Co-Founder of Attune Functional Medicine Clinic
Dr. Ashley Biscoe is a naturopathic doctor and co-founder of the Attune Functional Medicine Clinic and Help for HS, a comprehensive online resource for people affected by hidradenitis suppurativa. Her clinical focus is helping people who struggle with complex health challenges including skin disorders, digestive issues, autoimmunity, and even "unexplained symptoms." She uses a totally drug-free approach with her clients and believes that the human body was divinely created to be self-healing and self-correcting. Dr. Biscoe is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and currently serves as a board member and legislative chair for the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Doctors.
Maria Marlowe: [00:00:05] Welcome back to The Glow Life. I’m your host, Maria Marlow,e and today we’re talking all about reversing acne holistically with naturopathic doctor and co-founder of Attune Functional Medicine Clinic, Dr. Ashley Biscoe. I found Dr. Ashley Biscoe on YouTube. Actually, she was incredibly informative and her videos were amazing, so I said I have to have her on the podcast. She’s incredibly knowledgeable, and so in this episode, we are going to focus specifically on acne. But just know that in her practice, she works on a wide range of disorders and complex health challenges, including other skin disorders, digestive issues, autoimmunity and even unexplained symptoms. She has a drug-free approach to medicine and really likes to help the body heal itself by removing the things that are hindering its healing and adding in the things that help its healing. And so her approach is really refreshing, and I think you’ll find this episode really interesting and helpful.
Maria Marlowe: [00:01:15] Before we jump into the episode, a quick note that this podcast is sponsored by the Clear Skin Plan, which is my 90-day meal plan and program to help reverse acne holistically from within. It helps you figure out what your underlying root causes of acne are and address them through dietary and lifestyle changes. There are also over 100 delicious skin-clearing recipes in the back that you can mix and match. There are meal plans and shopping lists. If you want to have a done-for-you plan or you can kind of go at your own pace. You can also eat out. You’re not stuck to just eating from the plan. It will really give you all of the tools you need to clear your skin from within, naturally. It’s science-backed dermatologist-approved and doctor-recommended. To get it head to mariamarlowe.com/clear-skin-plan.
Maria Marlowe: [00:02:09] Dr. Biscoe, thanks for being here.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:02:11] It’s a pleasure.
Maria Marlowe: [00:02:13] So let’s talk about acne. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about acne. We tend to think of it as a topical issue, but it goes much deeper than that. So to kick it off, what do you think are some of the misconceptions about acne?
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:02:30] Yes. Well, number one, I think that a lot of people believe it’s a normal phenomenon, right? Everybody goes through it during adolescence, during their teen years. And of course, it is very common. But I always tell my patients just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s normal or healthy. There are cultures and areas around the world where acne simply doesn’t exist. They don’t have the same inflammatory foods in their diet. They’re not exposed to the same stressors or toxins. So I think that’s the first misconception is that we should expect to go through it as a normal part of our development.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:03:08] Another myth is that acne is simply a dermatology condition. It manifests in the skin. But what we know is that this is really an inflammatory and endocrine type of disorder, and people who have acne are actually at a greater risk, and they’re more likely to have systemic illnesses. For example, women with acne in their early adolescence are very likely to also have endometriosis. People with acne are more likely to have diabetes and heart disease because there are some common exposure, some common inflammatory pathways, and risk factors that go occur with acne. This topic is really dear to my heart because it was actually kind of the springboard for me getting into the work that I do.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:03:57] I developed acne at a very young age. I was probably about 9 or 10 when I started getting pustules all over my forehead. And in hindsight, I now realize that my childhood diet was not healthy. It was a standard American diet. My mom worked very hard. She was a busy single mom. So I ate a lot of TV dinners and things like that. But that was normal. Everyone did that. You know, my mom is wonderful. No fault to her. But there were a lot of food exposures going on in my life.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:04:27] And in hindsight, I believe the house that I grew up in had mould. We had a flat roof and I can remember as a kid when it rained, putting buckets. And then there was a time when our living room flooded and it was a beautiful house and a great area. But the design and the architecture of it… So I could go down the whole environmental medicine rabbit hole right there. But suffice it to say, I tried all of the topical creams. I tried the tried and true oxy pads, the benzoyl peroxide, all of that. And we were really looking for a cream, a topical. And again, that’s another mistake that a lot of people make is looking for the right products, the right facial, the right cream, instead of looking deeper.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:05:08] And so fast forward several years later, the Akemi wasn’t going away. It was just kind of a common occurrence throughout my teen years and there was one summer in particular, I believe it was the end of my first year of undergraduate in college, and I went to the dermatologist and he prescribed corticosteroids and antibiotics. And I had never tried that type of pharmacological intervention before, but I was excited to get clear skin, so I was willing to do anything. And after a few months, my skin did clear up. It was absolutely flawless. And then something interesting happened, Maria. The acne came back and it came back with a vengeance. It was worse than it had ever been. Instead of having small pustules dispersed throughout my face, it became deep and cystic, and painful.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:05:54] It developed on my neck, on my chest, and on my back. And I remember there was a period of time where I was wearing turtlenecks in the summertime because I was so embarrassed. I had cysts all over my neck, so I just had to cover myself. I was wearing thick coats of makeup. That’s another myth. Does makeup cause acne? Yes. But there are plenty of people who wear makeup and don’t have acne, so that tells you right there that there’s more going on. And so that led me down the rabbit hole of saying, why did this happen? What is going on? What can I do about it?
