The Healthy Skin Show 007: How To Treat Your Chronic Skin Issues By Helping Your Liver w/ Dr. Alan Christianson

If you’ve got thyroid issues, weight to lose, or chronic skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, an issue with your liver may be at the root of it all. Too often we fixate on other things when it’s really the liver that is driving many aspects of our health. My guest, Dr. Alan Christianson believes that understanding that the liver is an important organ and being aware of its functions and taking good care of it is crucial to healthy living.


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Dr. Christianson is a naturopathic endocrinologist who focuses on thyroid function, adrenal health, and metabolism. He’s been practicing medicine in Scottsdale since 1996 and is the founding physician behind Integrative Health. He’s also the New York Times bestselling author of Adrenal Reset Diet, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease, and The Metabolism Reset Diet. You may even recognize Dr. Christianson from his many appearances on national media such as Dr. Oz, The Doctors, and The Today Show.

In this interview, Dr. Christianson and I sit down to talk about one of my favorite subjects, liver health. We discuss his findings in which Dr. Christianson has tied metabolism issues to liver function. We talk about how to best take care of your liver in order to prevent or repair more obvious manifestations of liver problems that show up on the skin.

Dr. Christianson also shares a preview of his new book which is aimed at helping people reset their metabolism by taking better care of their liver. It is all super empowering to realize that we are in control of our body’s functions and health if we stop long enough to understand it.

Do you struggle with your metabolism? How aware are you about the current health of your liver? What have you done to help care for your liver? Let me know in the comments below!


In this episode:

  • The surprising connection between the liver, metabolism, and chronic skin issues
  • How the liver manages blood sugar in ways many don’t realize
  • Rebalancing liver function to help maintain a healthy weight
  • First steps to take if you think a liver issue may be the underlying cause of a bigger problem
  • Why you should be aware of your liver’s fuel capacity
  • What to look for in your standard blood panel to see how your liver is doing



“Most waste that the liver processes, it tries to send out through bile, which we would poop out or other things we would pee out. But when that can’t work as well, a lot of those same wastes go out through the skin. That’s often one of the base components of much worse skin disease.” [2:04]

“Most people who have struggled with their weight or their liver functions in some way – their glucose after meals isn’t from their meal. 70-80% of it comes from their liver releasing it.” [4:13]

“When your liver is at fuel capacity, everything over that capacity is hard on it.” [13:32]

“The exciting thing is that in the course of just a few weeks you can completely shift your liver function, and get it from where it’s holding you on a tightrope where too much is weight gain and  too little is exhaustion, to where you have some leeway again.” [15:39]



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The Metabolism Reset Diet by Dr. Alan Christianson


The Healthy Skin Show 007: How To Treat Your Chronic Skin Issues By Helping Your Liver w/ Dr. Alan Christianson

007: How To Combat Your Chronic Skin Issues By Helping Your Liver w/ Dr. Alan Christianson FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jennifer:                              Hi everyone and welcome back to the Healthy Skin Show. Today I've got a very special guest for you, someone whom I have a great amount of respect for and I've known for quite some time and love all of the work that he does. Plus as a person, he is just a true just a true, wonderful soul. So I'm looking forward to sharing his work with you today. His name is Dr Alan Christianson. He is a naturopathic endocrinologist who focuses on thyroid function, adrenal health and metabolism. He's been actively practicing in Scottsdale since 1996 and is the founding physician behind integrative health. He is a New York times bestselling author whose books include The Metabolism Reset Diet, The Adrenal Reset Diet, and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Thyroid Disease. Dr Christianson regularly appears on national media, so you may have seen him on shows like Dr Oz, The Doctors, and the Today show. Dr C, thank you so much for joining us.

Dr Christianson:                Hey Jennifer, that was super kind. Thank you so much. I'm jazzed, jazzed to be here with you. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Jennifer:                              Yeah. And so one of my favorite topics to talk about is liver health. And you've got this great new book out where you've tied metabolism issues to the functioning of your liver, which I think is really cool. And a lot of my chronic skin clients have issues with liver. The liver is just totally over taxed. So can you talk to us a little bit, cause I haven't really dealt with liver stuff yet on this podcast. Tell us a little bit about what the liver does in, in terms of metabolism, detoxification, etcetera. You know, that really has fueled your work.

