Saturday, February 5, 2011

How Traditional Foods Saved My Face

Could you believe that something as insignificant as a zit changed the way I eat, and even the way I think?
It's true.  I can trace most of my interest in nutrition and healthy eating to my struggle to have clear skin.

Like so many other American women, I thought I was done with teenage acne after high-school.  Not so.  My sophomore year of college, my face began erupting, not into little forehead zits like in junior high, but into giant cysts all over my cheeks that left nasty scars.  My quest for clear skin spanned about 4 years and went something like this:
  1. Tried all the typical over-the-counter acne cures I had ever heard of - lotions, soaps, creams.  
  2. Started looking into environmental factors: did I need to stop sleeping on my face?  Should I stop leaning my chin in my hand in class?  
  3. Found an "acne diet" book that advocated all low-glycemic-index foods.  Did my best to cut out potatoes, bananas, mangoes, white flour, tried to avoid sugar (this was nigh impossible in college).  Tried to eat some fish, but avoided fat, just as I had my whole life.
  4. Broke down sobbing several months before my wedding, crying to my mom that I just didn't know what to do.  She suggested Tetracycline, a low-level antibiotic that you take everyday.  It helped a lot. It also made my skin incredibly sensitive to sunlight (bad when you live in Colorado), and probably destroyed a good bit of my intestinal flora.  
  5. Stopped the Tetracycline because of terrible, persistant sunburns while working at high altitude for a summer.  A mentor who had had skin cancer became concerned about the burns, and when she heard about the antibiotics, she was concerned about that too.  She suggested finding out if I had toxic heavy metal levels, like a friend of hers who had developed acne.  I never tried this...who knows?
  6. Read Never Be Sick Again by Raymond Francis.  While I now disagree with some of his nutritional stances, it was the first time I had ever heard of whole-body health beginning at a cellular level.  This idea was so powerful - if I took good care of my cells, the effects would eventually show on my skin, right?  Well, no luck yet.
  7. My husband and I read The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin.  I recognized many concepts of cellular health in this book from #6, and its biblical foundation resonated with me.  This was the beginning of my Traditional Foods understanding.  I tried a few recipes (and started using butter instead of margarine), but I was still in college and wasn't motivated enough to eat differently from all my friends!  I did, however, start aiming for whole foods.
  8. Got pregnant.  Honestly, this was the first time I had had even remotely clear skin in almost 3 years, I guess because of the hormone changes.  I also started learning about the detrimental effects of artificial flavors and sweeteners on babies in the womb, and I suddenly had a great reason to eat whole foods!
  9. Einstein was 4 months old when my husband gave me a copy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Falon for Christmas.  Ever since, I've had some successes and some failures trying to incorporate the principles of Traditional Foods into my family's eating.  I learned about Cod Liver Oil, which for me has been a magical acne-fighting cure-all, and more recently, wheat grass juice, which has helped significantly as well, I assume just by increasing my whole body's health.
Looking back, I wish I could have those 3 years of my life back: the low self-esteem, guilt over what I was eating, hating to have my picture taken (and deleting all Facebook photos my college friends posted of me), and self-doubt.  But the knowledge the experience brought me is worth it, I suppose, and the remaining scars are a lovely reminder of why I go out of my way to eat the way I do, and to provide healthy food for my children.


  1. Thanks for popping in on my blog! I am now your newest follower! I too have always had problem skin. I thought when I got older it would go away-NOT! So you say cod-liver oil helps? Do you take this as supplements? Help! Have a great weekend.-Kelly

  2. Thanks for stopping buy ,I loved your blog and have read the whole thing ,yes I speed read(something I learnt when I was 10 because the 'specal class' I was in had already completed the years work after 6 months) I think you and I may be a lot alike although you put into practice more than I do ,I also love sci fi and get a great sense of relief when the pantry is packed with non perishables ready for a disaster , My son suffers from terrible acne I will try the cod liver oil ,did you know that it is full of vitamin D this may be why it works so well.Take care I am your newest follower! It is nice to hear from someone who celebrates their nerdiness ,I think the internet has been great for nerds unfortunatley I grew up without it.I could go on all day but wont :)

  3. Cod liver oil is a Godsend! It helped my skin as well. (Plus eating real food of course!) Honestly, I had struggled with acne for over a decade and now my face is the clearest it has ever been. Real food has also significantly improved my Asthma and seasonal allergies. God really has provided what we need to heal ourselves!

  4. Kelly, I take a tablespoon a day (the recommended dose is more like a teaspoon, but I'm also breastfeeding), and my family loves the flavored kind that doesn't have a fishy aftertaste.
    Lacie, so glad to hear that you've had similar success! I've had improvement in my asthma too, especially after cutting out pasteurized milk!

  5. Thanks for stopping by my blog!
    It's true, once I ate whole foods and avoided anything processed, I've not had acne, and it's funny because alot of my friends complain that their skin worsens after comign to London (we;ve got horrible air), but for me, it's not the case, because that's when I started re-looking my diet(:

    I hope you enjoy the pasta/dumplings, and do check back every now and then (: I'll be keeping a lookout for your blog too! I've also only just started blogging less than 2 mths ago, so it's nice to see a fellow "newbie" (:

  6. What brand/flavor cod liver oil would you recommend?

  7. Hi, D,
    I've heard from many sources that fermented cod liver oil is the way to go, such as those made by Green Pastures and Blue Ice. However, they are ridiculously expensive. I use Twinlab, which is about a fifth of the price of fermented. It's not as traditional, but it still contains the omega-3's and Vitamins A and D.


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