Heal Your Skin From Within with Jill Therese

This Podcast In Summary

Jill Therese, Acne Nutritionist joins Dr. Bimisa Augustin to discuss how she developed her program, The Clear Code, which focuses on nutrition to heal acne. She discusses how to fuel your body with whole foods to heal your skin from the inside out, such as focusing on a diet that supports gut health, blood sugar management, thyroid health and liver detoxifcation.

Jill shares how drugs like Accutane, Spirnolactone and the birth control pill may cause unwanted side effects and deficiencies in the body. Dr. Bimisa delves into the medical research that backs benefits of BHRT on skin health for healthy, hydrated and youthful skin. Learn how estrogen can increase skin elasticity and collagen, and how progesterone and testosterone regulate oil production and tightness. 

You can find Jill Therese through her website www.theclearcode.com or on Instagram @jill_therese_to learn more about joining The Clear Code program and healing acne with nutrition.

Head to www.thrivelab.com to learn more about the benefits of BHRT.


Dr. Bimisa Augustin (00:00)

Today we're going to be exploring the improvement of skin health from within. We're also going to address some common skin problems, the role of hormones within skin problems, diet and how BHRT can actually help improve your skin. I'm Dr. Bimisa Augustin. I am Director of Clinicians at Thrivelab. Been on board for about four years and I absolutely love everything hormone health. And with us, we have the wonderful Jill Therese. Did I pronounce that right?

Jill Therese (00:29)

That's okay, Therese.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (00:31)

Okay, okay. I will let her introduce herself.

Jill Therese (00:34)

Thank you. Yes, my name is Jill Therese and I'm a certified nutrition consultant and I have an acne clearing program called the clear code I had really bad acne for 15 years and I healed it naturally with food and so I help other people do the same thing

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (00:48)

So Jill, I have a few questions for you. What are some of the most common skin problems that people experience?

Jill Therese (00:51)

I would say the majority of people that find me are dealing with hormonal acne, post birth control hormonal acne. They're dealing with a combination of hormonal acne and or fungal acne and or they're dealing with kind of like an over stimulation we should say from a topical perspective from an overall just using way too many products, getting their skin really, really irritated causing more problems inadvertently and so it's kind of like a skin barrier question. But I would say a lot of clients and or people that find me are dealing with hormonal acne and or fungal acne and or an unfortunate kind of combo pack combined as well with topical challenges usually when people find me that's what they're dealing with.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (01:42)

How do these more common skin problems actually impact the individual's quality of life and their self-esteem? How are you seeing this?

Jill Therese (01:51)

I feel like for me, you know, when I had acne for 15 years and I healed it naturally with food and for those 15 years that I was dealing with it, it was, it really impacted my self -esteem. Like I want to say that I'm bigger than that and I'm not impacted by my acne or I don't feel insecure about it, but I really did. And it was something, the first thing I would do every morning when I woke up would be to like touch my face in the dark to see if I had new breakouts. And then I'd run to the bathroom. I'd see the evidence. I'd freak out even more. And then I would try to put something on it, all the things. And I basically lived my life like that for like 15 years. I would use my hair to hide it. I would cancel events, cancel dates, cancel going to anything. I was actually an actress for a little portion of my life. And I remember I was talking to a client yesterday. I had to work on a raised stage. Like I was on the theater and I raised it. And one of my boyfriends was coming to see me and I had really bad jawline acne here. And, you know, I'm not even thinking about my performance. I'm thinking about the fact that he's going to look at my acne.

That's how much it was impacting my life. And so a lot of people that come to me and or find me are dealing with those same challenges, whether it's like this all consuming thought about their skin.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (03:15)

Can you tell me how diet plays a role in skin health and what are some of the dietary factors that can contribute to skin problems?

Jill Therese (03:22)

Yeah, so when I healed my acne, the way that I did it basically is I had acne for 15 years and I had a really bad dermatologist appointment. It was my 15th one. I was in my late 20s. She didn't really care. She was very dismissive. And she said, I don't know what else to tell you, Jill. You've tried everything. We have a $500 light treatment that may or may not work, but I'm not sure. And she was really dismissive and it kind of killed my soul. And so I didn't do the light treatment. I left that day crying.

