Interview with a Nutritarian: Bonnie

Bonnie suffered from the physical and emotional pain of cystic acne since her teenage years. She tried just about every medication available to relieve the symptoms, but to no avail. Then she made the decision to replace the standard American diet with high-nutrient foods. Today Bonnie’s skin is clear, except for some scarring, and she's now a passionate advocate of nutritarian eating! Welcome to Disease Proof, Bonnie.   

                          

What was your life like before discovering Dr. Fuhrman’s nutritarian eating-style?

I was a typical junk food eater. I was always relatively thin but suffered constantly from cystic acne; the kind that hurt when I talked or moved my jaw. I loved white flour products, processed foods, and my biggest love was cheese. Pizza was my food of choice. I probably ate pizza at least three times a week. Unfortunately, acne was the price I paid for eating the standard American diet. 

I'd been seeing dermatologists since I was 16-years-old. I was on countless acne drugs: Benzoyle Peroxide, Tetracycline, Doxycycline, Minocycline, Duac, Erythromycin, Differin, Tazorac, Retin-A, and different birth control pills to stabilize hormones. The next step was to take Accutane, but the side effects scared me so I thought of it as a last resort. 

My doctor always told me that diet had absolutely nothing to do with my acne. I felt depressed, and my relationships and self esteem suffered greatly, because I felt I had no control over it. I became obsessed with desperately trying to find a solution. I didn’t know what I could do to fix it, and it was so frustrating.   I knew in the grand scheme of things it was not a life or death situation, but for a girl in her twenties, it was mortifying. I also dealt with migraine headaches, severe acid reflux, bad allergies (hay fever), asthma, chronic bronchitis, constipation, high cholesterol and borderline high blood pressure.

In 2006 I read Eat To Live and joined Dr. Fuhrman’s Member Center. I thought his eating plan made so much sense. It was such a far cry from what I was used to, and for the first five years I had a hard time getting into it. Because I didn’t have weight to lose or health problems (so I thought), it was easy to keep going back to my old ways of eating. 

In 2011 I started eating nutritatian all the time and didn’t deviate. [My motivation was having my son in February 2011.] I stuck with it, and I’ve been consistently compliant since March 2011. My skin is now completely clear, and I’m on no prescription acne medications!

 

How do you feel now?

I finally feel in control of my health and my acne. I know what I can do to keep my skin clear and stay healthy. I know that if I eat cheese (the worst!) or sugar and white flour I will break out. Even if I have it just once, I usually end up with a blemish. If I continue eating the standard American diet my skin reverts back to a diseased state. 

I also feel so much better! I never have acid reflux or migraines anymore, and my allergies, asthmas and bronchitis have disappeared. I lowered my cholesterol, and I also lost about 20 pounds in the process. [I never even knew I had weight to lose.] At 5’2” I now weigh about 103 lbs. I’m happy to be passing this healthy lifestyle onto my son.

 

In a nutshell, what has nutritarian eating done for you?

Nutritarian eating has become a passion of mine. I’m not perfect but each day I make small tweaks to keep striving to get better. This lifestyle has helped me feel more in control of my health and less dependent on the corrupt healthcare system in this country. I want nothing to do with Big Pharma or insurance companies. I want to make sure I never have to rely on greedy corporations for my health or the health of my family. This lifestyle has been amazing in terms of how little I am sick and all of the money I no longer spend on the ten different prescriptions I used to be on. I’m hoping to instill the love of this food into my son and my husband.

 

Congratulations Bonnie on getting your health back and your beautiful smile! 

Healthy Inside and Out

Congratulations to all who have committed to following Dr. Fuhrman’s Holiday Challenge! We tend to think of giving tangible gifts and purchasing presents for others this time of year, but if you have been sticking to the pledge to eat only healthful foods and avoid junk foods, you have been granting yourself the greatest gift of all: the gift of health. That is something to be proud of. The gift of health will stay with you for the rest of your life, a life that will be set free from the waves of chronic diseases and health problems that beset most Americans.  

