So I’ve decided to do the unthinkable and give up sugar. For a month. Which for me is going to be very hard! I know this because (a) I live for chocolate and (b) I’ve done this once before and let’s just say it was a loooooong month.
The reason for this torture experiment is that my face is really bothering me lately (the skin on it that is). I think I generally have OK skin although it’s pretty sensitive and although I’m in my mid-twenties I am still prone to break-outs. This happens on my chin without fail every month (hormonal) and when I drink too much, on my cheeks (liver toxicity). But the problem at the moment seems to be that my nose, chin and the area around my mouth is getting really dry, red and flaky throughout the day. I wake up with nice, glowing skin (courtesy of the Gel and emu oil – two of the purest, most healing things you can put on your face), but then by mid-afternoon when I look in the mirror I’m startled to see this flakiness and redness. (The photos below don’t really do it justice!)
I know that the reason for this is an overgrowth of yeast. And the catalyst for that is sugar. Hence, no sugar for one month. Rubbish! I do sometimes resent that my face insists on telling me when I’m abusing my body in whatever which way. Don’t you just hate those people who eat, drink, smoke and party all night and yet still look like goddesses fit for the cover of Vogue? Yes, we all hate them. But then I suppose my sensible, rational (boring) side tells me that in a way I’m lucky that my skin is so sensitive because at least I have to do something about it i.e. improve my health, if I want to make it look better. Fixing the inside to fix the outside – it’s certainly not the lazy guide to beauty but it’s definitely the healthiest way.
Yeast or candida to give it its official name is always present in the digestive system and is perfectly normal. However when it grows excessively it can cause Candidiasis which leads to a variety of conditions such as thrush and cystitis, and symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings, sinus congestion and regular sugar and carb cravings (caused by irregular blood sugar levels).
Maintaining a good level of probiotic (“good”) bacteria in our body helps keep us balanced and our candida levels in check. However, certain things can disrupt this balance, for example taking antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy not only bad bacteria in our bodies but also all of our vital probiotics, which are essential for fighting infections and keeping our digestive tracts balanced. I’m very against taking antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary and get really frustrated when GP’s just hand them out like candy instead of considering a change in diet, which is the real cause of so many common ailments.
When preparing this blog post I came across an article written by Dr Janet Hull, an alternative health and nutrition expert. It’s worth reading if you’d like more information on candida and its associated conditions. I thought this was particularly interesting:
“When doctors tell you that you have sinusitis instead of yeast in your nasal passages, they typically prescribe antibiotics. The antibiotics, in turn, kill the intestinal bacteria that controls Candida, the cause of your sinus irritation. If the Candida is never controlled, your sinus problems will continue to reoccur, and this creates a chronic demand for more drugs, more doctors’ visits, new drugs, different drugs, asthma medications, inhalers and eventually COPD oxygen ventilators and steroids. Why? – because your sinus problems never were diagnosed or treated correctly.”
In order to correct the imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your body it’s very important to change your diet. Sugar is essential to eliminate or cut down because yeast and bacteria feed and thrive off sugar.
So to help my skin get better, the rule is no sugar for a month. That means no chocolate, sweets, deserts, fruit, artificial sweeteners (they have the same effect unfortunately) or anything containing added sugar. Now if I was to do this really, really properly, I would also cut out alcohol and anything which contains yeast (e.g. bread) and milk as this contains lactose (sugar) but I am going to allow myself one bowl of cereal in the morning with skimmed milk. I just hate soya milk, I’m sorry, it’s gross. I can’t do it. I’m going to try and stick to yeast-free bread such as soda bread but this often contains sugar so it’s a tricky one. So generally I’ll be trying to avoid bread and experiment with other types of carbohydrate instead. And, very sadly, I’m going to cut down on alcohol – maybe not completely, but I will try. *sad face*
Just to give you an idea of how hard it is to cut out sugar, think about what you eat throughout the day and then double check to see what contains sugar. You’ll be amazed. Take cereal, for example. The last time I undertook this diet (at the recommendation of Ian Marber, the Food Doctor), I trawled the supermarket shelves and to my amazement the only cereal apart from plain porridge oats that I could find without sugar listed in the ingredients was Shredded Wheat. Bearing in mind the number of cereals out there marketed as healthy that’s pretty shocking.
Then there are pasta sauces – another big culprit: tons of sugar in those. Even soups tend to have added sugar. In fact pretty much anything that comes in a tin or a packet is a no-no. And you can forget ready meals, and take-aways, and eating out in restaurants full stop unless you’re really careful about what you order. (God, I’m starting to talk myself out of this already!)
Ah, well, wish me luck everyone! I’ll let you know how it goes.