Jennifer Fugo joins Tahnee on the women's series today. Jennifer is a clinical nutritionist who specialises in healing chronic skin conditions and digestive issues. Through her work, Jennifer's ultimate goal is to resolve the health issues that standard medicine loves to medicate away. With experience and wisdom taken from her own personal health journey, Jennifer knows first hand that what we eat matters. In her clinical practice Jennifer uses a toolbox that includes food, micronutrient supplements, herbs, lifestyle changes, and stress management to help her patients reclaim their own good health.
Tahnee and Jen discuss:
Who is Jen Fugo?
Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is a clinical nutritionist empowering women who’ve been failed by conventional medicine to beat chronic skin and unending gut challenges. Because she’s overcome a long history of gut issues and eczema, Jennifer has empathy and insight to help her clients discover missing pieces and create doable integrative plans.
Simply put, Jennifer believes that YOU deserve better. That’s why she launched www.Skinterrupt.com -- to interrupt the failed conversation about chronic skin problems with helpful alternatives that you aren’t being told about.
Jennifer has a Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport and is a Certified Nutrition Specialist. Jennifer's work has been featured on Dr. Oz, Reuters, Yahoo!, CNN, and many podcasts and summits. Jennifer is an Amazon best-selling author and the host of the Healthy Skin Show.
Q: How Can I Support The SuperFeast Podcast?
Check Out The Transcript Here:
Hi, Jennifer. Welcome to the SuperFeast podcast. We're so excited to have you. Mason and I have been looking at all your work and the beautiful Jolene introduced us to you. So, we're very grateful. She's an amazing friend of SuperFeast. I know you're joining us from the States today. And I just wondered if you want us to introduce yourself to our audience, and give them a little brief rundown of what you do, what you specialise, that kind of thing.
Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. It was such an honor. I was so flattered when I got the invitation. I was like, me? But I work as a clinical nutritionist in the United States. And I came to this whole world of wellness and nutrition because I had gotten sick about 10, 11 years ago and started out more with like gut issues, and learned about different trigger foods and things like that. And then, eventually I got a handle on that.
But, when I decided to go back to school to get my master's degree in nutrition, I started developing eczema. And so, that's where I ended up now with this whole little world that I've created for people that are really struggling with these like chronic skin rash conditions, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, dandruff, tinea versicolor, that kind of stuff.
To help support them on this journey, because there's not a lot of great information out there. And like I really even struggled when I was going the quote unquote natural route to find things online that really worked. It even seemed like most of the things you read online are kind of managing things, just like the steroid creams and everything else. And I wanted to take a step back and go wait, in this day and age we should have some more options. So, could we possibly dig into some of these conditions and find better, more natural options. But, at the same time, not shame people around if they choose or require some medication on their journey. Because I think everybody's personal journey is different. And I believe that each person should have the freedom and the comfort to make their own decisions.
And so, I started a website called Skinterrupt and The Healthy Skin Show podcast in order to educate, and empower, and connect people who were looking for other answers. And, yeah. So, that's what I do.
And here you are. Yeah, your podcast is really awesome. I listened to a few episodes. And just the scope of what you cover and how in depth it goes, like I think what you said earlier about that lack of good quality information online. Like so many people, I think, they go down the rabbit hole and they read all the things. And a lot of other people, a friend of ours called them like two minute noodle shamans, they may be people that have had their own really brief, personal experience with something, and then they become a kind of an expert, and they start promoting different ways of managing things.
And there is always such a bias toward the one way or the kind of... this is kind of the thing that's going to fix it. You know? And I think, when we're looking at these kind of chronic skin conditions, it's usually a compounding kind of collection of factors that have led someone to be erupting in the first place. And the solutions are always multi-dimensional, or that's certainly been the experience we've had. I wonder if that's true of the people you work with, you know? If that's-
Yeah. It really is, and that's a great question. So, one thing that's really interesting and, I think, is important for people who are listening to this to know is that, while it's really important for certain details of what type of condition you have, like eczema has some differentiators compared to rosacea, or psoriasis, or dandruff. But generally speaking, what I found through my research so far is that there are 16 root causes that contribute to these inflammatory, chronic skin rash conditions.
And with all the salves and... I don't know. There's so many things online that people will say, oh, take this, try that. A lot of it doesn't work. And I also have have a deep concern, which I hope we can touch on today, about the dangers of some of the elimination diets that are out there for these skin rash conditions. But you have to look at the body as a whole and pick it apart and say, okay. Well, is there a gut issue? Usually there is of some sort, whether it's gut function, or microbiome imbalance, that usually overrides and overloads essentially the liver. So, you need to manage that and think about, how do I best support my liver? You need to look at your hormones, your thyroid. And so, putting together this piece helps us figure out a way forward that it doesn't cure or heal conditions, but it really helps look at the body as this out of balance puzzle, and how do we figure out how to put the pieces together in a way that makes more sense. It takes time.
I think, if people are looking for like the super highway route, like your alternative routes are probably not going to work for you because you'll be very disappointed. I mean, I think it's important to be honest about that. But, if you're like, hey, I've tried steroid creams. I've tried a lot of these other salves. And I just don't see results. And I'm not comfortable continuing doing this kind of stuff, or I want to try some other things while I'm doing some conventional medicine things, there is a really great pathway forward.
And, as I was saying, like people get hung up on like, but I have eczema, but I have psoriasis. There's a lot of overlap in the way that you can decipher the problem. There may be little nuances to each condition that, at least that I have found from a clinical nutrition standpoint, like for example, psoriasis tends to have like these really overt fatty liver issues where you don't usually see that with eczema and a lot of the other skin issues. For some reason those are connected.