Most whom embark on Dr. Fuhrman’s Holiday Challenge probably do not contemplate how eating heaping salads, hearty vegetable and bean dishes, and other satisfying natural plant foods effects our skin. Hence, this post is a reminder that following this powerfully disease preventative and figure slimming lifestyle enhances the beauty and clarity of our skin as well.    

In a blog post I wrote last year, I explained the science behind how food is an enormous contributor to whether or not we will attain healthy, blemish free complexions. Here I will summarize that article as a reminder of why politely declining that homemade, yet sugar loaded cookie your co-worker urges you to sample or resisting the saturated fat laden eggnog at a holiday party will result in gorgeous skin and prepare you for any spontaneous holiday picture taking that comes your way. 

The beauty of our skin is remarkably influenced by the amount of hormones circulating inside of our bodies. Insulin, in particular, is associated with the health of our skin. Insulin is most commonly known as the hormone for regulating blood sugar and is associated with diabetes, yet it also happens to increase oils that appear on the surface of our skin. Insulin levels fluctuate based on what we eat, and these fluctuations can affect other hormones such as testosterone that also promote acne and dull skin.

 

Processed foods made with white flour and sugar lead to blood sugar spikes, causing insulin levels to go into the dreaded “pimple-producing zone”. Sugar and processed foods are awful for our skin!

 

Dairy products are just as noxious skin foes as processed foods and sugar.  Research conducted at Harvard University School of Public Health showed that milk contains bioactive molecules that act on the glands where blackheads are formed. William Danby MD, a dermatologist at Dartmouth, noted in an editorial accompanying this study that 70 to 90 percent of all milk comes from pregnant cows and that the milk contains hormones such as progesterone, testosterone precursors and insulin-like growth factor releasing hormones, all linked to acne. High levels of these hormones are linked to breast cancer and prostate cancer so avoiding foods that lead to breakouts and dull skin also helps us prevent these cancers.

 

The foods you should eat for radiant skin? Green vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds, avocadoes, starchy vegetables, and whole grains- all of the foods that are associated with longevity, disease prevention and succeeding on Dr. Fuhrman’s Holiday Challenge. These foods are loaded with thousands of potent phytochemicals like carotenoids and lycopene, substances that help our skin repair damage and remove and detoxify waste products and toxic compounds.  Skin damage occurs due to exposure to free radicals, which results in oxidative damage to our cells. By eating plenty of antioxidant loaded fruits and vegetables, our body becomes equipped with tiny chemical warriors that continuously fight free radical damage. The result is glowing, healthy looking skin. Now that is something worth being jolly about. 

 

Cheers to good health and I wish you much success and joy into the New Year!

 

The image at the top of the post is Talia a few years ago.  The second picture is Talia with her mother, Lisa Fuhrman, taken this past Thanksgiving. 

Preventing acne with diet

Healthy skin. Flickr: LukaIsntLuka

Acne is the most common skin condition in the U.S.  About 85% of people in the Western world experience acne during their teenage years, but it can occur at any age.  Acne is more than just pimples - it can leave permanent scars, and in many people, acne (even if it is not severe) can seriously affect quality of life, causing low self-esteem, withdrawal from social situations, anxiety, and depression.1

What causes acne? 

There are four major components of acne:  excessive production of oil by the skin, skin cells dividing excessively (hyperproliferation), bacteria, and inflammation.2 A pimple or lesion forms when a pore in the skin begins to clog with old, dead skin cells.  Usually these cells are simply shed from the surface of the skin, but if too much oil is being produced, the dead cells can stick together and become trapped inside the pore.  Bacteria also play a role – they can grow and multiply inside the pore, resulting in an inflammatory response.1 

Does what we eat really affect acne?

