Skin Coach Q&A: Candida Overgrowth and How to Treat It

candida

Question:

I took antibiotics a few weeks ago for a cough, and since then have developed a red, bumpy type of rash on my face. What’s weird is that it isn’t just a rash. It also looks like many small pimples mixed in with the red bumps, but they’re not like any type of pimple I’ve had in the past. It seems to almost clear up, then comes right back again. Do you think I’m allergic to the antibiotic, or the cough medicine? Is there something I can do to fix it?

Erin Answers:

There’s always the possibility that you could be allergic to your medication, in which case you’d need to check with your doctor. But if allergy is ruled out, I’d seriously consider that your condition is caused by a Candida overgrowth. In fact, it is especially common following a round of antibiotics. And yes, there is something you can do about it.


What the heck is Candida overgrowth?

Candida albicans is a fungal organism, or yeast, that lives in our gut. When we take antibiotics, the drug wipes out good bacteria too. These beneficial bacteria are needed in the gut. They help balance our inner ecosystem, keeping Candida and other pathogens under control. Without this balanced system, unfriendly organisms have the opportunity to take over. Even if you haven’t taken antibiotics, you can develop a problem, as farmers use these drugs when raising non-organic animals. Due to this practice, our water supply is also contaminated. It’s estimated that one in three people suffer from Candidiasis, or Candida Related Complex (CRC). There are even higher numbers in the younger population.

While antibiotic use is a common precursor to this problem, other imbalances can lead to CRC as well. A high sugar, low mineral diet sets the stage for CRC. Hormonal birth control use is another factor. Currently, the best way to know if you have a problem is to observe your symptoms, and notice if you feel better with treatment. My clients fill out a questionnaire to help determine if symptoms and health history/ medication use indicate a Candida overgrowth.

It can manifest in many different ways

Symptoms of CRC are wide and varying. Once the yeast has a foothold in ones’ system, it can affect many different organs throughout the body. The condition has been linked to many symptoms including (but not limited to): acne, psoriasis, skin rashes, sugar cravings, PMS, chronic fatigue, recurring headaches, chronic vaginitis/yeast infections, poor memory, environmental sensitivities, and fungal conditions such as athletes foot or tinea versicolor. Some also experience a histamine reaction, so allergies and asthma are often symptoms as well.

Because acne is so frequently (and unfortunately) treated with long term antibiotics, I see a lot of CRC in my practice. Just as frequently, most of my clients have difficulty discerning the difference between true acne and what I’ve come to know as ‘fungal folliculitis’, because it does resemble acne. Oftentimes, the client actually has a combination of both. Each requires different topical approaches, so it’s critical to be able to identify the condition(s) for effective treatment.

Topical treatment alone won’t do the job

As you might imagine, treating a CRC-related rash with topical antifungals alone isn’t enough. I’ve had temporary success with this, but inevitably the fungus wins out. The only way to do the job correctly is to treat it systemically, with a Candida cleanse lasting 30 days, longer in some cases. For our purposes here, I’ll paint a simplified picture of what you can expect during this type of cleanse.

Because Candida feed on sugar, the first order of business is to starve the fungus by cutting out all sugar, including fruit. Yeast bread, dairy, alcohol, vinegar, mushrooms, starchy grains and beans are also out. The only allowed sweetener is stevia. After the first week, a small amount of fruit can be added back into the diet. Meanwhile, repopulating the gut with probiotics (beneficial bacteria) through supplements

and fermented foods is critical to support lasting change. There are also supplements that will help kill the yeast faster, but they’ll only work as an addition to the dietary changes. In other words, sorry, there are no shortcuts.

Cleansing has its benefits

I have embarked on a Candida cleanse myself, and found it challenging. Sugar cravings and flu-like ‘detox’ symptoms, plus the restricted diet, can be difficult at times. However, it was totally worth it! I was able to clear a stubborn case of fungal folliculitis in my skin, and also felt mentally clearer and more energetic than I had in years. I lost several pounds, which was a nice bonus.

To help navigate through some of the information out there, I hired a nutritionist who was able to offer information and guidance. I now help my own clients through the process, if they feel too daunted by the prospect of making these changes without some outside support. I’ve found that their skin clears faster, they feel better, and overall have a new perspective on how dietary changes can improve their long term vitality and immunity.

If you suspect you have a fungal yeast overgrowth, I strongly encourage you to consider giving your body the gift of a Candida cleanse. The benefits will reach far beyond your skin.




Skin Coach Q&A: Are You Exfoliating Too Much?

exfoliating

Question:

I’m wondering how much is too much when it comes to exfoliating my skin. I’ve heard conflicting advice. Can it be overdone? What’s the correct way to go about this?

Erin Answers:

You’re right to think exfoliating can become too much for your skin! Of course, as with most things skin related, each individual’s needs are unique. But there are some guidelines to keep in mind.

Skin serves a purpose. It’s a protective covering and is designed to function as such. The outermost layer of cells may be dead (there is some new thinking to suggest it may not be dead after all), but it is there to protect. It guards us from the elements, including the sun, temperature extremes, and irritants. This can be thought of as your ‘barrier function’, and you want to keep it healthy.

But some people shed more skin cells than others. This is part of the problem with acne: too many skin cells being sloughed off, and becoming stuck in the pores. It can be the case with rough, thick build up, too. Each needs to be treated differently, depending on skin type and condition.

Many people should NOT be exfoliating

At least, not in the way they think they should. When skin is inflamed, the wrong type of exfoliation is not recommended. Inflammation can be due to acne lesions, rosacea, or general diffused redness. In these cases, what we call ‘manual exfoliation’ would only aggravate your inflammation. This is also true if you have visible broken blood vessels. Don’t scrub! Not with a scrub product, washcloth, spinning brush, loofah, or any other method of manual exfoliation you can think of. Microdermabrasion should not be performed on you, either!

Skin color is a major factor 

If you have olive or darker skin, follow the advice above, whether you have inflammation or not. People with medium to dark skin color are at a much higher risk of hyperpigmenting (developing dark spots) from exfoliating and microdermabrasion. These dark spots or patches may not show up right away. The body produces more pigment in response to the perceived ‘wounding’ from exfoliation, and the dark patches will become evident later on. This is very difficult, if not impossible, to correct. So if this describes you, it pays to avoid manual exfoliation altogether.

If you have lighter skin tone and are free from inflammation, then light to moderate scrubbing is generally OK. By this I mean either a scrub product or spinning brush, applied without any pressure, could be fine two or three times per week. If you notice that your skin is sensitive to products applied afterwards, you experience stinging or burning (from water too), you continue to look pink, or you’re overly sensitive to the sun, then you’ll want to cut back or stop entirely.

Skin ‘peeling’ is good for most

Another option for exfoliation, that’s generally more appropriate for all skin types, is a gentle alpha-hydroxy acid skin peel applied topically. Lactic acid is the least irritating of all the acids and easily tolerated by most. My favorite is a cocktail of lactic and mandelic acids, because it combines exfoliation, hydration, anti-bacterial and anti fungal properties all in one product. This method should be monitored by a trained professional in order to achieve best results while avoiding unwanted side effects.

Non-manual (also referred to as ‘chemical’) skin peeling is the only responsible choice for those with inflamed, reddened, or darker skin tones.

Used properly and with strong sun protection from a mineral zinc/titanium dioxide sunblock, this is my favorite form of skin renewal.

When peeling goes bad…

If you overdo it, you risk sun damage because without a good barrier, your skin is more susceptible to UV rays. Mineral sunblock (at least 40 SPF), reapplied every hour, is required. Wear a big shade hat and avoid the sun.

You’ll also be more likely to experience stinging, burning, and itching due to an impaired barrier which needs time to heal. A heavy moisturizing cream free of fragrance and dyes will help things recover faster. Aquaphor, available in drug stores, is an alternative. You’ll lose moisture through an impaired barrier, so drinking more water, running a humidifier, and lowering the heat are all good ideas. Don’t pick at any peeling or flaking skin. Don’t try to scrub it off, just moisturize and baby it.

Remember, ‘all things in moderation’ applies to skin care too! Wait until your skin is completely healed before attempting to exfoliate again…and when you do? Less is more.




Skin Coach Q&A: The Effect Of Low Fat Diet On Your Skin

low-fat diet

Question:

I generally have a lot of issues with my skin, even though I eat a healthy, low-fat diet with lots of fruits and vegetables. My skin is dry, red, and

 prone to breakouts. It looks inflamed most of the time. As I get older (I’m 51) I’m noticing very deep lines forming. I’m wondering why all this is going on, since I eat such a healthy diet? Maybe I’m using the wrong products for my skin?

Erin Answers:

While it may be true that you’re using the wrong products for your skin, I see another big clue in your question: LOW FAT. Believe it or not, ‘low-fat’ is not ‘healthy’. I realize this may come as a surprise, but we actually need a significant amount of fat in our diet!

The low-fat diet lie

Seriously. The low-fat dietary theory, first promoted by nutrition researcher Nathan Pritikin in the 1950’s, has been proven dangerously flawed. After first advocating a no-fat diet, long-term research revealed a host of physiological issues including fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, mood disorders (especially depression), weight issues, and more. So Pritikin revised his recommendation, and the low-fat diet was born. Still a core dietary recommendation today, despite heaps of research showing this to be a dangerously flawed theory, the low-fat approach is not doing us any favors. Thankfully, many forward thinking doctors and dietitians recommend including more fat in a healthy diet, not less.

