw that in a Happy Herbivore Q&A post last week I think and was shocked/excited?!

      And wow--I checked out that ehow link for the "soy-free tofu" and I think you had me at the "it seems to be a long-drawn out process"--I think that it may be too long and complex for my culinary skills! I think I'd have to figure out this "cheesecloth" thing and where to buy one! That said--it sounds like such a great idea to to make "tofu" from chickpea flour--I wonder if this exists as something I could buy? I saw on the Happy Herbivore post on soy sauce today that there is this chickpea miso tamari that is soy free, so maybe there is some chickpea tofu out there too! Thank you for sharing this idea with me--if you make it let me know because #1: I will be massively impressed & #2 I want to know how it tastes!! Thanks!! :-)

  2. Hi there,

    We live in the UK, we eat a mainly vegan diet & have done for over 20 years, though for some time now - we've eaten eggs & occasionally cheese when eating out.

    We became meat free at a time when soya products were not around (in the UK anyway) & so have always been big into pulses. We do eat soya sausages occasionally & drink soya milk, but we try to alternate & vary our diet, so we drink nut & rice milks too. Any soya/tofu we do have has always got to be from a good, quality, organic source & we use it sparingly.

    We use hemp oil as a moisturiser & also take a tablespoon a day of that or flax oil.

    There's always room for tweaking here & there - Our next step is to include more raw juices in our diet...

    Kay :)

    1. @ Kay--thank you so much for sharing!! Good for you practicing the primarily vegan diet for 20 years--that is fantastic! I love all the things you shared about your food practices! I lived in the UK for a period during grad school (maybe 10+ years ago) and I agree, there wasn't a huge soya presence then either! Quick clarification--you said that "we've always been big into pulses"--is a pulse a food product? I'm not familiar with that! On the raw juices--my husband is big into that and loves it--his only advice is that if you use a strong tasting green like swiss chard make sure you add a lot of sweet fruit like pears to balance it out! Had a bit of a bad tasting disaster this week -)

    2. Hi Cat,

      In the UK we call legumes (beans, peas & lentils) pulses!

      We've been juicing for years too, but not everyday these days... Apples & pineapple are good with strong vegetables. We have some of Jason Vale's books - do you know him? He's a British guy who has some great juice recipe ideas.

      I'd like to get back to at least 1 juice a day & have had an interest in raw food & macrobiotics since the early 90s, but have just dabbled...

      Enjoy reading your blog - very inspiring!

      Kay :)

    3. Thanks Kay for defining pulses!! I find it a bit hilarious that I didn't know what that word was even though my best friend of over 25 years is British AND I lived there! I guess it is VERY obvious that I wasn't eating any nutrient dense foods when I lived there 10+ years ago--I was very active in my disease then and am sure that I had no idea what lentils were!:-)

      I'm not familiar with the Jason Vale book but I'll definitely pass that on to my husband--he's been very inspired by the documentary "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead" which features juicing.

      Dabbling is always fun--I don't know about you but there is SO much to learn about nutrition!! It feels like the way I felt in med school--no matter how much I studied I would never know everything about medicine! Same thing with nutrition!

      Thank you very much for the compliment! It inspires me to hear positive feedback from readers--really makes me feel like what I'm doing is helpful. Thank you!! :-))

  3. I lived in Japan for 13 years and my Japanese homestay mother told me to always wash my face with ice cold water. That was 25 years ago and I've always washed my face that way, and my skin seems pretty good. Fewer wrinkles than most folks my age!

    1. @Sara--love it! That is so funny--we recently moved into an older house and our bathroom has separate faucets for Hot & Cold (very British @Kay :-)) but our "Hot" faucet doesn't exactly work very well so pretty much I've been washing my face with lots of icy cold water for months now!! Maybe I should stop complaining to my husband about it because it sounds like the ice cold water might be just perfect to continue :-) Thanks for sharing!

  4. very, very interesting Kat! I'm going out tonight and looking forward to a seaweed salad . . .

    1. @Wendy--thanks! Isn't it cool to discover how much our body responds to things! Very jealous of your seaweed salad plans :-) Hope it was yummy! :-) Thanks for commenting!

  5. I love soy and even made my own tofu until I realized soy was the last key to my skin and digestion problems. I not only got worse exzema; I got severe swelling of my abdomen and vomiting. I am seriously OK with no soy (or animal products or sugar or gluten or oils or or or) now after a couple weeks into it. BTW-I have oodles of recipes that fit your specifications. Email me if you want some. Chia seeds are easier to eat than flax. I sprinkle them on lots of things especially salads. I also put 1T. flax seeds in my green smoothie and don't taste it them all. They disappear into all the blended stuff. Flax oil doesn't have the lignans (I think that's the right word) that flax seeds have so are not as protective against cancers.