For years doctors have proclaimed that diet has nothing to do with acne.  That reflects the nutritional ignorance of physicians and their inexperience in treating disease with superior diet.  Scientific studies have demonstrated that the diet is very important, because what we eat can affect the hormones that contribute to the oil production, hyperproliferation, and inflammation that cause acne. The acne-promoting dietary factors that have been most extensively studied are dairy products and high glycemic load foods – these factors influence hormonal (increase IGF-1 levels) and inflammatory factors increasing acne prevalence and severity.3,4

IGF-1: an important hormone that influences acne

Hormonal influences that affect insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels are key.5  Elevated IGF-1 levels lead to changes in gene expression that cause inflammation, hormonal changes, increased oil production, and development of acne lesions.  Protein intake is the major factor that determines circulating IGF-1 levels, especially protein from dairy products. Read more in Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times Newsletter on IGF-1.

Dairy products

A three-year prospective study of 9-15 year old girls found a 20% increase in acne prevalence in girls that had 2 or more servings of milk per day compared to less than 1 per week. This association held true for total, whole, low fat, and skim milk.6  The same researchers found a similar association in boys who drank skim milk (milk highest in protein).7  Furthermore, in the Nurses’ Health Study, dairy products eaten during high school were associated with acne during women’s teenage years.8

High glycemic load foods

Glycemic load (GL) is a measure of the effect of a certain food on blood glucose levels.  High-GL foods like refined carbohydrates produce dangerous spikes in blood glucose, leading to excessive insulin levels in the blood (hyperinsulinemia), which contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and several cancers.9,10  Hyperinsulinemia not only promotes inflammation but also raises IGF-1 levels, further contributing to acne.  A low glycemic load diet has been shown to improve acne symptoms, and decrease IGF-1 and skin oil production in several studies.11-13

Protective micronutrients

Blood levels of zinc, carotenoids, and Vitamin E are known to be lower in acne patients compared to those without acne, suggesting that maintaining micronutrient adequacy may help to prevent acne.14,15 Carotenoids are abundant in green and orange vegetables, and vitamin E is abundant in nuts and seeds.  Although pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds are rich in zinc, zinc absorption efficiency may be low on a plant-based diet, so a multivitamin and mineral supplement is recommended to assure optimal levels of zinc, iodine, Vitamin D and B12.

 

References:

1. American Academy of Dermatology: Acne. http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/acne. Accessed June 29, 2011.

2. Costa A, Lage D, Moises TA: Acne and diet: truth or myth? An Bras Dermatol 2010;85:346-353.

3. Ferdowsian HR, Levin S: Does diet really affect acne? Skin Therapy Lett 2010;15:1-2, 5.

4. Melnik BC, Schmitz G: Role of insulin, insulin-like growth factor-1, hyperglycaemic food and milk consumption in the pathogenesis of acne vulgaris. Exp Dermatol 2009;18:833-841.

5. Danby FW: Diet and acne. Clin Dermatol 2008;26:93-96.

6. Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Berkey CS, et al: Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. Dermatol Online J 2006;12:1.

7. Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Berkey CS, et al: Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. J Am Acad Dermatol 2008;58:787-793.

8. Adebamowo CA, Spiegelman D, Danby FW, et al: High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. J Am Acad Dermatol 2005;52:207-214.

9. Barclay AW, Petocz P, McMillan-Price J, et al: Glycemic index, glycemic load, and chronic disease risk--a meta-analysis of observational studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:627-637.

10. Gnagnarella P, Gandini S, La Vecchia C, et al: Glycemic index, glycemic load, and cancer risk: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87:1793-1801.

11. Smith R, Mann N, Makelainen H, et al: A pilot study to determine the short-term effects of a low glycemic load diet on hormonal markers of acne: a nonrandomized, parallel, controlled feeding trial. Mol Nutr Food Res 2008;52:718-726.

12. Smith RN, Braue A, Varigos GA, et al: The effect of a low glycemic load diet on acne vulgaris and the fatty acid composition of skin surface triglycerides. J Dermatol Sci 2008;50:41-52.

13. Smith RN, Mann NJ, Braue A, et al: A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:107-115.

14. El-Akawi Z, Abdel-Latif N, Abdul-Razzak K: Does the plasma level of vitamins A and E affect acne condition? Clin Exp Dermatol 2006;31:430-434.

