Thursday, 31 March 2016

How to Acheive Glowing Skin During Pregnancy

This is my second pregnancy. My first was plague by irritated, bumpy skin in the third trimester and horribly inflammed, rashy and acne-prone skin throughout the first year postpartum. I was miserable.

I am now 37 weeks pregnant and baby could come any day now. And my skin? It is smooth, glowing and possibly the best it has ever looked. I could probably count all the pimples I've had this whole pregnancy on two hands.

Every pregnancy is different so this could just be a fluke, however, I don't believe that's the case at all. A lot of the healing I did to my gut after years of antibiotic abuse has paid off. Because of the nature of the supplements and diet I was on, it was something that had to happen between pregnancies (Berberine is contraindicated during pregnancy and while breastfeeding).

This might seem really discouraging to a pregnant woman landing on my blog because their skin is going nuts and they want to do something about it RIGHT NOW, so I want to add all the things I've been doing this pregnancy that I think have really helped my health, my skin and likely my baby too!

Supplement a healthy diet with whole-food vitamins 

I take Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil/butter oil daily (cinnamon tingle gel). The omega-3s, easily bioavailable Vitamins A&D and Vitamin K2 (butter oil) are great for skin and essential for my baby's brain and eye development. During my last pregnancy I took omega-3s only. I'm sure they were beneficial to a degree, but that was before I knew about the healing benefits of whole-food supplements over synthetic or processed varieties.

I also take magnesium citrate for regularity and muscle function. This has helped mediate those painful leg cramps that crop up during pregnancy.

To make sure I'm getting enough heme iron, vitamin B12, vitamin A, choline and other essential nutrients for baby's growth, I take dessicated grass-fed liver tablets (Perfect brand). No matter how I cook it, I can't stomach the flavour of liver, so the dessicated version is a good solution to eating it every week.

Now that I'm past 36 weeks and on my midwife's recommendation, I've started taking 1,000 mg of Evening Primrose Oil daily to ripen my cervix and get my body ready for labour. This was the one supplement that helped my skin in my last pregnancy too. It's great for hormone regulation as well and is something I continued after the birth of my son. It is important, however, to make sure that you have a good balance of omega-3s in your diet to counteract the high content of omega-6s in EPO which promote inflammation and can contribute to acne.

Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea daily in the third trimester

After 28 weeks, my midwife said I could start drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea daily. I love the taste of the chilled tea with the juice of one lemon wedge and find it a very refreshing way to start my day. I also find it really helps my skin and reduces inflammation. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is recommended during late pregnancy as a uterine tonic to shorten labour, but it is also highly nutritious and a good source of magnesium, iron, potassium and B-vitamins. I also drank it daily while trying to conceive as it potentially boosts fertility. Wellness Mama has a good run down of the benefits of RRLT. I will continue drinking RRLT after baby comes and likely for the rest of my life!

Moisturize with oils 

Last pregnancy, I had to stop using my regular Oil of Olay Serum as my skin was reacting to it. Since overhauling my skin care routine when I was diagnosed with Perioral Dermatitis to include more gentle, natural cleansers and oils, I have noticed a big decrease in the oiliness and dryness of my skin (hello, combo skin!). I would attribute this to ending the cycle of treating my skin with nasty and harsh chemicals.

I've been moisturizing for the past year with Rose Hip Oil and I love it. It is packed with Vitamin E, essential fatty-acids, Vitamin C and is light-weight and easily absorbs into my skin.  It is great for smoothing wrinkles and treating hyperpigmentation. For all the skin troubles I've had, I have minimal hyperpigmentation. I'd attribute that partially to the Rose Hip Oil.  Rose Hip Oil needs some help to absorb fully and quickly into the skin, so I'd recommend using a toner prior to application. I use Kosmea Rosewater Mist and give my face a few spritz before following with four drops of the oil. My skin has normalized and is no longer oily nor dry.

I'm washing my face with animal fat

Grapefruit and Lavender Luxury Cleanser
For the past four months I've been cleansing my face primarily with a tallow-based cleanser from The Sweet Living Company. This company is based in my hometown and uses tallow rendered from my grass-fed meat supplier. It doesn't get more local than that!