We need fat to carry out important functions in the body. It’s required for healthy hormone production. It’s the cholesterol in our skin that makes vitamin D (actually a hormone, not a vitamin) out of sunshine. Fats build healthy cells, help us heal faster, and make anti-inflammatories. They help us absorb minerals from other foods, and aid digestion. Our brains are approximately 60% cholesterol. Fats are required for healthy liver function, for utilizing proteins, and for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. We actually need fat to burn fat. And the list goes on.

Due to the ‘success’ of the low-fat diet theory, healthy fatty acid deficiency is epidemic. A lack of fat in the diet leads to skin problems; musculoskeletal, endocrine and cardiovascular issues; allergies and depression.

Good vs. Bad?

Most people are familiar with the term ‘good fats’. We’ve heard that LDL cholesterol and saturated fat are ‘bad’. But research and time have shown this to be inaccurate.

With the exception of soy, cottonseed and canola (which ARE bad and should be avoided in a healthy diet), the difference between good and bad fats lie in the way they’re processed, not in the nature of their source. Heat and processing can make a good fat go bad, as with hydrogenation. A diet high in sugar, including those from sweet fruits and carbohydrates, can create oxidized fats in the body that lead to unhealthy side effects such as clogged arteries.  In that case you can blame the sugar, not the innocent fat!

I hope you find this helpful, and will consider the possibility that the story of a ‘healthy low-fat diet’ is a great work of fiction.




Skin Coach Q&A: Supplements for Skin?

supplements

Question:

I’m taking a Hair, Skin and Nails vitamin supplement, but it doesn’t seem to be helping my skin. My hair is thicker and healthier, but my skin is still quite broken out. Are there other supplements that I should consider adding?

Erin’s Answer:

As a health coach, I don’t prescribe medications or supplements. My recommendations are just that: recommendations. However, I do spend a significant amount of time in continuing education and research, and I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned. While some supplements are practically required for healthy skin, others will wreak havoc. Read on to learn what to eat and what to avoid…

Skin supplements that are bad for skin?

My first suggestion is to stop taking the Hair, Skin and Nails formula right away. I’ve seen a surge of acne lately with the rising popularity of these supplements. Why? They contain Biotin, a B vitamin that, while necessary for skin health, will cause acne flares in higher doses. Biotin deficiencies are rare. The recommended daily allowance is 300 mcg of Biotin per day, which we easily get from food. Also, our bodies can make it from foods we consume. Many supplement formulas contain 5000 mcg! These high dosages can lead to several other unwanted and even dangerous side effects, in addition to painful, inflamed acne of the face and body.

After you ditch the Hair, Skin and Nails…find a pharmaceutical grade multi vitamin. Why is this important? As I (daily) tell my clients, the vitamin market in the United States is a Wild West free for all. There is no regulation of the supplement industry, which sadly means that consumers have no way of trusting the claims on a label, including whether the contents are accurate, pure, or potent. Unless, that is, the supplement is pharmaceutical grade, which means they are voluntarily adhering to drug-manufacturer standards, testing, and quality control.

Compare your vitamins

For a really eye-opening look at how supplements stack up, go to Amazon.com and spend a few bucks on the NutriSearch Comparative Guide. Hint: if you’re taking Centrum, GNC, Kirkland, or Arbonne, prepare for disappointment. And if yours isn’t in the book, it didn’t make the cut. This helpful tool is compiled by an independent group of research scientists, and they consider multi-vitamins from a staggering array of angles in order to reach their conclusions. I wouldn’t be without a copy.

Another critical addition would be Omega 3 fatty acids. Personally, I prefer fish oil as a primary source. Vegetarian options such as Chia seeds, flax, and walnut oils also provide Omega 3s, but are not as readily available to the body. Again, pharmaceutical grade is the only way to go. But there’s a problem. The USA doesn’t have a pharmaceutical grade standard for fish oil. The solution? A company like Nordic Naturals, which adheres to the European pharmaceutical standards. This is important, in order to avoid contaminated or otherwise sub-par fish oil.

Eat this, not that

Probiotics are also very beneficial for skin health. Since it’s difficult to know if a bottle on the shelf contains live organisms, I encourage clients to get as much as possible from raw, fermented foods. Yogurt does contain probiotics, but dairy is a problem for acne. Instead, consider coconut water kefir, raw sauerkraut, kimchee, Bubbie’s pickles, and the like. Fermented foods will provide significantly more beneficial bacteria than the average supplement!

Since you suffer from acne, I would also suggest you avoid excess iodine. Kelp tablets, iodine drops, large amounts of sea vegetables, shellfish, spirulina and iodized salt will all trigger flares in the acne-prone.

Another to watch out for is Creatine. This amino acid supplement is popular with athletes and body builders because it stimulates muscle strength and bulk. It also stimulates crazy acne breakouts.

