My Journey to Clear Skin (Part 2)

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In my previous post – My Journey to Clear Skin (Part 1) – I shared my up and down cycles with acne. Just when I thought that battle was over, it comes creeping right back up under my skin. But this time, I feel like I’ve come to a deeper understanding of what causes acne. To heal my acne, I have to fix my gut. So that’s where I started.

The idea is to be conscious with what we put into our body. It could either heal or damage your gut. So you want to make every food, every bite, every bit of calorie to count. Ask yourself, Will what I eat add nutritional value? Or will this aggravate my already damaged gut?

Now that I’m at the four-month mark and seeing great improvements in my skin, I’m no longer as strict in what I eat. Just a few days ago, attending a social event, I couldn’t say no to the host when dessert was offered (It was the opening of a bakeshop.). I thought of the breakouts this may cause me but I indulged anyhow. A new acne now sits on top of my eyebrow. But hey, no longer cystic and painful, so it’s all good.

While food plays a central role in the healing process, taking in supplements may also help move things along.

Here are the supplements I took/take:

  1. Probiotics. I only bought one box of this as probiotic supplements are expensive! I just continued on with my kombucha. I tried Protexin. There are other brands out there (I’ve been told of USANA and GNC). What you want to look out for here is the specific strains it carries.
  2. Zinc. Acne has been linked to zinc deficiency. The best form is zinc picolinate. There’s a brand available in Healthy Options. Solgar around 500php. However, I already bought chelated zinc gluconate 50mg and it works just as fine for me.
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar. ACV is a prebiotic, which feeds the probiotics. It’s good for the digestion, immune system, blood sugar, and has plenty of other benefits. Choose organic raw unfiltered ACV with “the mother”. Braggs is the go-to brand. I take a teaspoon of this diluted in glass of water every morning, first thing when I wake up. I even use this as toner (1 part acv, 3 parts filtered water).
  4. Coconut Oil. This is another wonder food with lots of benefits. It’s an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, high in natural saturated fats – good for heart health and cholesterol. At first I would take this before meals but it had a strong laxative effect on me. Very strong. So I started taking this after meals instead, occasionally. I also use it for oil pulling.

Another, which I will not include in the above recommended list, is Cod Liver Oil with Vitamin D3. But I would advise against this (and is making me think twice now) because of the bad reviews. Read here and here. It was recommended awhile back because of the good mix of Vitamin A, D and Omega-3 fats. But new studies reveal that vitamin A and D has to be in good ratio, otherwise it could either be toxic or useless. Also, cod liver oils are highly unsaturated by nature. Unsaturated oils may contribute to free radical damage, which means, short-term your skin looks good but long-term your skin is aging faster.

With that said, taking vitamin D3 alone may suffice. Vitamin D3 is known as the “sunshine vitamin”, which means the best way to take this in is from direct sun exposure. I know the scares on skin cancer (I lather on sunscreen like there’s no tomorrow.) But did you know that 10-15 minutes sun exposure is equivalent to 10,000 IU vitamin D3? And that’s the maximum number you’re targeting for. But if you’re really an indoors person, aim for 2,000-5,000 IU of vitamin D3 supplement. How do you know how much to take? The best way is to get blood work done. But if not, gauge for yourself: If you’re getting some sun and eat foods that contain vitamin D, then 2,000 IU may be enough. Otherwise, increase the dose. But remember, more is not necessarily better. So take precaution.

 

Question: Can I just take supplements and not change my diet? 

Answer: Maybe. I did that in 2014 and it certainly cleared me but my acne came crashing back even while on supplements. So if your acne is mild to moderate then supplements alone may improve it. But if it’s severe like mine, then supplements alone will have nothing to work with in a damaged gut environment.

 

Hope this helps you in your acne-free skin journey! Next, I’ll discuss lifestyle factors that can make or break your skin. Drop me a line if you have questions.