And the whole way home, all I could, I kept repeating what she said, which was, you've tried everything, I don't know what else to tell you. You've tried everything, I don't know what else to tell you. And I had this aha moment. Because for years, I had been asking about my diet. I have a history of, a family history of type two diabetes, not type one, but type two. Constant sugar cravings, gut health issues, I had been on and off the birth control pill so many times, on and off doxycycline, minocycline, all the cyclins for my skin.

And I had asked if all of those things were impacting it and everyone said no, but I realized on the ride home that I had tried everything but my food. And so I was also studying to become a fitness instructor at the time. And so all of these things kind of came together in my mind where I realized that food and health and diet were actually impacting my acne, even though dermatologists, again, I'm not 22, Dr. B, I'm not gonna lie to you, I'm a little older.

And so when I clicked my Agnews a long time ago, so the internet really wasn't what it is now. Like I went to the library when I got home, when I thought about this and how wonderfully aged I am. So I, that being said, realized it's my food.

And when I began the research on this, the two studies that stood out the most, I was thinking about before our call. There was one study that was done by Dr. Lorraine Cordain that was published and another study that was about two doctors, John H. Stokes and Donald Pillsbury. And the Lorraine Cordain study basically outlined the fact that people eating in a Western diet way, I'm paraphrasing all this, they had acne 100 % of the time in those cultures and those societies, but the cultures and societies that weren't had clear skin. And that like really got me. 

And then also the next study that I read, spoke about how these two doctors, Don H. Stokes and Donald Pillsbury had recommended the use of lactobacillus acidophilus for skin conditions and it had worked. And something about those two studies really got in my soul because I realized that acne, I think, you know, growing up, I had just always been told everyone has acne, everyone has acne, it's common, it's common, it's common. But then I had this clear example of cultures and societies where they didn't.

And then I also had this clear example of the fact that I had been constipated for a solid 15 years and here these two doctors could link that to something, right? And so a lot of the food and the dietary action steps that I focused on initially and still to this day are gut health and blood sugar management. And as a result, when you get those two under control, you can have a massive impact on your hormones.

And so those are the ways in which I try to focus thematically from a food and diet perspective, our blood sugar management and gut health. And then as a result, you impact hormones.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (06:45)

My goodness, that is awesome. Especially the fact that it's the largest organ in our body. So if your body isn't, you know, happy with what you're putting in it, it's gonna eventually find a way to filter it out. And unfortunately it does come through our skin.

Jill Therese (06:57)

I remember being like, sitting there with doctors. Obviously, you know, especially when you're younger, in your teens, doctors are authority figures, right? And so I would sit there and say, so are you sure that my hot dog, chili cheese, donut, Cheetos, Dr. Pepper diet, are you sure? And they would say, no, that's ridiculous. And then I remember thinking, but wait, that impacts my heart, that impacts my brain, like the food I'm eating impacts every other organ, but not my skin?

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (07:30)

Are there any specific foods that you see, Jill, that can actually promote healthy skin?

Jill Therese (07:35)

Yeah, so I think everyone's a little different. But that being said, I would say that's the biggest question. When people meet me, or they ask me what I do, they're always like, so what should I eat? And everyone's a little different. So with that being said, I do see there are certain foods that support blood sugar management and that also support gut health. So the foods, like if I were to list a bunch of foods, it would be avocados from a blood sugar management, healthy fat perspective, high quality proteins like eggs, salmon, chicken. From a nuts and fat perspective, again, I really like almonds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts to support thyroid health. I really like berries and green apples to help. I find that they're like, especially if you're someone who deals with a lot of sugar cravings and you know that maybe how much sugar you're eating is impacting your skin. The solution is not never touch sugar again, because that isn't enjoyable.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (08:34)

Not gonna happen.

