Update: Acne, Nightshades, Osteopenia

My acne is still present although less severe than a month ago. I’m still dairy-free and believe that has helped. I’m taking zinc and pantothenic acid, as well as eating lots of oysters, some liver, juicing vegetables and herbs. I’m hoping to get lots of nutrients to help with hormone regulation and acne.

I have decided the next step in changing up my diet will be removing nightshades. This may sound simple for someone on SCD since it’s just tomatoes, peppers and paprika (we don’t eat potatoes) but I tend to eat a lot of these foods, almost daily. Over the past few weeks I have cut down considerably the frequency of having them and this past week I started a complete elimination of them. I plan on giving it about 6 weeks before reintroducing to be able to see if they are causing any problems. As someone with a history of acne and joint pain, this is something I just have to test out.

I love how I planted only tomatoes and peppers in my garden and now won’t be eating any of them. I plan on freezing a lot of the tomatoes as puree and drying or pickling the peppers. I feel pretty good about avoiding them since I have greatly expanded my diet in the past few months. Even though I’m dairy-free, and mostly nut-free (only eat a few raw nuts or nut milk every now and then) I feel like I have enough food. I’m enjoying the focus on nutrient dense foods and am eating a larger variety of vegetables so I won’t get bored. I love fall root vegetables and squashes so it has been fairly easy to stay full and satisfied.

I recently did a bone density scan and it showed mild osteopenia. Nothing my doctor or I are super worried about and not surprising given that I have been underweight my entire life and dealt with digestive problems for a long time. We will be monitoring it and in 3 years I’ll go for another scan to see if there’s any change. My plan is to make sure I get enough calcium, vitamin D and other minerals, eat lots of nutritious food and broths, and add some weight bearing exercise a few times a week.

I also read a bit about how nightshades might affect bone health, so even more reason to try going without them for a while. See the article here: http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/1897-nightshades.html. Also see this article which has some great tips for what to do to reverse low bone density: http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/2010/08/homegrown-osteoporosis-prevention-and.html. My vitamin D status has been excellent for years, so I don’t think there’s any more I can do there but will continue taking D supplements to maintain. I don’t do well with multi-vitamins, but minerals and individual vitamins seem ok. I am taking cod liver oil to keep a good balance of vitamin A and D, and will be looking at K2 food sources and/or a supplement.

Sometimes it seems like I’m constantly making changes to my diet. But, I think it’s necessary to experiment even within the guidelines of SCD. It takes time to figure it all out but it’s worth it. I have made a lot of progress in the past year even though I thought I was pretty comfortable with few symptoms doing full SCD with nuts, dairy and most legal foods. My update posts have been useful for me to keep track of my progress and what I have tried. I really think anyone doing an elimination diet should keep either a private journal or a blog. (Benefits of a blog is lots of feedback and ideas from readers!) Looking back I think I attempted dairy-free a few times but never quite succeeded until now. 😉


I have been following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet since January 2008 to recover from Celiac disease. As part of the diet, I don't eat grains, sugar or potatoes and prepare all my meals from scratch.


  1. loading and weight bearing on bones over time is directly proportional to bone density, add some weight bearing movements to help with that. an increase in protein can reduce your ability to absorb calcium, so you will need to take your calcium sources with fats (as calcium is a fat-soluble mineral) to increase absorption ability. getting rid of dairy may not be such a good idea as heavy cream or half-and-half are good sources of calcium and fat.

  2. @Ken Yep I definitely need to focus on getting some weight bearing exercise consistently! About protein causing a reduction in calcium absorption, I’m not convinced that’s the case http://www.westonaprice.org/blogs/does-meat-really-leach-calcium-from-the-bones.html. I get plenty of fats and take my calcium with food so I should be ok. I also don’t plan on being dairy-free forever, but for now it’s helping my overall health. Hormone (especially estrogen) regulation is more important for bone density than the calcium I would get from dairy. I’m not sure how long I’ll be dairy-free, but hopefully just a few more months. I miss my cream yogurt!

  3. hey kat, just curious why you are low on nuts/nut milks? i’m paleo and eat prob a serving or 2 almost daily! i also use a good bit of coconut or olive oil or else i’d be hungry since i try to keep my carbs between 50-100g daily

  4. Don’t overlook magnesium when it comes to bone health. You actually need more magnesium than calcium, which is the opposite of what many people get. I’ve been taking lots of epsom salt baths in an attempt to get more magnesium myself–oral supplements send me running for the loo!

  5. Hi Kat! I’ve been taking Vitex (Chaste Tree Berry) for just a week now but it has really helped with my acne. I’m also taking it to regulate my hormones and my irregular cycle. Just wanted to let you know, you may want to look into it.

  6. @melissa @ the delicate place Nuts have a high Omega-6 content which can cause inflammation and an imbalance of Omega-3 to Omega-6. I have found better results cutting down on Omega-6 than I have with supplementing Omega-3. Took me a long time to figure that out, but it has helped so much. I really need to do a post on this topic!

    @Sue That’s very true, whatever calcium supplement I take I make sure the magnesium is in a 1:1 ratio, not 2:1 with excess calcium. We need more magnesium for sure. Also there’s not many good food sources of magnesium. Epsom salt baths and topical magnesium oil are great choices. If you click through the link to Osteoporosis prevention, he suggests magnesium supplements and doesn’t suggest taking calcium. I think in my case I need a bit of calcium as I’m not getting enough in my diet.

    @Ingrid I have looked into Vitex after having others suggest it. My naturopath wasn’t too keen on trying it, and I can’t remember exactly what she said but I agreed. I am taking other herbs for hormone regulation though. The dairy-free really has helped with this, I will post more about that soon.

  7. I second the comments about a strong emphasis on weight-bearing exercise – either your own body weight (no gym needed) or lifting weights. Far more important and useful than stead-pace aerobic exercise, IMO.

    Also, it isn’t easy to find in stores (but is available online) but I love magnesium oil as my magnesium supplement. I found some in London once after an awful night awake with jet-lag; I applied it before bed every night; I slept very well without 1am waking after that (usually I have jet-lag for at least 4-5 nights before adj to the huge CA-UK time zone change). Unlike some magnesium compounds (like mg oxide), I think mag oil is very absorbable (tingles and flushes a bit a few minutes after applying, like a niacin flush, esp if magnesium is very deficient – reduces with prolonged use). Epsom salt soaks in a bathtub are good for transdermal absorption, too.

    Dairy is over-rated for calcium, IMO, as so much of its calcium isn’t even absorbed. Glad to see bone broths are also in your diet, as those minerals are very absorbable.

  8. I didn’t realize nuts can cause inflammation. Hmmm… I’ll have to look into that. I wanted to say that I know what it feels like to plant stuff in your garden that you can’t eat. I ended up letting everything die out over the summer this year and I need to get my winter garden planted. My favorite of which is Swiss chard but it seems as if I don’t digest it too well so I am not sure what to do. I will probably plant it and just hope for the best. lol

  9. @Againstthegrain Yeah, I don’t get much aerobic exercise other than walking and taking the stairs at work. I will focus on adding lots of weight-bearing exercise. Having a bunch of people commenting that I should definitely helps motivate!

    @Starlene Yes, even nuts that are touted as good Omega-3 sources often have so much Omega-6 that they will still contribute to inflammation. Eating a handful of nuts now and then won’t hurt, but on SCD there’s so many recipes for baked goods it’s easy to over do it. I just don’t buy nuts that often anymore.

    If you can’t digest a vegetable well, then consider using it for broth. Throw it in when making soups and broths and then discard it once finished. At least some of the nutrients will be in the broth. Or consider juicing it. I juice carrots with chard and mint. Greens were one of the last vegetables I added to my diet because they just seemed to not be digested well. Juiced they are fine.

  10. @Kat I’ve also recently cut out nuts and have seen improvement. I guessed that was either due to the omega-6 or lectin content. I’ve noticed that lectins affect me big time.

