When I started this blog; I was adamant that I was going to find the answer to all my skin problems through changing my diet.
Most of my inspiration had come from the people who I followed on instagram who suffered with skin disorders and in some cases life threatening illnesses. They wrote about how their lives completely changed when they started eating a raw, plant based diet and within months removed disease and regained optimum health.
Although I wasn’t ready to commit to a raw, vegan lifestyle just yet; I was incredibly interested to learn more about food and how it can heal our bodies.
For a long time I researched nutrition; convinced that this was the next chapter of my career in the health and beauty industry. But there was something stopping me from clicking ‘enrol now!’ My GUT.
I knew this wasn’t quite what I was looking for. It wasn’t specific enough. I then looked into naturopathy and realised this was more up my street, so naturally I started talking excitedly to my friends to tell them what I had discovered.
Thankfully, my friend Helen had heard about it and recommended I look into the naturopathic doctor that was on everyone lips; Dr. Nigma Talib.
After a bit more research and deliberation about whether I could afford the cost of the consultation; I booked an appointment. I had to remind myself that it was an investment and without sounding like I was in a L’Oréal television commercial, I didn’t need to justify spending the money:
because I’m worth it.
Since taking antibiotics for my acne when I was fifteen, I have always struggled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and as I get older; I believe the cause of my acne is due to poor gut health.
In anticipation of my appointment, I continued my research so that I could start the process of healing my bowel. I introduced more probiotic rich food like miso and live yoghurt to my diet and later stopped eating sugar completely.
After seeing some improvement; it validated that I was doing the right thing by seeing Dr. Nigma.
As my appointment was edging nearer I started to read Nigma’s book “Reverse the signs of ageing”. Don’t be deceived by the title! She talks a lot about how inflammation and “dirty hormones” can trigger premature ageing but she also talks about how it can effect skin disorders like acne too.
Reading her book was the final confirmation I needed. I knew I was on the right track to healing my acne from within.
During my research I had heard a lot of stories about people being allergic to certain foods which caused them to have cystic acne. I asked Dr. Nigma if this was something she could test me for but because I had already eliminated some foods from my diet; the test would not give accurate results.
Cursing my proactivity, I asked if I could take the test after returning to my normal diet; which meant I had to go back to eating dairy and sugar for two weeks before being able to give a sample.
In addition to the food allergy test, I was given a comprehensive parasitology test to assess my gut flora; which you guessed it… means crapping in a pot. (Three times!)
Initially I felt slightly deflated after the consultation because I was expecting a bit more razzle-dazzle for the price. Dr. Nigma spent most of the time looking at the computer screen and didn’t spend any of the time assessing my skin up close. Trying not to feel too disappointed I later reasoned that it was just the beginning to finding the solution and I couldn’t expect to find out any answers yet.
Returning to my old diet for the sake of my allergy test made it really hard to go back to eating consciously again. But I had done it before, so I knew I could do it again. It was just a case of when!
Over a month later, it was time to call Dr. Nigma and find out the results of my stool sample and blood test. I was desperate for any information as my IBS and breakouts had really taken a turn for the worse over the last couple of weeks.
After having quite a underwhelming feeling about the consultation, I was really hoping that I would feel better about my ‘investment’ after seeing the results.
Now that I have seen them, I can say wholeheartedly it was worth the process. I am still in shock about the amount of food intolerances I have. It is no wonder that in all the years I have had IBS and acne, I have never been able to pinpoint what foods cause my flareups- because I eat a variety of most of them everyday.
Grains and Starches
- Gluten (obviously)
- Buckwheat (oh great, my no gluten alternative!)
- Kale (wait, what?!)
- Lettuce (it’s just water!)
- Potato ( I can’t even…)
- Radish (meh.)
Legumes and Pulses
(I didn’t know why peanut was hanging out in that category either, so I asked CK and he told me peanuts aren’t classed as nuts as they grow in the ground!)
Dairy and Egg
- Blue Cheese
- Cheddar Cheese
- Cottage Cheese
- Egg White
- Egg Yolk
- Cow’s Milk
- Goat’s Milk
- Sheep’s Milk
- Mozzarella Cheese
- Swiss Cheese
(dairy and eggs were my most highly reactive results. I’m completely disappointed but feel that I can easily avoid them.)
- Banana (but I’m ‘Joanna the banana‘…)
- Coconut (NO!)
- Pineapple (I knew that one!)
Nuts, Seeds and Oils
- Almond (but I’m no dairy!!)
- Sunflower Seed
Herbs, Spices and Flavourings
(my three favourites!)
At this point I should mention meat, fish and some beverages were also tested which I didn’t test positively for.
Despite feeling completely overwhelmed by this information alone, I do feel optimistic that if I cut out these foods, I could start feeling more energetic and see my skin getting visibly clearer.
I just need a mourning period about not being able to eat basil and mozzarella pizzas anymore.
There were only two things to note in my terms of my gut health.
- There was no Lactobacillus (beneficial bacteria) present AT ALL.
- I had additional bacteria that shouldn’t be present called: Klebsiella pneumoniae
I couldn’t believe I had no good bacteria present in my gut and in a strange way I feel kind of sad about it. I’m sad that my gut is so unhappy. And in addition to me eating so much food that I am intolerant to, I’m surprised I don’t have more wrong with me than just acne and IBS; when you consider our gut health effects nearly every system in our body.
BUT I believe that if I can restore my gut health; I might not have so many food intolerances and this lack of bacteria has most likely lead to my sensitivities.
So how did I wind up with no good bacteria?! Well, Dr. Nigma said there can be a whole host of reasons but in my case it is more likely to be due to stress and/or antibiotics.
No real major shock there. Stress seems to be at the root of every problem.
But I am upset to hear that potentially the antibiotics I took to clear my skin when I was fifteen; could now be the cause of my acne and IBS. (Que. Alanis Morissette)
If you are interested in learning more about gut health; have a listen to this podcast by Dr Megan Rossi or check out this video by Giulia Enders.
First on the agenda is to detox my gut of klebsiella pneumoniae, Nigma recommended a three month course of Viracin Plant Tannin which is free from milk, nut & peanut and egg.
To help restore my healthy gut bacteria and overall skin health Dr. Nigma has recommended me two of her own branded products: Healthy Flora and Immortal Skin.
In addition to this Dr. Nigma recommended that I have a course of her IPL treatments. Unfortunately as I do not live in the U.K. or L.A where both of her clinics are located, I was unable to schedule this part of the treatment, however I do believe tackling acne from all angles is best for results.
Unfortunately after waiting over a month for the Viracin to arrive; it was established that Dr. Nigma had supplier issues and the supplements had never been sent.
At this point I decided to continue my treatment alone as I felt the phone consultations at £250 per thirty minutes weren’t worth the money. I was quite surprised that this holistic approach to treating acne ended in the same way as all other doctor appointments – being prescribed tablets rather than healing with food or lifestyle choices.
Perhaps it is time to revisit Macrobiotics…