And so, you just knowing those little pieces really helps us find a way forward. So, there's not one formula. There's not one magic, diet, or food, or supplement.
Or herb or anything. Yeah.
Right. Exactly. But, if you take into account the 16 different facets and say, okay, what are my like three to maybe five unique points where I'm really out of balance?
And how do I most efficiently get those into balance? You can find, at least from my experience, a lot of improvement.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think I saw those 16 on your website. Do you list them somewhere?
We actually have a great podcast that lists them all out. The reason is that... I mean, it's a lot. It's not anything that's necessarily different from functional medicine, right?
I mean, there's a lot of things that we love to share with people that are incredibly helpful. But, as I said, I mean you've got environmental toxins as a potential root cause. There are genetic root causes as well, which aren't necessarily quite as important to like decipher and figure out. But, just to like go through the list real quick, you've got diet and food reactions. So, it could be allergies, food sensitivities, or food intolerances, all three of which are actually different, although we tend to use them interchangeably, but they're not. Microbiome dysbiosis could happen at the skin as well as in the gut. Environmental allergies, nutritional deficiencies, auto-immunity and auto inflammation, gut dysfunction, which would include something like low stomach acid. You had your gallbladder removed, or your pancreas isn't putting out enough enzymes, or your motility is either moving too fast so you have diarrhea or you're constipated so things are moving too slowly.
And then, we have liver detoxification challenges, past traumas, thyroid issues, drug reactions, mitochondrial dysfunction, hormone imbalance, unmanaged stress, and heavy metals. So, heavy metals are one of those little pieces where you can't start there. That is something further down the road. You need to look at some of the other pieces first. And that's always important too, to know that there is a hierarchy by which you deal with these things. And typically, especially if any practitioners are listening, I just beg you, please, like you have to start supporting that person's liver detoxification first.
You can't like... it doesn't mean you go do a liver detox. It actually means you need to support the liver pathways that requires specific nutrients in order to run correctly. So, it's a much different perspective. And, if you don't do that, if you try to address like the gut or other things, you'll find that that person will become very uncomfortable and find that they'll flare.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Because, I mean, I think people don't realise the different stages of liver pathway detoxification, mobiliing toxins at different levels. And, if they're not functioning well, it's just going to end up back in the blood. And, especially if you start to detox all the parts of the body, say you start to improve stomach function and the body starts to-
There's... I mean, this is from Chinese Medicine. Like this is all like this relationship between the Spleen, which is the digestion, and the liver. And what happens is when, especially when digestion starts to suffer, then you'll start to see that the Liver has to kind of overwork to try and reassess everything because it's like stagnation. And I always use the analogy of like composting. If you imagine that there is rotting kind of food going on in the gut. If the acid isn't great, there's going to be food particles that are too large. It's going to create issues with the gut microbiome. This is all going to impact the Liver. And then, if it Liver as not functioning well, the colon is not functioning well, you're going to end up with all that stuff back out. And it usually comes out through the skin. Right? So-
Absolutely. And I'm glad that you actually mentioned all of that because it's one of the biggest ahas. It was a big aha for me like as a clinical nutritionist. I really always initially thought, oh, well it's all gut. You just fix the gut, you rebalance the gut, and you support healthy gut flora and you're good. And it's not. That's what's been most surprising. And I fortunately have some really fantastic mentors who I've talked to about that, that I have this concern that a lot of times people are like, oh, you have gut issues. Let's deal with the gut issues. And I'm like, with skin, if you don't support those liver pathways first, you're going to have major problems.
It's just inevitable. And I've seen it in clients and I've seen it in other individuals who come to me where the physician or functional doctor was like, oh, let's do a gut protocol and they got super flared and couldn't get rid of it.
And it's because the liver gets backed up. And you're right. If there is this impediment, essentially not enough nutrients to clear out what has passed through phase one detox and it's just hanging out in this waiting room growing and growing and growing because phase two doesn't have enough nutrients to support the removal of those toxins or the processing of them to make them more water soluble, you've got a problem.
Yeah. And I think what's interesting when you look at that as well, which is what you touched on with the thyroid, and hormones, and stuff, is like, again, from a Chinese perspective, that's going to impact the Kidneys.
So, you're going to end up with a hormone imbalance dysfunction. And this is all kind of playing out at once. And often, you'll see people go, well I've got this, and I've got this, and I've got this, and they get really fixated on the label. And if you can, like you said, draw back a little bit and just go, okay, well what's really happening at a systemic level of the body.
Another super interesting idea, and I'm sure this is probably something you've seen as well, is, from Chinese Medicine, if there is extra energy in the body, if all of the organs are demanding healing energy, if they're constantly backed up and not working well, then the skin is going to be one of the first places where infections and things can set in because it loses its protection. And I've seen that so many times with people that come to us is that they're just tapped out. They're exhausted. They've got no reserves.
They're just getting enough sleep to kind of stay okay. And there's no extra in there to like really be like, okay, now we can repair. Now we can get things going better again. So, it's just this huge scope of potential things to address.
Exactly. Exactly. And it is complex. I mean, skin is... People want to think that skin is like fast. Like, oh, well I've only had this for two months. And I'm like, I don't know how long you have the issues underneath. But, by the time the skin issue happened, there was probably a lot more happening under the surface that either you didn't quite notice or you ignored. I mean, look, to be fair, most people don't tune into symptoms. They're like, oh, well I have a headache all the time. I take Tylenol every day. I have this, I'll take this medicine. You go to the doctors and they're like, I don't know, these aren't connected. You're just stressed. And so, we're really conditioned in many respects to blow off the warning signs. They're subtle, but there are warning signs that had been there for quite a while.