 

xx,

Jen

 

Disclaimer: I am not a Certified/Professional Healthcare Practitioner. All of this is based on my own personal research and trial-error on what worked for me. Do your own research, consult a healthcare professional if you wish and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. I can’t stress that enough.

 

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My Journey to Clear Skin (Part 1)

Acne has plagued me since high school. Puberty hit and you thought it’d be over in a few years. But it’s been 15 years and I still feel as lost as that little school girl on what to do with my skin.

Here is a brief history of my rocky relationship with acne:

2000-2003 – dermatologist consults, conducted cleaning/pricking, injections. Topical cleansers, ointments. Gave me antibiotics, told me to stay away from shrimps and mangoes

2004 – new dermatologist. Prescribed birth control pills and roaccutane/accutane/acnetrex. Prescribed Duac and Differin as topical ointments. My face totally cleared up at this point! She told me that food has nothing to do with it.

2005-2009 – regular visits to derma, cleaning, on and off cycles of pills and accutane. Derma told me that I will always have acne. Cried inside.

2010 – last box of accutane

2011 – last box of pills. Consulted a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor who prescribed Chinese Herbal Medicines (Huang Lian Shang Qing Pian and Xiao Yao Wan)

2012 – continued Chinese meds

2013 – off any meds. Still clear at this point until latter half of the year. Acne started taking over my whole neck.

2014 – I knew at this point that what was wrong had to do with my system. So solutions should focus on oral meds over topical ones. Started taking Acne-d Skin Clarifying Supplement. Skin cleared up.

2015 – still on acne-d. Acne started coming back around October

Early 2016 – tried taking lactoferrin. Acne on full scale (cystic and pustules): chin, jawline, temples, upper lip, neck and back. Near my monthly period, rashes also surfaced around my underarms, back of knee, crease of elbow. This was Autoimmune Progesterone Dermatitis.

March 2016 – Something had to change..

I weaned off taking pills and accutane because I knew they were bad for me. The Chinese meds cleared me but not as effective as accutane. Also, it had a sort of laxative effect on me. I thought the acne-d supplement would be my savior, but even while on it the acne came back. Through all this, my diet and lifestyle remained the same. I ate whatever I want, used whatever product I fancied.

 

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What Changed?

At first, my research just focused on what new supplement to take. My thinking was that my body cannot process certain foods so I need the help of supplements. It had not occurred to me yet to stop taking those foods that my body can’t process. Because, what would I eat then?

But the more I researched, the more I learned that my diet played a central role in what comes out of my skin. So this is the first part that I need to address.

 

Understanding Acne

Acne is only a symptom. It’s a sign that something deeper is wrong with my body. Just as with the rashes. It’s an autoimmune response of the body. Acne is an autoimmune disease. The fighters of the immune system can no longer distinguish the good guys from the bad guys so they start attacking ALL.

Root Cause of Acne

As often quoted, here is what Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” The gut! How simple and yet wonderfully complex it is.

Leaky Gut Syndrome is often associated with acne. This believes that the gut lining (or intestinal permeability as the scientific term) has been damaged. Years of processed food, refined sugar and antibiotics have compromised the gut flora. There is an imbalance. And so, instead of the gut being able to digest the food and process it for the body’s proper use, it doesn’t. Undigested, the food goes directly to the bloodstream, causing all sorts of havoc on other bodily functions (blood sugar, hormones, immune system etc), resulting in inflammation and comes out as acne.

So to address acne is to address the gut problem.

 

Dietary changes

Remember, “One man’s cure is another man’s poison.” What worked for me may not work for you. Our skin and bodies are all different. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. 

  • GAPS/SCD/Autoimmune Paleo Protocol and Low FODMAPS

I first stumbled upon GAPS then to SCD then to AIP. (Here’s the article that convinced me to go on AIP and low FODMAPS.) Let me state first that I don’t strictly follow these diets. These diets are very restrictive and have its benefits for those with more serious illness concerns. I only follow parts of it because (1) I don’t have the resources to go all out on these diets, (2) I don’t want to be too picky when I go out to dine with people, and (3) this is what felt right for my body.

