the ins and outs of pcos and acne

pcos, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is complicated. it’s an endocrine condition that affects 8-20% of women of reproductive age worldwide1 and it is characterized by at least two of the following three symptoms: cysts on the ovaries, elevated male sex hormones and/or absent or irregular periods. pcos is a highly misunderstood condition whose symptoms manifest differently among women. many women with pcos gain weight while others have thin body types, some have acne and regular periods while other haven’t menstruated in months. because almost all women with pcos test high in androgens (male sex hormones), many symptoms include infertility, male-pattern hair loss, oily skin and acne along the jawline, and facial hair growth. these symptoms can be frustrating to deal with because they are persistent and can often make women feel like they have no control over their bodies. but these symptoms appear for a reason. and usually that reason is that our bodies are chronically stressed and something about our lifestyles needs to change. women with pcos are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism and cardiovascular disease, so acknowledging these signals from our bodies is key to keeping ourselves healthy for a lifetime. 

 

what causes pcos? 

  • genetics – while pcos is not a genetic condition, per se, predisposition to pcos can be passed down through generations. those who are exposed to higher androgens by their mothers while in the womb are also at greater risk of contracting pcos later in life.

  • stress – both physical and emotional stressors can contribute to pcos. some examples of physical stressors include over-exercising, eating foods you are intolerant to, not eating enough and constant blood sugar issues. many women who suffer from pcos are stressed to the max in their everyday lives – they take on extra work at their jobs, juggle familial responsibilities, endure harrowing breakups and family stress and then often criticize themselves for not working or trying hard enough.

  • blood sugar imbalances – this is one of the most common root causes of pcos and often stems from excessive intake of refined sugars and carbs, or the standard american diet. it often leads to weight gain and involves chronically elevated blood sugar. these blood sugar imbalances cause systemic inflammation in the body and directly influence the production of testosterone, which then inhibits ovulation and fertility.

  • over-exercising and under-eating – our society places a tremendous amount of pressure on women to look a certain way. many women internalize the pressure to be thin and spend years of their lives under-eating while engaging in excessive (usually cardio) exercise. high-intensity exercise always causes testosterone spikes, but they are usually temporary, subsiding when we refuel our bodies with calories. but when women exercise for too long without replenishing their energy stores, their hormone balance starts to suffer.

dealing with facial hair growth and acne

if you struggle with facial hair growth, you are not alone. this can be particularly frustrating if it accompanies hormonal acne – they often show up in exactly the same places along the jawline and chin. because of the cultural expectation that women maintain hairless faces, this type of hair growth can be embarrassing – but there is absolutely nothing wrong with you, there is no reason to feel shame, and there is no reason for you to change in order to appease the people in your life. having pcos is hard enough without having to navigate gendered cultural expectations.

if you are a client here at sS and you to decide to undergo laser hair removal or electrolysis, we just ask that you wait at least two weeks between those treatments and our acne face treatments – we don’t want to stress your skin out too much! if you have hair on your face that you want to remove by shaving, try the tinkle razor, which we sell in the clinic. these razors are more gentle than conventional razors. as for waxing, we don’t recommend it! the heat can be irritating to the skin and who knows what kinds of comedogenic ingredients are lurking in those waxes! 

if your doctor diagnoses you with pcos, they will most likely send you home with a prescription for one or both of two medications: metformin for insulin regulation and spironolactone for decreasing testosterone levels. it is entirely up to you whether you decide to take these medications or not, and whatever your decision, here are a few herbal, dietary and lifestyle changes to implement to keep pcos symptoms under control (and, as always, ask your doctor before making any major changes to your health plan):

  • two cups of spearmint tea each day has been shown to reduce free testosterone levels in women with pcos and has resulted in reduced hirsutism with none of the side effects of pharmaceutical-grade drugs.2 

  • 400mg of saw palmetto, a plant native to the americas, has been found to inhibit the 5-alpha reductase enzyme. the inhibition of this enzyme helps reduce the conversion of testosterone to dht, which is the male sex hormone that leads to oily skin, hair loss, acne and facial hair growth.3

  • balance out your blood sugar by reducing your consumption of refined sugars and carbohydrates – ditch the morning cereals for eggs and greens; instead of a sandwich at lunch, try a salad with tuna or grilled chicken. and pasta for dinner? no way! zucchini noodles will do the trick. eat plenty of good fats and protein and aim for three square meals a day to get your blood sugar on track and to give your digestion a break.4 and supplementing with chromium picolinate has been shown to decrease insulin resistance in women with pcos.5

  • dial in your digestion. take a test to determine any foods you might not tolerate or try an elimination diet to get to the bottom of any digestive woes. this is hugely important because digestive distress is another physical stressor on the body that can ultimately contribute to elevated cortisol and testosterone levels. similarly, make sure your elimination is on track – we flush excess hormones out of the body through our stool, so eat your fiber!