Dr Christianson:                Yeah. You know, just to make a quick connection with, with the skin, make this really relevant for the listeners. So there's a lot of byproducts that the body needs to process and get rid of. And that's one of the liver's many tasks. It's a big bopper for lots of things. But yeah, it's getting rid of waste that come from the environment. But even more so the ones that come from our bodies, like, like there's exhaust from the car. So we have waste from burning fuel. And most ways that deliver processes it tries to send out through bile, which we would poop out or other things we would pee out. But when that can't work as well, a lot of those same waste go out through the skin and that's often one of the base components of much more skin disease. You know, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, an extreme example of that can be jaundice or the skin is overtly yellow and the is completely blocked, but it's not all or nothing. So in many cases when there's chronic inflammation of the skin, it's because too much is being diverted from the liver to the skin because the liver can't work right.

Jennifer:                              Wow. And that's a big problem when you have chronic skin issues, a lot of times there's just so much waste in the system that you're poor liver is really struggling. And how exactly would this then connect to your metabolism? Because another issue, it's not always the initial or large complaint that a lot of clients have, but they always tend to have body fat that they're trying to get rid of and they're really struggling. They're also in this like perimenopausal stage a lot of times where they've actually transitioned to menopause. What is the connection there? Because I believe that the liver, at least from my schooling and education, the liver is really responsible for managing your blood sugar levels as well. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Dr Christianson:                Yeah, the emerging concepts called leaky liver, so yeah, so are you just barely hearing about that, but in the case of managing blood sugar, you mentioned, so someone's got diabetes. One of the hallmark signs of that is they have high blood sugar when they wake up and after meals. Now when you wake up, you know you didn't just eat, so when your blood sugar is high, that's because it was leaking out of the liver. There was too much coming out of the liver as you were sleeping and then after meals. This is a recent thing we've discovered. We used to think that, you know, we had a meal, I just had some food recently, and so the glucose in our bloodstream we think is the result from what we just ate. It seems really intuitive, but they've been able to differentiate that now to differentiate the food, the glucose from a meal versus the glucose from the liver. And most people that have struggles with their weight or their liver function in some way, their glucose after meal isn't from their meal. Like 78 80% of it comes from their liver releasing it. It's not from what they just ate.

Jennifer:                              Wow. That is quite different than what most people actually think.

Dr Christianson:                You know, we troubleshoot which, which food I ate. Did I eat too much carbs that I eat bad food. And it was actually, that was none of it. That was the tiniest part of the glucose in the bloodstream. The bulk of it is what our body is making. So you know, in terms of how the liver manages our, our blood sugar, like you mentioned how it manages our energy and our weight. So our bodies need fuel constantly. You are sleeping, moving, whatever. And we also need certain nutrients almost constantly. But if you think about it, we don't intake them constantly. You know, we eat a certain number of times and whatever frequency it is, good or bad, it's not constant, you know? And same thing for nutrients. The building blocks, we need the micronutrients to help carry out reactions. We don't consume them when we need them.

Dr Christianson:                So the liver is this big warehouse and we're holding onto a few holding on to nutrients. And when it works really good, it gives us what we need on the spot. Now what I've seen as the real pitfall with people in terms of the weight is that I think everyone has a sense that if they starve themselves in some way, they can have their weight go down. But the problem is that they don't feel well. You know, their energy is compromised and their weight shoots up again. Maybe they lose a lot of muscle mass. So none of us get exactly the fuel we need on a given day. So our liver is always buffering. Now there's always a little too much or a little bit too little. And when your liver works right, that too much or too little is not a big deal. You know, you've got harmless ways to make glycogen or triglycerides. Those are stored fuels in the liver, and that doesn't mean you gain weight. You just got more fuel for the future. And the days where you get too little, you're not wiped out. You just draw that out of your liver and you're fine. So the trick is, yeah, not how do you starve yourself in the latest does your way. The trick is how do you get it to where your flexibility comes back again and you're not a prisoner to eating just beyond this tight rope of not too much, not too little.

