My skin has been a nemesis of mine since I was a teenager. Yet, the worst years were in my early twenties for breakouts and trial after trial of trying to fix what seemed to only get worse. As I tried to figure out how to fix it from the outside, without being willing to change my eating habits, it only got better when my alcohol consumption and relationship with nutrition & food changed in my mid-twenties. To this day I still struggle with my skin more than anything else in my lifestyle routine; due to a few reasons I will discuss below.
IBS! This has been a new discovery for me in the past few years. My sensitive stomach is really what has now been defined and given a name; Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Here are the list of symptoms in case you are unfamiliar:
- Changes in normal bowel movements, including constipation and diarrhea. Some people tend to experience either constipation or diarrhea more often than the other, but it’s also possible to have episodes of both. Diarrhea is considered loose stools and often going to the bathroom several times per day. Constipation is considered having less than three bowel movements weekly and/or feeling like you can’t pass all of the stool you need to.
- Changes in the appearance of stools, including texture and color (sometimes stool can be loose, change color or mucus can appear).
- Stomach bloating
- Gas and burping
- Abdominal pains, aches and cramps (similar to those caused by a woman’s menstrual cycle)
- Nausea, heartburn or acid reflux
- Easily feeling full or loss of appetite
- Relief from symptoms usually occurs for most people after going to the bathroom normally for several days in a row.
Although these aren’t “digestive issues,” the following symptoms are also often present in people with IBS: (4)
- Anxiety or depression (not only does stress contribute to IBS developing, but symptoms can then worsen stress, creating a vicious cycle that’s hard to break)
- Trouble sleeping and fatigue
- An unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Muscle aches, especially in the lower back
- Sexual problems, including reduced sexual desire
- Body image issues
- Heart palpitations
- Frequent or urgent need to urinate
(Information taken from this website: https://draxe.com/ibs-symptoms/)
I have bolded some words/phrases above because these are the most common of my symptoms. When I finally decided to read up on IBS a few years back, all of a sudden I breathed a sigh of relief; there was finally a name and reason for this suffering…..ALL MY LIFE!! It is something that I have dealt with early on; from having to have a colonoscopy at 3 or 4 due to a fissure tear in my lower rectum (inside), to the constant bouts of severe abdominal cramps with emergency rushes to the bathroom (these at times sent me straight to my knees or onto the cold floor due to the pain). This happened the most in my middle school to high school years and really peeked in my early twenties, when I was eating the very worst and drinking alcohol/espresso drinks as 5-7 days a week.
Then I got pregnant at 25 with my daughter and when I thought this “stomach issue” would be at its worst, it actually got better. Why, when it seemed my body would have more issues, was it having less??? I started eating a lot better and consuming A LOT OF WATER on a daily basis. It taught me that more water=less emergency rushes to the bathroom; less gas pain & overall feeling so much better!! I’ve learned it’s always important to be prepared for healthy learning experiences at any point in your life.
Some of the main issues with IBS are people are born with it and it never goes away, yet it is highly under diagnosed because, like me, most people start to just learn the triggers and self-moderate what foods/drinks they consume. This naturally tends to lead to them starting to be more careful about what and when they have certain foods/drinks because it becomes apparent that they cause flare-ups. When you grow up having severe gut pain, it is natural to want to stop them. One thing that always ended with a rush to the bathroom for me, was eating out because I would drink something like soda or lemonade and probably something rich like creamy soup or a lot of white bread and the combination would just irritate my system and send me rushing to the bathroom; 1 out of 2 times. When seeing the list of foods, shown below, that are recommended to avoid for IBS, it is clear that (yes I was aware though not always willing to avoid things due to temptation) these were definitely irritants for my system.
- Dairy products, including milk and cheese (Lactose intolerance symptoms can be similar to IBS symptoms.)
- Certain vegetables that increase gas (such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) and legumes (such as beans)
- Fatty or fried foods
- Alcohol, caffeine, or soda
- Foods high in sugars
- Artificial sweeteners
- Chewing gum
(Information from https://www.medicinenet.com/irritable_bowel_syndrome_ibs/article.htm)
Nuts are interesting because I am allergic so I never could eat them growing up, but recently, within the last year, I started to regularly incorporate pecans into my diet daily which is the ONLY nut I can have. This has actually helped a lot and added some very beneficial fiber and health benefits to my diet. The other huge factor as to whether these foods/drinks will upset my bowels is if I don’t drink a TON OF WATER before and after having them. This gives me more ability to consume some of the things I shouldn’t and without having excruciating pain and bouts of constipation and diarrhea, but it will still show up on my skin as my body tries to rid itself of irritants that it’s having issues digesting.
