As you may have witnessed in my last Trigger HAPPY Thursday video, I am still suffering from pretty horrific, scarring, hormonal acne. And since it’s been a while since I did an update on my acne situation–and since it ties in with the whole theme of sex, hormones, and the (lack of) monthly menstruation, I figured now would be a good time to revisit the issue.
When I did the acne update several months ago now, I had been on my ob/gyn’s suggested dose of estradiol for hormone replacement for a month. Estradiol, as you may recall, is an estrogen, and my body’s inability to produce enough of it has caused issues with my period, my thyroid, and my skin.
The doc had suggested a two month dose of daily estradiol, with 10 days of progesterone at the end of the two months to incite menstruation. At first, I was willing to try it, albeit hesitantly, because I was just so desperate to get my hormones back in check. But the more I thought about it, as nice as it was to be able to look in the mirror without cringing, I didn’t want to be dependent on synthetic hormones for the rest of my life.
And so I started doing research. Since I can’t afford a functional medicine doc right now, I turned to Doctor Google for answers. And while there’s a lot of bad advice floating around the internet, I was able to find some reputable sources for suggestions of “next steps.”
In terms of reputable sources, I started with Stefani Ruper’s PCOS Unlocked, because she writes not only about the traditionally accepted definitions of PCOS (which involve overweight and hirsutism), but also hypothalamic amenorrhea, which is most likely what I triggered with my ED and bad food choices after my confusing PCOS diagnosis in 2007.
I read Tracy of The Love Vitamin’s ebook, “Ultimate Secrets to Acne Freedom.” I also recently picked up Liz Wolfe of Cavegirl Eats’ “The Skintervention Guide.” I was already doing all of the diet recommendations–eating a real food, “Paleo”-style diet (and actually MUCH lower carb, since I’ve cut out almost all fructose consumption but for berries and the occasional GT’s kombucha)–and yet things didn’t seem to improve. So I stepped it up a notch.
First, I looked at natural hormone replacements. I added raw maca powder to my diet first. Maca is a root that has been used for centuries to boost energy and libido. It’s also a phytoestrogen that has been used to help regulate menstruation. At first, the results were amazing. After two weeks of a painful adjustment (stomach aches, crazy hormonal acne, etc.), I not only got my period back, but my skin seemed to at least calm down. But I was nervous about using another phytoestrogen, so I stopped taking it for a few weeks. When the acne got worse and I didn’t get my period the next month, I went back on the maca. Unfortunately, I have not seen the same results. The acne has remained the same and I’m still in the same hormonal situation as I was before I started.
I also took Liz Wolfe’s recommendation of visiting Dr. Ron’s, and purchased the Belle Femme supplements, which contain hormone regulating Chaste Tree, Dong Quai, Wild Yam, Black Cohosh, and Indole-3-Carbinol. I’ve only been taking the supplements for two weeks, so I don’t have any conclusive results to report as yet.
In addition to the hormone-regulating supplements, I’ve been using Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil, which is incredibly popular in the Paleo/Weston A. Price world. This blend is high in vitamins A, D, and K2, which have a number of beneficial properties, not least associated with acne and skin. For more info on all of Liz’s FCLO/BO recommendations, check out her article “WAP Me Pretty.” I also added Lewis Labs’ Brewers Yeast* to my daily cup of homemade bone broth (with Pacific Wakame, for iodine!). The yeast is great for added chromium, which helps regulate insulin, a name we hear tossed around a lot in relation to diabetes, but which also has a relation to acne. In addition, the yeast contains protein and vitamin B12, which has been shown to be beneficial to skin, hair, and nails. The bone broth is rich in collagen, which supports skin–and the digestive tract. And there’s a strong correlation between gut health and acne, if you can believe that. (If not, go read basically everything on Chris Kresser’s site, and then you’ll understand what I mean…)
Of course, I didn’t do all of this at once–I’ve been slowly adapting my diet over the last several months, seeing what works, what doesn’t, what helps, and what hurts. I’ve also changed my skin care routine, which I’ll talk about next week so as not to overload you all with a ridiculous amount of information in one post. (If you’ve read this far, I commend you! I seriously need to learn how to edit myself…)
All of that said, my skin has not cleared up and my period has not come back. For the last several weeks, I’ve been on the brink of despair…as I mentioned in the Trigger HAPPY video, there are days when I’m embarrassed to leave the house because of how bad I perceive my looks. But what’s stopped me from just giving up or falling into a depression was the realization:
I spent thirteen years starving my body of the nutrients it needed and feeding it hormones and chemicals that have caused all kinds of damage. Thirteen years of treating myself badly, and I’m getting upset about not seeing changes in ten months. I am being unfair to myself by expecting to heal the wounds I’ve inflicted overnight. I am being unfair to myself by letting impatience cause me more stress–and stress ups my cortisol, which is also a contributor to the acne problem.
As hard as it is, I have to take a deep breath and stick with my healing regimen. I am strong enough to keep the commitments I’ve made to fighting ED in all of his forms, from scarring thoughts to scarring acne. I am strong enough to have patience.
Tell me–those of you who are suffering from acne, amenorrhea, low thyroid or estrogen–what have you done to work toward healing yourself? Have you tried any natural hormone cures? If so, what were the results? I’m curious–and your comments don’t just help me, but everyone reading this blog who is in the same or a similar position!
I’ll be back next week with my natural skin care routine and more updates!
*Recommended by Liz Wolfe, because it’s not grown on hops like most nutritional yeast products. Nutritional yeast, or “nooch” to many in the vegan/health blogger community, is a cheese substitute–not for its consistency, but because it imparts a cheesy flavor to dishes. This makes it great for both vegans AND Paleo people (as well as those with any sort of lactose intolerance), and it adds a flavor dimension without causing gastric distress!Note: many of the products I’ve linked to are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase, I do get a very small percentage of the sales. This will help keep the Skinny Genes blog ad-free!