  • practice stress management. this is absolutely huge. take up meditation, improve your time-management skills, see a therapist to work through emotional stress, start a gratitude journal – do what you can to reduce chronic stress in your life as this is often the root cause of pcos.

  • cut the coffee. this is a double whammy – not only does coffee contribute to acne, but it also elevates cortisol levels and contributes to systemic inflammation. instead, try green tea, which has a healing effect on the skin due to its high anti-oxidant polyphenol content.

  • ease up on the exercise. instead of intensive cardio like running or hiit several days a week, switch these out for yoga, walking or light swimming. this will give your adrenal glands a break and will allow your body to more readily recover from stress. 

  • sleep. give your body a chance to do its healing work by getting a solid eight hours of restful and uninterrupted sleep each night. try to make this a priority – this can have a huge impact on the health of our hormones!

  • find a support group near you to work through your emotions around pcos. it’s a tough condition to deal with so finding support in different areas of your life can be a huge relief. 

 further reference:

8 steps to reverse your pcos by fiona mcculloch

paleo for women

pcos diva

pcos awareness association

soul cysters

footnotes

1. sirmans, s. m., pate, k. a. (2014). epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of polycystic ovary syndrome. clinical epidemiology. 6, 1–13.

2. grant, p. & ramasamy, s. (2012) an update on plant derived anti-androgens. international journal of endocrinology metabolism. 2012 Spring; 10(2): 497–502.
3. hudson, t. (2008) polycystic ovarian syndrome (pcos). dec 8, 2008.
4. liepa, g.u., sengupta, a & karsies, d. (2008) polycystic ovary syndrome (pcos) and other androgen excess-related conditions: can changes in dietary intake make a difference? nutrition in clinical practice. 2008 Feb; 23(1):63-71.
5. rabinovitz, h., et al. (2004) effect of chromium supplementation on blood glucose and lipid levels in type 2 diabetes mellitus elderly patients. international journal for vitamin and nutrition research. 2004 May; 74(3):178-82.

PRODUCT LAUNCH PARTY with us!

product-party

join us for a casual, fun and delicious happy hour party tomorrow to celebrate the launch of our newly reformulated top 5, and release of our brand new body lotion!

all guests will receive a travel-sized set of all our new formulas, plus a chance to win your full-sized favorite.

you’ll also get a chance to film your own video testimonial, to help spread the word on how working with us has changed your life – and how others can achieve skinSALVATION too.

AND…. a very special gift from the founder of methodology premium paleo food delivery: the first 10 party attendees will receive a yummy paleo meal to take home and prepare!   (ps – use code skinsalvation and get 10% off your first week 😉 ).

hope to see you there 🙂

xo, kim + team sS

extra help in the kitchen for eating acne-safe

with our busy lives we are all looking for ways that make it easier to stick to an acne-safe diet. here are some kitchen appliances and recipes that can help!
must haves:

vitamix: making soups, smoothies, sauces and dips is a breeze. you need a high speed blender in your life. vitamix blenders are pricey but they are worth every penny. think of all the money you’ll save once you start making fancy juice bar smoothies at home.

favorite recipes:
quick and easy smoothie – 1/2 frozen banana (i cut it into chunks before freezing), 1 scoop of this protein powder, 8-10 oz of this almond/cashew milk – run on the smoothie setting.
refreshing lovely skin smoothie – 2 scoops collagen powder, 10 oz coconut water, frozen fruit of your choice
 
delicious dessert smoothie – 3 dried black mission figs (soaked in warm water until soft), 12oz of this almond/cashew milk, 1-3 TBSP raw cacao powder (depending on how chocolatey you like it), 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, pinch of salt. run on the smoothie setting.
refreshing easy smoothie – 8-12 oz coconut water, a handful of frozen fruit – run on smoothie setting

