The Healthy Skin Show 008: Identifying The Chemical Triggers Behind Your Skin Flare Ups w/ Jennifer Brand

It’s well known that the source of many skin problems lies in the gut. In fact, you may have a sensitivity to a natural chemical in your food that is triggering an issue with your skin. The tricky part, though, is often identifying just what the chemical cause of that trigger is.


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My friend Jennifer Brand knows all about this. She’s a certified nutrition specialist and an integrative functional and clinical nutritionist with a bachelors in nutrition and dietetics as well as two masters degrees in public health and human nutrition. Jennifer enjoys taking into account her clients’ unique biochemistry using conventional and functional tests combined with a thorough case history while addressing problems using holistic and natural means.

In this chat, Jennifer and I talk about common chemical triggers that occur naturally in food but can cause major flare-ups and problems in your skin without you even realizing it. We go on to discuss what you can do to try to identify a potential food trigger and how you can take charge of your gut and skin health by eliminating the chemicals that are causing problems.


In this episode:

  • How impaired gut health impacts the skin’s health in myriad ways
  • The differences between food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities
  • Some common chemical triggers you might want to watch out for in what you eat
  • Simple steps you can take to see if you have a food sensitivity



“As you know, health begins in the gut. It’s where 80% of our immune system is located. So when we have impaired gut health, it impacts all the systems of the body including the skin.” [2:58]

“When you’re doing an elimination diet … if you don’t see results in one to two weeks, stop right there, it’s something else. It should help quickly if you remove these things.” [8:29]

“If you’re finding that you are sensitive to these natural chemicals, it really warrants a look at your gut-health. That really does involve working with somebody who can help guide you through the process.” [14:34]



Find Jennifer Brand online

Get Jennifer’s Skin Tools

Watch Jennifer’s interview at the Eczema & Psoriasis Awareness Week

Do you have low stomach acid? Take this test to find out

Further discussion on IgE vs IgG responses

The Healthy Skin Show 008: Identifying The Chemical Triggers Behind Your Skin Flare Ups w/ Jennifer Brand

008: Identifying The Chemical Triggers Behind Your Skin Flare Ups w/ Jennifer Brand FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jen:                        Hi everyone and welcome back to the Healthy Skin show. Today I have with me someone who's actually a very good friend of mine. We're very close. We've known each other for about four or five years now and we worked our butts off together to get through our grad school program to become clinical nutritionist and she also consults on cases and we do different things together so we're always working on our practices and all sorts of stuff, which is lots of fun. And you may remember her if you tuned in to the eczema and psoriasis awareness week. My good friend Jennifer Brand was one of the speakers and she's back with us today to talk more about food triggers or food chemical triggers that occur naturally in food but can cause major problems and flares for your skin that you might not even realize. So my friend Jennifer Brand, she's an integrative functional and clinical nutritionist with a bachelor's degree in nutrition and dietetics and two master's degrees guys.

Jen:                        She is a smart cookie. She's got a master's degree in public health as well as one in human nutrition. She's also a certified nutrition specialist. She loves taking into account her client's unique biochemistry using both conventional and functional testing and taking a very thorough case history. She looks for underlying imbalances that contribute to ill health and disease. Using functional nutrition to address those imbalances with natural means. Those things can include looking at you, the client from a whole person perspective, taking into account your mind, body and spirit, looking at your diet, making alterations to that when necessary as well as other lifestyle alterations and using supplements off course to help support your body's biochemical pathways. Jennifer has worked with a lot of clients oftentimes being very chronic and unfortunately complex conditions that don't seem to get resolved conventionally. So that's where Jennifer and I love to dive in. And yeah, Jen, thanks so much for joining us today.

Jennifer:              Thank you for having me. Thank you for that wonderful introduction and I'm always happy to talk to you and support you on a personal and professional level. And yes, we've known each other for a long time now. And I am thankful every day for your friendship and, and to have you as a colleague.

