During this time, I naturally had an attraction toward nutrition and health, but unfortunately was more concerned on how to keep thin. I eventually had to take control and figure out what was going on because I wasn’t getting any help from my medical doctor or specialists. I was constantly cold, my hair was falling out… I remember always kind of complaining about something and people thought I was a hypochondriac. My skin though was ultimately my motivation to get my butt in gear. I think the skin is the biggest motivator for most people because it’s your first impression to the world and [problem skin] completely shatters your confidence. I spent thousands of dollars seeing specialists after dermatologists after endocrinologists. From there on out, it has been me and this journey of research and figuring it out on my own. Once I graduated, I ended up traveling for about a year, and I went to live in Australian. This really opened me up to a whole different world of using food as medicine. When I came home, I knew that I wanted to share this information with people, so I went back to school to get a certificate in integrative nutrition. I was grateful for the experience because for the first time science made sense to me. It’s unfortunate, but we’re very behind with nutrition advice and curriculum in academia when it comes to scientific nutrition information. From there, I opened up my own private practice, where I now specialize in skin and digestive conditions, anything from acne to psoriasis, eczema and rosacea.
How do you help your patients and give them whole body support?
People get really caught up in saying “My hormones are out of balance” or “My energy is off” and they start to―even when they want to treat things naturally― do exactly what Western medicine is doing, which is treating things symptomatically. You have to understand where this is stemming from, and that’s why testing is so incredibly helpful. I played the guessing game for years with my own health and it wasn’t until that I finally got testing done that I understood my root cause. You can eat the best diet in the world, but if you’re not digesting it then you’re not absorbing it. If you have anything that’s disturbing the imbalance, in your gut or your hormones, then that needs to be addressed first and foremost.
When someone comes to me, I do a very in-depth interview with them, figuring out everything from their current symptoms to their health history. It’s really important to understand when initiated symptoms for someone; which situations or occurrences happen around the same time. It very well could be physiological, it could be a stressful event that an individual never recovered from and that stress can live on if carried with them. From this information, I can get an idea where the priorities lie for each individual. I prioritize it by looking at the bigger picture and understanding the foundations there.
How is acne treated through nutrition?
Acne can be just as black and white as a nutritional issue. Some people may not have any other imbalances other than that they are just eating poorly. And it can be as simple for some people to gain clear skin by just saying that they need to eat better. Sometimes it can be about getting clients the nutrients they need to be healthy, everything from zinc, magnesium, to vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, and vitamin A. All of these vitamins and minerals are key players in skin health.
What is Leaky Gut Syndrome and how is it related to acne?
Leaky gut is also known as intestinal permeability, where the junctions in the intestine become a little bit loose. Usually they are very tight and they don’t allow materials to leak through. There are many things that can cause intestinal permeability, such as substances like alcohol and drugs, especially ibuprofen. Diet can contribute as well. There is newer research about the gut in general, and we’re just now understanding the relationship between the health of the gut and the health of the body. If toxins and undigested food seep into the bloodstream because of intestinal permeability where they don’t belong, the immune system is alerted and heighten antibodies to get released, causing not just inflammation but this is also how food sensitivities develop. This is why testing is so important, because if someone has a leaky gut, they are also more susceptible to pathogenic bacteria or parasites. To treat leaky gut, it requires a specific diet, as there are some foods you need to avoid, such as high carbohydrates, foods that are high in sugar; grains especially can be very irritating and hard to digest. There’s also specific nutrients that you can give the gut to help heal the intestinal lining. We know that glutamine, aloe, as well as marshmallow root and other herbs can be effective once inflammatory foods are taken out.
Acne is always going to be a whole-body issues, it’s never typically one thing that cause it. If you’ve changed your diet for one month and you don’t see improvement, seek professional assistance. This is why testing is always really crucial. Reach out to someone and work with them to get on a plan and figure out what works.
How do you help patients dealing with hormonal issues?
I deal a lot with women’s hormonal issues because that’s a great deal of my clientele. There’s a lot of things to consider―treatment could be anything from diet changes to lifestyle changes to stress management to possible supplements. The endocrine system is probably more sensitive today than ever in human history with the stress from our lifestyles and constant toxin exposure via diet and environment.
The mainstream medical community does not seem to be talking about Leaky Gut Syndrome yet? Why is that?
I would say that gut health in general has become a new conversation in the last five to ten years. Doctors are not always astute experts―they do not know nutrition. Medical school is to study medicine, not to study diet or how to treat things naturally through food. There’s also politics involved: There’s very little money to be made in addressing the root issues. When we talk about gut conditions, and things like bloating, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome and heartburn, these are billion dollar industries that are prescribed to people everyday. We can’t forget that in our health system, there’s a a lot of money to be made with drugs and prescriptions.
I hope that one day we would change our approach to acne and not just see it as a topical issue. In the future, I would hope that people would make the connections with other symptoms present. Take the time and always ask the question ‘why’ to stay open-minded to new ideas and looked deeper past the topical issues to find the root cause.
Who can acne patients trust for unbiased health support?
If you’re looking for someone to address acne from a whole-body perspective then you want someone who is educated in an integrative approach to health. You’re looking for someone who’s going to ask about more than just your skin symptoms. Empathy is important as well. A practitioner who can sympathize or empathize goes a long way. It’s not an easy journey, but it’s easier when you work with someone who genuinely cares and is willing to help. Finally, the education of the practitioner is important―Do they actually have a degree? How long have they studied for? What kind of experience do they have? Are they open minded? What’s their philosophy on health and food? Do they practice an integrative approach? You want to dig deep and ask their background and training. Not to say there are people out there who don’t know what they are talking about just because they don’t have a degree, but typically one will be more in tuned with the sciences and etiology if they have a solid education in it.
What are steps that acne sufferers can take immediately to improve their overall health?
Start by taking basic steps to implement an anti-inflammatory diet and see how your body reacts to it, i.e., elimination diet. You have to learn how your body is communicating to you. Typically it’s is trying to tell you something, and the more in-tune you are with it, the easier achieving your goals and understanding what works for you will be. Second, jot things down. I highly encourage patients to use a food journal. Finally, it’s a great idea to work with a professional if your symptoms aren’t improving because there’s a lot possibilities that could be causing your skin to break out.
To contact Carla Hernandez, you can email her at Carla@wiserootsnutrition.com, or go to www.wiserootsnutrition.com and hit the contact button to set up a consultation. You can subscribe here to the Wise Roots newsletter and follow her on Facebook and Pinterest for more information on obtaining clear skin from the inside out!