I was blessed with zit-free skin until I turned 21, and then it seemed, all hell broke lose. My GP put it down to my hormones, and my Dermatoligist, stress. In so many ways, I have to agree with my Dermatologist, what, with attempting to recover from an eating disorder that had consumed the better part of my teenage years and early adult-hood and then being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis amoungst other general life anxieties, I was struggling, and evidently it was showing in my skin.
I tried everything over the space of about twelve months to improve my acne. Organic, vegan, natural skin care, supplements, facial oils, more moisturiser, less moisturiser, no moisturiser, cotton pillow casing, endless cleaners and toners and then when those failed, I was desperate enough to try prescribed topical treatments and also various strong anti-biotics from my GP, which also happened to fail.
The stress of being stressed over my acne and ever-diminishing self-confidence certainly wasn’t helping…my skin. In February this year, my physical symptoms started to become progressively worse. I was experiencing almost constant and worsening neuropathic pain, limb weakness, parasthesia, and I was constantly exhuasted. It was at that point that I decided I needed to focus more on my physical health and the process of reducing chronic-inflammation and less on my appearence, and it was only then that my acne started to improve.
Multiple Sclerosis, is described an inflammatory demyelinating condition and my worsening symptoms, along with my (also worsening) ance, indicated to me that I needed to do something to reduce the inflammation in my body in order to help/heal either one of these two chronic conditions.
Despite being vegan, I did still consume a large proportion of “processed” and highly acidic foods which Im now sure were contributing to both my worsening physical symptoms and painful acne. I didn’t know this at the time, but my (what I thought at the time) was an innocent Soy Flat White from Starbucks each day was actually highly processed and making me sick. That, along with multiple packets of (also processed) vegan snacks, a quick vegan “cheeze” sandwich for lunch, a soy latte late afternoon, and perhaps some grilled tofu or soy burgers for dinner…well, my body was just swimming in toxin overload.
Vegan or not, too many processed foods can cause toxin overload which in turn, causes acidity overload which creates an environment in the body in which allergens and disease can flourish. Our digestive tract naturally tries to balance out the mixture of things we consume, but the problem is that too much of what we eat is potentially acid-forming.
So, you might be wondering, what changes have I made to both improve my physical health and cure my acne?
1. I’ve (almost) quit coffee – Im a gal who used to be obsessed with the stuff. Im talking 8-12 cups a day at least, including at least two large soy flat whites from one of my favourite cafe’s depending on where I was going that day. I loved them. Today, I drink more nourishing green and herbal teas from my favourite tea company. Coffee is now a weekend treat for me, and although I miss it hugely, I’m certainly not missing the acid reflux, and excessive beltching that used to come along with my plethoric coffee consumption (TMI!)
2. Nut milks – Yes, not only did I consume soy milks in my coffee, but they went into my oatmeal and smoothies at breakfast time too. Now, I make my own nut milks using a similar process to this. I make a batch on a Sunday and again mid-week to have on hand. Its such a simple and easy process and the home-made stuff tastes so much more delicious than processed soy milk in a carton!
3. I make all my meals from scratch with unprocessed plant based ingredients – Like, everything. I do a weekly food shop typically on a Sunday, buying organic fruit and vegetables where possible, and batch cook for the week ahead. I no longer buy processed vegan substitutes such as Cheezly, marinated tofu, processed vegan snacks, and meat free substitutes, instead, I make my own. There are however, occasions when Im not able to make my own food or when I’m eating out with friends or family and thats fine! If I’m grabbing a snack on the go, I just make sure it’s as minamilly processed as possible.
4. I regularly eat fermented foods – The combination between my former eating disorder and my excessive daily coffee consumption meant I was suffering daily digestive discomfort – another sign of chronic inflammation. To improve the balance between the beneficial bacteria and disease-causing bacteria that exist naturally in the digestive system, one of the most effective ways (as well as eliminating coffee of course!), is by eating foods that are high in beneficial bacteria (probiotics) – specifically fermented foods. There are a number of fermented, inflammation-fighting foods out there, but a few of my favorites are: sauerkraut, tempeh, kefir made from coconut milk, kombucha, and miso.
5. I Keep hydrated – This goes back to my first point. These days I make a point of having water on hand and sipping it throughout the day and instead of taking endless coffee breaks, that way I’m keeping my body adequately and reguarly hydrated. And, well, I’m sure you all how important drinking water is for your skin (and brain!).
5. I Eat Mindfully – This is such a simple one, but sometthing that not only massively improved my digestion, but has also helped me to relax, enjoy and appreciate the food thats infront of me.
To learn more about the importance of the acid-alkaline balance through diet as a way of reducing inflammation in the body, I highly reccommend this book.