  11. Dear Kat,

    I thought you might be interested in nourishing herbal infusions. You can learn about them at http://www.susunweed.com. Susun is an herbalist with a lot of wisdom about using herbs to nourish the body. She is pretty new age, and I do not personally subscribe to her spiritual beliefs, but if you can disregard that, she has a lot of valuable wisdom to offer. I have chosen nourishing herbal infusions as my primary “super food” to get vitamins and minerals and protective phytonutrients, with amazing benefits. I use primarily nettle, red clover blossom, oat straw and alfalfa. A nourishing infusion is a strong tea, steeped several hours or overnight. It is extremely high in minerals and vitamins. Since I have been taking these teeth and gum problems and bone and joint problems, including foot pain have disappeared. I have the teeth like Dr. Price discribed, that don’t get bleeding gums, or cavities, dispite lack of tooth brushing and flossing. I experimented on myself to discover this. I think that these “herbal broths” if you will, are supplying abundantly the minerals that tend to be lacking in depleted soils. That is what these “weeds” do. They reach down deep in the soil and pull up the minerals and restore soil when they are tilled under. Or, they feed us if we consume them. There are stories on Susun’s website about older women with osteoporosis starting the infusions and then when they went back to the doctor their bones tested like they were twenty years younger, and the doctors didn’t know what to make of it!

  12. Robb Wolf mentioned in some of his podcasts that people who have a hard time getting acne free on a paleo diet should try small doses DGLA or GLA, eg borage oil. I haven’t had to do that. A paleo diet worked fine for me.
    Loren Cordain warns about long term supplementation of zinc in his Dietary Cure for Acne book. He suggests 25 mg as a maximum. Zinc supplementation can lead to copper deficiency.
    I’ve noticed that small doses of dairy give me acne as well as things that spike insulin, like fruit juice, dried fruits or too much fruit.

  13. One last thing, pesticides on produce may cause acne. I’ve noticed acne after eating conventional grapes, but not after eating organic grapes.

  14. @JR I was actually trying evening primrose oil for a while, didn’t notice any effect. I was following Loren Cordain’s Dietary Cure for Acne for over month starting in August. I thought initially dairy-free was helping but I think it was only cheese that was causing a reaction. I’m doing fine back on yogurt (but without cheese) now. Also, I am only eating organic produce and pastured meats/dairy.

    It seems like hormonal problems (PCOS) are my main problem right now and I’m trying some new things to help regulate that. Blood sugar certainly plays a role, although lately I have been tolerating starches like sweet potatoes a lot better.

  15. Hi,
    I’m acne prone also and I’ve tried like everything in the world for it with not much results. About a month ago I started taking Bee Propolis. It’s a natural antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral that is made by bees to sterilize their hive. Not only have I seen great effects on my acne, but all of it’s antifungal properties etc also help with digestion and keeping a healthy gut. You might want to research it a bit if you haven’t already tried it. Be careful with the zinc and pantothenic acid. I’ve tried both of those in the past. Too much zinc without other necessary minerals like copper can lead to hormone/thyroid issues which happened to me. When I was taking pantothenic acid, I noticed that I was super sensitive to the sun and it accelerated skin aging.

  16. Kat,

    Just a casual comment as I read through all of this with your various issues, but have you had your Vitamin D — specifically your “serum 25(OH)D levels” — actually tested? It is a simple and cheap blood test. Just because you supplement, does not mean you have enough circulating vitamin D for everything it is used for in your body.

    Many, if not most, of the issues you are commenting on here could be related to a deficiency in something as simple as vitamin D.

    If you have not had your levels tested, you have no idea that you are getting enough vitamin D in your diet or lifestyle, even if you are supplementing. What amount of vitamin d are you supplementing with each day?

    Ideally, these days, most people should be supplementing with 5000 IU per day (especially if you live in more northern regions) and your serum level 25(OH)D level should be at least 50-75 ng/ml for optimum health. Once the blood test comes back, you can adjust more or less supplementation to reach this level.

    Take care.

  17. @Garry Thanks for the comment. I have had my vitamin D tested and it’s in the optimum range. I was thinking of getting it tested again at the end of the winter to make sure.

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