acne-causing heavy metals in protein powders – how a client’s own detective research cleared him up!

the team at skinSALVATION does a lot of investigating in order to find the safest and best quality foods and products to recommend to our clients to keep their skin clear long term. we absolutely love it when our clients become detectives in their own right and bring our attention to potential acne triggers that we haven’t discovered yet. yay for teamwork!!
recently, one of our savvy male clients, TB, came across this super interesting report on protein powders put out by an organization called, “the clean label project”. they “use data and science to reveal the true contents of america’s best selling consumer products. products are tested in an accredited analytical chemistry laboratory for 130 harmful environmental and industrial contaminants and toxins, and their results are published as product ratings.” the clean label project currently tests baby food, pet foods, and protein powders. there are some people out there that weren’t as impressed with the clean label project as we were and in an effort to provide all perspectives and information available. we want to share this link where the writer talks about some of the clean label project’s shortcomings and issues with it’s research.
TB, a very active vegan athlete looked up protein powders, and unearthed information on the one he had been taking – which looked acne-safe (meaning, it didn’t contain soy or whey or other acne-causing foods we look for). through this report, he found out more about its’ nutritional value, heavy metals, pesticides and mycotoxins and we were shocked by the findings.
CASE STUDY
TB came to us in september of 2017 with over-exfoliated, inflamed and picked-at skin. his clarity at the time was about 60% and 95% of the acne lesions that he did have were inflamed. being a gluten-free vegan, his protein options dramatically decreased after learning that he’d need to stop eating acne-causing soy in order to clear up his skin. on top of this, we discovered that he was likely suffering from a systemic candida imbalance after he scored high on this candida questionnaire. he decided to embark on a vegan candida cleanse but because the diet was so restrictive he only lasted on it for about 3 weeks. (generally, folks stay on this whole + natural foods diet for 2-3 months to clear up the candida. candida can cause sS-resistant acne, among other more serious long-term conditions).  he also started taking this anti-fungal candida control tincture which is the other necessary component to getting candida successfully and fully under control. (ideally, you need to avoid all sugars in your diet to starve the yeast, and supplement by taking anti-fungals to clean out and purge the excess yeast. there are many other components to this; check out our other posts on candida). he continued to work hard to avoid soy, sugar, gluten and eat as close to the candida diet as he could and we started to see his inflammation calm down and his clarity improve.
in addition to the dietary changes and supplement regimen, he was coming in for regular treatments and using our targeted skinSALVATION home care products. unlike most clients we see, his acne was really not extractable (he was too inflamed), so instead of focusing on extractions during his treatments we opted for chemical peels, high frequency (a machine that kills acne bacteria, reduces inflammation and speeds up healing) and 20 minutes under our LED panel to further heal the skin and combat inflammation at a deeper level.  we continued to do extractions where we could. by his 4th treatment on november 26, 2017 he was 80% clear and showing vast improvement in terms of inflammation and overall skin health. by january 21, 2018, he was 95% clear. check out his amazing transformation below!
THE PROTEIN POWDER DISCOVERY
after moving away from the bay area, TB reached out to us, letting us know about the clean label project study. he had been taking vega protein powder every day, even several times a day for about 6 months before seeing us. his skin had got really bad, super inflamed with very deep cysts in april-aug 2017, around the time he starting taking the vega protein powder.
at his consultation appointment in 9/2017, his clarity was 60% and most of that was the inflamed and cystic type of acne. he was baffled as to why his skin had gotten so bad over the last few months when really nothing had changed. looking back we both really think that this protein powder is the main reason it got so bad. another major factor was probably physical stress from all the intense working out he was doing at that time – he himself said his body looked it’s best but his skin looked it’s worst!
we didn’t think of the protein powder to be a major acne-causing factor for him at the time because the ingredients seemed acne safe (no soy or dairy/whey) – and he was eating so much soy up until we told him how much soy breaks all of our other clients out. shortly after his first treatment at the end of 9/2017, he started the candida cleanse, had two colonics and backed off the protein powder because he wasn’t working out as much anymore. we started to see a big improvement in his skin towards the end of november, 2017 at his 4th treatment and it quickly improved from there. by january 2018 (3 months after first starting with us) he was 95% clear and has been able to maintain that after moving away from the bay area.
through the clean label project’s research, vega was found to be one of the worst rated, containing high levels of toxic heavy metals (!!!). after sharing his story of clarity working with sS on social media, several folks on social media contacted him regarding vega protein powder, citing similar acne experiences while consuming the same thing!
here are some interesting facts from the study to note:
  • organic protein powders had on average 2x the heavy metals than conventional ones
  • egg protein was the cleanest with the least heavy metals/toxins
  • plant-based powders were on average, the most toxic
  • 75% of plant-based tested most positive for lead (they are doing more research on how and why toxins get into these foods so stay tuned for another post once this research comes out)
after reviewing the study findings, we are no longer recommending vega protein powder to our clients and we are currently looking into safer options. so far we have found the following to be acne-safe and clean-project-label-clear on paper, but have yet to actually see clients through using these powders for an extended period of time:
protein source: hemp protein
EAT REAL FOOD
it’s also important to keep in mind that protein powder is a dietary supplement which may be helpful in a pinch, but is not going to be the best option to replace actual real whole natural food meals humans should be eating every day. remember, these are SUPPLEMENTS and NOT everyday meal replacements! instead of making a protein powder shake your daily go-to breakfast, try some of these quick + easy, make-ahead options instead:
steel-cut, gluten-free oatmeal topped with hemp seeds and fresh berries (you can easily no-cook this by soaking them them overnight in the fridge, they’ll be ready in the am)
sprouted grain toast and eggs
hardboiled eggs, fermented veggies (like saurekraut or kimchi) and avocado (super easy to get ready the night before)
avocado toast with kite hill “cream cheese”
avocado and sugar-free lox
low sugar granola and unsweetened almond milk (kim loves this over cut up papaya)
TAKEAWAY