And, as I start to dig through a client's history, I discover like, oh, were you... One question I ask, which is really helpful a lot is, have you traveled to any third world countries? Because that can be a major red flag for infections, parasites, all sorts of problems. And inevitably, some of my worst cases, most complicated cases, they had been in India for a year, or they worked in Africa, or something, they went to Haiti. They had gotten sick while they were there or had some sort of incident with their health. And that's not something a dermatologist... and I saw a dermatologist for my eczema, and I never got asked. And I don't think any of my clients I've ever gotten asked, have you ever gotten really sick in a third world country or as a result of coming back?
But also too, you can pick up bugs and not end up violently ill. And that's the other piece that is confusing for people to say, well but I was but I didn't get sick. And I'm like, you know what? It doesn't matter. You can have gut infections and have no gut symptoms.
And things really in the liver and stuff that just don't come out until you're really weak.
So, yeah. So, when you're talking with people, obviously consultations would be part of what you do. And I think, if people are listening, and they have these kinds of things, and they're not feeling like they're being heard by their practitioners, are there things that they can offer as information or kind of, if you were in your shoes again, going to see a dermatologist again for the first time?
Like what are the things that are really... what should people be paying attention to, taking notes of just to help to start to hone in on what might be the kind of specific thing? I know that's a really broad question, but I'd just be curious.
No. It's a good question. It's a really good question. The first thing I would say is, think about what was going on at least six months to a year before the skin rashes appeared.
That's a really important thing because a lot of times we don't think about what happened. It doesn't necessarily have to be the thing that happened the day before. It could have been something that happened six months, eight months, ten months prior. And also, did you have a lot of exposure to antibiotics, through your life, not just around that time? Did you have, especially for women, were you on birth control pills for a long period of time because they do have an antibiotic like action, according to some research, on the gut. And I'm sure Dr. Brighton talked about that at length and the action on the gut and the depletion of nutrients.
And so, those are two really big red flags. But also, make a list of every single symptom that you have, no matter how small, like don't listen to that voice in your head that is echoed by the doctor. And I love doctors. My dad is a doctor and a surgeon, so I'm not demeaning doctors. But how many times have you gone, well, but I have a little bit of a headache. I have a little of this. And they're like, oh yeah. It's just nothing. It's just stress.
I want you to tune into all of those symptoms. If you're snappy with your husband last minute, or you find that you're just like crying over everything, or you're waking up every day and you feel like you've lost motivation. So, it can be mental, emotional, and physical symptoms that you're experiencing. And make a complete list. And it doesn't have to be... I know that people are like, but it's not my skin. I get it. Like it's totally fine.
I would also say, you could write down what type of skin condition you've been diagnosed with. And then, write out all the symptoms that you experience. Because, in my experience working with clients, the symptoms aren't always the same. Someone could have psoriasis and have extreme itching where someone else has psoriasis and they don't.
And there's definitely differentiators within eczema as well. So, you want to write down all of the symptoms so you get clearer on a picture of what's going on. And, if there are certain things that trigger your skin issues, write those out so that by the time you sit down with someone, if you're really unsure of which way to go, you aren't like rambling on and unsure of how to answer those questions. You're like, actually here's my list. Here's all the things, my history of things, my incidents, my stress, think about traumas and triggers. Like I lived in New York city on 9/11. That's one for me.
So, we have to think about all of these things because they add up to a point where your body is trying to do its best to support you, but it gets to a point where it can no longer juggle all the balls. And some balls start to drop. And eventually we drop enough balls that it's still trying, it's trying it's hardest, but it can't operate optimally anymore because there's too many things going on that have worked against it. So, that's where we have to say, okay. What has been dropped? Why have they been dropped, and how can we start to replete the system and get nutrition in? How can we reduce stress by rebalancing biochemical pathways with appropriate nutrients, and food, and lifestyle changes that really make a difference?
I think that's probably what people get so much out of holistic medicine versus conventional medicine is that idea of going individual. Yes, you might have symptoms that present as a case, but we look at you as a unique person with your own set of unique kind of contributing factors.
And I think that's just such a powerful... I think, as a person going to see a practitioner, to remember that, that you get to decide who you work with. And, if someone's not seeing you as a whole person, you can go and find someone who is willing to look at you that way. But I think it's such a, like you said, the two things that really stood out for me there are like how just stress, like we dismiss it. It's a huge thing that impacts us so greatly. And so many of us just accept that we're stressed. And it's something I'm just still like, why? Like why do we let this happen to ourselves? Excuse me.
And then, the 9/11 thing like, which must have been incredibly traumatic for you, and these shocks, these deep traumas that we can experience in our lives, divorce, even just miscarriage like these things that could happen. Like you say, I always see that there is... Not always, but very often see this like strong emotional link to chronic kind of things that people just can't seem to shift. Is that something you see a lot in your practice as well and in clinic?
I do. I do. I can't actually address that within my scope of practice.
Of course. Yeah.
So, I would always refer them to someone who can. But I think some of the deepest, hardest work is that trauma piece. Because one, we think we're just stuck with it. And sometimes you just don't want to address it. So, there's this lack of wanting to step up and deal with it because it's hard. It's a lot.
Sometimes we can also end up feeling uncomfortable emotions that we don't want to feel. We've packed them away and put them in the attic for a reason because we don't want to deal with them. But underneath it causes a lot of stress. And there's interesting correlations, for example, between like scleroderma, which is an autoimmune skin condition, and lupus, and trauma. There's like real research that shows us that there are links between these skin issues.
I will share this story quickly. I really did not believe in the trauma and health issues connection. And so, I was going to interview a guest, this was a few years ago, about this. And I was like going online, researching, and Googling. And I'm like, I'm going to prove her wrong. I proved myself wrong.
Yeah. Doesn't that happen all the time.
