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: http://www.drwhitaker.com/berberine-proves-powerful-against-diabetes

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.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year, Clear Skin

Happy New Year! Welcome 2015.

I've been on my gluten-free, sugar-free, coffee-free diet for three months now and I'm happy to report that I had a clear Christmas! Except for a few minor pimples/whiteheads, I've been very happy with how clear and smooth my skin has been feeling.

After a few rough acne weeks in November after eating some sweets and processed foods, my skin settled down and I followed the gluten-free and sugar-free (except fruit) diet very strictly throughout late November and all of December. I only had a couple breakouts - one I'd attribute to eating a Sunripe fruit/veggie bar - basically a block of sugar.

I've been taking 500 mg of Berberine daily and I think that is helping. Berberine is an anti-microbial, alkaloid herb that helps your liver metabolize glucose and stabilize blood sugar. I'm working on a post all about Berberine, because I think this is a fantastic supplement that shows promise for fighting acne and it hasn't been talked about enough in holistic acne-cure circles.

I have eased off my strict diet the last few days and have been eating things with gluten in them, like perogies, a bun, and wheat crackers. So far, no breakouts and my skin has stayed great. I did eat a bit of chocolate last night on New Year's Eve and again today. I'll see how the next few days go. I'm hopeful that the month long Berberine supplementation will counteract the reintroduction to sugar. My skin continues to feel great and not like a pimple is lurking under the surface. 

I wish you a happy, healthy and clear 2015! If you're just starting on your own holistic clear skin journey, I hope the year ahead brings you beautiful, glowing skin and freedom from acne. It definitely is possible.