Vegan culture has been increasing tremendously over the last couple of years, with good reason. Just recently, I myself have joined the community this past year and couldn’t be happier with my decision. Everyone has different reasons for making the switch. Some do it for the animals, some do it for the love of our planet, while others do it for their health. As we all should try our best and recycle, minimize power usage, pick up trash, and use reusable bottles/bags. Vegan lifestyle benefits the planet in numerous ways, but what really made me dive head first into this culture was my health.
I’m not one of those people who’ll try to convince you to make the switch, nor do I think it’s for everyone. You’re entitled to your own beliefs and decisions, which I totally respect. However, being that i’m constantly asked “why vegan?”, I am more than happy to share why i’ve made the switch for my own personal reasons.
My Health Background
There will be a separate post completely dedicated to how my health relates to my skin. For this post I will be giving a brief summary on my issues and what they are.
What is PCOS
Mid-way through my 21st year I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a condition where the female endocrine system over produces androgens, which is a hormone found in males and females, but males naturally secrete a higher level of this hormone. When a females androgen production is too high she can experience numerous side affects. The most common side affects are; irregular menstruation cycles, weight gain, excessive hair growth, painful or missed periods, acne, and ovarian cysts. Women with PCOS are also more prone to developing diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure later in life. PCOS can also cause depression, anxiety, and it may be difficult to bare a child in some cases. As of right now my personal symptoms are severe acne, and irregular cycles.
What is Lactose Intolerance
Okay, i’m sure most of us know what lactose intolerance is. For those who don’t know, it’s a condition in which the bodies lactase enzymes have difficulty breaking down lactose which is commonly found in dairy products. Some examples of dairy products would be milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and butter. Lactose intolerance is common, about 65% of the worlds population suffers from it. Some cases are mild while others are more severe, where people will cramp up and possibly get sick. Lactose intolerance can happen to anyone at any random moment, I was just about to turn 21y/o. Fun fact: Dairy is the #1 food group to cut out while combating acne due to it’s high level of hormones.
Trial & Error
For a while I was able to tame my pcos symptoms through birth control, although I was never crazy about putting artificial hormones in my body. Eventually as the years passed the cystic breakouts would clear, then resurface. My doctor kept switching my birth control every couple of months whenever I would mention how bad my skin was getting. As a result I believe to blame on the constant changing of birth controls, I fell into a depression. I didn’t feel myself, I was normally a very happy person who then got stuck in a constant funk. Finally one day, when my skin flared up, I said “to hell with these pills.”, and stopped taking them cold turkey. Now, was that the best idea? Probably not, but I was fed up and wanted to take matters into my own hands asap.
Once coming off the pill I took immediate action. I looked up numerous ways to treat my cystic acne and calm my hormones. I’ve always eaten really healthy, I started making a green juice every morning and by this time I had cut out dairy completely. Eventually I started taking specific herbal supplements such as evening primrose, ashwagandha, turmeric, zinc, and gut detox supplements. My skin miraculously cleared up for 4 months straight, I couldn’t believe it. Unfortunately the clarity of my skin didn’t last long and I eventually broke out worse than ever before. My goal was to clear my skin without having to turn to accutane (a very strong pharmaceutical drug), and at this point I was losing hope.
Who Inspired My Switch
There came a point where I saw my dermatologist more than most of my friends. My derm is great and she really wanted to help me, so she tried to compromise with me. She suggested I go on a low dose of spironolactone (a diuretic that blocks the over production of androgens in the body) as apposed to accutane. At first I rejected the idea, only to go home and cry about how painful and ugly my skin was (which only makes it worse). My doctor sent a script to my pharmacy anyway and I ended up grabbing it.
This didn’t stop my determination to find an alternative for clearing my skin though. While surfing the web I came across this girl who struggled with cystic acne worse than my own. My heart hurt for her and I wanted to hug her through the computer screen. Suddenly I noticed the video I was watching was from years ago, so I clicked on her page to see if her skin improved. Turns out she’s famous for clearing her cystic acne through veganism! I’ve read a lot of studies on how going vegan can clear your skin, but I always felt it was a little extreme. Coming across this girls story in which I so deeply resonated with, gave me the push I needed. Some of you may know her, her name is Cassandra Bankson, and her story inspired me to make the switch.
Jumping straight into the vegan diet wasn’t a hard transition for me. Dairy had been out of my diet for over a year at that point and I already cooked delicious healthy meals for myself. All I really had to do was replace my meat protein with plant based protein that wasn’t soy based, soy is also linked to bad skin. Studies claim that it can take up to 6months to a year just to start seeing a difference in your skin through the diet. This didn’t scare me, I figured it takes that long to see a significant change with most acne medications. Besides, theres no better time to start than the present. Not only that, but I knew this diet would have a positive affect on my digestive system as well.
Cassandra made a couple validating points that convinced me to try this vegan thing out. She talked about the affects of dairy on acne which I already knew. She then started talking about the affect of meat on the skin, which was interesting to me. Apparently science shows the natural and unnatural hormones produced in our meat has a profound affect on our own naturally occurring hormones. Especially when you already have a hormonal imbalance, you’re that much more sensitive to the affects. Hormones in a lot of cases have a direct affect on your skin. This all made sense to me… your body absorbs what you put in it. Therefore, absorbing those hormones which in turn has an affect on your naturally occurring hormone levels.
Now let me just say, I in no way judge anyone who eats meat. When cooking for friends and family i’ll add cheese to their dishes and make a side of meat. In all honesty, if my skin wasn’t so painfully inflamed, difficult to treat, and so depleting on my self esteem, I don’t think I would be vegan either. I’m German and Italian, my mother cooks amazing food and I was never a picky eater. My whole life I loved lasagna, german goods from the butcher, the list goes on. The sad truth was, none of that deliciousness was worth the affect it had on my skin, stomach, and mental state
Today, i’m now going on my 8th month of the plant based diet and my body feels great. My digestive system feels better than ever, I’m full of energy, and I just feel light. I’m still on the spironolactone for my hormonal acne but I feel this diet is helping tame my hereditary acne, being that cystic acne runs in my family as well. Through this journey i’ve kept a food journal and I log in certain foods I feel may trigger my acne being that I still get break outs. For example; I love beer, but I now know that it makes me break out specifically under my jaw line. Too much of any other alcohol results in uneven texture on my cheeks. Fried food makes my forehead bumpy, and excess sugar makes me breakout as well.
Knowing that diet is a contributing factor to my breakouts gives me more confidence in making the switch. Once i’ve become plant based for an extended period of time, i’d like to slowly ween myself off the spironolactone. Although the medication has regulated my period which is awesome. Eventually i’d still like to rely entirely on my diet to keep my skin and body healthy. As for right now, my skin has ways to go, but it’s definitely come far from where it was. If changing my diet is what I need to do to clear my skin and feel comfortable again, I have no problem doing it. Needless to say, I’m excited to see where this journey takes me.