Jen:                        I know and it's really cool we're able to actually collaborate on things like this. And you know, one of the things that I love about you is that you are so intensely focused on this really interesting relationship of the gut to skin health. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Jennifer:              Sure. I mean, my focus is really gut health and GI issues because I'm just obsessed with everything gut related and what I discover and working with clients that a number of them, you know, that have these gut also have severe skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, psoriasis and others. And it's really not a coincidence. I mean, as you know, health begins in the gut. It's where 80% of our immune system is located. So when we have impaired gut health, it impacts all the systems of the body, including the skin and impaired gut health can result in leaky gut. I'm sure most of you out there have heard of leaky gut. It's, you know all over the place nowadays and this is where toxins and food particles from the gut can get into the bloodstream and the body reacts and in some people this is reflected in the skin and this is also how auto immunity develops and therefore some people do experience eczema and psoriasis which are autoimmune conditions and when we have impaired gut health it also inhibits the ability of our body to detox appropriately. Those toxins have to get out somehow so they try to escape through the skin and impaired gut health also can result in nutrient deficiency because we're unable to appropriately absorb and digest and absorb nutrients from the foods we eat. And there are a variety of nutrients that are important for skin health.

Jen:                        Well and this, and this is interesting, you know we're going to obviously talk about skin or food, excuse me, food chemicals today, but there, there is this one interesting jumping off point for listeners who depending on where you are, go to your conventional dermatologist and you begin to become very frustrated. Typically the first place that they will start to look as they become increasingly frustrated is like, could it be the food that's causing my problems as the first very natural question. And so that, you know, and, and I, I do read and interact with a lot of different people in different Facebook groups that are specific to skin conditions because, you know, I myself had dyshidrotic eczema , so I, it's a very personal issue to me. And so there, there are some terms that are thrown around like food allergies and food sensitivities, even food intolerance. Could you talk to us a little bit about what those are and how they're different because they are not interchangeable terms.

Jennifer:              Absolutely. And you know, something I want to add, you just spurred me to think about this, that I do have a personal connection. I have a few family members that deal with psoriasis. So it's something that I do also happen to be passionate about because I want to help them heal as well. So yes, so the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. So when we're looking at food allergies, those are what we call an IGE antibody reaction. And so this is where, you know, people that go into anaphylactic shock from, you know, eating whatever it is, it's that type of reaction. And so those are foods that we absolutely want to avoid. And then on the other side of the coin, we have food sensitivities and these are more like, these are like IGG reactions for example, antibody reactions. And in this case it's really your body sort of recognizing an old friend or you know, it's something you eat often and your body's like, Hey, I see you again.

Jennifer:              And you know, these are really the result of leaky gut. So especially when we have multiple food sensitivities. So if you find that you're sensitive to many foods and just, you know, basically like I see so many people, they feel like everything they eat is causing them to react. You have leaky gut. And so when we're talking about these food sensitivities you know, a lot of people feel that these foods are causing my skin conditions. And so I see people that have severely restricted their diets, they're on longterm elimination diets and you know, over time they become sensitive to more and more foods. So the skin reactions continue. And in addition, because their diets have become so restrictive, they now have nutrient deficiency in a whole host of other problems. And you know, so, so a lot of these folks like their skin conditions are even worse than when they started out in the first place. So food sensitivities aren't really a cause of your skin problems. They're a symptom of leaky gut and therefore they're a trigger of your skin symptoms. So I think that that's very important to recognize is that they're not a cause they're a symptom and therefore they become a trigger.

Jen:                        Exactly. And again, if we want to move away from just symptom management, that means that yes, you do for a period of time need to avoid those foods. It may, depending on how severe they are, sometimes severe food sensitivities you may have to kind of deal with for the rest of your life. But depending on how severe they are, they may be things that you can reintroduced in time. And so, and I love that you really mentioned, pointed out they are not a root cause. That's so, so important. Now these kinds of things and what we're talking about are these like food groups. There's these interesting food groups and food chemicals that exist in some of these foods. They can trigger skin issues. We dove pretty deep into them in your interview at the eczema and psoriasis awareness week.

Jen:                        And I can certainly put a link to where you guys can go and check out that event if you did miss it. If you missed it or you just miss Jennifer's talk you can certainly go and check that out cause it was excellent. But let's dive into maybe four like four big ones today that tend to cause issues for people. And, and by the way, in saying this, number one, we are not saying you have all of these issues and we are two not saying you should remove all of these foods. And number three. We'll also make sure to share how long you need to do this in order to see results. Cause it's not really that long. You shouldn't do these, these eliminations for an excessive period of time.