I was like, oh, like there's actually like a lot of research from major institutions that talk about this. I'm wrong. Like my judgmental... I'm always skeptical when I hear things and I was wrong. So, I always share that because I totally understand. Some people think, wow, that sounds really woo woo. It's not woo woo. There's research. There's legit, big studies that have looked at this and have found that it can be a really big contributing factor.
And it's not just with autoimmunity. There was one article that I had read, the writer had experienced horrific eczema. And turned out, as they dug deeper, her father had died suddenly having a procedure in the hospital when she was ten. And that was a major source of trauma. And we also have to realize that sometimes traumas can rewrite this script that we tell ourselves like of who we are and how we show up in the world. And it can take a lot of work. It's our individual responsibility to undo those scripts and question, are they true?
I was in a very unhealthy relationship for a number of years in my early twenties. And I walked away from that relationship literally telling people, I'm too stupid to do whatever. Like I was always too stupid or too dumb because I was told that so long that I had started to repeat it myself.
Internalised it, yeah.
And we don't realize that, when people call you ugly, when people tell you you're stupid, we start to believe that what they're saying is right. And we internalise it. It does impact our stress levels and our self worth. So, I would write down all of those really significant events because they are important.
Well, that's... I mean, I'm a yoga teacher. And Chinese Medicine is really big on this stuff as well, this idea that an emotion can actually injure an organ system. And so, when we would look at something like a grief trauma, that would injure the Lung system, which controls the skin. And you could imagine that that would have a very big impact on the ability of the skin to maintain its integrity and its health. And what you're saying about rewriting our stories, that's what yoga is telling us to do. It's saying, everything you think you are is a construct. And it's getting a bit deep, but this idea that we can become the authors of our own story, I think, is really powerful in the healing journey because you'll be told by everybody what you have and what to do, and so much of it, I think, can just become overwhelming. And you can just get stuck.
That's something we see a lot is people that are really stuck in the story of what they have. And it defines who they are. And it defines how they see the world, and relate to the world, and how they interact with it. And they are looking for that thing that's just going to make that thing go away. And it's like, I don't think that's going to happen. It has to come from this internal process of self exploration. And for sure you can have practitioners assist and support, but I don't think it's something that's just a, like you said before, a magic pill or a single program.
And I think, when we create... It's something I see a lot in the wellness industry and it's what I really appreciated about you is, you didn't define yourself as an eczema sufferer. You had a story about your own process, I think so people can empathize and you can empathize with people. But you haven't become like the eczema doctor. Like I think people get very... They can get really stuck on their story.
And they become the lupus person, or the this, or the that. And I'm like, well what about when you're you. Like what about we start to create a bigger story for ourselves?
I also want to share too, one of the issues that I find in just folks in this community, men and women, is that you go to the doctors and they go and say, do you have anything else? Like this steroid cream, it keeps coming back. I don't know what to do. I'm using steroid cream. Well, we have these stronger drugs. I was not comfortable with those. And then, the response, it's almost like a knee jerk reaction is, well, you're just going to have to learn to live with this. This is life. Like you're just going to have to... That, to me, it's one of the most... It made me feel like I just wanted to curl up and die inside, because there was no hope. And when, you don't have hope, what do you have?
And so, a lot of times people will say, well, I've tried everything. And I'm like, well, have you actually tried everything? Like, I know that you've probably tried all the recommendations your doctor told you. And maybe just maybe you've like dabbled your toes in the quote unquote alternative or holistic stuff. But have you really looked into all of the different alternatives that there are out there? Because there is a lot of information. The problem is that it's not making its way down into the doctor's office.
And there's a couple of reasons why that happens. I don't know how exactly it is in Australia, but in the United States there's something called a standard of care. And, when doctors deviate from that standard of care, which is steroid creams, and then biologic drgus, and immunosuppressants, when they deviate from that, they can get their medical license taken away from them. So, it's not necessarily that they're trying to withhold things from you, but they also are held to a very specific standard that does not include like using topical B12 to potentially help with the rashes, even though there's some good research out there for it. And so, there's that.
And then, the other piece to this is that, you have to be willing to take a step outside of your comfort zone and start looking for other opportunities for improving the quality of your life as a whole, as opposed to just like trying the same thing over, and over, and over again expecting a different result.
And so, we have people, at least in my community, that are dealing with something called topical steroid withdrawal or red skin syndrome, because it's where their skin becomes addicted to the steroid creams.
And they end up with a full body flair, even though they may not have used steroid creams in a full body sense.
A long time.
They've used them for many, many years. And that illness... like in the United States, it's not really recognized all that well. I don't even know if there's an actual diagnosis for it. I find that more people are aware of it in England and Britain, but not so much in the U.S. And you have these like horrific symptoms that go along with it. And so, I think, in providing people more options and making people more aware, they realise that there is a lot more out there that they can do, and try, and explore that they really didn't hear about.
Also too, our system is based around, okay, you have these symptoms and they fit this drug. So, we'll give you this drug to mask those symptoms and turn them off. And that's fine. Look, if that's what someone wants to do, more power to you. Like that's your choice. I believe everyone should have the choice to make the decision of what's right for them. But, if you want a different choice, if you want to explore the things that you're not hearing, that's what I was looking for. That's where I was like, I need to share what I'm finding with the world because nobody is talking about this stuff. And I want to have an honest conversation about it because my skin, your skin, everybody's skin deserves better than what we're being told is like, oh, you just have like a steroid cream deficiency and that's it. And that's not the case.
Well, it's a funny one because like I had an acne thing in my late twenties when I came off the pill. And I literally had to change like... I think when I say change my life, it was a lot to do with how I related to myself. But I was in a similar situation to you. Like I'd had a relationship that went on for a very long time that he was a good guy, but it wasn't a good relationship for me. And the shock of that kind of change was huge for me because I'd been with him since I was a teenager. So, I'd never lived on my own or done any of the grown up things.