Jennifer:                              That's really interesting that you mentioned that. And you know, because a, I've had a lot of clients that are kind of starving themselves, eating very small portions. They have thyroid dysfunction, they've got these chronic skin issues, they've got weight to lose, they're just really unhappy. They've got a lot of gut issues as well. So we have this whole part where the liver is being bombarded by toxins and it's unhappy and it cannot manage that. But then on this other flip side, you've got the liver where it has lost, as you said, it's flexibility in being able to be up to task for whatever the day is going to throw at it. So what have you found through working with patients that helps you rebalance the liver so-to-speak? Give it that flexibility back. Is there a way to do that or do we have to obsess over calories and carbs and fear them and like what's, what can we do?

Dr Christianson:                Well, so as important as your liver is the, the positive side of this story is that it's also resilient and it's quite regenerative. It's got a large capacity to heal and repair itself. So yeah, I tried to sort this out for so long. And the, the idea about cutting out a food category, you know, it's tricky because carbs, fats, even ketones, they're all the same thing to your liver, they're all oxaloacetate when they're broken down, there's not one that's good and one that's bad. It's how much we've got and that whole fuel bucket. And then I even thought about what about just just cutting all of that low and just fasting. And the pitfall there is your liver needs building blocks to get rid of the stored fuel. So it needs certain essential amino acids from proteins to package up wastes to get rid of them. So I've created a proven approach that limits fuel. You know, it doesn't starve fuel but, all the different types of fuel together, but still keeps healthy amounts of plant based, you know, non-acidic proteins present and allows for a certain amount of food. So the liver is getting the nourishment that it needs, but you're also creating a situation in which it can get rid of all bad fuel that's clogging it up.

Jennifer:                              Hmm. I love the fact that you say you're giving the liver all the nutrients that it needs. That's a concept that we haven't ever really talked about in wellness because everybody is so fixated detoxing their liver, but they don't realize, at least it's been my opinion. I'd be curious as to yours that I feel like a lot of liver detoxing is actually too harsh for most people. It can exacerbate things and make things worse. What do you think we should be detoxing? Or is it more of a supportive approach to the liver that seems to help bring it back in line and, and help with all the different systems of the body?

Dr Christianson:                You know, I've thought about this like, like you're mining and you've got these, these tunnels and little carts and the tunnels and the guys with the picks, getting the rocks out of the wall and putting in the carts. And so imagine that a lot of these tunnels are clogged up. So the thing that's going to work is you've got to get more carts down there to get the stuff that's clogging the tunnels and get all that out again. So detox by itself would be like just getting more rocks off the wall. And that's, you know, with, with liver metabolism, we think about its oxidation pathways where it pulls the rocks off the wall, you know, like in the tunnel. And then the conjugation pathways where it puts the rocks in the carts and hauls the carts out. And it seems that the modern life, we've got a lot of factors that speed up this breakdown or metabolism of wastes, but too few things that help us with the elimination of wastes. And so we get thrown off that way. So yeah, it's very common. People have more of a need to get caught up on the cleaning than the mobilizing.

Jennifer:                              I love that. I love that. So with somebody who's struggling, so say if one of our listeners is hearing us, have this conversation and she's got thyroid issues, she's got weight to lose, she's got eczema or psoriasis or something else going on. These chronic skin manifestations, which we know for sure liver issues are definitely one of the root causes of skin issues. Plus we've got these other factors. What would be the first step? Like should she get some sort of testing done? Is there some, you know, basic dietary thing, easy, simple changes that she could make to just get started right after listening to our conversation today?

Dr Christianson:                You know, first thing I love, you mentioned testing is really just seeing where the situation is and here's an easy thing. You can do at home. And here's an easy thing that's in every single blood test. So the at home thing is your waist to height ratio. Now people have talked about body mass index or waist hip ratio or lots of other things, but there's been mountains of evidence about waist to height ratio being a predictor of liver health and also one of the biggest predictors of just overall mortality risk. So you want to know your height in inches. And as adults most of us haven't had our height change too much in the recent past so we may know that pretty well just top of mind, but then get a good waist measurement. And the way it's defined for this, this concept is a belly button, so inches around the belly button first thing in the morning.

Dr Christianson:                You know we work hard to hold it in, but yeah, don't just in the morning do that and empty yourself out in the bathroom really good. And then just deep breath in, let it out and measure inches around the belly button and it's just height divided by waist. Now the number to shoot for is half. So if you're half, if you're a circumference around your waist is less than half of your height, there's a pretty good chance you're in good shape. And 0.4 might be just ideal. Whenever you're above one half, there's some level of risk towards your liver health. And you know the liver is the biggest single driver of waist circumference in that part of the body. So it's, it takes up the whole abdominal cavity, both sides. It's really big and it changes in size pretty easily. So yeah, height to waist ratio was the first simple step someone can take.

Jennifer:                              That's great. That's actually, I love at home tests that are very simple like that that also don't cost someone any money cause they're not really sure what to do with it. And are there any particular, just, you know, we talk a lot about collagen with skin health or particular type of amino acids. Like I love to use glycine with clients. Is there any particular type of liver fuel that our listeners should start to make themselves aware of?

Dr Christianson:                Well, the funny thing is I think about the livers various things that tax it and all, all the data they look at seems to point the fact that the biggest stress is just processing our food. You know, we, we talk a lot about the gut being the entry point for the body. And when you think about it, it's really more so the liver, you know, the gut is still not even inside the body until things come in the bloodstream. And from there they go to the liver and the liver immune cells decides if things are okay or not. But the biggest amount of work liver the carries on is just processing our food, the carbs, the proteins, the fats, even the ketones, whatever it is. So you'll hear about, you know, fructose being bad for the liver or saturated fat being bad for your liver or this being good for the liver.

Dr Christianson:                And they're all completely contextual. So when your liver is at fuel capacity, everything over that capacity is hard on it. So that's, that's the thing. Even even like the fructose studies, there's, I don't recommend fructose to add your diet, but it doesn't hurt the liver in studies until someone's already at their fuel needs and it's added on top of it. So all the things are good and bad are completely contextual. So the first thing is just not blowing past what your fuel needs are. Now I categorize fuel as the carbs and the fats primarily or, any ketone supplements because protein is different. So the liver has a pronounced need for essential amino acids and that doesn't really change based upon activity levels or whether you've got too much or too little fuel. So a lot of people try to lose weight, but the pitfall is they'll compromise their protein status. And the reason why that's bad, of course we lose muscle mass, we lose muscle mass because your liver still needs to get protein from somewhere. So if you're getting too little dietary protein, your liver then eats up your muscles to do its best to carry on its reactions and then you end up slowing your metabolism further and setting yourself up for just more struggles.

Jennifer:                              I have to tell you, I love what you just said, like love it because one of my biggest complaints I would say or issues that I have with clients is often times they've cut protein down to a point where they may be eating only 30 or 40 grams a day, which for especially when you have thyroid issues and other hormone issues, I'm like, you know, there's really no storage for protein. You need a constant influx, especially if you've got healing and repairing to do so. I love that. And that's one reason why I'm very excited for you brand new book. Can you tell us a little bit about, you know, obviously this is a snippet of this larger conversation that you have in this book. Can you share it with us? Why should somebody go and check it out? Cause I am so excited for it.

Dr Christianson:                Well the book is really meant to be the kind of thing that you, you tear up in dog year and go through as a program. You know, that's what it really is, is it's a 28 day reset. So the exciting thing is that in the course of just a few weeks, you can completely shift your liver function and get it from where it's, you know, holding you on a tight rope to where too much is weight gain and too little as exhaustion to where you've got some leeway again. And that's, that's a part I'm jazzed about, you know, we first got going on this for reversing diabetes and we've had thousands of patients who were diabetic on multiple medications, not type one, but type two diabetics, some of whom even on insulin. And we'll start them on this 28 day program and on day one stop all their medications.

Dr Christianson:                Completely confident in that. I'm not advocating this to those that we're not working with, but when we supervise, someone we'llstop their medications and over the course of 28 days, they can be non-diabetic in almost all cases.

Jennifer:                              Wow.

Dr Christianson:                So we saw that, we saw that the main thing happening was this, this change in the liver and realizing that this is a big benefit to many who are not diabetic. You know, half, half of adults in America, a little over half either are diabetic or are highly at risk for it. And there's similar numbers for a thing called Fatty Liver Syndrome and almost anyone to where their appetite, their energy and their weight just don't naturally sync up. They've got problems with their liver. So I'm really jazzed that that can change so quickly for people in the book is just like a total roadmap on how you do that. It does talk about the how's and the why's and the nerdy stuff that I find fascinating, but it just, here's what you do. It's that too and recipes .