a mantra from kreation organic juicery in the LA area – you are what you eat. don’t be cheap, fast, fake or easy!

going keto the acne-safe way

Link

going keto the acne-safe way

by kerry watson

the ketogenic diet, also called the “keto” diet is made up of high fat, moderate protein and very low carbohydrates. a basic ketogenic diet aims for a daily intake of 75% fats, 20% protein and only 5% carbohydrates. the ultimate goal is ketosis, a state when the body shifts metabolism to become efficient at metabolizing fat for energy instead of glucose. if, after reading this post you get inspired to try an acne safe ketogenic diet, this online keto calculator is a great resource for keeping track of your macronutrients. there is also a great guide and free recipe book on this site to help get you started on the diet.

(photo taken from www.perfectketo.com)

at least one study has shown that a ketogenic diet may have the ability to improve acne [1]. the understanding that high glycemic and high sugar diets can worsen both inflamed and non-inflamed acne lesions has become more widely accepted. it makes sense that by following a ketogenic diet, spikes in insulin are reduced and this may improve acne in people who are susceptible to breakouts triggered by sugar.

keep in mind that, like all diets, the keto diet is not going to be the best option for everyone. if you have any gallbladder or fat digestion issues then this diet is not for you. for most people, this is a safe and even beneficial lifestyle change. when our ancestors relied on a hunter-gatherer diet most of them spent a good part of each year in ketosis, especially those in colder climates when hunting was the only option during the winter. ketosis is not something new and our bodies have already evolved to tolerate and even thrive in this state.

before embarking on a ketogenic diet, do a little research to first make sure you know what to expect. start here for everything you want/need to know. just remember, unlike other ketoer’s you are doing it the acne-safe way which means, no dairy, soy or coffee 🙂 there are plenty of alternatives available so you won’t miss a thing!