With that said, there are certain cornerstones to these diets that I will outline here.

1. Avoid gluten, dairy, refined sugar and vegetable oil.

This means no bread, no pasta, no pizza. Anything that uses white flour. Some say white rice is ok, but white rice is mostly just sugar. No sweets or chocolates. No cow’s milk. Vegetable oil is hard to avoid especially if you go out to eat. So I’m not too strict about this.

2. Bone broth

This is very important as it contains nutrients and gelatin that help rebuild gut lining. Best to use probiotic free-range chicken, sea caught fish and grass-fed beef.

3. Probiotics or fermented foods

Yogurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi. Remember, you want to repopulate the good bacteria in your gut. Homemade ones are the best as you can control the fermentation process. Store-bought ones may contain more sugar and ingredients/preservatives than you’d want and who knows how long it’s only been fermented for. For yogurt, it has to be fermented for at least 24 hours as it uses dairy. I make kombucha. There are good and bad reviews on this. As with anything, proceed with caution.

4. Avoid processed foods

Anything that goes through too much process. This goes for junk food, soft drinks, powdered juices, fast food, canned and anything instant. The idea is to eat raw and fresh. The less chemicals, the better. Thus the organic movement. Read the ingredients label. Here’s a link on what ingredients to avoid.

5. Greens, greens, greens and a whole lot of vegetables

Nothing beats getting our daily required vitamins and minerals direct from the source. Whether cooked or raw, you want to balance your meals with the right amount of carbs, proteins and vegetables. The more colorful, the better. And go organic. Pesticides used on plants will find its way into your system. But if due to budget constraints, traditionally farmed vegetables can be washed with vinegar. And if your resources only allow between organic vegetables or organic meat, go with organic vegetables as animals have their own way of processing chemicals/antibiotics.

 

Going on this diet is not permanent (although it will benefit long-term health). At present, acne may also be a result of food triggers or allergies. That is not to say that you will always be allergic to that food, but the idea is to eat/avoid foods that will allow the effective and efficient rehabilitation of your gut so that it can in turn gain back its ability to process and digest that certain food.

If you don’t immediately see any results, just stick with it. It takes 3-4 months before your body can completely release built-up toxins or chemicals. You may even experience a “die-off” effect in between, wherein it gets worse before it gets better. I know I did. It may also reach a point when nothing is improving anymore. JUST STICK WITH IT. Don’t be discouraged.

Next stop, will discuss the supplements that I’m taking.

 

xx,

Jen

Disclaimer: I am not a Certified/Professional Healthcare Practitioner. All of this is based on my own personal research and trial-error on what worked for me. Do your own research, consult a healthcare professional if you wish and LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. I can’t stress that enough.

 

 

 

When God heals

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I’ve been on the down-low lately as I focused on this area of my life. I’m not terminally ill. But I’ve been plagued with a disease (yes, it’s a disease) that has rocked me several times throughout my life. Through each episode, I thought I had overcome it. Until it comes back with a vengeance.

This is Acne. 

It shames me to talk about it as women my age (I’m already 30) flaunt beautifully clear skin. Sometimes I just sit there and stare at how smooth and flawless my friend’s face is (sorry ladies!). This is me when it hurts to even touch my face.

You’d think that acne is only skin deep (I once thought, too). But as primal beings, instinct tells us that there’s something wrong deep within. It’s the same instinct that attracts men to women with long, luscious locks or to women with wide, child-bearing hips. And so we also veer towards people with clear skin. Acne equates to poor health.

This year, my struggles began anew. New acne has been popping out beginning late last year but I’ve been able to hide it with make-up. But by February, it can no longer be ignored. My whole chin, jawline, neck and temples were covered with big, red, cystic acne. My upper lip would grow big pustules at a time.