And then, I was just so busy and stressed. I was running a yoga studio and working ridiculous hours. And I remember having this kind of moment where I was like, the only way that this is going to go anywhere, it's got nothing to do with how many cleanses, and baths, and detoxes, and pills, and supplements, and doctors, and like whatever. It's, if I just start to take care of myself, then I'm like... And it was all an inner journey for me really. Like there were lots of external things like herbs really helped me, Chinese Medicine really helped me, meditation really helped me. But, if I really look back at me then to me now, like I wasn't taking care of myself. I was kind of, I think, expecting the care to come from somewhere else, like from some kind of external source.
And I think that's such a common theme is that, I really believe, if we could sort of empower ourselves to go to a practitioner with our own strength and not just hand over our power, and to really always come back to, well, what can I do to honor myself in this process? And I think that's just such a powerful place to start. And that's probably my biggest struggle with Western Medicine, especially, and some alternative practitioners, is that it's sort of like, oh, I've got the answer. I've got the solution. I'm going to give it to you, and then you're going to go and do it. And I just don't feel like that's a particularly hopeful motto. I think it sort of takes the person out of their own healing journey and makes them a victim of something. And it's something that I... Yeah. I think that's what I'm hearing when I listen to you, is that that's just not a very constructive approach, I suppose.
I don't think so.
I will say that there are some natural things that I had tried that were amazing and were incredible help to me. And there's other natural things that-
I'm like, that's not the right way for me to go. And that's okay.
My big thing was always, I don't want that person, wherever they are on their journey, to feel judged. And I think that there's so much judgment, especially the internal judgment we have of ourselves and our own choices or our failure to do something. We are our worst judge, and jury, and executioner by far. And I was like, you know what? I want people to... they'll figure out what resonates with them. They'll figure out which way to go. I want to provide them avenues that I never got told. And it's been a really amazing journey to see so many people just... They're like, oh my gosh, for the first time ever I feel seen and heard, or the fact that they could listen to a doctor, they could listen to a dietician, or they could listen to just a regular person who is actually experiencing eczema, or psoriasis. Or I've got one woman who's going to be coming on the show who has topical steroid withdrawal and is talking about that at length.
And no one one is discussing this stuff. And I want to give people a voice. And our community is oftentimes told you just have to deal with it. You just have to live with it. And that's a really great way to shut down a person's, as you said, their power in the conversation. That's not to say-
Yeah. We call it sovereignty.
This idea that we're sovereign and responsible for our own health first, so.
Yeah. I mean, I would say that one of the biggest pieces... I agree with you, is that self care begins with the actions you take in recognising that you are important, that you are not an inconvenience, and that you need to be one of the top priorities in your list. Like I would say at least top three, you have to be in there. And no one is going to magically swoop in and address these things for you. And I totally understand, for someone who is listening, if they're like, but this isn't fair. Why did this happen to me? Look at it, instead of feeling like a victim, as an opportunity, an opportunity to get in a better relationship or develop a better relationship with your body so that you are listening, you are more in tune with what's happening.
I have a great amount of gratitude for the skin issues, for the gut issues that I experienced, for all of my health issues because it changed my life. It gave me purpose. And it helped me see that taking care of myself is way more important than going out to parties and doing all of the things of like keeping up with the Joneses and whatnot. I like going to bed at ten o'clock at night.
Like that's my choice. I don't want to be up until late. Because how I feel is so much more important than the things in life, the small talk, and let's talk about the weather, and just the nonsense. It sort of became like this BS detector. I was like, okay, this does not serve me. This doesn't help and support my life. So, now I'm going to tune in. I'm going to focus on that. And I'm going to take steps every day. And it's okay if I mess up. It's okay if I make a mistake today. I'm going to get up the next day and I'm going to do better.
And that's really what mistakes are. I just want to encourage people to, if you feel like you've made mistakes, or you screw up, or you can't do it perfectly, okay. Your journey is not meant to be a straight line. It's a real squiggly mess. And any person who has been on it knows that, and when it comes to skin, you may feel like you took five steps forward and then how to flare and took three steps back.
But that three steps back may be an important clue or something, whatever it may be, on your journey to help you get even further. So, mindset is really critical here. But I just want to share too, I think it's important before we close too, to just mention that you can't rely entirely on diet to fix skin issues, especially when they're really chronic. A lot of people have gotten on these really, really tiny diets. I had one client that ate five things every single day. That's it. Just the same five things. Convinced, after looking online and being told, oh, take out this food, take out that food. Look at Susie's journey. She took out this food and she got better. And so, I should do what Susie did.
Food, oftentimes for people who have been sick for a really long time, some people get lucky, a few people get lucky, but that's not everyone. And so, I just want to encourage people to be very cautious with elimination diets. Because a lot of times we're eliminating a diversity of food out of our diet that our gut microbiome requires. We require nutrients coming from all different sources. We require colorful foods. We need different fibers for our gut bugs. We need diversity. And to whittle your diet down thinking... Like I mean, ask yourself a question. Like once you get to the tiny diet, let's just say that the skin issues go away, then what?
What do you do? Well, like you're-
[crosstalk 00:37:08] masking symptoms, right?
Like I think it's kind of like a steroid or any other topical solution. Again, this is something that I find super frustrating because I used to see naturopaths a lot when I was younger. And they'd always tell me to cut out this, and cut out that, and do this, and do that. And I'd go get those IG blood tests. And I'd be sensitive to everything. And I was thinking, well, I don't understand because... There was part of me that could never rationalize why any human would be sensitive to everything. Like fair enough, chemicals and stuff that weren't in our food chain for hundreds of thousands of years. But, meat, and like vegetables, and eggs. And I'm thinking, how is this... And I started to look deeper into that. And I realized well, no. It's just another symptom. It's another symptom of a greater imbalance.