Jill Therese (08:35)

The solution is to be like, who wants to live like that? I don't, I like a donut. So the solution is finding really great substitutes for like, not great sugars 80 % of the time, and then 20 % of the time, like have a donut, eat a cookie- life is fine. And so foods like berries, I find that berries, blueberries, raspberries, green apples, pineapples, mangoes, oranges. I find they really like satiate that sugar craving issue. And then they're also full of vitamins and minerals. And then from a greens perspective, I really like cruciferous vegetables. So things like arugula, kale, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, because they support liver detoxification. And then also fiber. I really like recommending like lentils, chickpeas, just to support gut health as well, fiber. And then from a gut health perspective, a lot of prebiotic foods, so things like garlic, asparagus, bananas, and or probiotic foods, so like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha. If you took that whole list that I just shared and made that like the core of what you ate every day, you'd feel really great and there's a good chance it would positively impact your skin.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (09:51)

So basically what I'm hearing is you're not telling your patients as a nutritionist to just eat lettuce or eat like a rabbit. Eat, but do more so that's going to actually help this large organ on our bodies thrive. And yes, pun is intended instead of, you know, the wrong things that's going to cause you to have those inflammation processes and things like that.

Jill Therese (10:15)

Yes. I've been doing this for so long. And I will say when I first started, when I first began, there was a little bit of the detox culture that was strong. It was like growing and I live in New York City and there was a lot of juice cleanses. It was all the rage to do a big cleanse or to not eat food for six days and just drink juices, right? So at one point there, I definitely offered the ability to be on like a really strict plan. If you just wanted to take something and it was strict and simple. But over time as I've evolved and even as my eating has evolved and I've worked with over a thousand clients at this point, I don't want to live on a juice cleanse forever. No, that sounds terrible. And I have foods that I love. I love donuts and I love pepperoni pizza with ranch on the side. And I eat those things and my skin is still clear.

And so what the main focus, especially in the Clear Code has been, especially over the past three to four years, as I iterate and get better with the program, probably every two years we add and adjust, it's actually been on inclusion of foods and you eating more, you feeling better, you thriving more, you having Sunday night parmesan pasta with your family, dinner stuff on Sunday night with your family, and then Monday morning jumping back into your Clear Code action steps.

So I am definitely a big fan. I think restriction long-term, like severe restriction, is unsustainable and not a way to live, to be honest. Yeah, it's so boring. It's so boring.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (11:45)

Becomes boring. So what methods do you use for, let's say, a patient or two, brand new off the street that comes into the clear code, what are some specific methods or protocols that you would actually start off with, with these patients or clients?

Jill Therese (12:04)

Yeah, so when they come to me, we have a large discovery call. So I want to get clear first that I can help them and make sure that we don't have any specific medical conditions because I'm not a doctor. I always like to be clear that we're just dealing with primary acne skin stuff. So that's the first thing I do. And then the second thing, we have a system, it's called Clear Code system that we've created to help define the main root triggers for each client.

And acne is really systemic. A lot of us, I think, are looking for like, I'm low in vitamin A and it's low by two percentage points. And then my zinc is two percentages too high. And so if I just fix that, my acne will be gone, right? Like we want that like really specific clarity about why we're breaking out. And I get it for sure. But in my experience, acne is not that simple. Because you could fix those little levels and you'll still have acne and or I think it's very common these days for people to get blood tests or Dutch tests or gut health tests. And they'll come back and they'll like, and I get it. I remember wanting those tests too. It's like, just tell me why I have acne. It's fine. Just tell me and I'll fix it. Right. And it's systemic. It's not just one thing because our body is a symphony. And so when clients come in, the very first thing that we do and that initial discovery call, I can usually tell very fast now because I've been doing this for so long. What's going on? Why is it happening? What the cascade of events are that has led up to that situation? Which is usually someone's been on and off the birth control pill, changed topicals upwards of 20 times, has used doxycycline, monocycline, maybe Accutane a few times, and Spironolactone. So they have like a lot of stuff that can happen as a result of those medicines. So they come to me with that. And then we have to kind of systematically address each of those issues depending on their largest challenge. So blood sugar, gut health, hormones. And we kind of do that via a large intake form clients, as well as pictures. I look at their topical routine. I look at their supplement routine. And then I actually really, really, because I did this for so long myself, I really focus on nutritional based action steps 75 % of the time. Because if you clear your acne, but you're on a $500 a month supplement protocol. That's not fun either, right? And yeah, so what we do is define kind of the nutritional challenges that each client is having initially, the overall systemic issues, inflammation, again, depending on all of the answers to our unique questionnaire. And then everything that I do in the Clear Code is based on science initially. I'm a nutritionist. I wrote my thesis on natural acne clearing. And so, every action step we take is science -based and evidence -backed that I've seen with clients. And we define their unique protocol. And each client's protocol is 50-50. 50 % fundamentals of clear skin and then 50 % unique to them. I've never had two clients that are exactly the same. We're all a little different. Of course, I do have clients. So I will say I'll have a client in, you know, far reaching Canada, a mother of six, 39 years old.

