Acne & Amenorrhea Update: When n=1 Isn’t Enough

It’s been a little while since I’ve done an update on the acne and amenorrhea situation, so I thought I’d take a little time this Monday morning to give you an update:

First things first, my little Candida experiment is on hold. Or, rather, I derailed it in a giant fire-ball of sugar-bingeing failure. However you want to look at it.

Here’s the thing: I’d been doing the Candida experiment for a few weeks before I posted about it on the blog. I was eating no sugar, including fruit, with the exception of some strawberries.

I was following the supplement protocols to a “T,” eating extremely low carb/high fat, and ditching fermented foods, kombucha, brewer’s yeast, and vinegar.

Time passed. Nothing changed.

More time passed. The acne persisted.

And then I went and chewed gum.

Probably not a good idea. It was sugar-free (sweetened with xylitol, which I know gives me digestive issues and often causes breakouts, so what was I doing purchasing it, but somehow there I was in the middle of New Leaf Market with my hand on my wallet and what do you know? I’m chewing gum), but it was enough to trigger a whole downward spiral that started with xylitol and ended with Dubble Bubble and three nectarines in one sitting.

I’m not doing the Candida cleanse right now, as you can probably assume.

kaila-prins-hormonal-acne

Angry at my acne. Post-sugar-binge.

I’m also feeling a little helpless, hopeless, and, frankly, angry. I’m angry for not being able to stick to this protocol, angry that the acne won’t go away no matter what I do (and my period won’t come back), angry that I starved myself into this situation in the first place.

But here’s the thing about anger: it can drag you down into the depressive depths of inaction and self-pity, or it can light a fire under your tailbone and force you into action.

And, in a completely uncharacteristic move (I’m blaming this blog and the work I’ve done on my own personal development), I let my anger light that fire, and I went out (in singed pants) in search of answers.

Now, here’s the thing: you guys may know that I’m a fan of the concept of “n=1,” that our bodies are not all cut from the same cloth, as it were–we each have bio-individual nuances (if I may coin a phrase) that make it possible for some people to chug raw milk while others can’t even look cross-eyed at a stick of butter.*

An n=1 experiment led me to figure out that the SLS in my toothpaste was causing my perioral dermatitis and that my overconsumption of apples led me to develop a food sensitivity that may have been contributing to my cystic acne.

Everyone from Jimmy Moore (of Livin La Vida Low Carb) to the “Average Joe Grok” on the Mark’s Daily Apple forums is on the n=1 train, and I think it’s a great way to start discovering more about and getting in touch with the way that your individual body works.

However.

There’s a point where n=1 really does become the loneliest number. There’s a point when the answers stop coming, and the experiments get more and more flamboyant, more and more desperate, more and more futile. When the supplements on your shelf rival in number the list of foods you’re restricting, changing, or limiting.

And at the end of my weekend of sugar-bingeing, when I lay on the couch feeling sick and tired, waiting for the inevitable tell-tale signs of a swollen jawline, T-Zone, and hairline, I realized that I just couldn’t do it on my own anymore.

As a future health coach, I recognize that there are times when we have to stop being stubbornly self-reliant, and instead seek counsel from those who can teach us what we need to know or guide us for a short while along the road on which we’re traveling in order to become self-reliant in the future.

I didn’t know how to read the roadmap of my body. I was guessing–desperately guessing–and doing a poor job of it.

So when I overheard a functional medicine doctor being interviewed on Jimmy Moore’s Ask the Low Carb Experts recently, I decided to take a risk and make a call.

I’ve only just gotten the results of my tests back, but I figured I’d share with you what we determined, so that, as I work on the healing protocol I can keep you updated:

First thing’s first: as I suspected, my thyroid is screwy. High reverse T3 and low free T3. That means that my body is not properly converting thyroid hormone.

I am also in stage 2 adrenal fatigue, which is probably better than I could have expected, given the amount of stress I’ve put my body under over the last 14 years, with the addition of how much mental stress I’ve been under at work.

For those of you not acquainted with adrenal fatigue, there are 3 stages (4, if you count “complete failure and potential death). In stage two, “anxiety starts to set in and the person becomes easily irritable. Insomnia becomes more common, as it takes longer to fall asleep and there are frequent awakenings as well. Infections become recurrent. PMS and menstrual irregularities surface and symptoms suggestive of hypothyroidism (such as a sensation of feeling cold and a sluggish metabolism) become prevalent.”

[source]

I’m also, apparently, very acidic (and before you tell me it’s because of the amount of meat I eat and that I need to remedy it by going back on a plant based diet, read this and this).  I have elevated liver enzymes (which runs in my family, so nothing to be alarmed about) and elevated phosphorus (which means I have to give up my addiction to carbonated water–bummer!).

We didn’t test the female hormones because, given the fact that I haven’t gotten my period in over a year, we know they’re off.

I did also have a potentially alarming imbalance of immune cells, so we’re going to do some fun blood and stool testing (yum, I know) to find out if I have any bacterial or fungal infections that might need to be addressed.

I’ve begun an adrenal support protocol, and I’ll be starting the female hormone support protocol next week when the supplements arrive. For now, that means DHEA, Pregnenalone, and a supplement called “Isocort” 3x per day and a specially formulated multi & omega 3 supplement at breakfast and lunch. Soon I’ll be adding in phytoprogesterone & phytoestrogen, as well as a few other supplements for balancing the acidity and the liver enzymes.

I’m also going to be working on de-stressing (epsom salt baths, practicing breathing, spending less time alone in my house worrying about work, etc.) and trying to get a little more sleep.

It’s frustrating because I know that I can’t afford to be seeing an out-of-network provider and spending tons of money on supplements right now; however, spending tons of money on expensive foods and supplements based on google searches and best-guesses wasn’t doing me any good before, so I’m probably better off spending my remaining funds this way.

kaila-prins-hormonal-acne-cortisol-protocol-week-one

After week one of my adrenal protocol. Over this.

The next few weeks are certainly going to be interesting, as I embark on yet another experiment to fix whatever damage I’ve done by letting ED control my life for the last 14 years. This time, however, I’m hopeful that the hypothesis is right, and that, because I’m not just guessing but working with someone who can support me with both testing and feedback, I’ll be able to share more positive results with you.

Stay hungry,

@MissSkinnyGenes

*Whatever that means. Sorry. I’m feeling punchy today, can you tell?

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13 thoughts on “Acne & Amenorrhea Update: When n=1 Isn’t Enough

  1. Good of you to seek help when your own experimentation wasn’t cutting it any more! I’m crossing my fingers you’ll see some positive results in the upcoming weeks!

  2. You should really try to give your body some carbs!
    Read “the perfect health diet” by paul jaminet!
    it helped me get my period back 🙂

    • It’s actually something I’ve considered…although I’ve added more fruit back in, and that’s been pretty disastrous…I am going to probably try more starchy veggies at some point… Thanks for the advice!

  3. Hugs!! I really hope this does the trick for you … you totally are overdue for a break in my opinion!! Sending a notice to the Universe to that effect right now.

  4. Hey kaila. It’s been a long time but I’ve been following your blog (brilliant by the way). Our stories in so many ways are identical. I’ve suffered with cystic acne too and lots of flare ups after turning 26. I recently went on a six week camping trip and only used dr bronners Castile soap on my face. I figured my face was already marked up pretty badly and bringing my Philip Roth fancy washes and astringents would be a waste in muddy water. Well a few days in my face cleared up dramatically. It’s been only two weeks but I felt I needed to share this with you since our flare ups and our diets seem so similar. I use two drops of the peppermint and three drops of the tea tree oil and my god my face is so clear. A few pimples here and there but not painful and the new ones dry up so fast. My skin and pores are also clearer than they’ve ever been. Try it out. From one desperate person to another !

    • Oh, what a great idea! I love the Dr. Bronner stuff–I use it as my bath soap, and they actually make the only leave in conditioner that doesn’t cause me to break out…I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks so much, Allison! And I’m sorry that you’ve had to struggle with the same situation. No one deserves the mental (and sometimes physical) anguish caused by adult acne. I’m glad that things are starting to clear up for you!

      Thanks again 🙂

    • I’m still just learning about it myself. Right now, I’m doing zero caffeine and taking Pregnenalone, DHEA, and something called Isocort.

      Adrenal fatigue is a hot, hot topic in the ancestral health community right now. Nora Gedgaudas did a great talk on it as a keynote at Paleo F(X) (http://therealpaleofx.com/shop/nora-gedgaudas). I’ll definitely keep you updated as I learn more about how it works (and how to reverse it!)

      • I know adrenal fatigue very well, as my poor adrenals have been on the road to recovery for some time after I completely burnt them out. Have never heard of the four stages though! I’m using AOR’s Ortho-Adapt and loving it! Thanks again for the info!

      • I’m sorry to hear you’ve been dealing with adrenal fatigue as well! It’s a pain in the rear, isn’t it? What is Ortho-Adapt & how did you find it? Are you working with anyone on your healing process or is it more a self-guided experiment?

      • I’m almost an official Holistic Nutritionist, so I’ve been creating my own protocols and have found that more helpful than when I was working with another Holistic Nutritionist. Nearly everyone at my school uses Ortho-Adapt (ha!), but it’s by AOR which is a great company. The supplement has adrenal cortex and tissue (from porcine), vitamin C, B5, licorice, siberian ginseng, rhodiola, and ashwagandha – all of which I’m super familiar with and I find work very well together! Overall though, I’ve found the most healing part of my journey has been lifestyle choices I’ve made. 🙂

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