Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Acne Story - 30 Years Before I Discovered Diet Would Clear My Skin

It just occurred to me that I should tell you about myself.   So, here goes.  I began getting acne at age 10. Fifth Grade. Just when kids are starting to enter their mean phase. It began on my forehead as teen acne often does. To the best of my recollection and a few photos, it was pretty inflamed probably because I picked at it.  I wasn't taken to a dermatologist until my later teens when I began the antibiotics and harsh topicals that never helped.   Prior to that my mother thought I just needed to wash my face. My skin was grotesquely oily.  I'd feel like my skin was melting before the end of the school day.  I began getting it all over my face, chest, back, upper arms, neck.  So for about 10 years, I saw various dermatologists who gave me various antibiotics and topicals none of which ever helped. Finally I tried accutane, but two courses also did nothing except give me chapped lips.  So I mostly gave up for many years after that.

When I was about 25, I had a coworker who had perfect skin except for occasional nodules on her chin. One day she pointed them out saying she 'had two big glasses of orange juice at breakfasts his weekend and look at my skin!!'  I had been having oranges everyday as an afternoon snack and my skin had gotten worse.   So I avoided oranges and most other citrus and the vast majority of my giant inflamed nodules went away.  It would be many more years before I would figure out that while I could have lemons and Persian limes, I was intolerant to key limes which I randomly bought and so I had nodules off and on.  And I still had grotesquely oily skin and other forms of acne on my face, chest and back.  Oh, and then I developed rosacea in my late 20s.

Note: Nodules, along with cysts, are considered the two most severe, disfiguring forms of acne. Big, red and slow to heal.  I usually refer to them both as cysts as people are more familiar with that term, but technically I got nodules which unlike cysts, don't contain pus.

Also Note:  I am not suggesting that oranges cause acne in everyone and that everyone should avoid them.  But it is fairly common to be allergic to citrus and it's something you might test for yourself. I have encountered quite a few others that also break out in cysts or nodules from citrus. And in fact, I have a suspicion that this type of acne is a reaction to some kind of food or perhaps environmental intolerance and not true acne at all. Especially if they appear in the same part of your face or body over and over.  Remind me to explain to you about delayed type allergic response and the various antibodies involved in your immune response besides those that cause the immediate reactions most people are familiar with and all most allergists are concerned about. 

Also, Just so you know, the citrus caused nodules primarily all along my hairline, jawline and neck, but I also got them elsewhere and have the scars to prove it. I think different citrus cause my acne in different places. When I tried having a tangerine a couple of years ago, I got one on my scar covered temples and I hadn't had a pimple there in many years.  (Your temples scar easily)

Then, nearing my 40th birthday, and shortly after my now ex-husband was diagnosed with diabetes, I started learning about diet and the post prandial affects of a high glycemic meal and the importance of various nutrients.  And I just 'got' that we can not be eating this way.  If we hadn't invented added sugar and refined carbs, we would almost never elevate our insulin the way the typical American does today.  The Standard American Diet aka SAD diet has become incredibly bad and is the root cause of most of the degenerative diseases that have become some of the fasted spreading diseases in history.  And they are self inflicted.

So, despite being a Coke-aholic, I quit drinking it and any other sugary drink cold turkey and began improving my diet, removing empty calories in favor of the most nutrient dense foods.  My skin cleared completely in less than two months!!  It was only after this that I could make the key lime connection. Still, the nodules I got from the key limes were much smaller, much less inflamed and much faster to heal due to my anti-inflammatory and nutrient rich diet habits.  And as a bonus, this diet also keeps my rosacea under control.

I now don't follow a perfect diet. Just a mostly very, very good diet.  I cheat pretty often, daily in fact. But most of my meals are very nutrient rich and low glycemic.  The only thing I'm strict about is never drinking sugar.  And I keep my skin clear most of the time and my skin is now just on the slightly oily side and glowing.

(Remind me to also tell you about sebum quality that makes the difference between sebum that protects skin and makes it glow versus sebum that looks greasy and clogs pores.)

Be sure to see my prior posts about anti-inflammatory diets, the damage caused by excess sugar, and my basic How to eat for clear skin.

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