What is tallow, you ask? Glorious fat! Yes, I am washing my face with animal fat and it's awesome. The tallow in the cleanser I use is made by slowly heating the suet (fat) of grass-fed cows. The result is a high-vitamin oil that is high in Vitamin A, D, K, E and B12, and essential fatty acids that nourish skin.

The cleanser I use is made of tallow whipped with castor oil, and grapefruit, lavender and sweet orange essential oils. It uses the oil-cleansing method to dissolve makeup and dirt from your skin. Since switching to this cleanser, my skin has felt so soft, moisturized and smooth. I no longer feel like I'm stripping the oils while trying to reduce blemishes.

Cut down on sugar consumption. Eliminate it completely. 

This one I've really struggled with. I'm a sugar-addict and though I've been trying really hard this pregnancy to eliminate it completely, I haven't done the best job. I did give up refined-sugar for Lent and was fairly good at avoiding all chocolate and candy, although I did give in and have a muffin or scone from time to time. Sugar is a prime-culprit and if you're struggling with acne this pregnancy, you should probably cut it out completely from your diet. Your skin and baby will thank you!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Confessions of a Sugar Addict

yum. . . Skittles.
Source: Wiki Commons
I have an addiction. To sugar. To candies, pastries, chocolate, you name it. The beautiful substance that is refined sugar is my downfall. I have a serious sweet tooth. I cannot resist it's lure.

Well, actually, that's not true. I've gone many weeks in the past, sometimes months, not eating any refined sugar. And, I've felt great. And my skin has been great while doing that. It's greatly motivating.

However, as soon as I have even one bite of chocolate, boom!, I'm back to feeling an insatiable need for some sugar, preferably in the form of liquorice or jujubes.

So, it's time to hop back on that sugar-free bandwagon.

This time, my reasons are two-fold.

One, my skin hasn't been that great. I've been getting pesky pimples that surface on my jaw line and around my mouth and they are likely linked to my diet not being the greatest these days. I've been having something with refined sugar in it daily, sometimes a few times a day. And, as I've learnt myself and through others like Lara Briden: sugar and insulin resistance can be a major cause of acne.

Two, I'm 13 weeks pregnant and I'm sure all this sugar isn't good for the little human growing inside of me. I want to give that little person the best start, and that includes eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods and limiting the sugar. Because of pregnancy, I also can't take my acne wonder-supplement, berberine.

Yes, it's exciting news, but also a little scary for my skin. The last time that I was pregnant was when my acne went from bad to terrible. And following giving birth, it got a million times worse with a bout of perioral dermatitis that flared up throughout 11 months. It was what started me on this Glow Journey.

My skin has already been a lot better during the first trimester so I feel like I'm in better shape heading in this time, and if the acne gets worse and the perioral dermatitis comes back, at least I know how to fight it naturally.

One of the reasons for writing this post is that by putting it out there that I'm giving up sugar, for say, at least 30 days (small goals), then it somewhat holds me accountable. If only to myself!

So, here goes. Day 1 refined sugar-free. Thanks for the support, blogosphere! I'll update in about a week on progress.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Before and After - Why You Should Take a Photo When Your Acne is at its Worst

I wrote the following as a guest post for Tracy Raftl, owner of the amazing The Love Vitamin on why it can be beneficial to snap some photos (and save them) when your acne is at its worst. You can read the original here

There's no doubt about it, acne sucks. It can make you shy away from social activities, avoid all mirrors and fear having your picture taken, even in full make-up.

That's why what I'm about to say may surprise you.

Do you know the best thing about having a nasty breakout?

You get to take a 'before' photo!

A photo is truly worth a thousand words, particularly when it comes to acne. Most often, the painful inflammation is right there in front of you, on the surface and incredibly visible. It's one of the unfortunate realities of skin disorders.

But, I say flip this around and use it to your advantage by documenting it. It may feel like the last thing you want to do, but it can be a helpful part of your healing process. That way as you heal your skin and go through your own journey you have something to look back at and say 'Wow, I've come so far. I am so proud of what I've been able to accomplish and heal. My body is amazing. I am AMAZING!'.