And, when I start to manage that, that imbalance, then these symptoms will disappear. And I've found that... I was celiac for ten years. And I had started taking, my partner... This is kind of how I ended up here. I'd been into health my whole life. My mom studied herbalism and was one of those vegetarian, '70s, '80s health ladies. And I'd sort of been raised on that diet of juices, and vegetarianism, and yoga, and all these things. And in my twenties, end of my twenties especially, I was not particularly well. And I met my partner and I said, oh, I've got this autoimmune condition. And he said, well, no you don't. He said, well, why doesn't your immune system work? Like, what's really going on? He's like, immune systems are meant to function. How would humans have survived so long if we didn't have immune systems?
And he kind of just gave me this little talk. And I walked away from that thinking, I've never even considered that. I'd never even thought that maybe this thing that I was labeling as an autoimmune condition was actually another symptom. And I started researching Chinese Medicine, which talked a lot about strengthening the Spleen system if you have celiac disease and which, again, is related to digestion, and liver, and all this stuff we've been talking about. They're all kind of... This branch of this idea of like hormones, gut, liver. Most health issues, if you really dig down, that's where it's hanging out.
And I started working with Chinese doctors. I started taking tonic herbs, medicinal mushrooms, and stuff that we sell. And, yeah. Now I can eat... Now, I can't eat a lot of gluten. If I go crazy and like eat 500 kilos of it, I feel a bit yuck and my immune system will start to kick in. But like now I can have quite a lot without any issues. And that was such a revelation to me. And I've certainly seen that with people where they'll cut out everything only to find they can't eat anything. And then, they react to even the five things they have left.
So, what's your solution when people are kind of addicted to that elimination? I can't possibly eat this or that. Or do you just sort of ask them to work on strengthening their digestion and their kind of liver function? Or what's-
Yeah. So, the first thing that I always do and want to know, especially... Oh, I should say this. If someone says to me, I don't really like meat, or I seem to react to meat, or I don't crave it, and they went plant-based and I notice a real improvement in their diet, I'm like, you don't have enough stomach acid.
That's usually the number one thing.
Hello. I started taking those HCL things and I was like, oh, I love meat, after 20 years of vegetarianism.
And here's the thing, even if you're a vegetarian, like even if there is some reason why you ethically feel you can't eat animals, and fish, and birds, and such, poultry and whatnot, the thing is, you have to have sufficient stomach acid regardless of how you eat. Because it's not just breaking nutrients apart. That's one piece that people don't realise. It's also a chemical barrier. So, if you inhale or swallow, we can't see what bugs are in the air and what bugs are on our food and whatnot. And so, if you inhale or swallow something that is, say, pathogenic, it ends up down in your digestive system.
So, we need that chemical barrier. And we also need it to break like B12, for example, is bound to proteins. And, yeah. You could say, well I eat plant based. So, I feel a lot better, and it has the enzymes, I've heard all of that. And I'm not anti plant-based or anything. I let people eat however they so choose. But a lot of clients who have gone in that route, I tend to find they're really nutritionally depleted, unfortunately, no matter how many supplements they've taken because their system just doesn't even want to absorb. There's real absorptive problems.
So, we need to look at stomach acid levels, which is super easy to do. You can do it at home using water and baking soda and see if you burp. And I have a handout that I'm happy to share with everyone of how you do it.
Yeah. We can put it in the show notes.
Yeah. It's super easy to do.
Yes. And I like that better than the betaine HCL task where you take more and more. Because here's the thing, what if you do have too much? What if you legitimately do have too much stomach acid? Or you have H pylori or something like that? So, I feel like, in the least, you're going to find out, but you're potentially doing less harm, which is always important.
And then, the next piece is starting to question like, why did you take those foods out? Was it because you read something online? Did you see any improvement even when you took any of those foods out? A lot of people don't. And so, starting to walk themselves back into their diet, though, usually I'll wait with legumes and grains until later because those can be more difficult to break down.
But typically, if you're reacting to foods, it's because you have a microbiome imbalance and/or gut dysfunction. And so, that is a real indicator. If you keep reacting to more and more foods, it's super important to find out what the heck is going on in the gut so that you can rebalance that environment. But again, that said, if you're going to rebalance that environment, you do need to support the liver first, right? We have to make sure that the phase two detox has the nutrients that it needs. And I just want to say this, coffee enemas are not giving you any nutrients. I've been asked about that. You can't take milk thistle and assume that that's going to fix the problem. It's not enough. It'll give you some glutathione, but it will not give you enough.
We have to do that first. The liver has to be supported and prepared for what the next step will be. And usually, as we begin to improve the gut balance, and the gut flora, and support that good, healthy gut flora to take over, you can really begin to introduce more foods. That assumes it's not a legit allergy. Right?
That's a totally different story.
Yep. So, when you're dealing with like supporting liver, are there supplements you've reached for? Or do you go case by case? Or how do you-
It really depends. There's some products out there that have like the full phase two spectrum.
There's other instances where sometimes just adding in some glycine powder and some B6, but you have to be careful with B6. You don't want to supplement a lot because there are consequences to excess B6 in the system. So, you want to work with someone, especially because the amounts that you would be taking are considered therapeutic.
And that's not necessarily appropriate to do on your own.
Home experiments. Yeah.
Yeah. That's not okay. You can do low stomach acid test. And, especially if you do, I should say this, if you do have GERD or heartburn, it is equally possible that having no symptoms whatsoever or having heartburn, you could still have low stomach acid. Both instances are equally possible.