I hope this helps with your supplement choices. I also recommend eating the best possible local, seasonal, whole foods diet. Ahhh, and water. Drink lots of water. And live happily ever after.




Skin Coach Q&A: Coconut Oil and Acne

coconut oil

Question:

Coconut oil seems to be the cure all for everything, even acne. What is the benefit of coconut oil for the skin? Do you believe it helps with acne?

Erin’s Answer:

I’ve noticed the coconut oil trend seems to be gaining more and more momentum. Nearly every client I see has a sister-in-law who just swears by it, and online research turns up lots of support in favor of coconut oil for the skin. I agree it’s great to eat, and I recommend using it in place of other fats during cooking. I also consider it beneficial for some topical uses, but NOT for acne.

Coconut oil is highly pore clogging

If you have ‘that’ sister-in-law, please read on. Coconut oil has long been recognized as pore clogging (comedogenic) by cosmetic chemists. The problem, as with most comedogens, is that it can take weeks or even months for the breakout to become apparent. For this reason, people often unwittingly continue use, not realizing that trouble is brewing deep inside their pores. As true with all acne rules, this does not apply to someone without the genetic predisposition to break out. These people are typically free to use most anything and won’t be bothered by it.

But some people say it HELPED their breakouts

There are other conditions that mimic acne, a common one being fungal folliculitis that causes small raised bumps often mistaken for pimples. Deeper folliculitis can create bigger ‘zit-like’ lesions. I have a theory that, due to its anti-fungal properties, coconut oil is effectively clearing this condition. It would be an easy mistake to make. I see clients who regularly present with this fungal rash-like condition, and they always think it’s acne.

I can see how someone might notice an improvement in their fungal folliculitis rather quickly, and not develop increased acne lesions until a month (or two or three) later. At that point, it would be easy to miss the connection between the coconut oil and the acne. Instead, they’d want to keep using the oil, thinking ‘It cleared me up before, so I’ll stick with it.’ After all, can Google and the sister-in-law both be wrong? (insert evil laugh)

My best advice is to not use coconut oil topically where you tend to break out with acne, and if you choose to use it elsewhere, like your feet, wash your hands with soap afterward to prevent unintentionally transferring to your face, chest or back.




Skin Coach Q&A: Alternatives to Accutane®

accutane

Question:

I’m considering taking Accutane® for my acne. I feel like it’s my only option at this point, and I’d like to know your thoughts about it. I’ve heard some pretty scary things about the side effects.

Erin’s Answer:

I’m glad you asked, because this is an incredibly serious step to take, and one that I feel is often taken too lightly. Accutane® was actually taken off the US market in 2009. Juries had awarded many millions of dollars in damages to injured drug users suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease. However, the generic forms of isotretinoin are still available and frequently prescribed today. These are commonly referred to as ‘Accutane®’.

Read more…




Skin Coach Q&A: Skin and Sugar (the OTHER white drug)

sugar

Question:

Does sugar have any effect on skin health?

Skin Coach Erin Answers:

Yes, sugar intake is a major factor in both acne and aging. Thankfully, the World Health Organization has recommended lowering dietary sugar. Thus more people have become aware of just how much they eat. The new recommendation for an adult of typical body mass index is only 25 grams per day.

When I personally began paying close attention to labels, I was blown away by the amounts in even ‘healthy’ foods. Added sugar is an insidious threat to our health at many levels. I can’t go into all of them here, but I will say…

Read more…




Common Acne Myths

Acne Myths

Acne Mythology

Acne has got to be one of the most misunderstood conditions on the planet, and with good reason.  For most of us, acne tends to ‘burn out’, or resolve itself, whether after a brief spell or years of torment.  When that day finally comes, whatever the acne sufferer was doing at the time generally gets the credit.  Additionally, a breakout can take an average of three months to show itself, making it difficult to accurately pinpoint the cause.

 

If you or a loved one is dealing with breakouts that aren’t clearing up, you have probably been on the receiving end of a lot of well meaning advice.  Most of the advice, unfortunately, does little to help your condition, because it’s largely based on mythology and has nothing to do with evidence-based science.  Let’s take a little journey through some of the more common beliefs, and see if we can shed some light on the subject.
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How Clear Skin Can Change the World

Skin Care for YOU

Inner beauty (you know, the kind you can’t see with your eyes) has always been the most important beauty, right? You can’t judge a book by its cover. So why do you feel like your problem skin is holding you back?  How would it feel to not have to deal with that anymore?
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Seeing spots?

dark spots
Dark spots are a common complaint, especially as we get older. Ever wonder what causes them, and what can be done about it?

Skin color is produced by cells called melanocytes.  Everyone is born with the same amount of these, and genetics determine how much melanin (pigment) the cells make.  This is our skin color.
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