So when I was in my early to mid twenties; not only did these foods listed above trigger severe cramping and bouts of diarrhea, at a moments notice, the signs of my health issues were becoming very apparent on the outside. The breakouts were terrible sores that just kept happening and made me miserable, self-conscious, depressed, disgusting feeling and all around terrible feeling. My body was sick inside and now it was impossible to hide. It was in plain sight on my chin & back especially!
Flare-ups and breakouts also occur much more during my monthly cycle and this adds to the already discomforts and exhaustion of my period. Since this is something that subsided during pregnancy with my skin being much, MUCH CLEARER, than it had been in 20 years; it made me realize how much health & wellness on the inside affected how my skin looked on the outside. It also made it clear that my monthly hormonal fluctuations are definitely another huge culprit of my skin issues. Especially those sores that are just horrible bumps of pain & throbbing. The ones I would pick at to try and relieve some of the horrible pressure, but all that would happen was making an even bigger, more embarrassing, throbbing bump on my skin. The picking is another issue for me. It is actually a disorder I continue to struggle with; dermatillomania.
This is something that gets worse in the winter when the weather keeps me shut-in more, since I have a tendency to get anxious and fixate on my skin. Then the lack of sun and warmth definitely keeps my skin from healing and having a nicer shade of tan to it. There are strategies like, covering mirrors with towels so I can create a barrier between me and the dreaded mirror. It has helped, but this disorder will always haunt me and be something I have to consciously work to overcome. It’s a fixation that is harder to avoid than eating badly.
Since skin issues are, and seem like they always will be a struggle for me, it is important that I incorporate as many good habits as possible to my health and wellness routine to combat the sores and acne, as well as anxiety and stress. Watching what I eat and drink is definitely a huge factor in how bad and often my breakouts are, but picking will turn the littlest bump into a red, swollen sore. This means what I apply to my skin matters as well. Herbs have been a huge life saver in this area over the past year or so!!
My go to skincare routine now consists of applying sometimes in the morning but ALWAYS at night: one of my skincare oil infusions with Rose/Yarrow/Calendula/Plantain/St. John’s Wort in them, organic aloe gel, alcohol-free rose witch hazel & either Raspberry Leaf, Toothache or Calendula tincture as astringent. The one MAJOR difference I’ve noticed is in my skin’s ability to heal a whole lot faster than it has in 15+ years!!! The redness reduces overnight now, the sores heal so much faster, the swelling goes down overnight and my face is less dry & red than in previous winters.
Maybe I just didn’t find the “right” skincare line to invest in?????? I’ve tried SO MANY IT’S EXHAUSTING; mostly due to the cost I’ve incurred over time. Another pattern of these other expensive skincare products (Aveda, Day Spa products, Proactive, Burt’s Bees, prescription formulas, other all natural store products) is they all worked for A LITTLE WHILE; then the affects wore off.
It’s so rewarding that my natural, handmade by me from my own herbal plants I’ve grown and harvested, for a much lesser cost than those other products, ARE STILL WORKING A YEAR AND A HALF LATER! This means the world to me. It’s proven that there is true power in the herbs and the less additives the better. Three or less ingredients in each of these handcrafted botanical, herbal infusion skincare oils is really the key to the power. The best part is that they still last a long time and the herbs and oils themselves are preservatives, so they are moisturizing, cleansing & healing.
These have now replaced all of my “first aid” ointments as well. My experiences with using these on cuts, scrapes, bruises, calluses, and even a plantar wort on the bottom of my foot is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. My oils are like liquid gold to me now.
One issue I have experienced is that the Organic Olive Oil I use, due to its shelf-life longevity & ability to find quality EVOO without having to break the bank; is it does have a stronger scent and seems to bother my skin a bit if I apply too much. This is where trial and error come in. After my experiences and doing some further research, I have decided to switch this next season (current oils are still all made with EVOO) to Organic Sunflower Oil. I think it is a better option for sensitive skin and has naturally occurring Vitamin E, so it also has a longer shelf-life. This is a more neutrally scented oil as well, so hopefully the natural herbal scents; like Rosemary, Lavender, Rose & Chamomile, will give each one a hint of that amazing natural herbal aroma!
One last thing I would like to share is that I was recently on my friend’s podcast: The Weight You Are, for Fitness February. I talked about my experiences growing up with health and wellness and how I continue to find easy, but important, ways to always be trying to consider my family & my health day to day. The theme for me is: BALANCE, COST & USE WHAT YOU GOT. Being conscientious is key to this and realizing the little things we do definitely add up and make a difference. Watch/listen & get to know me a bit more=)!
“Health is Wealth & the key to wellness is balance & nutrition!”
Anne💚🌿💚 (Anne’s Backyard Herbal LLC)
Disclaimer: All information should be read as opinion only and for general knowledge. Research further anything that is of concern to you and remember; My products have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not meant to cure, diagnose, treat, or prevent disease.