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:06:28] I’ve always had kind of a curious research nature, so I turned to Dr. Google at the time. I didn’t know what a naturopathic doctor was. All I know is that I went to different doctors and nobody could tell me what was wrong. Also, during this time, it wasn’t just the cystic acne. At this point, I developed a whole cascade of new symptoms, so I was having daily headaches, chronic fatigue, yeast infections, you name it. It felt like my body was falling apart and I was like nineteen or twenty, and then it continued for several years. And so that planted a seed in my mind. Out of curiosity. I thought, How can I feel like crap? And yet there’s nothing wrong with me.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:07:05] And so I started doing some investigation on my own. I learned about the fungal connection to acne, and it made perfect sense because I had taken a boatload of antibiotics and the rest is history. I found even as a layperson, I found a system, a method, the principles that helped to clear up my skin naturally. And I became so inspired I was like, I want to help other people be healthy, and I learned so many other things on that journey. And so then I learned about naturopathic medicine, and I left my career in public health to go to naturopathic medical school. So that was a long story, but I wanted to do that.
Maria Marlowe: [00:07:45] No, that’s an amazing story. You’re glowing, by the way. We’re on video here and your skin is so perfect. And your story reminds me a lot of my own story because I had something similar happen where I started developing acne right after my 16th birthday and tried all the things, all the topicals, then went to the dermatologist, tried all the things, the topical creams, the birth control, the antibiotics. Eventually, they prescribed me Accutane, and I filled the prescription, but I read the side effects before I was about to take it, one of which was severe depression that could lead to suicide.
Maria Marlowe: [00:08:20] And I was like, hmm, probably not a good idea to be taking this because I was depressed at the time because of my skin, so I didn’t end up taking it. And like you, for a long time, there were just no answers. And it wasn’t until I discovered this whole concept of food as medicine that I started to make changes to my diet. And then that is what cleared up my skin. It was nothing topical. It was all internal.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:08:41] Exactly. It’s so true and you know when I went through my healing journey, I had moved away from my home state of Oklahoma and I had undergone this transformation. And I remember when I saw my mom coming home from college one year, she said, wow, your skin looks great. What are you using on it? And I said, nothing. I changed my diet.
Maria Marlowe: [00:09:01] Exactly.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:09:02] My father was a medical doctor. He was an eye surgeon. And so in my family, it was all pharma. It was, you know, this is the strongest and the best. We need to go this route. We need a drug. And that has never really resonated with me. I think there’s always been something inside of me that has known that the body is self-healing and self-correcting, and I’ve always been very curious. And so I believe there’s always a reason that something is happening. One of the things I love about naturopathic philosophy is that our goal is not to treat disease, it’s to create health. It’s to set the foundation for the natural forces of healing that are already in us to manifest, to direct and orchestrate that natural process.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:09:49] So our job is to play detective. Figure out what those barriers are. Remove them and then use as much as possible low-force interventions, natural interventions, things that support and enhance that natural and divinely guided self-healing process rather than just suppressing symptoms. There is a time and a place for that. But I’m such an advocate of finding the deeper root cause of what’s happening because again, it’s not just about your skin health, this is about your long-term health and the prevention of more catastrophic things happening to you down the road like cancer and heart disease. Infertility. All of those are linked with your dermatological health.
Maria Marlowe: [00:10:34] So I think there are two really important things that you brought up. One, and this is something I say all the time. Acne is a blessing in disguise.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:10:42] Yes, I love that.