15. Amer M, Bahgat MR, Tosson Z, et al: Serum zinc in acne vulgaris. Int J Dermatol 1982;21:481-484.


 

Radiant Skin 101

As a young person living in America, the superficial society that it is, I have an aversion for any blemish, pimple, or mark that threatens to make its presence known on my face. Glowing, blemish free skin is the ideal and a sign of good health.    Every girl is entitled to radiant, clear skin and avoidance of the bad mood that occurs as a consequence of the appearance of a gargantuan pimple. Granted, I do realize that there are infinitely worse scenarios that can be inflicted upon a person, but at the same time one should not have to face the awfulness of pimples or a dull complexion amidst all the other chaos in one’s life.

Thankfully, as the daughter of Dr. Fuhrman, I know that diet plays a huge role in maintaining healthful, as well as youthful, looking skin. The same nutrient dense diet that keeps us healthy and prevents chronic diseases naturally helps prevent pimples, acne, and the like. Welcome to Radiant Skin 101, my one article class on the ins and outs of how to attain and maintain healthy, radiant skin:

skin

Radiant Skin 101:

1)     The hormones inside our bodies are important contributors to what cause pimples to appear on the outside. In particular, the hormone insulin an important modulator of breakouts. Insulin is most commonly known as the hormone for regulating blood sugar and is associated with diabetes, yet interestingly it also increases   oils that appear on our skin. Who would have thought? Insulin levels fluctuate based on what we eat, and these fluctuations can affect other hormones such as testosterone that also promote acne.

2)     Processed foods made with white flour and sugar lead to blood sugar spikes, causing insulin levels to go into the hateful “pimple-producing zone”. Sugar and processed foods are nada good for our skin. 

3)     Of course this is more complicated than just sugar and insulin. The peeps at Harvard say milk is not skin-friendly food. The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study in which the diets of 6,084 teenage girls were analyzed. Girls who drank two or more servings of milk per day were 20 percent more likely to have acne. Milk contains bioactive molecules that act on the glands where blackheads are formed. William Danby MD, a dermatologist at Dartmouth, noted in an editorial accompanying the study that 70 to 90 percent of all milk comes from pregnant cows and that the milk contains hormones such as progesterone, testosterone precursors and insulin-like growth factor releasing hormones, all linked to acne.

4)     The foods you should eat for radiant skin? Green vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds, avocadoes, starchy vegetables, and whole grains, of course. These foods are loaded with antioxidants, substances that help our skin repair damage. Plant foods also contain an array of phytochemicals. The foods rich in carotenoids are super foods for your body, not just your face. They supercharge the immune system’s defensive capabilities and help prevent many diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Many thousands of these chemicals are found in brightly colored plant foods. So in regards to the health of our skin, the more carotenoids and phytochemicals that are present, the faster our skin can repair damage, and remove and detoxify waste products and toxic compounds. 

So, in summary, consumption of micronutrient-rich natural plant foods leads to radiant, pimple free skin and processed foods and dairy are blackhead friendly.   How many more teenagers would eat a cancer-protective diet, if they knew it would repair their skin and keep them looking good? Avoiding dairy and junk food is easy when there are so many healthier, just as tasty, food options available. I’m a huge fan of soymilk and almond milk, for example. To me, faux milks taste better than actual cow’s milk. Resisting processed foods becomes pie in the sky when I know I can have a delicious fruit smoothie instead. Instead of poppin’ M and M’s, pop blueberries and cherries. Great skin and tasty food? Check!  

Acne: Diet a Major Determining Factor...

Modern medicine is a mess. Drug companies pull the strings and too many doctors go with the flow. They’ve lost touch with reality. Dr. Fuhrman explains:

Dermatologists insist that food has nothing to do with acne, rheumatologists insist that food has nothing to do with rheumatoid arthritis, and gastroenterologists insist that food has nothing to do with irritable and inflammatory bowel disease. Even cardiologists have been resistant to accept the accumulating evidence that atherosclerosis is entirely avoidable.

