I’d always had clear skin right up until the age of 21, then out of the blue, I got acne,” explains Lucie McAdams, founder of popular vegan blog The Glow Within. “I suffer from an inflammatory condition and was experiencing increasingly severe symptoms including exhaustion, almost constant neuropathic pain, limb weakness and paraesthesia [tingling due to nerve damage]. I didn’t know whether the acne was because of this. My GP believed it was hormonal and my dermatologist put it down to stress. I have to agree with my dermatologist. With attempting to recover from an eating disorder that had consumed the better part of my teenage years and early adulthood, the inflammatory disease diagnosis, and other general life anxieties, I was struggling, and evidently it was showing in my skin.”
She started researching ways to clear her skin. “I spent a long time looking for different things to try, and I tried everything over the space of about twelve months to improve my acne,” she says. “Organic, vegan, natural skin care, supplements, facial oils, more moisturiser, less moisturiser, no moisturiser, different pillow cases, endless cleaners and toners and then when those failed, I was desperate enough to try prescribed topical treatments and also various strong antibiotics from my GP, none of which worked. I was starting to think this was just how it was, and I just had to accept having this skin.”
After this string of failed attempts to cure the condition, she finally decided to take a look at her diet. She says: “I realised I was eating a lot of processed foods – for example soya milk, which I was drinking lots and lots of, in cereal and in coffee which I had loads of every day. I’m talking between eight and 12 cups a day at least including at least two large soy flat whites from one of my favourite cafés. I loved them. In my opinion, vegan or not, too many processed foods can cause toxin overload which in turn, causes acidity overload which creates an environment in the body in which allergens and disease can flourish. Our digestive tract naturally tries to balance out the mixture of things we consume, but the problem is too much of what we eat is potentially acid-forming. When I looked at my diet, it felt like the answer was staring me in the face – it was what I was putting in my body and not what I was putting on my skin that was the problem. It made me think perhaps I didn’t have to accept it. There might be another way to treat the acne.”
Lucie made the decision to follow an alkaline diet. Though there is some controversy around the plan, supporters of this way of eating believe alkaline forming foods (for example fruits, nuts and vegetables) help the body maintain healthy pH levels, which translates into overall good health and wellbeing. Conversely, eating too many acid-forming foods (including animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, as well as alcohol, grains and coffee) can cause poor digestion, bloating, bad skin and mood.
“I noticed a big change in my skin within a week,” she says. “And within about a month, I didn’t really have any spots anymore. Within six months my skin was completely clear – and this was basically from just taking the junk out of my diet. I also made sure to keep hydrated – these days I make a point of having water on hand and sipping it throughout the day and instead of taking endless coffee breaks, that way I’m keeping my body adequately and regularly hydrated”.
Lucie continues to follow a balanced diet, making it easy for herself by being organised. “I make all my meals from scratch with unprocessed plant based ingredients. I do a weekly food shop typically on a Sunday, buying organic fruit and vegetables where possible, and batch cook for the week ahead. I no longer buy processed vegan substitutes, marinated tofu, processed vegan snacks, and meat free substitutes, instead, I make my own. It’s so much more satisfying than just buying and filling up on rubbish. There are however, occasions when I’m not able to make my own food or when I’m eating out with friends or family and that’s fine. If I’m grabbing a snack on the go, I just make sure it’s as minimally processed as possible.
“For me, veganism is a holistic thing – something you do for yourself as well as for the animals and the planet.”