Maria Marlowe: [00:10:44] Because it’s really alerting you to some sort of internal inflammation and imbalance. And chronic inflammation is the root cause of a whole wide array of chronic illnesses and diseases. And some people are not so lucky. Some people have that internal inflammation, and it’s not showing up on their skin, necessarily, so they don’t know until they get a much worse diagnosis down the line. So really acne, I know in the moment it doesn’t seem like it, but it’s really a blessing in disguise because it’s going to prompt you to dig a little bit deeper. Be that detective and figure out what’s going on.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:11:16] That’s so true. I like that.
Maria Marlowe: [00:11:18] And then the second thing I really liked what you said was how when we’re trying to solve a problem, we’re letting our body really do the work. So we’re not relying on some outside magical drug to cure us or heal us. We’re taking away the things that are inhibiting our body’s own healing process. We’re giving ourselves the nutrients that our body needs to do its job and we’re letting the body heal from within.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:11:46] Yes, I love that. And you know, it’s funny, I always use the analogy of a simple cut, right? So many people don’t realize that we are meant to heal. We see visually healing on the outside. If I cut my hand, I don’t have to do anything to it. I don’t even really have to put an ointment or a Band-Aid on it. As long as the wound margins are fairly close together, they’re going to grow. New granulation tissue is going to come. I don’t have to look at my hand and think about it healing. It just does it. That is the divine force of nature, the self-healing, intelligent process that’s already here. And one of my mentors in naturopathic school, she always said health is our default state of being. We know that because most of us are mostly healthy most of the time, and I’m not saying that there’s not a lot of chronic disease and sickness out there, but even people who are sick and suffering for the most part, they can think a thought, they can type something, right?
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:12:50] We’re mostly functional because the normal direction is towards health. We call that the voice or the vital force in naturopathic medicine. And again, our job is to remove those obstacles that are blocking that flow of health. And so just like this cut on my hand is going to heal, I don’t have to think about it, the inside of our body is meant to be self-corrected, self-healing, and that’s another important point I want to bring up. We can’t get clear skin fast enough. Everybody wants fast results, and sometimes we do see a really fast clearing and improvement of the skin. When you remove the inflammatory foods, you get the toxins out of your life, All of that.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:13:30] But I have seen in some of my patients that have had more. Either chronically long-standing or more severe cases of acne, it can take a while, and that’s because that self-healing process, it’s ordered. It’s intelligent. And so your body is going to prioritize the most important functions first. It heals from the inside out, so it can take a while to see the full manifestation of what you’re looking for. During my own journey, it was probably three months before I saw a significant… And it was bad. I mean, I would sometimes wake up with blood on my pillow. That’s how bad the cystic lesions had become. It was horrible, but it took a while to really turn the corner, and then it took more finessing with my diet and learning important triggers for myself before I really saw dramatic results and then got to a point where I just never was breaking out again.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:14:28] You can turn acne on or off. That’s an important piece to know. Same thing with genes. You can turn genes on or off with environmental triggers, stressors, exposures, food. So we have more control than we realize. We don’t have to be helpless victims.
Maria Marlowe: [00:14:48] Exactly. And that’s something I learned pretty early on, too, because I remember when I learned of this whole food as medicine concept, I was like, OK, I’ve tried everything else, let me try this. Let me see if it works, you know, very skeptical about it. And then, lo and behold, in about three months, that’s when my skin had really cleared and I was like, wow, this is a miracle. My skin is cleared. Now, let me go back to eating my pizza and McDonald’s and all the standard American diet I was eating before.
Maria Marlowe: [00:15:17] And then that’s when it really clicked because I ate those foods and it was like overnight my skin was angry again and breaking out. And so when I was able to see that in the mirror, like, OK, when I eat my dark leafy greens and wild salmon and all this healthy stuff, my skin, everything looks clear and the bumps start to go down. But when I eat my quote-unquote favorite foods at the time, that’s when my skin looks really angry and unhappy and breaks out. So it’s a little bit of a journey, I think, in the beginning. But once you wrap your head around that you can turn the acne on and off. It’s wow!
