Episode 050: Root Causes of Skin Problems & A Four-Dimensional Functional Approach

Episode 050: Root Causes of Skin Problems & A Four-Dimensional Functional Approach

The conventional two-dimensional approach to treating skin issues like acne is typically topical creams, along with pharmaceuticals like antibiotics or birth control pills.

The problem with this approach is that these things only suppress the symptoms while failing to address the underlying root causes of WHY these problems are happening. And even more problematic are the more significant health issues that these treatments can lead to.

In this episode, I’m discussing the what the common root causes of skin issues are, and a four-dimensional functional approach to take instead!


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Welcome back to The Live FAB Life Podcast.

The big milestones are continuing!

Last week, marked the one year anniversary of this podcast and this week marks twenty years of living in the San Francisco Bay Area! I have loved every minute of it and I still have to pinch myself that I’m still lucky enough to live here!

This week I’m also celebrating making it to 50 episodes! FIFTY!

I remember a year ago, launching the first three episodes, and thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m not sure how many episodes I’ll actually make it to”, but here we are - Episode 050!

For this fiftieth episode, we’re continuing this mini-series on skincare.

In the last episode, Episode 049, we talked about skincare myths and why conventional approaches not only don’t work, but can lead to bigger health problems.

If you haven’t listened to it yet, here’s a quick recap:

The two-dimensional approach to treating skin issues like acne are typically 1. topical creams and ointments, along with 2. pharmaceuticals like antibiotics or birth control pills.

The problem with this conventional approach is that these things only address the symptoms. They temporarily try to control the symptoms, most often, not effectively, and they fail to address the underlying root causes of WHY these problems are happening. And even more problematic are the bigger health issues that these treatments can lead to.

I also shared my own struggles with acne that began at age ten, and how I took antibiotics every single day for twenty years, then birth control pills for another ten when the antibiotics stopped working, and topical creams, both prescriptive and over-the-counter for thirty years.

All the while, the acne never completely went away and I still had to supplement with over-the-counter products, and cake my face with heavy makeup to cover up the blemishes and scars.

Along the way, I developed a host of health issues from major food sensitivities and intolerances, to chronic insomnia, to IBS, adrenal depletion and hypothyroidism, SIBO, etc, etc.

All of these things are linked back to Leaky Gut Syndrome, which I talked about in Episode 009. And a leaky gut happens when the intestinal lining around our gut is damaged and bacteria and pathogens infiltrate it. That’s what makes your gut “leaky.” It’s also called intestinal permeability. And a large part of this has been attributed to chronic use of pharmaceuticals, like antibiotics.

The problem with antibiotics is that it not only kills bad bacteria, it kills good bacteria that’s essential to good gut health that our bodies really need. That’s why prebiotics and probiotics are such the rage now because as a population, our dependency on pharmaceuticals and poor diets cause so much poor gut health which leads to a host of other problems.

What I experienced may sound common, but like I always say, common is not normal and is not how the human body is meant to function. And if left unaddressed those issues can progress to even further damaging conditions like autoimmunity or more.

So instead of settling with this superficial two-dimensional conventional approach, wouldn’t it be better to take a more functional approach and address the underlying causes instead of just masking the symptoms?

It’s like when you’re weeding the lawn. If you’re only pulling the tops of the weeds but not pulling out the root, those weeds are going to grow back, right?

This is exactly what can happen when you take the two-dimensional approach and it’s why people, myself included, spend years on medications, but still look for other products because the prescriptions aren’t working because they don’t address why those your skin issues are happening in the first place.

And yes, while there are additional factors that contribute to the health problems I’ve struggled with when you start to peel back the layers and look at the ROOT cause of why these things happen, you have to look at the things that you’ve been exposed to the longest.

Because here’s the deal, no matter what condition, or illness or disease you might be struggling, including things like acne, these things don’t JUST happen. The environment in your body has to be ripe for these health struggles to set in.

So today, we’re going to be talking about what ARE the common root causes of skin problems, how they’re intricately connected together, I mean, it’s really a chain reaction, and then how to take a more complete, a functional, approach instead using what I like to call a four-dimensional approach.

So let’s dive in!

Root Cause #1: Poor Diet & Nutritional Deficiencies

Diets heavily based on processed foods often have massive amounts of sugar and gluten, as well as heavily processed, genetically modified dairy, corn, and soy.

These kinds of foods have been found to promote inflammation in your body. They also disrupt your blood sugar and increases your insulin production, which then increases your sebum production that leads to breakouts.

Additionally, processed foods lack the essential vitamins and nutrients that your body requires to function optimally.

So when you eat these foods, your body has to go into protect mode. It also has to dip into its reservoirs, or what I like to think of as your body’s savings account and withdraw your stored up vitamins and minerals since you’re not feeding it enough of what it needs to function well.

Keep making withdrawals often enough without making deposits and you know what happens - you have an overdraft.