And then I'll have a client in Sarasota, Florida, who's 22 years old, has never had children. They'll have like the same exact, very similar things. It's very interesting how similar we all are, but how different we are at the same time. But so that being said, each client will come in and we assess those kind of initial root acne challenges for them and then define their protocol based on nutrition, specifically gut health, blood sugar management, hormonal balancing. And then my goal is always too, to start to reduce their topicals and reduce the supplements that they're using.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (15:49)

Can you share why someone would want to avoid, you know, medications like, you know, Accutane or possibly birth control and things like that?

Jill Therese (15:58)

Yeah, I'm also, I will say, if you really want to be on the birth control pill for whatever reason, I'm gonna support that choice always. And or if you have, obviously I've seen like really, really, really severe cases of acne. That are debilitatingly painful and cystic. And if in those cases you want to go on Accutane or the birth control pill, I say, Godspeed, like do what's best for you first, for sure, number one. So I always like to caveat that. Cause I'm not really necessarily like anti those things if you need them.

But that being said, I think Accutane is a significant drug and the birth control pill is also a significant drug. They can both impact you. And so, if you're at this place where you have maybe mild to moderate acne and starting on those might kind of get that symphony out of whack, I would recommend exploring nutritional healing first so that you don't have to go through the side effects that can come from either one of those drugs or other drugs as well. And a lot of times too, like a lot of women come to me in their mid 20s or mid to late 20s and they've been on the birth control pill, but now, and it's kept their skin clear. But now they want to get pregnant and they're scared, understandably, right? you can't use either of those things if and when you're pregnant, obviously. And so that's another reason to kind of focus on nutritional healing instead. And they both have side effects that I think people are uncomfortable with or potentials for side effects that people are understandably uncomfortable with.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (17:26)

My little spiel in that is the effects of Accutane, Spironolactone and birth control. It can actually alter adrenal hormones and total testosterone and prolactin and DHT and things like that, which can cause the deficient side effects. They still don't realize that when you're on those medications, even though we don't tell them to stop, you don't have to, it's, you know, it's your choice ultimately. It can ultimately have an effect while you're taking them because your body may not metabolize your supplements like you're supposed to, because of these medications. So we don't necessarily discourage patients from continuing their medications. I mean, absolutely, if they've been on it for a while and they want the help.

We'll still help them, but we do let them know that, hey, even antidepressants, things like that can cause that issue. So we'll work with you. And if down the road you would like to wean, let us know. Because actually, we would like for you to do that.

Jill Therese (18:00)

I want people to do what’s best for them but I also know it’s not always best for the long term right, so it’s tough.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (18:30)

All right, so I will share some studies that I have on the effects of hormones when it comes to skin health. Estrogen, does help maintain that tight, beautiful, glowy glass skin that everybody wants now, this is where this comes into place. It moisturizes, helps with collagen production.

When levels start to decline, and I have a lot of patients that will tell me this that come on board, well, I'm starting to get this crepey skin. Or my skin is drying out and they can actually cause decreased skin turgor. And I'm like, well, your estrogen is probably low. We run those labs and it's non -existent. So it totally does happen. And then when we finally start to add estrogen into their regimens, they notice a difference in their skin. Absolutely, they do. Progesterone, it stimulates production of serubrin, the oil glands basically in the skin. So it does help with that.