Jennifer:                              And this was also great because for someone who knows who's going to do their their height to waist ratio and they're going to figure out what's going on with that. So we've got your little at-home test plus you now have, go ahead.

Dr Christianson:                Can I throw in one other test.

Jennifer:                              Yeah go ahead. Yeah, absolutely.

Dr Christianson:                I touched on this before it didn't close the loop on it? I'm sorry. But,if you're, imagine your listeners, they're they're savvy and you've probably got access to some of your recent blood tests in almost all cases when you have a blood test, there's a thing called the chemistry panel. Way back when this was called a smack. Now it's usually called a chem panel. And in that there's almost always liver function tests. So there's one called ALT, and that's alanine aminotransferase. It's a, it's an enzyme that's normally only inside of liver cells. And it's normal that liver cells die and pop open and new cells take their place. So the amount of that ALT that's in the bloodstream is proportionate to how many liver cells are dying and some is normal. But when there's a higher rate of cell death, this number gets higher. Now, here's the big wrinkle.

Dr Christianson:                Most labs say that your normal between somewhere in the low single, high single digits, like six to nine is most common to the low end. And then high end of abnormal might be upper forties to low sixties it varies per region. But if you're a woman, all liver specialists agree that if you're above 19 something's wrong.

Jennifer:                              Really!

Dr Christianson:                So you can be pretty much dead center of normal, but have a problem going on.

Jennifer:                              Wow.

Jennifer:                              Yeah, and that's a very easily obtained tests. Most doctors will run like a CMP or a BMG and it should, should typically show up in one of those, but as long as you're asking for your CMP, a comprehensive metabolic panel, it'll show up on that.

Dr Christianson:                If you have had any blood test done, you probably had that done. It's not anything esoteric and yeah, you can be spot on within normal and no debate at all. Liver specialists say, hey, something's wrong for a woman who's over 19 and it definitely could be other factors, medication reactions, hepatitis, infections. The most common thing, no barring any obvious explanation is early Fatty Liver Syndrome and that's what this things I'm talking about. The liver gets so clogged up with fuel that it can't burn. It creates symptoms and eventually it gets sick too.

Jennifer:                              Yeah. And that's why this is a great opportunity for us to dive into this because liver is such a big piece of it and I really appreciate you for having this conversation with us today and sharing. I hope that we can maybe have you back sometime to talk more about this because the liver is just so important. It's such an important organ and I feel like we don't give enough attention to it. We fixate on a lot of other things when it's really, it's a big piece to solving the puzzle and I'm excited for your new book. I'm going to put a link to where everyone can get it in the show notes. Is there anything you know, final thoughts you'd love to share or any place you'd love to direct the listeners to go check out.

Dr Christianson:                You know, final thoughts. I guess the big thing is just that we, when things, when things don't work that way, there's reasons for it. You know, if, if you've had, you've done the right things, but you still have the skin symptoms, your energy isn't stable, or if your weight doesn't seem to respond properly to a good diet or exercise, you know, it's not your fault. There's something wrong. And the main issue behind those collected patterns of symptoms is liver function. And the inspiring thing is that can change. It can get better in just a few weeks.

Jennifer:                              The liver is regenerative. It is one of the most amazing organs in the body, in my opinion.

Dr Christianson:                Yeah.

Jennifer:                              Well, I'm so glad that I could have you, Dr C share all this great information and everybody please go check out the book, get yourself a copy. This is a fantastic resource for all of us because liver, no matter what you're dealing with, and it sounds like too, if you've got a spouse that has maybe blood sugar issues, metabolic syndrome, they're not quite on board with doing your program, but you guys could do this together, it would have a really great impact on your family as well as everyone's health and getting everybody back in line. And, and regenerating your liver. It's a good thing. Liver support is, and balance is a good thing. Well, thank you so much, Dr C. I appreciate your time.

Dr Christianson:                Yeah, thanks for having me. Awesome stuff you're doing.

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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