As for dermatology, a new study has determined that foods like milk and refined carbohydrates are responsible for an increased incidence of acne. Via Family Practice News:

The link between milk consumption and acne has been extensively pursued by investigators at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, said Dr. Mancini. In a prospective cohort study of 6,094 girls, aged 9–15 years, who were children of Nurses' Health Study II participants, self-reported greater consumption of milk—whether whole, low-fat, or skim—on food frequency questionnaires was independently associated with acne severity in a multivariate analysis, said Dr. Mancini, head of pediatric dermatology at Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago.

Those who drank two or more servings of milk per day during the 2-year study period were roughly 20% more likely to have acne than were girls who drank less than one serving per week. The results weren't significantly altered by excluding girls using contraceptives or restricting the analysis to those who were less than 11 years old at baseline (Dermatol. Online J. 2006;12:1)…

…In an editorial accompanying an earlier study by the group, Dr. F. William Danby, a dermatologist at Dartmouth University, Hanover, N.H., noted that 75%–90% of all milk reaching the marketplace comes from pregnant cows. This milk contains progesterone, other dihydrotestosterone precursors, somatostatin, prolactin, insulin, growth factor-releasing hormone, insulinlike growth factors 1 and 2, and numerous other substances that could stimulate pilosebaceous activity (J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2005;552:360-2).

Dr. Mancini noted that the link between acne and a high-glycemic-load diet rich in processed carbohydrates was made by Loren Cordain, Ph.D., and coworkers at Colorado State University, Fort Collins. In contrast to the near-universal prevalence of acne in adolescents in modern developed countries, they reported a rate of essentially zero in two non-Westernized populations: the Aché hunter-gatherers of Paraguay and Kitavan Islanders of Papua New Guinea. These subjects also had low serum insulin and high insulin sensitivity.

Dr. Danby is a champion of the diet-acne connection. Here are a couple more links to his work:

The power of nutritional-intervention—food as medicine—can’t and shouldn’t be ignored. More from Dr. Fuhrman:

Most chronic illnesses have been earned from a lifetime of inferior nutrition, which eventually results in abnormal function or frequent discomfort. These illnesses are not beyond our control, they are not primarily genetic, and they are not the normal consequence of aging. True, we all have our weakest links governed by genetics; but these links need never reveal themselves unless our health deteriorates. Superior health flows naturally as a result of superior nutrition. Our predisposition to certain illnesses can remain hidden.

In fact, here's a great success story from one of Dr. Fuhrman's patients. Check out Caitlin's triumph, told by her proud mother:

For approximately a year before consulting with Dr. Fuhrman, our daughter Caitlin suffered from progressive fatigue, severe acne, and chronic stomach upset. It caused numerous absences from school, which was troubling because Caitlin was an honor student who had always done well academically. After seeing several doctors with no diagnosis, Caitlin became exceedingly frustrated and asked us to enroll her in counseling for stress management. We began counseling as a family. Caitlin’s symptoms worsened and she was eventually diagnosed with ulcers. Six weeks later, we learned that the tests revealed an alarmingly high presence of the antibodies that fight bacterially-based ulcers. According to the doctor, Caitlin probably had the bacteria in her stomach for more than a year. He immediately prescribed a course of four antibiotics taken simultaneously, which destroyed her digestive system. She was worse than ever. We asked our counselor to recommend a physician who practiced nutritional medicine and we were led to Dr. Fuhrman. He immediately put Caitlin on a cleansing diet with lots of green vegetables and high nutrient soups, but no medication of any kind. Over those first two months, as her digestive system healed, Caitlin regained her energy and her skin cleared. No more stomach upset, no more acne, no more fatigue. Caitlin was healthy in body and spirit and she was discharged from counseling. She graduated from high school with honors and received a scholarship to pursue her college education. We are so grateful to Dr. Fuhrman and nutritional medicine and can’t imagine where we would be without this approach.

I think dermatologists need to expand their minds a little and not take themselves so seriously. Dr. Cox from Scrubs would agree. Take a look:


In all seriousness, food is wonderful medicine. Just check out this post: Diet Influences So Many Aspects of Health.