It reduces the look of pores. Everybody's trying to get rid of that too, you know, adding a product. Why don't I see my pores? Well, now you have to wipe that product off. Now what's going on with your skin? Cause you have to wipe all that product off. But too much progesterone on the other side of that. When you have that progesterone dominance, and testosterone can cause oily skin, which can clog those pores and cause, you know, acne, unfortunately, but we try to watch, you know, the levels at which we have these patients on, you know, and monitor their symptoms very closely.

Testosterone, this is my favorite hormone. Okay. It activates the sebaceous gland and helps to produce the oil in the skin to keep your skin from, you know, basically frying when you go out in the sun and you don't have that, you know, that dryness. It can also like I said, lead to acne and oily skin, but it can help tighten your skin as well. So all three of them actually play a very, very intricate role in health of your skin and aging backwards. And that's what I say, it's like the fountain of youth here.

Jill Therese (20:36)

I usually see, so from a hormonal acne perspective, the biggest way you can tell that it's hormonal acne is it's linked in some part to your cycle during those like periods of peaks and troughs. So if clients are breaking out mid cycle or pre period, I usually know they could potentially be dealing with estrogen dominance if they have short cycles. So like 23 days or like they get their period every three weeks and they break out on their cycle. They're usually low in progesterone, that's what I see. And or if they have a lot of acne here and they lift a lot of weights and they eat a lot of dairy, I see the end, they've recently come off the birth control pill. I usually see that as kind of an androgen rebound post -pill, so they have too much testosterone potentially. From a hormonal versus fungal acne perspective, the biggest thing that I think everyone, cause I think fungal acne is all the rage these days on the internet. A lot of people are talking about, and cortisol linked acne too. Fungal acne, you know it because it's here and you know it by the itch. You know what I'm saying? Like it is so itchy. It's like the itch that wakes you up at night type itch. And it's all of the, like acne is monomorphic. So it's very similar shapes. And it’s usually in these areas of high hair follicle concentrations versus hormonal acne where you can see more in other places. So I think for me, the biggest determining factor for anyone listening, if they're saying to themselves, like, do I have hormonal acne? Is it stress induced? Is it cortisol induced? If you see your skin change in a pattern throughout your cycle, that usually tells me it's pretty hormonal.

I'm a less is more gal. And I want first things first. I don't like it when people are double cleansing. I think it's too stripping. I don't want any clients with any, generally speaking, I tell all of my clients to avoid oils at all costs because if there's a chance they have fungal acne, it literally like feeds and thrives in an oily environment. And I've had, I'd say two clients out of thousands, right?

But two was enough where they went a little rogue, Dr. B, and they decided they were gonna like add in a topical they didn't tell me, but I already knew they were dealing potentially with some fungal acne and it was usually oil. And it can create, like in 72 hours, if you already have a fungal acne issue and you add oil and you export, like if you do the wrong thing with fungal acne, it can change the game real fast. And so I really don't like oils for people with acne, funnily enough.

Squalane oil is the only one that I would recommend. But that being said, I recommend clients wash with water in the morning. No cleansing, like I don't think they need to cleanse. It's too much, especially too when you wake up. Like you haven't been out in the world. There's not a lot of dirt. I'm crazy about SPF. Crazy. I am slathered in it every day I work. I have a window here. And my friend the other day, I was in my apartment and someone said, why are you putting on SPF? You're not going out. And I said, there's a window. There's a window, okay. UV rays. So water wash in the morning, some type of gentle moisturizer with an SPF, the simplest, most affordable products like CeraVe, Cetaphil with SPF. I like La Roche-Posay for a lot of my acne clients. That's a nice one. I find that they don't react that much to it. It's like the Anthelios brand of La Roche-Posay. And then at night, a gentle cleanser like a Vanicream, CeraVe, that I  like simple, simple. And then I really like gentle moisturizers with some type of niacinamide and or zinc. I really like CeraVe’s zinc nighttime treatment. And then I generally, obviously, if when you're dealing with active acne, you need spot treatments and or gentle chemical exfoliation. So I like Paula's Choice brand for a lot of like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. And then if you need to exfoliate, which should just like clear out those pores, I like Paula's Choice BHA. So that's one of the ones that I recommend. I also like the Ordinary's Zinc Niacinamide product, because it can help with texture. It works for most skin tones, types, sensitivities. You put it on and like you kinda feel like you just did nothing and then in a month if you use it consistently you can see really nice improvements but really really gently. I'm very conservative topically because I had such bad acne and purged so many times and had freakouts that I want the simplest, most affordable and least dramatic plan possible.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (25:26)

How do you feel about the turmeric cleansing systems that are now all over the internet?

