Today we’re talking about a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart, since I struggled with skin issues from when I was about 13 years old to, seriously, just two years ago – so for a very, very long time. We’re talking about how to get beautiful, glowing skin with Dr. Trevor Cates so I’m really excited for that.
So today’s guest, Dr. Trevor Cates, also known as “The Spa Doctor,” received her medical degree from the National College of Natural Medicine in 2000 and was the first woman licensed as a naturopathic doctor in the state of California. She was appointed by Former Governor Schwarzenegger to California’s Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine and served on the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians Board. In addition to her medical degree, Dr. Cates has a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica. Dr. Cates was a naturopathic physician and nutrition and wellness coordinator for the Waldorf Astoria Park City, where she created wellness programs for the spa. In private practice in Park City, Utah, Dr. Cates sees patients from around the world with a holistic approach to wellness. Dr. Cates has a regular podcast called “The Spa Doctor: Secrets to Smart, Sexy and Strong,” and currently she’s offering her 21-Day Healthy Habits Challenge for free. You can go to www.drtrevorcates.com to sign up.
Trevor, welcome to the show!
Trevor: Thank you. It’s great to be on your show!
Evelyne: So why did you go into Naturopathic Medicine in the first place?
Trevor: Well you know, it’s something that has always interested me. When I was a kid around 11 years old, I was sick a lot. I had recurring infections and a lot of allergies and throat infections. I missed a lot of school. So I went to see a lot of different doctors and specialists. I had my tonsils taken out and was on a lot of different medications that made me feel drowsy or wound-up, but didn’t take care of the symptoms that we wanted to take care of.
So luckily my parents didn’t give up; they took me to see a homeopath and a naturopathic practitioner who really helped me and was the one thing that turned my health around. And ever since that time, both my whole family and I were converts to natural medicine. So I’ve been on that journey pretty much ever since. I kind of veered off a little bit here and there – thought I was going to go to law school and a few other things – but always ended up back on the naturopathic medicine track, because it was something I realized I was very passionate about. And we all know it’s important to follow our dreams, right? Our passions.
Evelyne: Absolutely. So today we’re talking about skin. I’m not sure if you were already on in my intro, but I mentioned that the topic is really close to me because I struggled with skin issues for 13 or 14 years and even now that my skin is clear I’m still fearful that it’ll break out again.
Trevor: Yeah.Evelyne: So I definitely want to dive into acne and some different skin conditions, but why do so many people struggle with unhealthy skin?
Trevor: Well, you know, like you said our skin is so important. It’s one of the first things that people see when they see us. And it’s one of the first things that I see as a doctor, too. And it certainly is a sign that something is out of balance with the body and we want to find out what that is.
So some of the reasons I want to talk about today, some of the things to look for: anytime your skin is dry, there’s any kind of discoloration, lacks that tone or also people have skin problems like acne or eczema, or rosacea, or premature wrinkles. Wrinkles are part of a normal aging process, but some people get them earlier then they should. So we want to pay attention to these signs and see why this is happening. And so I want to look for the underlying cause of that problem.
And for my patients, I address mostly looking at what we could do from an inside approach. What can we do to help support their healthy skin from within. And of course there are topical things that we can put on the skin, too, that can help soothe and decrease inflammation and help increase tone and all kinds of great things. But a lot of our skin, especially if we’re starting younger – the younger we start with this – is healthy eating and really great practices to help with healthy skin from within.
Evelyne: Mm-hmm. So why do people with crappy diets sometimes have really good skin? So not fair.
Trevor: I know, right?
Evelyne: You see those people all the time, right?
Trevor: I know. I know. And it’s not fair. There are certain things that predispose people to have problems and one of it is the genetic factor. And some people will say to me, “Well I just have bad genes, so there’s I can do about it.” Well actually we know that that’s not true now. We know that we can alter our gene expression by our lifestyle. So even if we do have genes that predispose us to acne or premature aging, we can do things in our lifestyle and that includes healthy eating practices to help change those. So genetics is part of it. It’s a combination of things. So you might know of people that just have really great genes and they don’t have to worry that much about their diet, but for people who have the gene they might have to work a little bit harder to make sure that their skin is healthy looking.
So genes is one thing. Environment is another. Environmental factors – sun damage, sun exposure, other environmental toxins – that can build up in our bodies and create problems including acne. A lot of people think of toxicity exposure – acne as being one of those problems. And part of that leads to another reason and that’s hormone imbalances. So sometimes with things like acne, but also could be even dry skin and rosacea and premature wrinkles, is that hormone imbalance factor. So people who are exposed to the environmental toxins then they may also get hormone imbalances. And that can lead to all these things that I’m talking about. And there’s also digestion and detoxification factors that people have.
