Episode 072: My Journey And Pursuit For Beautiful Skin For Life
We're wrapping up our 4-part mini-series on taking a Functional Nutrition approach towards skin health
In this episode, I pull back the curtain and share:
My decades-long struggle with chronic skin problems
How I came to Functional Nutrition
How reverse engineering my health helped me uncover the root causes of my chronic skin (and other health!) problems
How you can learn this for yourself through my Beautiful Skin for Life Bootcamp program
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Welcome back to The Live FAB Life Podcast! I’m your host, Naomi Nakamura.
Today we are wrapping our four-part mini-series on taking a Functional Nutrition approach towards skin health and if you missed the previous episodes of this mini-series, then go back and listen to Episodes 069, 070 and 071.
Today I’m pulling back the curtain and sharing with you my skin story and how taking a Functional Nutrition approach helped me, and how when I started my journey, I didn’t even know what Functional Nutrition was, or that I was taking this approach!
So I’m going to start my story by reverse engineering it and working backwards. I’m going to start with how I came to learn about taking a functional approach to health and while it may not seem related to my skin, I promise, I’ll get to it! It’s all a part of my story!
So as I’ve shared before, I ran my last marathon, the San Francisco Marathon in 2013. That year the race was in June and I want to say I started training heavily for it as early as late January, early February, which is a rather long training cycle, even for me.
However, I can’t say that in the five years leading up to that, I wasn’t NOT training. Here’s what I mean by that.
Since about 2008, I started training intensely. Now, I had already been working out with a trainer twice a week for four years, doing about an hour’s cardio at the gym on days that I didn’t train with my trainer, some light running - nothing longer than four or five miles but in 2008 I upped my game.
And the catalyst for this was a new job that I had started that was unbelievably stressful. The work itself wasn’t particularly stressful, in fact, it was work that I rather enjoyed doing, but the level of micro-management was unbearable. To have everything nitpicked and questioned from every decision you make to every word that you said and even your body language and whether you coughed in a meeting, I mean I’d never experienced anything like it before.
And at that time, I wasn’t in a position where I could just leave and find another job. And to be honest, I didn’t necessarily want to because I really wanted to work for that company. So I told myself I’d suffer it out because I was too new to move to a new position and my situation would almost certainly change in a few years, which it did.
But during that time, not only did I start seeing my therapist (who by the way I interviewed back in Episode 015), but I used exercise as my way of coping.
I started Les Mills group exercise classes at my gym, and if you’re not familiar with Les Mills they’re Body Pump, Body Combat and even Body Step type of classes, yoga, and long-distance running. And that’s when my love for running started.
I ran my first half marathon that year, the Big Sur Half Marathon. Over the next five years I ran over 20 half marathons, finished four marathons but trained for nine.
And by the time I finished the San Francisco Marathon, I was spent. I was severely burnt out to the point where I wasn’t sleeping, I had really bad IBS, I was starting to gain weight despite all the exercise but that catalyst for me seeking help was that I had terrible leg pains that left me not able to run a single mile.
A friend of mine had shared with me that her husband had recently seen a “different” kind of doctor who helped him identify foods that he couldn’t tolerate. This was intriguing to me. She said it was a “functional medicine” doctor so I used Google to see if there was one near me and that’s how I found Dr. Melissa, who I interviewed back in Episode 002.
So that was the long story on how I was first introduced to this “functional” approach to health which as you can see, had nothing to do with my skin. But this is how I started to learn about gut health and how we need to address the root cause of what’s causing our health complaints.
It started with overtraining and burnout but as I started to “back things up” and essentially reverse engineer what had led me to the state of health I was in at that time, that’s when I realized how whole-istic and I’m using that word as w-h-o-l-e-h-i-s-t-i-c, which then, led me to realize that every chronic health ailment I had experienced up until then was in some way connected to what I was experiencing at that moment. Every facet of my life was a contributing factor to where I found myself.
So let’s dive into that more and I promise, this is all connected to my skin story as you’ll soon hear, but let’s reverse engineer things.
So I’m sitting in Dr. Melissa’s office because my leg pains were terrible. As she probes more - and this is the beauty of Functional Medicine - more often than not your doctors visits are a full hour, not the 10-minutes you get and still feel rushed in a conventional doctors office. You are interviewed to try and gather as much data as possible to start to put together the picture of what’s going on in your health and WHY. Remember, its not WHAT, but it’s WHY.
So she’s asking me a ton of questions and before I know it, I’m sharing that: I have terrible sleep. I mostly fall asleep okay but find myself waking up at 2 or 3 am absolutely starving and unable to fall back asleep I have digestive issues up the ying yang from pain, gas and bloating no matter what I eat to embarrassing poop problems I am tired all the time and despite all of this exercise I’m doing and the fact that I’m already gluten and dairy-free, I’m gaining weight
She had me do a bunch of lab work. I don’t remember all of the results but I do remember showing her the Celiac test I had done where my regular primary care physician said, “I was fine.” and she told me that I was one digit, literally one number outside of the celiac spectrum.
And after she reviewed all my lab work, I’ll never forget her words when said, “Naomi, you have adrenal fatigue.”
I didn’t know what that was. I didn’t even know what my adrenals were.
But being who I am, I set out to learn as much as I could. And learning about it led me to see what other symptoms and conditioners were connected to poor adrenal function, specifically thyroid dysfunction.
Now several women in my family have thyroid conditions so ten years ago, years before I even saw Dr. Melissa, I had my thyroid tested and again, was told by my primary care physician that “everything was fine.”
But here’s the thing - the parameters that are used for lab tests are based on the population. And we know that the American population is not the healthiest, in large part due to the standard American diet. So what maybe be considered “normal” is not necessarily “ideal.”
And turns out, my thyroid function was pretty low. My vitamin D levels were very low and as I’ve since come to learn, when these things are present, usually there’s some gut dysbiosis, or gut dysfunction going on.
So again, me being me, I had to learn more about this whole gut health thing.
Now, I already shared that I had been having terrible digestive issues. I even had gone to see my primary care physician about this, but she told me that, “Some people are just like this” and referred me to a gastroenterologist.
Well, I knew that it was not normal to have terrible aches and pains and diarrhea after every meal. But what I didn’t know was that signs of poor gut health went way beyond digestive dysfunction. And we’ll get to that in a minute.
Now because I did have really bad digestive dysfunction, it was suspected that I might have candida. And if you’re not familiar with candida, its an overgrowth of yeast in your digestive tract and it is nasty to resolve. Thankfully, I did not have candida!
But what I did have is SIBO - small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, where I the bad bacteria outnumbered the good bacteria in my small intestines. Now I can do an entire episode just on SIBO alone, but this is where Leaky Gut comes in because with SIBO, clearly too much bad bacteria was able to get into my digestive tract and outnumber the good bacteria!
And this is when I really started to dive into what exactly is Leaky Gut and how did I get it.
Well as you heard in the last episode, we get leaky gut from a number of things and when I started to learn more about this, I began to compile my health history and this is how I began to understand just what were the root causes of all of my health complaints AND that they were in some way related.
In looking at the common causes of leaky gut, I could put a check mark next to several of them:
1) A poor diet full of processed foods, sugar, gluten and grains
I did not grow up in a health-conscious family - at all. In fact, I don’t remember eating a lot of vegetables as a kid or even having an emphasis placed on it. I do remember a diet heavy in grains - rice because we’re Asian, bread - lots and lots of bread, lots of Swanson TV dinners, lots of potato chips and candy, cooking with canola oil and in my case, lots and lots of ice cream.
Now I’ve known since I was very young that I’m lactose-intolerant. Something pretty common for Asians. Yet, I loved my cheese and ice cream and just figured that I’d suffer the consequences.
But here’s the thing - when you eat sugar, gluten, grains, processed foods AND foods that your body cannot tolerate, it breeds inflammation. And that will weaken your immune system - how your body defends itself from pathogens and bad bacteria that want to attack it.
That’s why when I hear people say, “Well I’m not Celiac but I do have a gluten intolerance and avoid it 85% of the time…” well what about that 15%?! Just because you’re only eating it 15% of the time doesn’t mean you’re not causing damage and inflammation! The same goes for dairy.
You have to give your body a break and allow it to heal, calm the inflammation and feed it vitamins, minerals and nutrients to nourish and restore itself.
This is why in my coaching program, the Beautiful Skin for Life Bootcamp the first area we address is diet and we dedicate the entire first two weeks to diet alone before we add other topics in. Because diet is a huge factor.
And this is why I’ve chosen to use the 21-Day Sugar Detox as the framework for the diet portion of this program. Because not only are you detoxing from sugar, you’re also removing processed foods, gluten, unstable cooking oils, and then depending on the level YOU choose to do, grains and dairy. All of the common inflammatory foods.
And you learn what IS real food, which you might be surprised to know that many don’t understand what this is. And not only will you come to learn what IS real food, but how to transition to a real foods way of eating - a real foods diet.
2 ) Frequent use of antibiotics
As I’ve shared before, my mother first took me to a dermatologist when I was just 14 years old, not even in high school yet. And that’s when I was first put on antibiotics to clear up my skin. And I stayed on Erythromycin for the next 16 years. That’s SIXTEEN years people of taking antibiotics every single day! It’s no wonder my gut was so messed up and leaky! Because antibiotics not only kill the bad bacteria - it kills ALL the bacteria, even the good ones that our gut NEEDS to fend off harmful things.
So while the antibiotics were intended to clear up my skin, turns out, it was a rather vicious cycle of suppressing my symptoms, but damaging my gut which then promoted inflammation, causing bigger health problems and contributing more to my bad skin.
Can you see how this doesn’t address the root cause and potentially causes bigger health problems?
3) Taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen
Yep, another one for me to check the box for.
Like a poor diet and antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are also damaging to the gut and boy, did I take them like candy!
As you can imagine, years of long-distance running is hard on the body. And I was frequently injured and quite frankly, ran through a lot of pain. In hindsight, I have to wonder how much inflammation my body was under, not just from all the running and athletic training, but also from the poor diet, leaky gut among other things.
Well to make it through the day, and through my training cycles, I took Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve like it was candy.
I would wrap them up in paper towels and tuck them into the pocket of my running shorts during a long run or race to help me get through it. And fun fact, sometimes I sweat so much that they dissolved right there in my pocket!
I also took them in between and after runs and races to help me recover and just be able to move and sleep. I mean these drugs come with the warning that it may cause digestive problems, but I didn’t fully understand what that meant beyond just an upset tummy. It’s also a contributing factor to a leaky gut.
4) Birth Control Pills
After taking antibiotics for about 16ish years, they stopped working. Its actually a wonder that they worked for that long. By the time I was 30, my cystic acne was out of control, all over my face and neck.
I saw my primary care physician and she switched my prescription from antibiotics to birth control pills. And I thought it was the greatest thing in the world because I was only the type of birth control pills where you get your cycle once every three months. I think its called Jolessa?
Well, my period never came so I never had a period for ten years! That’s how long I stayed on birth control pills until I realized that not having a period for ten years was really, really bad. And if I ever wondered how my hormones got messed up? Well there you go!
So in addition to focusing on your diet, through the 21-Day Sugar Detox framework, this is why I also spend a good amount of time teaching you about gut health and how to support your gut health in the Beautiful Skin for Life.
Not only is repairing and supporting your gut health great for your skin but its essential for your overall health and well-being. The benefits of what you’ll learn will exceed the focus of the program.
5) Harmful ingredients in the skincare products I was using
I think by now we’ve established that chronic skin issues are rooted in hormonal imbalances that are then rooted in the first four reasons for leaky gut that I just shared - just to name a few reasons.
And whether you’re a believer in this or not, it’s commonly accepted by now that hormonal imbalances have a lot to do with this.
Now I have shared my story of switching to safer beauty in many past episodes in on social media and the catalyst for this was learning that many of the ingredients in the beauty products that I had been using were known endocrine disruptors. And that means they disrupt hormones!
So like antibiotics and birth control pills prescribed for clear up skin, many of the beauty and skincare products with the same promise actually disrupt our hormonal function.
This was covered in great detail in Episode 003 with Lara Adler.
As I looked at the list of causes for Leaky Gut, I had to look at how my hormones were functioning (or not) and then why was that the case. What possible things were causing hormonal dysfunction.