What's so interesting about that, which kind of relates to something else I've seen you talk about, is like, if you think about all these entry places of the body, so like the skin, the gut, the vagina even, they're all acid environments. It's not like they're... There is this whole alkaline fad as well, at the moment, which is another thing. But these protective kind of parts of the body are meant to be a acidic and are meant to have a really high bacterial kind of colony on there which is protecting us. And I've seen you talk a little bit like topically with the skin that... Not to be putting... like I'm actually seen it, I think, and I hope I'm right in saying this, a thing you talk about, maybe using products specifically designed by people that understand the skin, not just kind of random internet recipes for, you know, coconut for everything or whatever.
Is that something you can touch on quickly? Because I thought that was really interesting. Because my experience, like just in general with my skin care, is like, there's certain oils I will use but I find coconut oil really heavy. And it's always made my skin kind of feel like it can't breathe. I don't know if that makes sense. But, yeah. I just wondered if you could talk to that a little bit.
Yeah. And coconut oil was one of those surprise things that I was like, oh yeah, coconut oil, right? And two specific people in my life were like, no. Stop saying that. And I was like, but I read it everywhere. And they were like, I don't care, and here is the reason why. So, the two people were Kiran Krishnan, who is, I think, the chief science officer for Microbiomes Labs. A lot of people in the wellness world have heard Kiran on podcasts. He's super brilliant. And then, the other person was Rachel Pontillo, who does a lot of natural skincare formulations. And she's like a total skin care ingredient nerd on all things toxic, and natural, etc.
And the reason is that it's way too antimicrobial. So, you might think that's good if you like you're having these staph infections, and fungal infections on the skin, but the problem is you're essentially then creating a vacuum. And what rushes back in first are typically unfavorable bugs. And so, there's that.
Then on top of it, as you were saying, it's so saturated that it's very difficult for it to be absorbed by our skin. So, a lot of times it just sits on the top layer of the skin. And it's also very alkaline. So, it has a pH of about eight where our skin needs to be around a 4.5. And so, that might not sound like a big jump for someone not familiar with the pH scale.
That's huge. Yeah.
But it is. It's huge. So, you are disrupting the pH in a major way. You are disrupting the microbiome in a major way. And you're putting something on the skin that is not well absorbed. So, for some people who have psoriasis, they've claimed that it really works wonders. I've found, at least with eczema and a lot of these other more like internally inflamed type skin issues, it's like the kiss of death. So, I wouldn't recommend it. Avocado is a better choice, olive oil.
Let me see. Jojoba, which is-
Like, sweet almond, I like that on my skin.
Yeah, that's also really great. Jojoba is a really great option. It's very light. In the winter time when it's colder, sesame oil can be really nice because it's very warming.
Those would be better options. You could certainly try tallow and emu. Those are both, obviously, not plant oils. They come from animals. But there's a lot of issues with the coconut oil thing. And I know that it's written about everywhere, but you also have to ask yourself like, who is writing about these? Where are the references? And the more that I talked about the coconut oil issue, the more people came out of the woodwork being like, oh my gosh, I thought it was just me. But it's not just them. I think that article on my website has more comments on it than anything else I've ever done.
Than anything. Well, I mean it's PR team was amazing, coconut oil. But it's an interesting one because I feel like it goes rancid on your skin because that's something I can smell. I'm really sensitive to smells. And my partner used to use it when we first started dating. And I was like you smell like an off coconut. Like because I think, when it exposes to air, it goes very rancid. And I've always wondered if that's also not particularly helpful to have something that kind of oxidizes on your skin. I don't know. I don't know if you know anything about that but-
I do not.
Don't you? Maybe it's honestly because where we live is quiet like humid and tropical. And I've always wondered if that's kind of-
Yeah. Anyway, that's a bit of a weird one.
Yeah. And I will also just say really quickly for people that are like... Massage therapists have commented because they used to use it in their practice. And they notice that they developed really bad eczema on their hands after using coconut oil for a number of years. And by switching to something else, the eczema went away. And I've also had the same experience of clients who had eczema on their face. They were using coconut oil for a long time. And, when they stopped, they actually realized they were probably allergic to it. So, there is more of a problem with coconut allergies now because there's so much of it being used in food and used in body care products.
So, just be aware, if you have chronic skin issues, it is a potential red flag.
The other thing with it too, I think, is like it's really cooling. So, when we're talking about sesame being really warming, it's a really cooling oil.
So, it's not... I think for massage and stuff it's not... I've always been taught... I studied with a Taoist massage therapist teacher and we were never allowed to use coconut oil because it was just too cold. And, yeah. It's something I have thought about with joints, and a lot of people have circulation issues and stuff. And it could just be affecting blood flow to the hands and all these kinds of things. So, that's really interesting.
But the final thing I wanted to touch on was just this idea of leaky skin, because this idea of leaky gut is quite well known now. That the kind of membranes of the gut become permeable and larger pieces of things can move through into the bloodstream and create inflammation and issues. And so, you've said that the skin is a leaky organ as well in some people.
Is this related to this idea of the microbiome is not strong enough, or the skin becomes too weak? Like I wondered if you could explain that idea to me.
Yeah. So, essentially what happens is that, like in the gut, we want the junctions between cells. And so, if you think of cells as like a brick, each cell is a brick. You have these interesting layers of bricks on the skin, right? Whereas in the gut, it's a single layer thick. That's it.
The skin, we have multiple layers, right?
Is it five layers. I vaguely remember this from anatomy.
The epidermis. Yeah.
Well, and the interesting thing is there are these almost like a mortar mix in between the cells. It's called filaggrin. It's a protein.