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:15:50] You really can. Absolutely. And I love that you brought up your favorite foods because I want people to know you can change your taste buds. The rule of thumb is we don’t eat what we like. We like what we eat. And so if you shift your diet and I’ve been there, I was the queen of sugar, growing up. I used to have a little side hustle baking business. Sugar was my life. And again, that’s another thing that set the stage for my acne development once I hit puberty and the hormones. It’s the perfect storm, but dietary changes can be gradual. I try to hold my patients’ hands when we go through that journey together. But the more committed you can be early on, especially when the body is in a state of inflammation, you need to be a little bit more aggressive.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:16:41] I don’t believe that eating should be stressful. I don’t believe in orthorexia, being perfect. That’s also not healthy at all. But when you shift your focus instead of saying I can’t eat X, Y, or Z and instead choose to say, I am so excited that I have had this revelation of information, now I know how to support my body. I get to eat this, this and this, and it’s going to support my healing. That’s a radical shift. And over time, you will learn to adapt your taste buds. People don’t realize that a lot of what we think is a normal part of our diet is specifically designed to be hyper-palatable, hyper crave-able.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:17:22] And so we’ve gotten to a place where it’s not enough for food to simply taste good. It has to be delicious. It has to be something that you crave and come back for. But what’s wrong with just simple flavors that taste good? So and I’m not saying that we can never indulge a little bit, but that was an important shift in my life that I had to make is realizing that simple, healthy food can taste good, and that can be enough.
Maria Marlowe: [00:17:48] Exactly. And that is the incredible thing, our taste buds do shift. I was also a sugar queen, and I can remember after I had started weaning myself off and going more towards natural sweets like fruits and et cetera, that kind of stuff… When I went back to the sugary stuff, it was actually too sweet. My taste buds had changed, and now that super-refined sugar processed stuff was too sweet. So it definitely takes a little bit of time, but you can train your taste buds to like and even crave healthy food.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:18:19] Yes, yes. And I want to talk about sugar for a minute because that is such an important element to this whole acne picture. And the reason for that, it’s manifold. Number one is sugar really dysregulates the immune system. And since acne is an inflammatory condition, any dysregulation or overstimulation of the immune system is going to contribute to that. The other problem with sugar and carbohydrates that radically or quickly spike blood sugar, we call those high-glycemic foods, fruit juice, white bread, things like that, you’re going to produce a significant amount of insulin. And insulin is a major major driver of acne. It has an effect on the skin and the hair follicles.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:19:07] Insulin is a growth factor. It’s an anabolic type of hormone, and it actually sensitizes our androgen, which is the male type hormone. So we have receptors for androgen hormones in our skin, and insulin sensitizes those receptors, so they’re more sensitive to the androgen hormones that we have circulating. And when that happens, you get this over-proliferation of keratin. Keratin is the protein that makes up our skin and hair. And when you’ve got this over-proliferation that sets the stage for the clogging and the inflammation and for that initial lesion to start forming, and this is a similar process that we see with hydrogen just operative that is considered an inflammatory acne form type of skin condition that I also work with.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:19:55] So when we think about sugar and high glycemic carbohydrates, insulin is such a central point of this whole pathological process. And insulin is one of the… When I think about biochemistry and I’ll try not to get too science-y here, but I think of insulin as a springboard for so many other pro-inflammatory processes in the body. For example, insulin can increase arachidonic acid, which is a fatty acid molecule that is a precursor to what we call prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are inflammatory molecules that play a role in the healing response. They play a role even in uterine contractions during labor. They’re supposed to be very short-lived.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:20:42] But when we have this out-of-control prostaglandin synthesis going on, for example, prostaglandin E2 specifically is linked with period pain, menstrual problems and acne. And so that’s another common theme I see, and the literature is pretty strong that women with acne are more likely to have PMS, painful periods, endometriosis. So I just think so strongly about this link between insulin, heart disease, and all of these other problems, including acne.