Evelyne: Yeah, I want to dive into some of those a little bit more deeply – like the underlying causes of skin problems. So you talked about the environment. I want to dive a little bit deeper into hormone balance. Why is it that at certain times of the month women are more likely to get zits? Can you go into the science of what happens and maybe how to mitigate some of that?
Trevor: Yeah. Well for the most part, most women that are cycling have more of a problem right before their menstrual cycle – so right before their periods. And that tends to be when women tend to have more of the outbreaks, but it really varies from person to person. And that is because there are changes that are occurring in our body and our hormones that are signaling to our body: it’s time to have a period. So you having changes in estrogen progesterone ratio is one of the big things that happens. And progesterone starts to decrease and that could be part of it. Also, there could be excess amounts of testosterone or DHEA – androgens, that cause the flare outs as well and acne. Those are some of the hormone imbalances that we often can see with acne.
Evelyne: Mm-hmm. And then you mentioned digestion but can you explain a little bit more on just how exactly that can lead to skin issues? I was just at the Institute for Functional Medicine Conference in Phoenix for two days. I was listening to Tom O’Bryan and he says, “Always go back to the gut. It’s always in the gut.” So talk a little bit more of that.
Trevor: And it’s funny, because a lot of times people don’t think about skin issues having anything to do with digestion. And it seems for most people like something totally unrelated. But for functional medicine like you mentioned, or for a naturopathic physician, so much of what we realize has been the root of a lot of health problems are digestive issues. And that’s the same thing with skin. So part of what happens is, if we’re eating foods and we’re eating a really healthy diet and we’re eating all those organic foods – rich in nutrients – and great balanced foods, but our digestion is poor, then we’re not going to be absorbing the nutrients we need to help have that vibrant beautiful skin.
So that’s one thing. And then also we have this digestive tract lining that is somewhat permeable. And it’s supposed to be that way to help absorb nutrients. But when the digestive tract lining becomes more permeable than it should – some people call this “leaky gut syndrome” or “hyperpermeability” – then whole food particles can slip through those little cracks, those little openings. Now when that happens they go into the bloodstream. The body sees those substances as foreign and creates an immune response to that. The result is an inflammatory response in the body and it can lead to a number of said diseases and a number of different conditions, including inflammatory conditions of the skin.
Evelyne: And that sucks. And it can cause so many other issues in the body, too. Yeah, that can definitely be one of them.
Trevor: Yeah, skin is one of those things that – now this is something I learned early on in my practice because I would see a lot of kids with eczema and what I realized is that if I didn’t address their digestive tract and that hyperpermeability issue – the allergens and food intolerances and those inflammatory issues that are arising – if I didn’t address that first, that they would continue to have eczema. And then what happens is, a lot of times with people with eczema or acne and some of these skin conditions, they go to a well-meaning dermatologists or a GP (general practitioner) and they give them steroids, antibiotics. And they are suppressing their body’s natural response and that sort of signals that something is not right in the body. What I ended up seeing with the kids with eczema is that later they would develop other health problems like asthma. And so we really have to address these underlying issues. And seeing our skin and noticing the effects of it – whether our skin is looking healthy or not – is a really great indication of what’s going on in the inside. So again I can’t stress the importance enough. If your skin is dry or either it’s got premature wrinkles or you’ve got acne or rosacea – any of these kinds of problems, you want to address it early on. And you want to get to the root rather than just suppressing it by taking antibiotics or putting steroid cream or taking steroids. That just suppresses it. It’s not taking care of the underlying problem and then it’s just going to flare up and create more problems in other ways in your body.
Evelyne: Mm-hmm. So for someone listening to this, who maybe has a young child with eczema, what do you with them regarding the digestion? Do you just have a couple tips that you can share with us?
Trevor: For their digestion … so anybody that might have, I’m sure you’ve talked about leaky gut syndrome on your show. Somebody must have brought it up before.
Evelyne: Almost every time.
Trevor: So anytime anybody might have something like that or the digestive track lining issues, what we want to do is make sure that the foods they’re eating are easy to digest. So it’s going to kind of calm down their system and calm down the inflammation. And then include probiotics into as well as taking supplements, usually most people will need them if they’re at that point. And then also there are certain nutrients, like L-glutamine is a really important amino acid that can help heal that hyperpermeability issue. So once that’s restored than the sort of over-reactive immune system response is going to slowdown; it will decrease the inflammation and then you’ll see the decrease in the amount of eczema or whatever skin conditioner there is. And those things are safe for kids – you mentioned children – and this is really good for anybody but they’re really safe for kids. Probiotics – you want to get ones that is for a child, depending how old they are, you want to get ones that are appropriate for children – depending on the age of the person. And then also L-glutamine, you can get as a powder and it’s easy to mix in water and drink it. It doesn’t really have much of a taste so it’s a great thing for kids to take.
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