So, there's a gene called filaggrin. And the gene codes for the protein also called filaggrin. Real confusing in and of itself. But this is the important piece. So, when there is internal inflammation in the body, and it could be happening anywhere, it doesn't necessarily happen at the skin. It could happen in the gut. It could happen in the bloodstream. It could happen any number of places. So, that's why this is like we look at the skin, and we go, oh, it's a skin problem. It might not be a skin problem. It could be something else. And so, that inflammation actually disregulates how the gene codes for the protein. So, you end up with all these faulty proteins.
And what Dr. Peter Lio, who's a really interesting expert, he's a dermatologist, but he also is an acupuncturist. And he was trained at Harvard. And so, he's this really brilliant man. And he's like, the problem we're having here is that there's so much inflammation that your body can no longer build the appropriate protein, which is like your mortar mix. Well, think about it. What happens when a brick wall with time-
It starts to crumble. Yeah.
It starts to crumble. And you end up with all of these pathways for vines, and bugs, and all sorts of things to enter the building that shouldn't normally happen.
And so, with leaky skin, that concept is that the barrier becomes more permeable. We can't sustain an appropriate moisture barrier. The microbiome itself will shift so it may favor more like staph, as opposed to the healthy bugs that should be there. The pH may change. And so, it becomes this environment that's no longer friendly for us.
And so, one of the ways that I always tell people, I'm like look, A, liver. Absolutely, we start there. Then B, you've just got to look. The next step is look at the gut because, if the gut microbiome is really skewed and it favors an unfriendly population of bugs, that communicates out to the skin microbiome, it's almost like its anchor.
So, we have to look at both at the same time. So, my way into the skin is usually not going directly at the skin. And it sounds like you have the same exact philosophy.
You've got to look to those pathways in to support that area because it could be your thyroid, it could be so many other things.
Well, I think about it as like tending a garden. Like you're going to get the colonizer weeds, which are these bad bacteria. And, if you don't keep tending the soil in which you want healthy stuff to grow, you're just going to end up with a garden full of weeds.
And I think there is this... I don't know. I think there is... Yeah. Just sometimes it's unwillingness to really address like... I think it's kind of like what we talked about with the emotions before. It's like, if it's eczema, it's kind of like, okay. It's eczema. And put a cream on it, or I can put makeup on it, or I don't know what people do with eczema. I've never had it. But I think they can kind of live with that idea. Whereas, if it's like oh, there is something inside of me that's kind of mysteriously happening and it's like this thing that I can't really observe and fix easily, it becomes very confronting for people, I think. And it's not something that's easily addressed. And, like you said, it's a very slow process. So, I think, like all of us, we're all on our healing paths. So, a very exciting and interesting journey. But, yeah. A really powerful kind of way to start to think about the body as a whole that contributes to this expression of health that radiates out.
And this is one of those ideas from Chinese Medicine that we're so passionate about is this idea of Shen, when you look at someone and they radiate and they're passionate about what they do. Your eyes like glowing, and you're really into what you're talking about, and you've found your thing, it's like that's what everyone's promise is. We all deserve that. We're all supposed to have that. And that's something, I think, if that's not how you feel like you're living like, then keep going. Because you'll learn so much along the way that will help you be that person that's of service to others one day when you're ready to make that offering.
So, I'm really appreciative for you're offering, because I feel like that was such a powerful conversation and really amazing. You've got so many resources for people. I was so impressed with how much content is available out there for free for people. So, we'll put all that in our show notes. But is anything in particular you're really excited about? I saw you just had kind of an online summit recently. But is there anything else like that coming up? Or any kind of really cool things people might want to connect with you about?
Honestly, that was the big thing right now.
Now, you're done.
I know. I'm done. I'm going to walk away. No, I'm just kidding. Right now, that was the big thing. It just wrapped up, it was called the Eczema and Psoriasis Awareness Week.
And we actually do have it evergreen for people.
So, if you want to go in and check out a limited selection of the talks, you can do that. And we can certainly put a link in the show notes. Those conversations aren't on, and they're more in depth and more science oriented than what we usually do on The Healthy Skin Show. But that is... most people are like, oh my gosh. Like I never even... I didn't know about this. And we have researched. We made a point to go through and find research to back up every single talk, because I wanted to make sure that people knew this isn't like just an idea that someone had. Everything is research oriented. We have doctors and practitioners on there. And it was a really great resource for people. So, that's been a big thing right now that I've been working on.
Yes. I mean, it looked amazing. I didn't get a chance to catch any of it, but yeah. It seems like some really interesting presenters and guests on there, so.
Yeah. And then, you've got some downloads and different things people can sign up to on your mailing list as well, I saw.
Yep. And like-
Absolutely. Like I said, the low stomach acid is a really great first way to get started on that. And I've got like, if you go to the website, there's a way to download a list of skin labs for skin conditions. If you're like curious, like what should I ask my doctor for, that also can be really helpful.
Well, thanks for so much amazing work that you're putting out there. I know there'll be people in our community that are really grateful to hear what you have to say and probably interested in working with you. So, we'll place all of that information there. They can follow you on social media. You're definitely on Instagram.
You on other forms of socials, or mostly the Gram?
Yes. Facebook and Pinterest.
But mostly Instagram.
Pinterest. Okay. Great. I always forget that Pinterest is a social media thing. Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I hope you have a beautiful day. And we'll hopefully speak to you again on the SuperFeast podcast.
Thank you for having me. Bye.
Tracy Duhs is a modern wellness hydration expert who has devoted her life to helping people awaken their vitality and feel alive. Her education and healing work is underpinned by the belief that our cells have their own innate intelligence, and by removing the obstacles for healing, giving the body the building blocks for biogenesis, and allowing our cells to do what they know how to do, we can thrive in good health.