It was painful. But the real pain comes from societal judgment that there is something wrong with me.

This was my struggle. Daily I would pray for healing and wisdom on how to deal with this. I’ve been making lifestyle changes and there would be seemingly victorious highs, only to be followed by plateaus.

I felt stuck. 

I searched my heart to know if this was only vanity. Was beauty a god I was running after? I justified that this was health. This is MY health on the line. But a book I came across asked, Would you still worship God in the midst of poor physical health?

My thoughts raced to bed-ridden patients who, in pain, would still maintain a cheerful posture and praise God. And here I was, still able to walk around and meet with people, yet sullen in quiet moments, doubting the goodness of God because of a few spots and nodules on my face.

Yet God has been so gracious to me. My prayers changed and focused on His future grace. Someday, everything will be perfect. No ills, pains or sorrows. We will come back in perfect and glorified bodies. He may have His purposes for not healing now. I can only trust in His greater plan and goodness in my life.

God is my healer and true healing can only come from God, whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual illness. Anything outside of God is only temporal.

It’s been four months since this season began. And I’m happy to say that I’m already 90% cleared! There are still a few pesky ones that won’t go away and most are just blemishes. Battle scars if you will. And this time I feel like I’ve gained true wisdom and understanding of my skin and body. That this clearness is true and will stay for good – God’s healing hands.

When God heals, it is true. Acne has plagued me for more than a decade. In bouts and cycles, through different medications, it clears and heals, and then it comes back again. But hopefully this time, it won’t. By God’s grace and help. He is my sun and shield.

 

Follow me as I share my journey through God’s healing grace to clear skin.

 

xx,

Jen

 

 

Celebrating Your Singleness

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Dear Sister-in-Waiting,

I know.

I know it’s hard. I know the days can drag on. I know about all those lonely nights.

I’ve been there.

And I wish it wouldn’t be this hard. But there are days when your heart literally hurts, especially after meeting a promising young man, only for it to turn sour and find out he’s not the one for you.

I know.

And I know you’re tired of people telling you,

“It’s going to happen soon.”

“He’s coming for you.”

“Just be patient and wait.”

So I’m not going to tell you those. Because honestly, I don’t know.

I don’t know if it is going to happen soon.

I don’t know where he is.

And I don’t know how long you’ll have to wait.

So maybe you pray even harder. Read even more. And they tell you,

“Wait on God.”

“Jesus is your Husband.”

“Prepare for your marriage.”

All good advice. But it’s been a year. Or two. Or five. And hope is not what it used to be. It’s dwindling a little.

But I will tell you this:

This season too shall pass.

That I know.

I have been where you are. I read. I prayed. I met new friends. Potentials even. I was expectant. I had high hopes.

I guarded my heart. Took captive of my thoughts. Tried to think only of what was pure, noble and right. But I couldn’t. I thought of marriage. A lot. I thought of potential husbands. A lot.

But, nothing.

And then it hurt. And hurt some more.

But you wake up one day, and you’re ok. Literally, ok.

No longer panicky, no longer anxious. I had peace.

I trusted Jesus. I trusted God. If it is His will, it will happen. He wants this to happen more than I do.

So yes, it will pass. And you will enjoy your singleness like never before. You will see with new eyes, feel with a new heart. You will crave for God just as when you met Him as your First Love. You will want to know Him more, serve Him as He has called you to.

This season is a gift from God. No husband to care for. No kids to run after. Your time is your own. You can focus on your passion for singing. Take up painting. Watch your favorite episode of Friends. Go on road trips.

This is your life. It doesn’t start after marriage. Marriage does not define you. THIS IS YOUR LIFE.

And it’s great to be alive.

So it’s ok. Just hang on to God. With every bit of your might.

Because, my dear Sister-in-Waiting, this too shall pass. And what’s around the corner is worth waiting for.

On Death. Or Brevity of Life.

