Curing skin woes through experimentation - Martha Rotter


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  • This is a photograph of me, almost exactly one year ago. My face is red and inflamed and full of acne.If you’ve never had skin problems, you might think, “Ouch.”If you *have* had skin problems, you’re probably thinking “Yikes” because you know that it’s hard to find a photograph of yourself when your skin is in bad shape, so this was probably a pretty good day.Every inflammation on my face was a very painful, pustules or small cysts. By the time each one went away, two or three more were already growing in its place.Makeup always made it worse, so I tried to avoid it as much as possible, but then I was embarrassed and didn’t want to go out, and I avoided getting my picture taken. (Which is hard when everyone now has camera phones, Instagram, etc.!)
  • I didn’t always have skin problems.In case you couldn’t tell by my accent, I am not from around here. I grew up in the middle of the United States, in Missouri. After I finished University, I moved to Seattle on the west coast for six years, and then I took a job transfer to Dublin, Ireland where I’ve been for the last four and a half years.Something funny happened when I moved.
  • I was blaming the wrong things.
  • I don’t know if your country has something like this
  • So now I knew it was up to me.Inspired by the food allergy tests and after reading books by Nicholas Perricone, I had renewed faith in the idea that diet could definitely affect skin conditions.I began systematically cutting things out of my diet, one at a time. I went through various meats, fish, sugar, wheat, carbs, caffeine and finally had an a-ha moment. The food allergist had pointed out that the area I broke out most in was around my chin, where women often break out when their hormones act up. He told me to cut out chicken because he believed the chickens in Ireland had a lot of hormones in them and that could trigger my break outs. I don’t know if it’s true about Irish chickens having hormones, but I thought about other animals that I know that sometimes get hormone injections: cows. While I’m not a huge beef eater, dairy eater or even really a milk drinker, I definitely am a big coffee drinker. My drink of choice? A latte – the coffee drink with the most milk.
  • I had (and still have) dreams of making an app to do this, to help people find correlations in what they eat to how they feel or how they look or how their mood is.But the sooner you get started the better, so whatever the simplest solution that will help you solve the problem is best.I used a simple notebook. On each page I wrote the month name & what I was avoiding and drew a grid for a calendar. If I accidentally ate the food or drink I was avoiding, I would note it on the calendar day. If I had a serious break out, I’d note that. Otherwise I’d give my skin a rating when I woke up. 1-10, 10 being amazing shape and 1 being the worst ever.It takes a bit of time to get used to not eating things you regularly consume. Some things are easier than others. Chicken, for example, is easier to give up than sugar because you generally know when you’re eating chicken. Not always the case with things like sugar, gluten, etc.
  • Curing skin woes through experimentation - Martha Rotter

    1. 1. Martha Rotter @martharotter
    2. 2. How did I get here?
    3. 3. What happened? A new country – Stress! A new job – Stress! A lot more beer drinking – Stress! Lots of potatoes – Stress! Lots of travel – Stress! Less sleep – Stress!
    4. 4. First attempt: Go to my hometown dermatologist (December 2008) Result: prescribed antibiotic course for a year plus a monthly prescription bill of over $600 for pills & creams.
    5. 5. Side note: ProPublica
    6. 6. Second attempt: Talk to a food allergist (June 2009) Result: diagnosed as having allergy to soy and chicken, cut both out of my diet; no effect on skin  * But now I had an idea
    7. 7. Third attempt: Take matters in to my own hands (January 2010) Result: over a year of experimentation
    8. 8. Method (Or, How You Can Do ThisToo) Record, record, record Simple is best Make time to make connections
    9. 9. Result! In December of 2010 I decided to try giving up all dairy. By New Year’s Eve, my face was my own again. Why dairy? Why now? I have no idea. Maybe my body changed, maybe it’s something about Irish dairy, maybe ???
    10. 10. Summary Don’t let anyone tell you that what you put in your mouth doesn’t affect your body – the famous “Acne & Chocolate” study was found to be badly executed but many dermatologists still go by this advice. Be wary of people telling you to spend a lot of money to cure your condition (even the food allergist wanted me to spend a lot of money on pills & vitamins!) Everyone is different, you may have to try several variations until you figure out your own personal trigger.
    11. 11. Questions? Find me on Twitter: @martharotter Or on my blog: You can download my free, experimental app to keep track of your own food intake at: Or fork it / build on top of it at: