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I’ve been very open about my battles with taming acne, over the past couple of years. As a teenager, I didn’t have any more pimples than my friends, and as a young adult, although I would get a few here and there, it was never an alarming amount.
It wasn’t until I decided to come off the combined contraceptive pill in December 2015 after being diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s and starting NDT thyroid medication, that my skin started to go crazy.
The sudden amount of acne I had (as if overnight) was really hard to come to terms with.
Sex Hormone Imbalance
Driving this hormonal imbalance was the ‘adrenal fatigue‘ (note: it is more accurately referred to as hypothalamic-pituitary axis dysfunction) I was also trying to overcome, in the form of high cortisol.
Many of us with hypothyroidism also seem to have adrenal issues. When high cortisol remains high for so long, the body can start converting progesterone in to more cortisol to try and sustain this stress response, creating a sex hormone imbalance of too much oestrogen.
This sex hormone imbalance gave me irregular periods and pretty horrendous mood swings, as well as the sudden and very painful cystic acne. I gave progesterone cream a go but saw little improvement, so stopped after six months or so. I soon realised I needed the help of a more integrative practitioner (more on that below).
Having Hashimoto’s, as 90% of us do , I also decided to give a gluten-free diet another go and, within just a few weeks, I noticed great change in my skin.
As well as a great improvement in my acne, brain fog and heart palpitations, I felt overall healthier. I’ve inserted before and after photos of going gluten-free below, for you to see for yourself. My periods also became regular once again.
Related Article: 9 Thyroid Symptoms That Improved by Going Gluten-Free
Six months in to being gluten-free and I rejoiced at my skin being left with just scarring which was fading at a good rate. The thought of no longer spending so long every morning concealing them, because most the time I preferred covering them up, was exciting.
However, my skin soon flared up again, though not as bad as before, but definitely indicating that something else was wrong. I also felt a lot more fatigued and was struggling with my mental health. I knew something was ‘off’ again.
Hoping that things would resolve on their own (they almost never do, though) I gave it six months before eventually visiting a functional medicine practitioner, for help on my mounting symptoms.
Frustrated, because switching from Levothyroxine to NDT had made such a big difference to my overall health, yet now I felt as if I was going backwards, I practically begged her for help.
She confirmed that I had leaky gut, with a yeast overgrowth, driving my adrenal fatigue, which in turn was driving the sex hormone imbalance (of oestrogen dominance). Going gluten-free was a great first step for my gut health but it was never going to fix everything.
Essentially, through having Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism, this led to adrenal fatigue due to a leaky gut and inflammation in the body, which then led to the sex hormone imbalance. And the oestrogen dominance was worsening the adrenal fatigue. I was stuck in a vicious cycle!
So, What Did We Do?
I needed a targeted approach to the yeast overgrowth, working on killing this off and eliminating it from the body and then also improving my gut and digestive function at the same time. Grapefruit Seed Extract was recommended by my functional medicine practitioner for the yeast.
Taking digestive enzymes, drinking bone broth and kefir were recommended and so, desperate to rid myself of the mounting symptoms and acne, I jumped to it and implemented everything the functional medicine practitioner suggested.
It was a little slow to begin with but my gosh, the results have been amazing. More energy, better mental health and you guessed it – an improvement in acne.
The photos below show before and after 3 months on kefir, using Grapefruit Seed Extract to target the candida (a UK test for Candida can be found here and a US test here), and digestive enzymes. In the before photos (left), I have a lot of red, sore spots. The after photos (right) show mostly scarring a few months after starting gut health targeted treatment.
It’s not just the acne on my face and chest that has improved though, but oil production and the overall softness and texture of my skin too.
In my case, and I think in many thyroid patient’s cases, a sex hormone imbalance is going to behind their acne when they have thyroid issues.
The delicate balance of hormones in the endocrine system, such as thyroid hormones, adrenal, sex hormones and more, can all impact each other and when one goes out of balance, so can others. By addressing the system as a whole, calming the adrenal fatigue, fixing gut health and so on, improvements in the skin and overall health can be seen.
Have you had experience with acne?
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
The book Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, which builds on this article in detail. Reclaim your thyroid healthy life and banish your symptoms.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, blogger, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. She has two books: ‘Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate‘ and ‘You, Me and Hypothyroidism‘. Her thyroid advocacy work includes authoring books, writing articles, blogging and speaking on podcasts. Rachel has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, MSN, ThyroidChange and more. She is well-recognised as a useful contributor to the thyroid community and has received multiple awards and recognitions for her work and dedication. Although British, she advocates for thyroid patients worldwide.