It also gives you a photo to tell your story with down the road and help others with if you want to. Do you think as many of us would be turning to the Love Vitamin if we didn't know about the incredible transformation that Tracy has gone through by healing her body and her skin? I know I may not have chosen to heal myself from the inside out naturally if not for the before and after photos she has. It definitely had an impact on me. If it worked for her, it was worth a shot.

I could see the pain in her eyes in those photos; This girl knew deep down how desperate acne can make you feel.

Before and After Photos Tell a Compelling Story

I started taking my own 'before' photos during a breakout I had after using the Clarisonic Mia in the spring of 2012. At that point I had been trying to heal my skin for a year and a half using the conventional approach of benzol peroxide, antibiotics, chemical peels and laser genesis. It wasn't really working:

To tell you the truth - looking at those pictures now it doesn't look as bad as I remember it feeling. That's another nice thing about taking a few photos - it may not look as bad or be as noticeable to others as you think.  

Little did I know that a year later my acne would get a million times worse following the birth of my son. It makes the above photos look like a walk in the park:  

Looking at these photos now. . .  the tears are starting to well up. I was in so much pain - inside and out. (These are actually photos of the second round of a postpartum acne flare-up that I had. The first one months earlier, I refused to have my photo taken with my newborn son and would only have photos taken in full makeup with strategically placed angels to shield the lower half of my face). 

Thankfully, my body was telling me that it was sick. My gut bacteria had been destroyed and needed some major TLC. I was likely insulin resistant. Following Tracy's programs for over the past year and a half and working with a naturopath, I've been able to get 99% clear. You can read about my Love Vitamin journey here

Here's the photos of my body healing itself. It was a year of advances and setbacks:  

And, finally, here's what it looks like now, after over eight beautifully consistent months of clear skin.

I look at this photo progression and I can't help but shout a hearty - 'Hell ya!! Look at what I was able to overcome. Wow. . . " 

I show my 'before' photos to close out-of-town friends who weren't around to experience the worst of my skin days and they are amazed. It's a reminder of how far I've come. 

I finally have the skin I had been dreaming about and pursuing for years and those photos help me celebrate and remember that. 

So pick up your phone, snap a selfie, and file it away knowing that one day, you'll be able to pull it out to tell your own compelling story. 

I look forward to reading it. 



Saturday, 2 May 2015

Berberine and Acne - Part II

If you missed my first post on the acne-fighting super herb that is berberine and my experience with it, you can catch up on it here.

I've been taking berberine off and on since last September (2014). It was the missing piece in my natural skin healing journey that has helped me stay 95% - 99% clear (finally!!).

Berberine Q&A*

*Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. These answers are based on my experience and are not meant to replace the advice of your doctor. Please consult with your physician or naturopath prior to starting any supplement to see if it's a good fit for you. 

What is berberine?

Berberine isn't really a herb - it's an alkaloid compound that is isolated from plants such as Barberry, Goldenseal and Oregon Grape. It's been used in traditional Chinese medicine going back centuries and is currently making a resurgence as an herbal treatment for type-II diabetes, poly cystic ovarian syndrome, high cholesterol and acne. To learn more about berberine, read my post here

What brand should I take? Where can I buy it?

My naturopath carries Throne Research Berberine, so that is the only brand I have experience with. Overall, Thorne Research is a reputable brand with high quality products that I've been very happy with. The brand isn't carried in stores and it can't be directly ordered through their website without an affiliation with a naturopath/doctor (I think it's a business to business marketing set-up). However, you can order it through various online stores like Amazon.

I have noticed lately that a few health stores in my city carry Dr. Whitaker's Berberine, so that may be an option if you want to pick it up locally. I'm not sure of the quality, but it has generally good reviews on Amazon.

How long can I take berberine for? 

This is where it gets a little iffy. My naturopath didn't seem too concerned with long term use when I asked her about it, but hormone health blogger and ND Dr. Lara Briden suggests taking breaks and not using the herb for sustained amounts of time as the anti-microbial effects of berberine may not be healthy in the long run for your gut. Always take a good quality probiotic/eat fermented foods when you're taking berberine and following your berberine course.Dr. Briden recommends in her Love Vitamin post to take a break one day a week, and take a month break following a three month course. Lately I've been taking berberine for the first two weeks of my cycle, followed by a two week break. My skin sometimes gets a couple pimples during the two week break, but overall stays fairly clear.

What dosage should I take?

Follow the directions on the label or from your naturopath. I take one 500 mg Thorne Research Berberine tablet twice daily. My naturopath initally prescribed 1,000 mg twice daily which was too much for my system. After about a week at this dosage, I started feeling quite ill. You may want to start with one tablet per day for a few days to see how you tolerate the compound and then work up from there.

How long do I have to wait to see results? 

This would vary depending on the person. One study showed a 45% improvement in acne following four weeks at 600 mg of berberine/barberry extract daily. The study group was 12 - 17 year olds. This is only one clinical trial, but those are fairly promising results. The dosage wasn't very high either.

Personally, I saw a slight improvement of my acne following a few weeks on 2,000 mg daily. My skin cleared 100% when I took 500 mg twice daily of berberine for a couple months and combined that with a three month gluten-free, sugar-free and processed food-free diet to help heal my gut and any insulin resistance. Berberine is excellent for helping your body overcome insulin resistance. My skin has remained clear even though my diet isn't as strict anymore and I'm not taking berberine daily. 

Who shouldn't take berberine? Can I take it if I'm pregnant/planning on getting pregnant/breastfeeding? 

Do not take berberine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as it has been shown to cause severe jaundice in infants and can lead to brain damage. If you are trying to conceive, only take berberine for the first two weeks of your cycle.

If you are breastfeeding, a good anti-fungal supplement that is safe is Thorne Research Formula SF722. I took this almost daily for nine months (November 2013 - August 2014) and found it cut inflammation tremendously and helped me get through multiple candida cleanse challenges. It isn't as powerful an anti-microbial as berberine, but it's a good start. It may even be safe to take while pregnant, but you'd have to check with your naturopath on that one. 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Blood Sugar and Acne

It's live! It's live! My Love Vitamin reader story was posted to Tracy's blog last week. The story chronicles my 'aha' moment from this Fall where I finally realized that even though I'd been on my natural skin care journey for over a year, I was still looking for the 'silver bullet'/one thing I needed to do to have clear skin.

The post was written in mid-October at the start of my gluten-, coffee-, processed-food and sugar-free, insulin stabilizing diet. To read it, click here.

Tracy Raftl, blogger, is this amazing woman from British Columbia who is a wealth of knowledge and resources on how to have beautiful, clear skin naturally. She was the reason I made the full plunge into healing my acne from the inside out and is truly an inspiration. I owe her my skin! Her e-books and programs are worth every penny. I highly recommend her candida cleanse challenge, which she now packages as part of her Naturally Clear Skin Academy

Blood sugar and acne 

Tracy did a great follow-up post this week on how to manage your blood sugar to prevent acne, spurred in part by my story.

I do feel that following such a strict diet for three months was the final summit I needed to scale to have consistently clear and beautiful skin. It is likely that my acne is partially related to spikes in my blood-sugar, which is also why I'm seeing clearing success with the diet and the insulin-regulating herb berberine. (wow, is berberine ever amazing! Anti-microbial AND insulin-regulating. An acne-fighting miracle! haha). Lara Briden, naturopath and healthy hormone blogger, has a couple fantastic posts on how to overcome insulin resistance and why cutting all sugar is so important for your skin.

On Lara's blog post about overcoming insulin resistance, she talks about what the condition is and how it is diagnosed with a fasting blood sugar test. I haven't had one recently, but I did while I was pregnant to see if I had gestational diabetes (it's a standard test for all pregnant ladies). I failed the first time. My midwife said it was likely because I ate a few candies that day. Seriously? Three Mike and Ike's can make my blood sugar all out of whack? Now, I feel like I should read that as a possible warning sign for my skin. . . . . .

The day before my second blood sugar test, I made sure to eat a lot of protein and stayed away from sugar. I passed with flying colours. (Btw - the test is the worst two hours I've ever endured. Following 12 hours of fasting, you have to drink this disgusting orange pop-like drink and then have your blood drawn one hour, and two hours later. It's the worst sugar crash you will ever experience. I spent the hours crying in the clinic washroom, I felt so sick and crazy. Following each test I would promptly go to bed and sleep for hours and hours).

I will never do that test again, even with subsequent pregnancies until I have risk factors for gestational diabetes such as age, obesity, family history and abnormal weight-gain during pregnancy. I have cut out sugar, though, and will continue to maintain my blood sugar and overcome any insulin resistance. Seriously, that type of diet is easier than doing the blood-sugar fasting test. 

Insulin resistance is very common (affects one in four adult Americans), and it may be a player in your skin conditions. Have you tried maintaining your blood sugar throughout the day? Has it helped your skin?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

How to Cure Perioral Dermatitis Naturally

A lot of people land on my blog while researching perioral dermatitis so I thought I'd list a few things that I think can help soothe this condition.

Perioral dermatitis or hormonal acne?

I've chronicled my diagnosis of perioral dermatitis here (with pictures!). First up, I want to say in the spirit of full disclosure that I've recently started wondering if I really had perioral dermatitis. Perhaps it was just a really, really bad bought of hormonal acne related to postpartum hormone surges. However, postpartum hormone surges can also cause perioral dermatitis, so who really knows?

Definitely not dermatologists. I'm not convinced that physicians know what-the-eff they are doing when they diagnose someone with the condition. At its definition, perioral dermatitis means 'around the mouth'. So, my doctor took one look at the pattern of my acne (which was a horrible, bumpy and inflamed mess of a rash around my mouth), prescribed tetracycline and finacea cream, but said nothing more about it. He began  treating the symptoms, but had no idea why I had it, how to treat the cause, or how to prevent this from happening with subsequent pregnancies. And he didn't mention any products/chemicals I should stay away from.

[Cue the beginning of my disdain for the way conventional medicine treats skin conditions]. 

However, I do strongly believe that the following can help soothe your skin, especially if what is causing you pain and embarrassment are bumps, rashes and acne around your mouth. So throw out the antibiotics and prescription creams and begin healing yourself naturally (by 'throw out', I mean dispose of responsibly at a pharmacy :).

8 months later - naturally clear skin and feeling great!

Stop obsessively washing your face and switch to a natural and gentle cleanser without Sodium Lauryl Sulfates. Wash once a day, or even less. 

Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates (SLS) are chemical surfactants that are in pretty much anything that foams or bubbles. They are known to aggravate perioral dermatitis. SLS are potentially toxic and are currently being evaluated under Health Canada's Chemicals Management Plan.  It's a challenge to find any face wash or shampoos that don't have this chemical in it, but I found that Burt's Bees is a good line for being 'close to' natural and readily available. I've used both the Burt's Bees Royal Jelly Cleanser and the Soap Bark and Chamomile Cream Cleanser and prefer the cream cleanser. SLS are in most toothpastes as well, even some of the more natural brands. Here's a brand I use that is both fluoride and SLS-free.

Throw out your conventional moisturizer.   

Forget moisturizing all together or switch to something natural and oil-based. Coconut oil, hemp oil, jojoba oil, rosehip oil. . . begin doing some research on what works for your skin type. When I was first struck down with perioral dermatitis, I switched to coconut oil as my moisturizer. I'm now using rosehip oil, as I find it less pore clogging. I firmly believe now that 'less is more' when it comes to skin care and I moisturize about twice a week. Even if I'm going to wear a bit of foundation, I don't moisturize first. I would have thought myself bonkers before, but it's amazing how soft my skin is now. Also, I live in one of the driest, windiest and coldest (in the winter) provinces in Canada, so if I don't need to moisturize to have smooth and non-flaky skin, neither do you! A good fish oil supplement works to nourish your skin from the inside. I recommend Green Pasture Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil blend.


Consider not putting ANYTHING on your skin for awhile.

My cousin was diagnosed with perioral dermatitis about a year and a half ago (we are a family plague with skin problems), and she said the way she cleared it was by not wearing a stitch of makeup for months on end and being quite strict with her diet (she didn't elaborate on the diet, but she's celiac, so absolutely no gluten and she cut back on sugar). Her skin is clear and gorgeous now and she's back to wearing makeup. The Caveman Regimen is a skin care theory and practice that a lot of people have used to clear their skin.

Look into the type of tap or bottled water you're drinking. Use a toothpaste without fluoride.

Is the water fluoridated? Read about how fluoride may cause fluoroderma - a skin condition commonly misdiagnosed as perioral dermatitis. In October 2013, I read the Cellulite Investigation's blog and it was like a lightbulb went off for me. My skin looked very similar to her skin, and my acne did follow a pattern of getting worse when I was living in cities where the water was fluoridated (I have lived in two Canadian cities that have banned fluoridation and three cities that do fluoridate water). Then and there, I stopped drinking tap water, and purchase Culligan/reverse osmosis water. I was quite strict about this for 6 months, but have eased off a bit and don't worry now if I drink tap water. I am now quite appalled at the medicalization of the drinking water supply and feel strongly that it is extremely unnecessary.

Consider doing a candida cleanse to help heal your gut and begin taking anti-fungals. 

My skin cleared up very nicely while doing a one week Love Vitamin candida cleanse challenge. I'll write more about the candida/gut/acne link in a future post, as I can't say enough about how many skin issues are likely linked to the balance of bacteria in our gut I took Thorne Research Formula SF722 anti-fungals for most of 2014 as they are safe while breastfeeding and they cut my inflammation almost immediately after starting them. I'm now taking Berberine, and find this powerful anti-fungal is working beautifully to clear my skin.

Nourish your skin from within with a healthy skin diet.  

I'm now making sure that I eat a diet that feeds my skin from within, and I try and stay away from foods that spike my insulin like coffee and sugar, and limit my grain intake. I also take certain supplements like zinc and magnesium to help my skin. The result? I feel fantastic, and my skin looks amazing.

What's been working for you to clear your perioral dermatitis? Have you tried any of the above and found them helpful?

Sunday, 18 January 2015

My Healthy Skin Diet

Skin update: My skin has been smooth and clear and quite great. Even despite stopping my three month gluten-free, coffee-free and sugar-free diet completely two weeks ago and beginning to experiment with different foods as per my naturopath's suggestion. I can't believe it and I think it might have to do with the two courses of berberine I completed. Gluten doesn't seem to be a problem, and I've been GORGING on sugar. Danishes, candies, chocolates, you name it, I've been eating it. I was waiting for my skin to explode, but it didn't for a full week and half . . .until this past Wednesday. No cystic pimples, but a few whiteheads, inflammation spots and one pimple that's been lingering. It is clearing back up again, but I know it's time to start the sugar-free and gluten-limited diet again. I feel so much better on it, and it's healthier for me and my skin. I'm pretty much an all-or-nothing girl when it comes to sugar, so this is the best way to go for me. Even just a taste gets me craving more. As of this coming Monday, I'm off refined sugar again.

I read a good blog post on The Love Vitamin the other day that talked about how to make permanent diet changes that are more sustainable and without feeling so deprived. She talked about how rather than taking things out of your diet and being really strict, another approach is to try and eat certain things daily that are packed with nutrients and are skin-nourishing. Like kefir and bone broth and green juice, for example. The healthy options fill you up and leave less room in your diet for unhealthy foods. Plus, eating those nutrient-packed foods become routine.

Here's a list of supplements and whole foods that I'm trying to incorporate daily/every other day:
  • Probiotic pills (X2): Probiotics help balance any negative effect berberine may be having on the bacteria balance in my gut. 
  • Raw goat's milk kefir: I belong to a fresh goat's milk co-op, and get kefir from the farmer as well. Kefir (fermented milk) is an excellent source of probiotics and amazingly gut healing.  
  • Fresh green juice (kale/spinach/fruit/assorted veggies): To give my skin a boost of antioxidants, vitamins and alkalizing compounds. And, it's just delicious! 
  • Fermented cod liver oil/butter oil (1-2 tsp): Green Pastures Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil/Butter oil is the best supplement you can take to promote healthy skin. It's jam packed with readily bioavailable omega 3's,DHA,EPA and Vitamins A&D
  • Homemade Organic Chicken Bone broth (few times a week): Bone broth made from beef, chicken or pork bones (especially the collagen-rich feet and joints) contains tons of nutrients, minerals and gelatin to promote a healthy gut and skin. 
  • Zinc (50 mg): Zinc is vital for clear skin. It regulates oil gland activity, keeps your pores open, and is needed to manufacture many hormones, including sex hormones. It's easily depleted and often your skin is the first to suffer.    
  • Berberine (1,000 mg): I believe this anti-microbial herb is helping my skin immensely. 
  • Magnesium (600 mg): Magnesium helps regulate cortisol, aids digestions, lowers blood sugar and helps you sleep better, among other things. It's easily depleted as our body dumps magnesium during times of stress. 
A green juice is the perfect midday snack. Cheers!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Berberine and Acne