my personal keto journey:

i decided to try this diet for many reasons. i have tried for years to lose weight with diet and exercise without much success. i have a chronic pain condition consisting of back, neck and shoulder pain and inflammation along with migraines. i also have had problems with blood sugar both too low and too high. after being on the keto diet for about 9 months now, i can say that it was one of the best decisions i’ve ever made 🙂

i don’t count carbs or calories. I just stay away from foods that contain more than 3-6 net carbs a serving and that has kept me in ketosis with no issues. click here to learn how to calculate net carbs. i’ve lost 15 pounds and my chronic pain flare ups are about 80% better than when i started. i don’t use any testing to make sure i’m in ketosis. i can just kind of feel when i’m in or out of it. there are subtle body changes that i can feel.

for folks who aren’t complete nutrition nerds like me, it might be a good idea to get some keto strips to test your urine to make sure that your body is getting and staying in ketosis. just keep in mind that these only work in the beginning because as your body becomes fat adapted, it releases less and less ketones in your urine as it becomes better at burning them for energy. however, in the first couple months these strips can help you make sure that you are staying in ketosis.

also, it’s easy to over do it with foods that are low carb. if you eat too many servings of low carb foods, the carbs will add up quickly. one example is nuts and nut butters. be careful to stick to very small quantities of these! look up the carbs in a single serving and see how big that serving is and go from there. you have to be really diligent with staying under 30 net carbs a day for this diet to do what it’s supposed to.

unpleasant symptoms are common at the beginning of embarking on a keto diet. personally, i was very tired, headachy and felt like i was walking through mud a lot of the time. these symptoms are known as the keto flu. this happens because glucose tells the muscles to hold onto water and electrolytes. without a steady glucose supply, these are flushed from the body pretty quickly. to combat this, especially in the beginning, it helps to supplement your electrolytes:

here are some guidelines:

  • supplement sodium 5000-7000mg
  • supplement magnesium 300-500mg
  • eat potassium rich foods 1000-5500mg a day or get this or this supplement
  • drink lots of water! you will be peeing a lot for a while until your body becomes fat adapted. this process took me a couple months but it’s different for everyone.

here’s my guide of tips and recipes to get you started:

breakfast 

– keto porridge:

  • 3 tbsp almond meal
  • 1 tbsp ground flax meal
  • some salt
  • couple droppers of vanilla stevia
  • tsp of ghee
  • 1 tbsp almond milk or coconut milk (optional)
  • 3/4 cup water

cook on medium low until it thickens a bit. the drop an egg in it and stir it up and into the porridge well until it cooks then add a couple frozen berries. sometimes i skip the berries to be super low carb 🙂

– project juice blue moon smoothie with no dates and then i stir in my own vanilla or plain stevia drops added (so good!!). i get this at least once a week on my way to work 🙂

– hard boiled egg, lamb sausage link or patty from whole foods pre-made and baked in the oven and avocado. or some organic bacon and avocado.

i like to save the bacon grease and bake these in it later for an amazing snack!

– i’m also loving poaching a pastured egg in bone broth and eating/drink both together with a little ghee and salt.

– since the weather has been so hot i’ve been having more salads for breakfast. i make a super large salad a couple times a week and keep it in a big container in my fridge so i can also grab some when i need a snack or a quick meal. i just keep it undressed and add dressing as i eat it. i also keep lots of hard boiled eggs around so that those are ready to go as well.

lunch

– often from postmatescalibur has organic beef lettuce wrap burgers (no bun) that are super yummy. and there are a few poke bowl places that have raw fish over kale or lettuce with acne safe toppings. instead of getting their sauce, top coconut aminos on it yourself to ensure it is acne-safe.

– if you are in the mission, mealmade delivers keto friendly meals. my favorite is this one.