Maria Marlowe: [00:21:14] That’s another sort of emphasis on the fact that acne is actually the blessing because of… It’s terrible, but of the other things like heart disease, for example, I’d rather have the acne than the heart disease, so it’s helping me get to the root sooner. So sugar definitely a root cause. Sugar and dairy are the two foods that have just a very large stack of research that suggests there’s a link between acne and those foods. But what are some of the other underlying root causes? You talked about digestive health and even endocrine health. So let’s talk about some of the other root causes.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:21:49] So toxicity is another problem. There are a lot of chemicals in our environment and I do so much work with environmental medicine. In fact, I would say most of the time when people have what we call unexplained symptoms, more often than not, there are some underlying infections or toxicity going on. So, you know, especially women, we love to use the makeup and the lotions and things like that. Those are endocrine disruptors. Those dysregulate our hormones. And so that’s another piece.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:22:21] We touched on gut health, but going specifically deeper into gut health, so many people have what we call leaky gut or intestinal hyperpermeability, and that just means that the cells that line the small intestine have been damaged. They are spaced too far apart, and that is normally a protective barrier that keeps food molecules and foreign substances and bacteria from getting into the bloodstream, where it can trigger inflammation. So in people who’ve taken… This is the trap, right? We have acne so we take antibiotics. And then that sets the stage for imbalances in our gut bacteria, especially fungal yeast overgrowth, and we create a leaky gut. So that’s why my acne got worse because I created a worsened state of gut health by doing those things.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:23:12] But specifically, oftentimes when people have gut problems, they have something called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. And also I see it coupled with small intestinal fungal overgrowth. And the reason that’s a problem is because there are certain types of bacteria. They’re called gram-negative, and that’s just a class of bacteria. But what’s unique about this class is that they have a toxin on their outer surface called LPS or lipopolysaccharide and that LPS toxin is also called endotoxin. That has been specifically linked with acne and endometriosis. All of those other things.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:23:52] When a person is in the hospital and they go septic or you hear that they have sepsis, that basically means that the endotoxin from having a bacterial infection has overtaken their body. So LPS is one of the most irritating substances known to the human body. And when we eat foods that are super sugary, super starchy, even stress, we really encourage the growth of those unhealthy bacteria. These bacteria can also produce something called Beta-glucuronidase, and that is an enzyme that interferes with the body’s detox mechanisms.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:24:27] So I really have seen such a strong correlation with Candida or yeast overgrowth in the gut and especially cystic acne. That yeast will produce a lot of toxins that are very hard on the liver. And so then your liver is so busy clearing out these toxins. One of them is called acetaldehyde and it acts like alcohol. So again, your body’s going to prioritize the most important crisis first, so it’s using its resources to remove that acetaldehyde. Well, then you’re not doing a very good job clearing your hormones and conjugating them, getting them out of the body, and other things that need to be dealt with.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:25:07] So you kind of have this picture of self-intoxication or autotoxicity and that stirs up systemic inflammation and then you just have a whole cascade of symptoms. Rarely do my acne patients just have acne, and even if they don’t perceive that they have gut trouble, they’re like, “Yup, all movements are normal. I don’t get any indigestion.” When we do the testing and we really dive in, there is gut inflammation. So that’s an important point. You can even have celiac disease and not have GI symptoms. So never let someone tell you that if you don’t have gut symptoms, then your gut is fine. That’s a lie. And if you have any sort of skin issue, there’s a problem in your gut.
Maria Marlowe: [00:25:50] It’s so, they’re so closely related. The gut and the skin. Happy gut, happy skin. Sad gut, sad skin.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:25:57] Exactly.
Maria Marlowe: [00:25:59] So you mentioned mold earlier, that you had mold in your house. So let’s talk a little bit about that. I mean, you must have. If you had the buckets. And I think a lot of us have had mold in our houses or even apartments. I mean, I remember having like a pipe burst one winter, it was so cold. A pipe burst in the apartment and then the wood floors were coming up, and so there was definitely water damage there. And you don’t think anything of it. You’re like, oh, you know, it’s not a big deal, but it is actually a big deal. So let’s talk a little bit about mold.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:26:30] Yes, I love this topic. So mold is everywhere in our environment, and I want to point out that not every mold is what we call toxigenic, meaning not every mold produces toxins that are specifically detrimental to human health. However, a lot of people, as you mentioned, do have mold in their homes. There can be moisture problems, there could be an appliance that has leaked. A previous flood, even windows that are not properly sealed. And what happens is that these molds produce toxins that are very detrimental to the human body.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:27:03] So I mentioned earlier lipopolysaccharide or that bacterial toxin as being one of the most irritating substances, fungal toxins are the other thing that are really irritating to the human body. And so what we see typically is that there’s been some sort of water damage or water exposure. And here’s the thing, schools, offices, right? So it’s not even our cars, it’s not always the home. But what happens is these fungal toxins are very, very small and so we easily can inhale them. They can easily penetrate through our skin. I actually had a patient who developed… who was acne patient, we got her skin clear, and then she came back with a random rash on her thigh. And it turns out that there is a water source in her house, so that was an interesting story.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:27:50] But these toxins get into our body, and there’s a significant portion of the population where their immune system is genetically wired in such a way where the body doesn’t really recognize what those toxins are or what to do about them. And so they stay stuck in our body. They get recirculated and they just keep stirring inflammation. Just circulating. They can move in and out of our cell membranes. And so we have to do very specific things clinically to trap those toxins in the body where they can be excreted, mostly through stool. But we also support other drainage pathways: the livers and the kidney. I should say the liver and the kidneys. I said that in reverse.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:28:30] So mold is a significant exposure, and the thing to know about mold is that it can cause anything. There are certain types of infections or exposure that might have an affinity for certain body systems. Mold can pretty much cause anything from head to toe. Mold can cause acne. Mold can cause hair loss. There’s so much research on mold and infertility, fatigue, headaches. I would say the most common mold symptoms that I see that should especially give you pause and make you wonder are tingling sensations in the body. It’s quite characteristic to have kind of like ice or pinprick sensations. That’s quite characteristic of mold. Almost always, I see headaches and fatigue.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:29:14] And the thing about mold is that it’s what we call the great sensitizer. It primarily inflames the brain and the central nervous system, which is basically the whole body because our autonomic nervous system controls the organs and all of those processes. So when that is kind of on fire, we can become overly sensitive to any kind of stimuli. So I see mold patients where a slight touch hurts. Think about fibromyalgia, right? Is it fibromyalgia or is it mold? Think about things like light sensitivity, sensitivity to smells. Almost always. If someone has a strong chemical sensitivity, there’s usually some sort of mold or what we call biotoxin illness.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:30:01] Biotoxins are toxins that come from living organisms like mold. They can also come from infections like Lyme and co-infections, and that’s a whole other rabbit hole. But my stance is that if you’ve got unexplained symptoms, if you’ve had a full workup, even if you’ve worked with a functional medicine doctor or a naturopathic doctor, and if you’re still not better, you have to rule out mold.
Maria Marlowe: [00:30:25] This brings up a good question. A lot of us, we can smell mold, when you go somewhere and there’s water damage, but you may not always smell mold. Is that right? Exactly.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:30:35] Correct.
Maria Marlowe: [00:30:36] So a lot of people don’t realize like you may have water damage under your sink or maybe somewhere in your bathroom and not even realize it because it doesn’t have that musty smell, but it could still be causing issues.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:30:48] Yes, and this is probably the worst part of my job is trying to explain to patients that they need to have their homes inspected because you’re right, it can be invisible. It can be in the most random places. There’s not always that classic, musty smell. I worked with one guy who was kind of a source of contention. I’m like, okay, just do it, just test your house. Finally, they found a tiny patch of black mold. I think it was under a floorboard in his basement and there was a little trickle. Certain types of mold will not grow without a water source like the Stachybotrys black mold, but other types are more dry-tolerant, and once they’re established, they can just kind of be there. Yeah, so you’re right, you don’t always smell it.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:31:31] I had a lady recently and the whole house was inspected. Finally, they found that there is a leak under her dishwasher and it was actually a kitchen redo because mold is invasive and the toxins that it produces permeate throughout the air. They can settle on surfaces and surfaces. There are mold fragments and the fragments and the toxins are not living. So you can’t just wipe them up or kill them. You have to remove those materials. So even in the Bible, mold is referenced and the instructions are take down all the materials, take them to a faraway land because that ancient wisdom, it’s always known that it spreads and it’s not always something that you can just clean up. Sometimes you have to get rid of those materials.
Maria Marlowe: [00:32:22] And I can see that being really frustrating because it’s also invisible in some sense. Sometimes you can see it, but before you find it, you don’t want to go through all the hassle of redoing your kitchen or redoing whatever you have to do, but it could make a big impact on your health.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:32:37] I agree, and it’s a big deal, and I won’t spend too much time on mold because we’ll be here all day. But mold is a serious toxin, especially like Aflatoxin B1, that’s used as a bioweapon. Mycophenolic acid is another type of mold metabolite that is toxic to the body. That is a profound immunosuppressant. And so there are implications here for cancer and all kinds of serious diseases. So it’s not just about headaches or acne. I mean, this is a significant exposure that could be hurting your health, your family’s health. Not to be scary, but you want to be aware of it.
Maria Marlowe: [00:33:14] And I think it’s important to emphasize that these little ailments, the headaches, the little rash, the little thing here and there, they’re usually the canary in the coal mine, so to speak, warning you of something bigger that may be brewing.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:33:28] Yes, the blessing in disguise.
Maria Marlowe: [00:33:31] Alright. So we’ve talked about some of the root causes and things that might be causing our acne. But now how do we start the healing process? What are some of the most important things that you recommend to your patients with acne that can make a big improvement?
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:33:46] Definitely, number one. You’ve got to stop the refined sugar, at least while you’re actively trying to be healed. So candy, even grains that are very high glycaemic that spike blood sugar quickly. So bread, crackers, rice, things like that. I actually really advocate for a grain-free diet initially because that’s going to automatically help to get insulin levels down. And it’s also going to help reduce the risk that you’re feeding those unhealthy gut bacteria. I use this specific carbohydrate diet during my own healing journey, and that was transformative for me because I was not feeding the bad guys and I was allowing my gut the chance to rest.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:34:28] My other piece of advice would be to pay attention to the types of fats and oils you’re consuming. That was a missing piece for me. I cut out the sugar and the grains, but I was still buying pre-made salad dressing full of vegetable oil and canola oil. These are industrial seed oils where they use toxic solvents to extract the odors and get the oil out. So you really want to focus on healthy monounsaturated fats. Things like avocado, fish oil, things like that. Make your own salad dressing with extra virgin olive oil and get rid of the hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Nothing canola.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:35:07] This is one of the challenges with going to restaurants. 99% of them used canola oil, which is very inflammatory, and that is going to promote lots of inflammation in the body. And it’s going to alter the composition of your sebum, the oil that you produce. Because whatever fat you eat is the raw material that your body has to make its own oil. So we talked about dairy earlier, that’s a huge problem for so many people. It’s a very common allergy. Lactose aside, a lot of people are lactose intolerant, but the proteins in dairy are very large. They’re difficult to digest, especially if your gut is already compromised.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:35:47] And dairy is something that really promotes high levels of insulin. It is high itself in insulin-like growth factor. That’s something IGF-1. And it promotes the body’s own production of insulin-like growth factor. And remember, we talked about how insulin has an effect on the skin and the hair follicles. It makes all of the factors involved with acne, worse. So that would be my top advice. Those are things you could start today. Stop the dairy, stop the refined sugar, stop the vegetable oils, and that’s low-hanging fruit. You don’t even need a supplement to do those things.
Maria Marlowe: [00:36:23] Exactly. And those are some of the things that even personally had such a big impact on my own skin. And I see in other people making those changes will have a huge impact. There might be some additional tweaks that you’ll have to make as well, but I feel like those will at least get you a little bit of progress.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:36:42] Absolutely.
Maria Marlowe: [00:36:43] And so when it comes to detoxing, you mentioned earlier that that was also an important part. Are there any special herbs or things, saunas? What do you typically recommend in terms of detox and is it different depending on which type of toxins maybe the person has?
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:36:59] Oh, that’s a great question. You know, in general, I’m not really a fan of kind of one-off detoxes or cleanses. I know those are popular and they might have some value, but I believe that our body has inherent detoxification mechanisms built-in. And so my goal is to support nutritionally what the body needs. So, for example, in the liver, we’ve got phase one and phase two. There’s different processes that happen. So I’m looking at, hey, does this person have all of the nutrients required so the liver can do its job? That’s step number one.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:37:35] The other thing is, we’ve got to stop putting the toxins in our body. It’s like a bucket. And so while we’re draining the water, a.k.a. the toxins out, we want to stop putting new things in. And so that comes from paying attention to the type of cleaning products you use, the type of personal care products that you use, the foods that you choose to eat. That’s probably step number one, and that’s kind of a blanket recommendation for everyone.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:38:01] I do really like sauna because a lot of the toxins, for example, mold toxins can be really stored deeply in the tissues, and the heat can help to mobilize that. I typically tell my patients to take something called a binder about 15 minutes before getting in the sauna. Because toxins tend to circulate through different compartments of the body. They eventually make their way into the GI tract. They can get into the bile. And so if you take a binder supplement, something that might have like apple pectin, certain types of clay, chlorella, things like that, then you can take advantage of that toxin circulating through the gut and you take a binder to kind of mop it up and then you can excrete that through stool. So that’s another option.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:38:48] I do use different types of binders depending on the toxin, but my favorite binder is a blend, and so it has a broad spectrum of action. I also really love modified citrus pectin that has an affinity for heavy metals, and it does help to bind mold toxins. And it’s kind of a miracle supplement if I could say that because modified citrus pectin isn’t just a binder, it actually downregulates many inflammatory pathways. So it’s anti-fibrotic, meaning scarring. Think about things like fibroids and scars. It’s so anti-inflammatory, it kind of just cleans the whole body.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:39:27] In terms of herbs. Yes, Baikal Skullcap is one of my favorite herbs. It does so many important functions. Dandelion root is really helpful. Not the leaves. That’s more of a diuretic, but I do use various botanicals less so than the nutritional support and the lifestyle changes. I try not to add too many things if I don’t have to. So for me, covering the lifestyle and the nutritional pieces are more gentle than immediately jumping into an herb.
Maria Marlowe: [00:40:02] And it makes sense. And the diet and the lifestyle I feel are going to do the heavy lifting anyway.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:40:06] Absolutely. Yeah, I was going to say, I know it’s tempting. We all want the magic bullet people like pills and potions and herbal things, but that I think can give the false sense of security that you’re getting the result without having to make the change. And you might see the benefit. But the goal is to really rebuild your health, not just use an herb. We have a whole hierarchy of how we approach things in naturopathic medicine.
Maria Marlowe: [00:40:34] We all want the easy button and it’s a lot easier to take a pill than totally revamp the diet, but the pill can only get you so far.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:40:43] Absolutely.
Maria Marlowe: [00:40:46] So is there anything else that we haven’t talked about as it relates to acne that you just wish people knew?
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:40:52] Hmm. Well, I guess we’ve covered the most important pieces. I think what I want people to know is that, as Marie Forleo says, “Everything is figureoutable.” So I just want people to know that I’ve been there. I know how painful acne is. I had a very severe case of it and everyone is different. Again, it might not be an overnight fix, but if you keep pursuing these basic truths that your body is self-healing and self-correcting, that if we remove what’s getting in its way and we replenish what’s missing, you will see results. You will heal.
Maria Marlowe: [00:41:33] I love that. And one other thing I’d love you to touch on. A lot of times when people have acne, their self-esteem also plummets. They may feel more depressed and anxious. But what’s interesting is that a lot of the same nutrient deficiencies that are implicated in acne are the same things that are implicated in depression. So could you maybe speak to that? What are some of the important nutrients for both of these issues?
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:42:01] Yeah, that’s so… I love that, and it’s so true. And also there’s a gut-skin axis and there’s a gut-brain-skin axis and gut-brain. So as a whole, they have found that people with acne have much lower levels of zinc, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin C and all of these are nutritional factors for healthy neurotransmitter function as well as skin health. And again, this goes back to the wisdom of the body where your body will prioritize. So let me backpedal a little bit. If acne is a systemic inflammatory condition, that means you’ve got lots of, what we call oxidative damage going on. Lots of free radicals. So your body is going to use the available antioxidants that it has to put out the inflammation fire, right?
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:42:53] And there’s a higher demand on the body when it’s in a state of inflammation. And so there’s less of a reserve of those nutrients to go towards all of the essential functions. It’s going to prioritize what’s most important. And so as a result, maybe we need antioxidant protection for our vascular and heart health. And so the neurotransmitters suffer and the skin suffers because those aren’t as vital. So when I see nutrient deficiencies, we’re either not eating enough or the body is not absorbing it because of a compromised gut lining, or there’s such a demand on the body that you’re burning through it because there’s some other inflammatory process going on.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:43:37] The other thing we see with anxiety and depression, those are inflammatory conditions. And they have also found that acne patients tend to have a lower level of glutathione. That’s our self-made master antioxidant and also lower levels of superoxide dismutase, which is another really important antioxidant enzyme. And I just think about again, if you’ve got all of this systemic inflammation going on, there’s a high demand on that glutathione, on that superoxide dismutase and then the skin suffers. And that goes back to the mold piece, too. I do see low antioxidants, low vitamin C, and low glutathione when people have been exposed to mold because that’s a crucial fire to be put out with those antioxidants. And so there’s not enough left over to do all of the other functions in the body.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:44:31] But absolutely, the nutritional piece is huge with anxiety, depression. Lipopolysaccharide again can cause brain inflammation. Specifically, fungal toxins and bacterial toxins can cause our tryptophan pathway to go down a toxic pathway called Quinolinic acid. So we’re not making healthy serotonin. We’re turning our tryptophan into something called Quinolinic acid, which is brain toxic. So there’s just so many mechanisms here. And I know that was kind of a long explanation but vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C is a big one. And zinc.
Maria Marlowe: [00:45:13] Well, I think that the most important takeaway is that when we start making these diet and lifestyle changes, it doesn’t just improve one thing, it improves really all the things and so that I think should give a little bit more encouragement to make those changes. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Biscoe. This was so great.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:45:33] Thank you for having me Maria.
Maria Marlowe: [00:45:35] Of course, and for any of our listeners, if you want to learn more, first of all, I found Dr. Biscoe On YouTube because I somehow ended up there and her videos were amazing. So go check out her YouTube. She’s with Attune Medical. And also, you can check out her website attunemed.com, and I will put the links to all of those things in the show notes.
Dr. Ashley Biscoe: [00:45:54] Yes, absolutely.