Jennifer:              Correct. Let's start with that one because I'll forget if we get to the cause I'm gonna start talking. So when you're doing an elimination diet and you're going to try to remove some of the foods that we'll talk about, if you don't see results within one to two weeks, stop right there. It's, that's not it, it's something else. So it should help quickly if you remove these things. So I want people to keep that in mind. So thank you for pointing that out, Jen. And so when we're talking about these are natural chemicals that are found in healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. So this is beyond you know, some of the common triggers that people remove first, which are, you know, gluten, dairy, eggs is very common trigger. They're very common triggers for eczema soy nuts and peanuts and corn.

Jennifer:              So, you know, once we get beyond that, so again, we're looking at these natural chemicals and otherwise healthy foods. So histamines are an example. And you know, we're often told, well more, more often than not, right? Probiotics and probiotic foods, well guess what, they're probiotic foods are histamine rich because they're fermented. So that is something to be careful of. So if you're eating a lot of fermented foods you know, that might be something you want to cut back on and see if that helps. And histamines are naturally found in vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, eggplants and avocado. And then we have salicylates and oxalates also present in many vegetables. So salicylates, tomatoes, broccoli and zucchini grapes and blueberries. And then oxalates are found in leafy greens and nuts and seeds. And then we've got glutamates. And so we have natural glutamates, which are found in broccoli and grapes and tomatoes and raisins.

Jennifer:              And then we have monosodium glutamate or MSG, which is a preservative. So you might see that on food labels and actually they do, they do a really good job of hiding what they call MSG nowadays.

Jen:                        The food industry is very sneaky about that.

Jennifer:              They're sneaky. So anything, you know, processed foods, lots of condiments, preservatives, anything that has like artificial flavor enhancers in it. The list is very extensive. And way too extensive to go through now. But, but it's just hidden. The glutamates are hidden in lots of foods.

Jen:                        So say to Jennifer about a bone broth for example. A lot of people like to use bone broth to heal their gut. You'll probably read that online when you go searching. But if you have an issue with glutamate, bone broth is high in glutamate and can actually make your issues worse. So we're not telling you guys this to scare you.

Jen:                        That's not the point. It's to make you understand that yes, there are natural triggers out there, but it can be complex.

Jennifer:              It can be. And I think that's a really good point. And I, I'm not personally a huge fan of bone broth for that reason and many others. And I think it, it becomes challenging because we are bombarded by this is healthy, that is healthy and this will heal my gut. And without looking at it in context with what's going on with you as an individual, these one off interventions are not going to be helpful. And this is so often why, you know, I, people come to me and they'd been doing everything right. They're doing their bone broth, they're doing their collagen, or you know, whatever. They're taking their glutamine to heal their gut and they're still having these awful problems. And it's just, there's so much more involved than just these, again, one off interventions. So that I think that's important to point out as well.

Jen:                        Like you were saying to the other thing we should say is that some of these again are very healthy foods. Like bone broth is, typically known as a very healthy food. But,uto kind of circle back for a moment to fermented foods and probiotics, you guys might not realize when you hear that, like, okay, fermented foods, maybe that means like kimchi, but that we're talking about kombucha, wine, beer, all sorts of spirits. Pick anything that's pickled yogurts, cheeses. Uand then we're looking also at cured meats as well. So, I mean, the list is quite extensive. Uand people don't realize that these chemicals exist naturally and who still does that mean that we all should avoid them? No, but it is, it can be certainly an issue. And then the last one is, is citrus.

Jennifer:              Citrus. Citrus can be a trigger for skin issues in some people. And citrus fruits contain salicylates among , you know, other natural chemicals that can be triggers.

Jen:                        Yeah. And, and so again, that's kind of the, the conversation here is I would say my, my thing would be, you know, if you want to pick one of these groups, one of these four and give them a shot as Jen suggests, maybe one to two weeks, see how you do. You're not, do not expect to be healed in one to two weeks. That's unrealistic. Your skin cannot correct itself that quickly, especially if there's a lot of damage and there's any open wounds or sores or anything like that. But you should notice a marked improvement. The easiest way to do that I would also recommend is to take a picture of your skin before you start. That way you can document it through photographs and see if you actually notice any difference. And so Jen, how exactly, aside from, you know, taking these foods out, how would you know if you're sensitive to any of them?