–  leftover dinner or this keto bread (crackers) with tomato and avocado and bacon OR salami on it. instead of parmesan cheese, try using daiya shredded cheese. Also, I just found these at Rainbow. they aren’t amazing but they fit the bill for a pizza craving with some sauce, pepperoni and veggies baked on ’em.

– remember, any sandwich, burger, hot dog or taco can be enjoyed in the form of a lettuce wrap. so get some romaine leaves washed and keep them at the ready in your fridge. you won’t miss the buns and bread especially once you see your skin clear up and those extra pounds melt away 🙂

dinner

– i eat lots of low carb salads with some kind of yummy meat. i make this recipe at least once a week using various spice mixes

– of course i have lots of cauliflower rice and different stir fries and one pot instant pot meals over the cauliflower rice. i used to make the cauliflower rice from scratch using my cuisinart but now it’s so mainstream that you can buy it frozen at whole foods or trader joes!

– i really love this recipe. you can make it dairy free with kite hill ricotta and daiya shredded mozzerella instead of the dairy cheese it calls for. nobody will miss the pasta noodles.

– zuchini noodles are easy to make. you just need a good spiralizer like this one. here’s a recent turkey meatball curry dish i made to go over baked zucchini noodles.

– i don’t have a grill and i hate cleaning frying pans so i make lots of burgers in the oven and they always turn out great. here are my amazing baked bison burger and baked curried turkey burger recipes:

baked bison burgers:

  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika powder

directions: preheat the oven to 375

char the jalapeno using a burner on your stove (gas works best). when it’s all black let it cool then peel the skin off under running water. then chop it up and remove seeds unless you like things super hot. chop the jalapeno up into a fine dice.

mix spices, bision and jalapeno together well in a bowl and form 4 patties. put them on a parchment paper lined baking pan and bake them in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes turning once.

baked curried turkey burgers:

preheat oven to 375

  • 1 tbsp indian spice (can get a pre-made one or use recipe below)
  • 1 lb ground turkey thigh meat
  • few springs of cilantro

indian curry spice recipe: 2 tbsp onion powder, 2 tsp garam masala, 2 tsp coriander, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon. 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

mix 1 tbsp spice mix with the 1 lb of ground turkey and form four patties.

put them on a parchment paper lined baking pan and bake them in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes turning once. make sure the internal temp reaches at least 165.

top with cilantro and enjoy.

these books have some of my favorite recipes:

the keto diet cookbook: the slow cooked beef korma recipe is a big hit! try it over cauliflower rice.

primal blueprint:  pork fried cauliflower rice and the asian pork lettuce wraps are my personal faves.

the keto diet: i’m super excited about this non-dairy keto cookbook that one of our awesome clients told me about. here’s a photo of my book. you can see all the tags hanging out marking all the recipes that i want to try.

dessert

  • about 1 tbsp a day of almond butter on a few squares of low carb chocolate.
  • some of these ice creams are low carb.
  • avocado pudding sweetened with stevia and/or monk fruit (instead of dates) is a good option too. try to eat lots of avocados because they are loaded with potassium (more than bananas!)

libations:

for alcohol, i stick to vodka mixed with la croix 🙂 there is also this hard cider that is low carb at whole foods. it tastes like super yummy kombucha. read the label though, not sure they are all low carb.

here’s a couple tips for those nights out with the crew:

  • make sure you drink at least 3 quarts jars of water during the day.
  • take extra electrolytes during the day (sodium, potassium, magnesium) and take a b-100 complex capsule or tablet before drinking, and then again before bed and then in the am when you wake up. this will prevent a hellish hangover.
  • remember to go easy on the alcohol while on a low carb diet. it will hit you harder and faster than you are used to.
  • also, check out our blog post on hangover prevention.

1.) Paoli A, Grimaldi K, Toniolo L, et al. Nutrition and acne: therapeutic potential of ketogenic diets. Skin Pharmacol Physiol.2012;25(3):111-117; PMID: 22327146.