Let's talk about a very promising natural acne-fighter, berberine, and how it helped me go from this:

To this:

Berberine is an alkaloid compound that is isolated from plants such as Barberry, Goldenseal and Oregon Grape. It's been used in traditional Chinese medicine going back centuries and is currently making a resurgence as an herbal treatment for type-II diabetes, poly cystic ovarian syndrome, high cholesterol and acne.

Berberine has anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effects and is able to reduce glucose production in the liver:

"Berberine targets a very basic and ancient regulator of metabolism present in all animals and plants called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). AMPK stimulates the uptake of glucose into the cells, improves insulin sensitivity, and reduces glucose production in the liver, which is in overdrive in patients with diabetes. It slows the release of free fatty acids, which lowers lipid levels and prevents harmful fat deposition, and boosts fat burning in the mitochondria. It also stimulates the release of nitric oxide (NO), a signaling molecule that relaxes the arteries, increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure, and protects against atherosclerosis." source:

In addition to the properties described above, berberine is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and androgen-inhibiting. It suppresses acne by inhibiting the skin-cell processes that form comedones, killing the acne-causing bacteria P. acnes, suppressing sebum production and improving intestinal permeability. One clinical study has shown a 45% reduction in acne following one month of treatment.

Looking for more information on berberine? Read my Berberine Q&A here.

My experience with berberine 

I am just finishing up a second course of berberine. I started the herb in September, after my naturopath recommended it to improve my digestion and gut and help my acne. She started me on 1,000 mg twice daily of Thorne Research Berberine.  It's one of the cheaper herbs I've taken - $28 CDN for 60 pills purchased through my naturopath.  

I only took this dose for 10 days as I started feeling as though I was hungover all the time - likely a detox reaction. I went down to 500 mg a day for the remainder of September. I was still getting frequent breakouts, possibly because I hadn't changed my diet at the time. One side effect I did notice  was that I dropped about five pounds within a week of starting the supplement. This is likely initial water weight loss says my naturopath. 

I started another course of berberine again at the end of November, in the middle of my gluten-free/sugar free diet. 500 mg twice daily transitioning to 500 mg once daily for the last two weeks of the month. Again, I dropped about 5-7 pounds right off the bat (I had regained the weight I lost earlier in the fall). 

A few words of caution - I'd recommend starting slow with this herb as it is powerful stuff. When I was beginning this second course of berberine I took 1,000 mg on the first day (two pills at the same time) and within an hour felt extremely nauseated and could barely stop myself from throwing up. I had to high tail it home from work and immediately go to bed. I felt better within a few hours, but it was scary.  Due to it's intense anti-microbial properties, you should also up your probiotic intake, and not take the herb for more than two months at a time. I've been drinking raw goat's milk kefir and taking probiotic supplements as well. It should also be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women as it is toxic to the fetus and breastfeeding infant

How has my skin been during this second course of berberine? Great! I'm sure it is largely due to the diet I'm on, but as I've started reintroducing sugar and gluten, my skin has remained excellent - smooth and fairly clear. It's hard to say, but I'd attribute it in part to the berberine. I have two pills left, and will be taking a break from berberine for the next month. I will likely start taking the herb again in February. 

The bottom line

If you're suffering from acne and have been trying to heal your gut through diet and supplements, berberine may be the next step to clear skin. It's worth a shot.

Looking for more information on berberine? Read my Berberine Q&A here.

February 2015 update: After talking to my naturopath about my longer term plan with berberine, she suggested I stick to one pill a day (500mg) for several months as that may be the minimal dose I need to continuing seeing the positive effects. She said another option is to take the herb for the first two weeks of my cycle and then take a two week break. This would definitely be the route to take if you are trying to conceive as you do not want to be taking this herb while pregnant. My plan is to continue taking 500 mg a day until the end of April, while still taking lots of probiotics and kefir.