You can’t help but think of it when you hear someone you know pass away. Especially if that someone was still young. And full of potential.

I hardly know him. I only met him a few times. But the outpouring of love for him is enormous. His reputation precedes him. He’s really a great guy. “Too beautiful for this earth,” someone said.

I couldn’t help but reflect on my own life. It’s usually asked: If you only had one month or one year to live, would you do anything differently? 

I pondered on that question for a moment. Would I? Honestly, I feel it’s a “no”. Now, before you think I’m leading a perfect life, let me expound on that a bit.

If I were free to dream here, that desire I want is to be married and have kids. But with only a month or a year, that’s not possible. Get married, maybe. But if I were to pass away after that, I wouldn’t want to leave behind a husband and/or a child. If I were to pass away early, I’d want to be single.

For some people, it’s to love more. For some, it’s to travel the world. Those are great. Do that. Pursue those.

As for me, I’ve realized that walking with God actually confronts me with the reality of “death” on a daily basis. You hear it in the Gospel. Christ died for me. It’s in His word – die to yourselves daily and pick up His cross. As a follower of Christ, there must be a readiness to stand up for the truth, even unto death. As a child of God, there is a readiness and eagerness to be called home any time..

I’m not meaning to be morbid. Some people would be quick to say here, “Don’t speak of such things.” But only in the face of darkness can you see the light. Or in loss can you appreciate what you have.

So this is my life. Sometimes I do feel I’m ready to leave any time.. At times, I struggle to be content, that there must be more this world can offer. And yet I know that this life can’t satisfy it: I’m longing for that sweet, tender taste of heaven. To be content yet discontent in this world. To be a stranger in a foreign land.

So let me leave you with Psalm 90:12

NIV: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

NLT: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.”

May we all grow in wisdom as we learn to live the life God has graciously given us.

When (almost) ALL your friends are getting married

In the span of two months, I would have attended five weddings. Two on the same day, twice as a bridesmaid, once as a church reader, and five times wishing it were me over there. Sigh. I’ve got wedding fever! But I know my time down the aisle will come. I just need to trust. In the meantime, here are four tips for surviving and thriving in this season of waiting.

1. Learn from your married friends.

Whenever I get together with my married friends, this question never ceases to pop up: Well? Have you met anyone yet? It doesn’t get old and it doesn’t really bother me. I know they mean well. We joke about it and try to come up with strategies for me to meet someone. How I can pretend to trip or fall over and let the guy catch me. Meet-cute.

But seriously, watching my friends with their husbands and their babies is a great resource for me. I listen to their stories of how they share responsibilities, how they handle different situations, how they interact with one another. It offers me a glimpse into how my future marriage can work.

So use this time to prepare. Ask questions. Listen. Even get some practice with their kids!

2. Meet new single friends.

While hanging out with married friends are great, you can’t escape that great reminder that you’re still single. Now would be a good time to expand your horizon and meet new people! Share this season with ladies who know what you’re going through and swap stories and wisdom along the way.

3. Serve.

Now is the best time to serve in church. We are not preoccupied with things of this world, on how to please our husband (1 Corinthians 7:34). We can focus on the Lord’s work, learn hospitality and serve others. This is good training ground as well for a future wife. Someday we will serve our husbands and children, and hopefully open up our homes to those in need.

Bonus: What better place can you meet single godly men but in ministry and see him in action too!

4. Work on your relationship with God.

Our primary relationship will always be with God. Use this time to be more intimate with God and let Him guide you in this season and prepare you for marriage, if that is His will for you.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Let Him rule our hearts. Only in Christ can we be truly satisfied and not in earthly relationships. Learn to hold loose anything of this world, even romance, family and desires for marriage.

 

 

 

Penning down my Mission

Recently, a new guy friend has come into my life and has caused my prayers to go on overdrive, not that it hasn’t already been. Let me reiterate that: Guy friend. We’re friends. His situation is a bit complicated. I met him a few days before he left for a different city and now he’s based abroad. Before he left though, he let me know his intentions and told me that he would come back and pursue me. Sweet? Reminded me of military men going off to battle and leaving their ladies behind wondering when they would see each other again, if at all.

Being the thinker and analyzer that I am, I’ve twisted and turned it over in my head a million times whether he is the guy for me. Can I wait for him? There’s so many things to consider and the fact that he’s away leaves enough room to doubt whether I’m just waiting in vain.

I’ve read so many resources on dating and marriage, not to mention seeking God’s wisdom on this. I thought I had things figured out. But I find myself faltering on the vision I’ve set for my life and the mission God has for me.

So here is my simple attempt to pen down my Mission (following the Master-Mission-Mate flow) and answer that question of whether he is the guy God has prepared for me.

My Mission: A reflection on Proverbs 31

  • To be the woman God has intended me to be
  • To be a supportive and loving wife – a helpmate and lifegiver, gaining my husband’s full confidence (v.10-12)
  • To create a warm and hospitable environment for my family – biological and spiritual (v.13-15, 27)
  • To have some knowledge in business and investments that I may be able to help my husband and multiply what God has entrusted to me (v.16-18)
  • To serve alongside my husband in ministry – lead a small group and counsel women (v.26)
  • To act with kindness and compassion towards those in need – set aside an offerings fund (v.20)
  • To budget our finances well and be prepared for all occasions (v.21-22, 25)
  • To raise up my children in the fear of the Lord and possibly homeschool them (v.28)

With God as my only priority, He directs my path to prioritize the rest in this order: (1) my husband, (2) my family, (3) work, (4) ministry.

With my Mission secure in place, this is the nugget of wisdom I’ve gathered in choosing a Mate:

Choose a mate who will allow you to fulfill your Mission.

  • Will who he is help me be the woman God has intended me to be? Do our characters, strengths, weaknesses complement each other?
  • Will who he is help me be a supportive and loving wife? Will he prioritize our marriage as much as I will? Will I be able to submit to his leadership?
  • Will who he is help me create a warm and loving home? Will he take an active role in raising up our children? Will he help out in areas that I find difficulty in?
  • Will I be able to support the work that he chooses? Do I respect how he makes business/work decisions? Do I respect how he handles his finances?
  • What is the ministry he is called to serve? Is it the same as mine?
  • How does he feel about giving? Investing in God’s work?

These are only some of the Mission-Mate questions that I aim to explore once I and the guy, or other possible potential suitors, get to know each other. Each one will have a different Mission and so have different criteria for their Mate.

We may settle on peripheral areas such as background, looks, interests but don’t settle for someone who won’t allow you to be all that God has intended you to be.

You are you and God has great plans for you. Choose God’s best.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

Paradigm shift

I’ve had a little change of perspective lately and I do hope it sticks. A few weeks ago, I heard the news that an acquaintance, a friend’s friend, was diagnosed with leukemia. That really struck me. As I’m sure it did other people. He is an amazing guy, at the prime of his life (only 24 years old) and doing amazing things for his community. Makes you wonder about life, doesn’t it?

As I was doing my daily surf of contents online, this time including stories of cancer survivors, research on leukemia, how to help, etc., I came across an article of one cancer survivor. This is where I’m drawing my renewed take on all things, especially everyday ordinary tasks, routine work and sheer drudgery.

I GET TO.

That’s it.

I don’t have to go to work. I GET TO go to work.

I don’t have to wake up early. I get to wake up each morning and find things to do that may bless others.

I get to be in a free country, enjoy my independence and do the things I want.

I get to live, love and enjoy life.

Mostly, I get to worship my God from whom this amazing life comes from.

That isn’t to say that life never sucks. I have my ups and downs. But remembering the I GET TOs in life will spell a world of difference between being joyful of the gift or just surviving the day-to-day and keeping my head above water.

I choose to GET TO. Wouldn’t you?