Jill Therese (25:32)

I do, I have a very to each their own, like if you've tried it and it has worked for you I support that. I don't know if that would be something I would ever even try for myself. And if I wouldn't try for myself, there's no way I'm going to recommend someone else. What do you think about it? I want to know your opinion, actually.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (25:49)

Well, I think being a naturopath, I actually hop on board with anything turmeric, anything turmeric. I mean, you know, it was all the rage, especially during COVID. So, I mean, I did try the cleanser. I just don't like bar soap on my face at all, you know, at all. For one, even using it, it causes me, I'm oily, but I love it. You know, I'm almost 45 years old and I was like, my hormones and my food were causing my issues. So, you know, my skin is a lot tighter now, even as I'm aging. Tried it, it was okay, wasn't a big deal. So I stopped using it and I'm back to my regular regimen. I'm less is more as well. I just use my hormones, I eat well and then, you know, my regular regimen during the day.

Jill Therese (26:05)

Yeah, if fads pop up, I mean, I'm open to anything, but I try to always like take my fundamental understanding of skincare, skin health, all the things, and then think like, would this work? And it's usually 50-50.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (26:48)

Are there any questions that you have or anything that you want to stress to the people out there that are worried about this whole hormonal acne issue?

Jill Therese (27:01)

I think the one thing that I always like to remind people is that we always know, I say this all the time, but like you always know. And I asked for 15 years, I thought deep in my soul, I was like, something isn't right here. I felt always like something, there was something missing. I had this intuition and I ignored it. And so I would say that a lot of people, when they come to me, everyone's really different, right?

So someone will come and say, you know, I've had really bad constipation for years. And I've also been on and off doxycycline and I feel like it's linked and I feel like it's impacting my acne. And I know all about the Johnny Stokes and Donald Pillsbury's of the world, but they don't, but they don't even need to, cause they know. So I think that's always what I like to stress for people is you probably already know what you need. It's just a matter of continuing to explore that and to seek it out. And again, if this is the first time anyone's met me or heard of healing your acne naturally with food, and they've been taught one way their whole life, but this is resonating, like it's resonating for a reason and continue to like walk down that path, I guess.

Clear skin is a byproduct of what I do. I help you heal your gut, manage gut dysbiosis, fix constipation, liver detoxification, balance your blood sugar. And then your skin is clearer because of that, to your point earlier in terms of like the whole body, the health and the wellness. Clear skin is actually a byproduct. So when you're clearing your acne, you're not really just clearing it. When you clear your acne naturally, you're actually impacting so many other things in your body positively as well.

If that doctor, if I had listened to her, she said, there's nothing else we can do for you. Again, she's in that position of authority. I was much younger, and she's a doctor. And so don't wait for permission to seek the answers that you're naturally seeking, I guess.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (28:58)

I agree, 1,000%. So thank you so much, Jill. And I'd like to thank all the listeners for listening to this podcast. And like we said, take a proactive step. Can you tell us where we can find you?

Jill Therese (29:10)

Yes, yes, thank you so much for having me, Dr. B. I was so excited to be here. And the best place to find me would probably be my website. You can just go to jilltherese.com and or theclearcode.com. And then you can always find me on Instagram @jill_therese_, and then you'll have a path to me everywhere that way, but you can always start with my websites. Go from there.

Dr. Bimisa Augustin (29:33)

That is awesome. Thank you so much, Jill, for being a part of this wonderful podcast. I want to invite all the listeners to subscribe to the Hormone Harmony podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or anywhere that you basically listen to your podcasts. You know, you can hear all of this. We have other episodes on health and wellness and some different medical topics. You can also find us on thrivelab.com.