Jennifer:              Well, so, so again, you know, if you remove them for a week or two, you should notice something. And I love your idea about, you know, taking pictures because sometimes, you know, we forget very easily you know, we may still have skin issues two weeks in, but comparing to where we started, it might be a marked improvement. So I think that that's very important to point out. And so with many of these, there aren't tests to directly find out if you're sensitive to them. Otherwise, I mean, you can test for histamine, their lab test for that. And then by proxy we can use urinary organics, acid testing, which is a functional test to see you know, to see what our oxalate levels are. So it's sort of a proxy to check for oxalate sensitivity. But you know, you can't really test for salicylates or glutamates for example. So that in those cases it really is a matter of taking them out of the diet for a little while to see if you have some improvements.

Jen:                        Yeah. And once you, like let's say you discover it that histamines or glutamates or something are an issue what, what exactly should you do?

Jennifer:              Well, when you find out that you have some good questions. Yeah. So I think, and I think it depends on what it is. If you're removing MSG, for example, which is a preservative and you feel better, that's not something that you should worry about adding back in at some point. That is an artificial preservative. It is not good for you. If you're finding that you are sensitive to, you know, these natural chemicals, it really warrants a look at your gut health. And so that really does involve it working with somebody who can help guide you through the process. You know, we're talking about looking at, for example, a urinary organic acids test, which you know, I mentioned in relation to looking at oxalates. I'm a huge fan of comprehensive digestive stool analysis where we can actually take a look at the composition of your gut microbiome what your commensal bacteria is doing in there looking to see if you've got any gut inflammation. So it looks at sort of the immunology and you know, inflammation in your gut, see if you have any pathogenic or potentially pathogenic stuff going on in their leaky gut. So it just gives us a lot of information which gives us a lot of opportunity to make improvements and you know, address anything that's going awry in there, which will bring improvements to your skin health.

Jen:                        Yeah. And that's a big deal because when you're not able to properly digest and absorb your nutrients, all sorts of things get screwed up. And, and to be fair, you do need to look at your gut. I think from sort of a two pronged approach. It's like first it's the gut function and then you've got to look at the microbiome. What kind of gut gut flora community is living within you and where is it living? Is another question now that we need to ask because sometimes the gut floor is not in the right spot and it's fermenting food in say the small intestine when it should be in the colon. And in that case you would have something like SIBO. So it's a big deal. And another, you know, for anybody who's like thinking about getting started on any of this, especially the gut function the bicarb test is super easy to do at home.

Jen:                        And I'm happy to link, I have a actually a cheat sheet on how to do it. It's, it's a free test you can do at home. I'll, I'll link to that in the show notes. And so, Jen, I know we always have like so much to talk about and there was more we could go on and on about. And so I'm hoping we can have you back, but is there some, you know, your website is a fantastic resource. You've got, you've got some really great stuff. What, I know you want to share some, some freebies with listeners and I'll link to them in the show notes. You wanna just want to share with everybody what you'd like to give to them.

Jennifer:              Sure. So I have a page on my website, it's skin tools and then once you go in there I have information on eczema, psoriasis, rosacea so a variety of the more common skin conditions. And then I have a cheat sheet, a eczema or skin rash, food trigger cheat sheet that's available. And that's a free download. So you can go in there and Jen, I know you'll put the links up so you can get a download of that. And then I have an ebook, so it is a blown up version of the cheat sheet. It's, it's really extensive. I was actually looking at it the other day. It is 30 pages long and I was like, Oh my gosh. So, so, and it goes into detail about each of the, and they're several more than the ones the four we discussed, but it's a detail about the different chemicals that are found in these healthy foods. You know, talks about gut health and you know what you can do about it. So yeah, so it goes into detail.

Jen:                        Yeah. And it's a great, that's actually a really great resource that you have for people. And I'll make sure to put links to all of that in our show notes to anybody that's like on the go, not necessarily watching us@overatthenaturalskinshowandskininterrupt.com they'll be able to head on over to this particular episode and get all that stuff. Cause it's really good stuff. Everybody. It's really good stuff and Jen has been such a huge help for me with skin clients. We, we love nerding out on this stuff and Jen, we gotta have you back. We got to, make this happen.

Jennifer:              I would love it. Thank you so much.

Jen:                        Yeah. Thanks for joining us and everybody. We look forward to hearing or, and everyone, thank you so much for joining us and we will see you in the next interview. Thanks, Jen.

Jennifer:              Thank you.

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.

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