Though you may not realize it, this is a form of stress on your body that it has to manage. Remember, we experience all kinds of stress, not just emotional stress that we think of when we think of stress. And your body doesn’t have the ability to differentiate what kind of stress you’re putting on it - the hormonal responses are the same.

So with addressing this first root cause by avoiding the most common foods that cause inflammation:

  • Sugar
  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Soy
  • Corn

As well as other foods that your body uniquely may be unable to tolerate or digest - food sensitivities and intolerances.

Doing this is another way of reducing your stress levels and your toxic load.

Root Cause #2: Poor Gut Health

Consider this for a minute:

“In a single day your gastrointestinal tract (aka your gut), has to make more decisions than the rest of the body’s immune system makes in its lifetime.”

Gut health is so, so, so essential and critical for overall health! And it’s why you will always hear me say, no matter what health challenges you’re battling, to “back things up” and start with supporting the health of your gut.

Did you know that your gut is known as the “second brain” of your body?

In fact, it’s directly connected to your brain through the largest nerve in your body, the vagus nerve.

Additionally, upwards of 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. So not only does the health of your effect your digestion, it also affects your nervous system, your immune system, your endocrine system, also known as your hormones. Essentially, it’s a critical player in every function of your body. So when it’s not working right, other things will not be right either.

Now a healthy gut has a lot of good bacteria. And a healthy gut will help your body be able to absorb nutrients from food, while also protecting it from invaders.

Too much bad bacteria sets the stage for a leaky gut, what I talked about earlier, where harmful matter can invade the delicate lining of your gut.

I talked about how antibiotics, the common treatment for acne, will kill bad AND good bacteria and make the lining of your gut permeable, or leaky. And what happens when your gut becomes leaky?

Well, too much bad bacteria can cause SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth - what I’ve had at least three times and who knows how long I had it for because the first time I ever was tested for it was in 2015.

A leaky gut also disrupts the balance of your hormones, which are the chemical messengers of your body. When one hormone is out of balance, it will cause a cascade effect with your other hormones.

And all of these things compromise your immune system, of which most are located in your digestive system, and also impairs your body’s natural detoxification system, affecting your detoxification organs like your kidneys, liver, lymph and the biggest detoxification organ of them all - your skin.

So the second step in a four-dimensional approach to skincare is to start with supporting your gut health, and you’ll also support so many other aspects of your health too!

Root Cause #3: Hormone Imbalances

You’ve probably heard it a lot, I’ve heard it and said it a lot, but whenever we have a breakout or skin issue, we commonly say, “Oh it's my hormones.”

But what does that exactly mean?

And if it's your hormones, do you know what to do about it?

There is a lot that can be said about it, but I’m going to keep this high level and through the lens of how it affects your skin.

Like I said earlier, hormones are the communication network in our body.

Hormones work together, in concert, to regulate many of our bodily functions including metabolism, sex drive, appetite, moods, our ability to get a good night’s sleep, stress and more.

And when one hormone is out of balance, it causes a domino effect causing other hormones to be out of balance. Certain hormones are significant players in skin health, and when they are out of balance, it can result in acne, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, rosacea, redness and all of these things that make us feel embarrassed and uncomfortable about the appearance of our skin.

So how do you balance your hormones?

Some people will go straight to lab testing. Get a Dutch test! Go see your doctor to test your hormones! Right? I hear this advice given all the time, see it in Facebook groups and what not.

And while all those lab tests are helpful, they’re also expensive. Trust me, I know. I’m sitting on some lab work that my doctor wants me to do that’s $700.

But no matter what the results of those lab tests are, the advice on what to do about it holistically is going to be the same, with or without medications for additional support, which as a side note, are fine, depending on the quality of medication you’re taking. I take thyroid medication that my body needs because my thyroid function is so low.

That being said, in addition to taking medication, I’m also doing holistic things in my power to support my thyroid function because my goal is to get off as soon as possible.

So how do you do this?

You start by addressing the first two root causes - eating a healthy, nutrient-rich, real foods diet and supporting your gut health.

You also dial-in on other lifestyle habits like making sure you get plenty of rest, because sleep is critical for healthy hormones! Also things like exercising which stimulates your detoxification system, but always moderately, and not too much!

If you’re only relying on medications for hormone support, without doing all these other things, you’re still making withdrawls, without making deposits and further adding to your stress - and toxic - load!

Root Cause #4: Toxins

Speaking of toxic, root cause number four is toxins.

When it comes to toxins, you may think of environmental toxins like smog and other pollutions, which ARE harmful to our health.

But what most people don’t realize is that what’s INSIDE of our homes is often MORE toxic and pollutable than what’s on the outside of our homes.

We are exposed to toxins on daily basis.

Through processed and genetically modified foods, unfiltered water, air fresheners, cleaning products, and even products that we use in our kitchen! Your plastic cutting board, putting hot substances in your Vitamix which has BPA! Teflon is not good for you! Cookware, water, cleaning products, as well as beauty and personal care products are all full of toxins. We’re also exposed to toxins through harmful ingredients in our personal care and beauty products.

