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I’m finally acne free–it’s a miracle!

January 12, 2009

I just turned 45 years old and have suffered from painful and just yucky acne since I was about 10 years old. It sucked. It hurt. I HATED it. I tried everything. From the fairly innocuous benzyl peroxide to the OMG do not get pregnant Accutane–nothing worked. And now–not a zit in site. How have I achieved this amazing state of clear skin-ness you ask? Well, it’s complicated.

First off, about a year ago, I realized I had to find out why I was feeling so god damned tired all the time. Even after a somewhat decent night’s sleep, I’d still be dragging. My GP was not a whole hell of a lot of help (and he’s pretty good). So I talked with a fellow pharma rep friend who recommended I go to an endocrinologist, aka hormone doc. I was skeptical–I had seen all kinds of docs for my migraines over the years, had even seen an endo years back, and gotten no real help or relief from the headaches. Why see one now for my fatigue? Well, she said, there is a disease called PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) that can headaches, anemia, cause ACNE!? yadayadayada. Well, I was hooked. I went online, looked up PCOS on this doc’s website, found me in the description totally and completely and called for an appointment. Of course, since she’s a specialist, it took 3-4 months to get in, but hey, wow, life changing.

Dr Jannet Huang, in Irvine, CA, did the most extensive bloodwork on me that’s EVER been done–even more than when I was pregnant. She suspected that I was probably insulin resistant and that my thyroid was off–probably low. She also figured that my hormones were out of whack (honestly she said it much more scientifically, and usually I’m quite up on top of the lingo, but believe me when I say it really is quite complicated. Ratios of this to that, and that to this–my head is exploding just trying to get it to my fingertips-ouch. Head. Hurting.)

So I fasted one morning and off I went to the lab. For three hours. I drank a disgusting bottle of this lovely orange goop (blech) and every hour they woke me up to take more blood. I literally passed out. All that sugar just did me in. Two weeks later the verdict was this:

1. Insulin resistant (pre-diabetic, or type 2 (no needles, can be controlled w/ diet and meds). Now I take Glucophage and TRY not to eat any processed sugar. Which is really hard because I love gumballs. 😦

2. Hashimoto’s disease: Now this was a trip! Not only were my thyroid numbers low (T3, T4, TSH) but I had Hashimoto’s, which is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system inappropriately attacks your thyroid gland, causing damage to your thyroid cells and upsetting the balance of chemical reactions in your body. The inflammation caused by Hashimoto’s disease often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). It is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US. Now I take Synthroid and I don’t feel as tired. Plus I’ve lost about 10 pounds. Which is cool.

3. Iron Deficiency: I’m not anemic yet, but the Hashimoto’s can cause low iron. Now I take Repliva, a prescription iron that doesn’t cause constipation or stomach upset.

4. Hormones: Part of the acne issue was how off my progesterone:estrogen levels were; also my circulating testosterone. Now I take Aldactone (generic name: spirinolactone) which is a miracle drug for clearing up acne. However, if you are planning to have kids anytime soon, it’s not for you. But if you are a man, a teen on BC pills, or a woman my age, you are a perfect candidate.

I also put a Climara estrogen patch on my tush once per week. This helps regulate my hormone levels much better and it’s a VERY low dose because it’s a menopausal dose (0.025mg); it also has the added benefit of helping control my migraines–which has been an amazing side effect!

5. Cholesterol: My total number is under 200, in the 180s, but we’d like it lower. Plus my LDLs need to be lower and my HDLs need to be higher. Dr Huang also ran a very sophisticated cholesterol test called The Berkeley Heart Lab. It offers a panel of tests that can detect inherited abnormalities that are beyond the reach of conventional HDL and LDL analysis. For the first time, they can isolate, for example, if you are in the population most at risk to get Alzheimer’s based on this test–and start treating you NOW. Fortunately, I’m not. Phew. I’m also putting cinnamon in my coffee everyday which has been shown to help naturally lower LDLs. Also fish oil caps and CoQ10 which helps with inflammation throughout the body’s cells.

6. Other stuff: I added calcium and vitamin D (Caltrate) which I also tested on the low side for and started drinking at least one cup of green tea per day.

7. Had to change my diet: in that I don’t diet, per say. I just have to not eat anything w/ high fructose corn syrup (which is practically anything processed), nothing white (pasta, breads, cereals), and nothing over 6 grams of natural sugar (which is practically impossible). Start looking at labels–one Yoplait yogurt has 27 grams of sugar!

And I have to combine my foods: an apple with nuts, for example. And I can’t skip meals or I get too shaky. And weird stuff, like no corn, but popcorn is okay.

And finally, all that stuff above combines to make a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS, even though I don’t actually have cystic ovaries. Go figure. It really is just a fancy name for a metabolic syndrome–kind of a catchall phrase I guess.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. In my follow up, all my blood levels have evened out, and I feel so much better. As for my skin, it’s clear and smooth, unbelievable. I’m so happy, I really just can’t believe it. It has taken about three months of being on the Aldactone, but it has finally happened–clear beautiful skin.

So, if you or someone you know is having problems with losing weight (yo-yo dieting), or fatigue, or if they fall asleep all the time especially after they eat, you might want to get checked for insulin resistance or thyroid problems. Check with your own family history too–my mom has been on thyroid meds forever, though she doesn’t have Hashimoto’s.

If you want to check out Dr. Huang’s website, go to for lots of cool info and you can also order supplements and aromatherapy and other stuff. If you are local and want to go see her, I highly recommend it. She’s amazing and well worth the wait.

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