    1. @Ginger--ok I am totally emailing you this weekend when I start my food planning for the week! So exciting to have recipe options!!! Thank you!!!! Thank you for sharing about your eczema and the awful GI effects as well--its really important for me to know about the possible clinical side effects of these foods so I appreciate it! I just bought some chia seeds at the store b/c Debby (the Healthy Librarian) and I were talking and she recommended them since I wasn't as big a fan of flax! Thanks for sharing your techniques with the flaxseed--maybe I'll give it a go with some green juice my husband makes! And yes, you were on track with the flax oil--the "ligands" are not present in it so it is not good for preventing cancer!

    2. Hey Ginger! Could you give me your email address or email me at I'd love to get those recipes!!!:-) I can't find your email on either of your blogs or your profile but I'm probably looking in the wrong spot!!

  6. I receive many comments on how nice my skin is. I am vegan and eat very little soy only in the form of tofu or tempeh - maybe once a week - as I noticed it has started giving me gas. I grind my flax seeds and my chia seed and have been whisking them into a small glass of almond milk each morning, which I really enjoy. Or I mix them into a green smoothie. I am interested in learning which products the dermatologist recommended to you, please! In my mid 50s, I will take any help I can get to keep my skin looking younger! Thanks, I enjoy your blog!

    1. @JanetN--First of all--thanks so much for your compliment about the blog! It is always so lovely to get positive feedback so thank you! I'm happy you are here! I'm glad you grind your flaxseed fresh--from what I've read it is much more potent when ground fresh compared to flaxseed meal (even refrigerated meal). I'm going to take your and Ginger's advice to mix it in a green juice--but I think I'll try the chia seed first!

      As far as the skin products are concerned (and of course my medical disclaimer applies because I'm obviously not a dermatologist!) but this is what he recommended:

      1) wash with PanOxyl-4 (its pretty harsh and dries out the skin---I needed to work up to doing it daily, I wouldn't use it if I didn't have these spots!)
      2) lotion to face and neck with "CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion" (I'm using the "PM" b/c the "AM" version has sunscreen in it and my eyes are really sensitive to sunscreen so the only kind I use in summer is "Water Babies" if you can believe that! So I didn't choose the "AM" one.) My face feels so nice and soft with this stuff!
      3) lotion to body with "Cetaphil Restoraderm"--awesome lotion--its Cetaphil but a much stronger "prescription-strength" version!

      1) Take off makeup and wash face with "CeraVe Gentle Hydrating Cleanser"
      2) Apply "NeoStrata 15AHA Creme plus Glycolic Formulation"--this stuff is pretty well known as being a really good anti-aging lotion (or so I've read!), its also supposed to even out skin tone. I like it :-)
      3) More Cetaphil Restoraderm to the body! Hope that is helpful! :

  7. Thank you everyone for your awesome comments! I want to continue this discussion but can't seem to load my page to leave comments on my lunch hour (annoying!!) and my little thumbs are going to give out on me typing on the iPhone! So I'm going to have to wait until I get home tonight to reply!! So sorry! Can't wait to respond then!

  8. Wanted to add:
    I heard in a German vegan forum that some people reacted to cyanocobalmin with some sort of acne. No problems were reported when people took their B12 as methylcobalamin.

    I have no problem with my skin and I eat a lot of soy in the form of soymilk (mornings as base of my buckwheat porridge) and tofu on a near daily basis.
    This at least seems to be something I can tolerate. (But no gluten of any kind...)
    Linseed I take 2 tablespoons in my morning porridge but I bought some algae DHA as well after reading in HHLL. This is really very expensive but I thought it might be worth the money.

  9. Oh Silvia thanks so much for passing on those data on B12--I'll have to check that out!

    Two questions for you: 1) How do you make buckwheat porridge? That sounds delicious!! 2) What brand of algae DHA did you buy? I ended up going to Dr. Fuhrman's site and buying there. It is VERY pricy!

    Thanks!! :-)

  10. I bought Omega-3 DHA of a brand called Vitality. In Germany there seem to be different brands available and they are really difficult to find.
    I couldn't find any of those talked about on HHLL's Facebook. But I think originally mine is American: Life's DHA.

    For Breakfast I take simply rolled buckwheat and boil it in soymilk with a little cinnamon and 1 tablespoon precooked Urid Dal or Moong Dal (I found that I have to watch my protein probably because I am underweight). Sometimes I put millet flakes in as well but I prefer the tase of buckwheat. (It needs only a few minutes. It is very quick breakfast).
    If in season I put in an apple and always I grind 2 tablespoons linseed (small blender) and put them in after cooking. I don't know if porridge is the right word for what I do but I didn't know what to call it.

    1. Fantastic--thanks for sharing that with me Silvia! I really like this buckwheat idea and am going to try to track down some for me!! Porridge sounds like the perfect word to describe it! Thanks! :-)

  11. It's now the end of March and I'm wondering how your complexion is today. I started taking Deva algal DHA and my face broke out horribly. At least, I think that's why it happened. I did stop taking it and my face has improved, though not 100% (I'm 47, by the way). Are you still taking Dr. Fuhrman's DHA Purity or have you switched back to fish (not algae) oil? Are you consuming flaxseed meal and/or chia every day? Thanks, Lori


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