instant pot: i use this 4-in-1 steamer/slow cooker/pressure cooker/saute pot everyday, sometimes several times a day. it gets way more action than my stove or oven. you can cook a whole chicken in 30 minutes, make amazing soups, pot roast, acne-safe indian food, spaghetti squash noodles and just about anything else you can think of.
 favorite recipes:
tikka masala – i use this acne-safe yogurt in place of the coconut milk/heavy cream
saag paneer – i use kite hill’s soft fresh original variety of acne-safe cheese alternative in place of paneer and the coyo – acne safe yogurt alternative in place of the yogurt in the recipe. for the cheese, cut it into 1 inch cubes, coat with some olive oil, dust with garam masala and bake on parchment paper at about 350 for 10 minutes, then turn the cubes once and bake again for another 10 minutes.
mexican meatloaf – serve with cilantro springs, chopped green onions and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
all these are really good over spaghetti squash, cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles, cauliflower mashed “potatoes” (use ghee instead of butter if you can)
nice to haves:
rice cooker : for making kasha or buckwheat groats, the most delicious gluten-free breakfast porridge that you never heard of. my husband and i take this little gadget with us when we travel and it’s been a life saver. you can also make buckwheat groats in the instant pot but it’s a little tougher to travel with.
 favorite recipes:
sweet breakfast groats – 2 cups coconut milk, one cup toasted buckwheat groats (sold as kasha), a little cinnamon, salt, raisins and whatever else sounds yummy. you just put all the ingredients into the rice cooker and turn it on. it stops cooking automatically when it’s done. if you make it in the instant pot then you lock the top and set it to high pressure for 10 minutes and then do the quick release when its done.
savory breakfast groatsbasically make these the same way as the sweet ones (without the raisins, cinnamon, etc) but instead of coconut milk, use chicken broth, beef broth, bone broth or veggie broth and add salt to taste. it’s also really good with a soft cooked egg on top.
spiralizer and/or food processor: i have witnessed the inflammatory effect of simple carbs like pasta first hand and i’ve seen it time and again with our clients. as you may already know, the first things acne sufferers need change about their diet is avoiding soy, dairy and coffee. a very close second is cutting way down on sugar and simple carbs. this is so much easier when you have a substitute for those comforting pasta and rice dishes. enter the spiralizer and food processor. with the spiralizer you can make oodles of zucchini and summer squash noodles or you can get really fancy and try cucumber noodles, carrot noodles, rutabaga noodles and sweet potato noodles. with the food processor making cauliflower rice is a breeze. i also love to make the carrot and fennel salad listed below with the food processor about once a month.
 favorite recipes:
carrot and fennel salad – i don’t bother with the mandolin slicer. i just shred the carrot and fennel together in the food processor.

FOUND! acne-safe cooking fats

exiting news for anyone who has ever had anything prepared in animal fat – you know how incredibly delicious it is (duck fat fries anyone?). not only is cooking with animal fat tasty, it is completely acne-safe and full of nutrients.

it can seem a bit strange to make your own animal cooking fat, (instructions here), especially for people on the go, or who are strangers to the kitchen. the company epic has bottled up some super high quality stuff, including:

  • 100% beef tallow
  • pork lard
  • duck fat (our personal favorite!)

animal fats

i found these bad boys at my local whole foods market, and am very excited to prepare my morning eggs in duck fat.

there are some awesome nutritional benefits of cooking with animal fats.

  • great source of healthy fat, which our brains AND hearts need.
  • great source of omega fatty acids, and saturated fat which contrary to outdated nutrition ideas of the 80’s and 90’s is essential for the function of many of our organs. these fats act as a vehicle for fat-soluble vitamins, and countless natural processes inside our bodies. this is a great article about the need for saturated fats in our diet.
  • we have found it to be one of the safest oils to cook with, for more cooking oil information see an older blogpost here.

 

this post is by allyson!

easy avocado pudding

IMG_7983

a few weeks ago, we had a quiet morning in the office, so we took it upon ourselves to make kim’s acne-safe avocado chocolate pudding for sally’s going away lunch! we at sS will greatly miss her so we wanted to make something to sweeten the day.  it’s a super easy recipe and only requires 10 minutes max. we used coconut sugar, but the recipe can be made with dates or a low glycemic sweetener of choice.  the avocados create a great creamy base and add some healthy fat! also, good to note: this is a paleo friendly recipe, but not whole 30 approved.

IMG_7982

 

here’s what you’ll need:

– 2 large avocados

– 1 can of full fat coconut milk (may not need the whole can)

– 4 heaping tbs cocoa powder

– a generous squirt of vanilla extract

– 6 large dates, pitted and chopped

         or

–  coconut sugar simple syrup (melt coconut sugar + hot water, 1:1)

– cocoa nibs (for garnish, we used earth circle’s cacao cashew clusters, yum!) 

 

materials needed:

– a quart mason jar is preferable but a large bowl works as well

– blender or immersion blender

 

instructions:

if using an immersion blender it is best to pour cocoa powder into a mason jar or bowl first, to avoid powder flying all over your kitchen.

 

1) dice avocados and add to bowl or mason jar with cocoa powder

 

2) add the coconut milk, but start with 1/3 of the can – you may not need all of it.  once you start blending in step 4, you can add more until consistency is creamy or to your liking.  

 

3) if using dates, add to mixture

or

use your coconut sugar simple syrup.  to make this, mix equal parts boiling water to coconut sugar and stir until dissolved.

 

4) combine all other ingredients to the bowl, and blend until you have a creamy consistency.

 

5) add more sweetener of choice as needed, serve and top with cocoa nibs for a crunchy topping!

IMG_7985

 

after trying the recipe out a few different ways, it is much sweeter when using dates as a sweetener, it just depends on your preference. also, we topped it with a hint of salt when we made it together, and it created a yummy savory+sweet dynamic!