And being the beauty junkie that I was, as many of us women are, this is a factor that we can no longer afford to be dismissive of. And another case of how things meant to help you might actually be causing more harm than good.
And this is a topic that a full week is devoted to in the Beautiful Skin for Life Bootcamp!
The common denominator in all of these things - a poor diet, poor gut health, disrupted hormonal function is stress because all of these things are stressors on our bodies.
We may only think of stress as emotional stress, which is a huge factor too, but all of these other things cause a stress response from the body too. It adds another layer of trauma in addition to all the other ways we are stressed and makes our immune system work even harder in overdrive.
But if I were to take a hard, honest look at my emotional stress levels, being the Type A person that I am, I think I always have an added layer of emotional stress, probably moreso than the average non-Type A person.
Because I’m always wound up about something, always working on my to-do list, thinking about what needs to be done next, having every minute of my day accounted for.
So when Dr. Melissa asked me what my stress levels were like, I told her that I wasn’t stressed because I had a good job, was in a financially stable situation and really wasn’t in any emotional angst at that time, but really, between my Type-A tendencies, the lifetime of poor dietary choices, poor gut health and decades of using products that had known endocrine disruptors, it was no wonder that I had struggled with poor skin almost my entire life.
But once I finally decided that enough was enough and for things to change, I had to commit to make changes, that’s when I finally saw improvements in my skin health and my overall health.
When I finally decided to clean up my diet and support my gut health, the terrible excess oiliness went away. The painful breakouts went away.
After decades and decades of struggling with bad skin, it all cleared up so simply.
Now that I had that part figured out, I was still left with skin that endured years of quite frankly, bad treatment. I had people recommending (without me even asking), that I get expensive treatments done to repair my skin.
But what I found, and this was so unexpected, that when I started using products that were free of harmful ingredients, well that’s when the skin damage I had started to improve. Now it’s no where perfect, I still have scars and imperfections but the overall surface and brightness of my skin is a thousand times better now that I have an actual skincare regimen using safer products free of harmful ingredients.
Now I said that turns out, it was all so simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy. It took a lot of research, learning and trial and error.
But what I’ve done is taken everything that I’ve learned and put it together in my coaching program, Beautiful Skin for Life. And this is a program created to help you address your skin problems from within.
This is what I’ve used on myself and with my private coaching clients, and yes I do offer this as a private coaching package. But not every can afford, or wants private coaching. So I’ve packaged it up into a group program. And for those of you who are listening to this episode at the time that it’s first airing, the introductory round is now open for registration.
Because its an introductory round, I’m capping it at a very small number of participants. That’s because I’ll be working closely with each person so that I can see what questions you have, where you might get tripped up to see how I can better explain or approach a topic.
I will know each person’s story and situation which is why as an added bonus for this round, I’m including two private coaching calls - one during the program and one after the program ends.
The introductory round begins on Monday, February 4th, which means enrollment will closed this Friday, February 1st so you still have a few days to join. And if you are seriously interested, I would recommend registering as soon as possible because there are some program materials that I will be shipping to you so you’ll want to allow time for it to arrive.
After Friday, then registration will close and the program will only be offered via private coaching probably until sometime in late Spring or early Summer at its regular rate which will be conducive for a six-week coaching program.
Now if you aren’t quite sure if the program is a good fit for you, I’m opening my calendar this week where you can schedule time with me and let’s chat. If it’s a right fit for you or not, I’ll give you my honest answer because it benefits both of us to work with those who this is ideal for.
So you can find a link to the program at www.livefablife.com/bootcamp or go to the show notes for this episode where I’ll also include a link to it there, a link to schedule a call with me and all of the other episodes and things I’ve referenced in this episode.
This wraps up our mini-series on taking a functional nutrition approach to your skin health, although its certainly not the last time we’ll be talking about it. In fact, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but every episode that I have on this podcast falls in one of the four categories:
- Gut Health
So we’re always talking about taking a functional nutrition approach!
That’s it for this week, I certainly appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedules to listen - Quality time is my love language - so I truly do appreciate the time you spend with me.
Have a great week, hope to see you in the bootcamp and we’ll see you right back here next week!
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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.