What’s most concerning about toxins exposure is how they disrupt our endocrine system; i.e., our hormonal function, which you know by now are key factors that regulate our weight through our metabolism, fertility and yes, ultimately skin health.

And the best way to address toxin exposure is through avoidance!

As you may have noticed, these four root causes are very much intricately connected.

But if we take it a step further, at the root of all of them is stress.

You may think of stress only as emotional stress (which is a very important thing to address!), but…

Eating processed foods as well as foods that your body is sensitive to and intolerant of is also a form of stress.

Poor gut health is also a form of stress

Having to work extra harder to try to balance unbalanced hormones is a form of stress.

And toxins add another layer of stress to your body.

Again - making withdrawals with no deposits will leave your bank account empty.

Your body cannot differentiate between all of these different kinds of stress - the hormonal response is the same.

Listen, you might be feeling skeptical about all of this…

You might be thinking, will what I eat really help clear up my skin? Will getting more sleep really help clear up my skin? Will changing the products that I’ve used for years really help my skin?

YES - all of these things DO matter.

At one time, I was skeptical of all these things too.

Like you, I had tried every product on the market. I spent WAY too much money, over and over again, things that didn’t work. It was insane (isn’t the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over with the same results?)!

I finally got to a point where I didn’t have the heart to put my bank account through the misery of another failed treatment.

At my lowest point, I felt so broken. My body was broken, my gut was a wreck, my skin was blemished and inflamed, I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep.

At that point, I had nothing to lose, so I took a chance and changed my diet, cutting out gluten, sugar, dairy, corn, and soy.

When I finally did that my complexion changed! For the first time since I was ten years old, I no longer had constant excessively oily skin. In fact, I barely had oily skin.

Other health issues led me to focus on repairing my gut health, and as a by-product, I found that it helped my skin’s health improve too. The breakouts went away and the blemishes healed, and one day I realized, “Hey, I don’t have acne anymore!”

After thirty years on medication it turns out, I didn’t need the pills, creams, and ointments. All it did was temporarily address symptoms. Once I finally addressed the root causes, my skin cleared itself.

But after thirty years of bad skin, it had a lot of residual damage in the form of scars, discoloration, and pigmentation.

When I switched to using safer personal care and beauty products that were tested for safety, I saw my damaged skin slowly begin to renew and repair itself. I found that I needed fewer products, especially less “coverage” products like foundation primers and heavy foundations that I counted on to hide my damaged skin.

It’s weird, wild, exciting, and empowering to no longer have to worry about how my skin looks.

Is my skin perfect? By all means no. I have 30 years of damage to repair. But now, I’m empowered with the tools and knowledge to know what to do to see results.

So let’s do a quick review, shall we?

The first step in my four-dimensional approach is to clean up your diet.

Let’s remove the most inflammatory foods: sugar, gluten, dairy, soy, corn and processed foods from your diet. I do this by coaching you through the 21-Day Sugar Detox, which I think is a fantastic gateway program to not only quitting sugar but also to learning what is real food and transitioning to a real food diet.

Step Two is to focus on repairing your gut health. While this will naturally happen when you clean up your diet, there are also other things that you can do to support this process.

Step Three is to address balance your hormones. This will also begin to happen naturally as you start working on steps one and two, but it also takes effort to manage your stress, get plenty of sleep, exercise, but not too much -- all of these things, among many, influence your hormonal functional.

And Step Four is to reduce your toxic load by avoiding them! Remove common sources of toxins inside your home that you are exposed to through water, cookware, cleaning products, air fresheners, and even your personal care and beauty products.

What I always tell my clients is that working on your diet, exercise, even sleep, these are all things that are variable. Your work will be ongoing. But once you address toxins, and remove them, you’re done. No need to worry about it anymore!

This is the work that I do. I help and teach people how to navigate through complex situations like mine in a very systematic way. And while I help people through the lens of skin health, this four-dimensional approach isn’t just for skin health, but for our overall health. That’s why this is so important.

Now if you’re tired of masking symptoms and you’re ready to heal your skin from the inside out, I created a quiz to help you get started. And I worked really hard, and for a really long time, to create this quiz for you, so I want you to check it out!

You can find it at www.livefablife.com/skinquiz.

Once you’ve taken the quiz, I’d love to know if you’ve been only addressing symptoms and not the underlying causes of your skin (or other health) complaints?

What I want you to do is to come on over to the show notes, leave a comment and let me know! What were your results and how has it shifted how you think about approaching your skin problems.

I spent thirty years only addressing the symptoms and after spending just a few months addressing the root causes, I had a remarkable change not only in my skin but in my overall health!

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Now, one last thing, I haven’t asked them very much, but now that my podcast has been around for a full year, and I have 50 episodes until my belt, if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve heard, and learned something from it, would you be so kind as to leave a review? It will help spread the word about the show so I can help other people too!

Thank you so much for listening! I know your time and your attention is valuable so I appreciate you taking time out of your day to spend it with me!

I’ll see you 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.