Going Primal Banished My Rosacea and Chronic IBS Symptoms

It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!

It’s only when I look back on my progress that I’m really in awe of what going Primal has done for me. Since the age of 13, I have battled with severe Rosacea acne and chronic IBS. After consulting with a dermatologist and gastroenterologist, it was decided that the two were linked. My hormones were going crazy, I was getting teased at school big time, and because of it I was getting a nervous stomach every morning before class. The two issues got so bad that I was put on Accutane (a heavy duty acne medication) and stomach meds to help control my symptoms. Not once did either doctor suggest that my diet was the cause of all my troubles. In fact, on two separate occasions I asked my dermatologist if my sugar binges were causing my acne, and she vehemently denied it.

Rachel before Primal

My metabolism had always been fast, so I found no immediate problem with surviving on Little Debbie snacks and root beer. I could eat an entire box of donuts in the span of a few hours. I never ate vegetables or fruit, and I turned my nose up at anything related to “real” foods. I was perfectly happy eating fast food every day. What made matters worse was that I never became overweight. Instead, my cholesterol and triglycerides were through the roof (in high school!) and my face was a walking neon red sign screaming that my body needed to detox itself from all the processed stuff I was shoving into it.

Rachel beforeI suffered from severe low self-esteem and eventually turned to substance abuse to smother my emotions. Putting all those chemicals into my body just made my symptoms worse, and as a result I really lost myself. Years later I was able to overcome those emotional problems, but my diet still mirrored a person living a chaotic life. I would have cinnamon rolls for breakfast, coffee multiple times throughout the day, and a sandwich or pasta for later meals, which were accompanied by a Redbull to lift me up from the continuous carb crashes. And then, of course, there was dessert—always a dessert! I was on the rollercoaster of sugar and gluten, but I didn’t know it.

In late 2010, my friend started getting into unconventional health wisdom and told me about the effects that sugar and grains have on the body. I began researching sites and stumbled across Mark’s Daily Apple. I trusted the Success Stories that I read and I intuitively knew that the information in the health articles was exactly what I was looking for. I decided to take the plunge, and after only four full days of no sugar or grains (along with withdrawals) I was amazed at the difference. My face wasn’t oily, red, and broken out anymore! For the first time, my digestion was on track. It felt like a miracle—seriously! I had no idea my face could even look like that. I don’t even know how to describe the feeling of looking in the mirror for the first time without makeup and liking what I saw.

4 days primal

My 4 day experiment sold me on going Primal. I devoured The Primal Blueprint. I totally purged my kitchen of anything with ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce. It was a pretty huge shift from eating frozen dinners every night to cooking my own meals. But I learned to love it, and after almost a year of playing around in the kitchen, I decided to share my Primal recipes with the world on my website, South Beach Primal. That was 2 years ago. I’d love to say that my rosacea has been totally cured, but that’s just not the case. I’ve learned that acid-forming foods (e.g. grains and sugar) as well as foods that cause flushing (e.g. spicy foods and hot coffee) will make my rosacea flare up. But the periods between these flare-ups have become longer. My IBS has become manageable and only acts up when I treat myself to too many Paleo treats. I’ve learned so much about my body these past 3 years. I’m beyond grateful for finding my fellow ancestral health supporters online.

Cow tongue

Yoga on the beach

I’m not perfect 100% of the time, but I’m a totally different person from the nutrient-deficient girl I used to be. My mood swings are more in tune with the natural rhythm of my body. I’ve even gotten into a great exercise routine that works for me. Biking is my main mode of transportation here on the beach, but I’ve also fallen in love with yoga and weight lifting. I can honestly say that I am in the best shape of my entire life—and I still weigh exactly the same! It just goes to show that the scale doesn’t matter. It’s how I feel on the inside that makes the difference. Eating healthy last week won’t keep me healthy today. Every single day I need to work on myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s quite the struggle, but it’s well worth it.

Rachel after Primal

In addition to my website, you can follow my journey on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Thanks for reading, Grok on!


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74 thoughts on “Going Primal Banished My Rosacea and Chronic IBS Symptoms”

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    1. Cow tongue is a great substitute for cold cuts. It’s also quite delicious hot.

      1. Can you tell me how you prepare it as a substitute for cold cuts? Thanks.

        1. Boil your ox-tongue (UK) in a large piece, and slice it into cold-cuts. It’s delicious with cheese, and pickled beetroot.In UK it’s rather expensive at the deli.

          I get my butcher to buy me a whole one, which I soak overnight in slightly salted water.. Throw that water away next morning. Gently rinse the tongue and then boil it. Allow to cool before slicing.

      2. My mom makes an awesome cow tongue. She dices it up and sautées it in olive oil with tomatoes, garlic and onion. She might slow roast it first but it’s absolutely delicious. To this day my husband doesn’t know that that dish is made with cow tongue because he wouldn’t eat it if he did. We told him it’s beef…

        1. you have beautiful skin & profile i love acquiline nose, so regal) i have not been balance in that yoga pose. so envious

          cow’s tongue tastes just like tender beef.
          your food looks very yummy

  1. What a beautiful young lady you are. Congratulations on the results you have achieved. You realize it is NOT a short fix, that you need to work on it each day, and that when you deviate (as we all do some time) you see the consequences, the flare up comes back. But you know it is all worthwhile, because of how great you feel. Healthy eating of whole (natural) foods and not that fast food junk is the way to go.

  2. Well done. I found your blog through a MDA comment several years back and follow it via RSS. I enjoy the creativity. I always thought, “Dang, she loves her plaeo treats!”

  3. I like the mindset you have of ‘eating healthy last week doesn’t help you today’.

    I too took Accutane growing up and wish I would have looked at food before resorting to the medication.

    I’m happy to hear you’re feeling so much better!

  4. “Eating healthy last week won’t keep me healthy today.” I love this sentence. I need to write this quote on my refrigerator! It’s so simple and so true. Congratulations on taking back control of your body.

  5. Glad you had amazing results! My IBS was completely changed once I switched my diet. It’s amazing stuff after years of suffering!

  6. Great story! But it left me wondering how did you prepare the cow tongue and how was it? Glad to hear there is someone else in Miami that is primal! (From what I see when I buy groceries, there aren’t many). Good luck on your journey.

    1. Actually it became one of my most delicious recipes! Google “Beef Tongue Creole” and my site will pop up. Or search for it in my archives. That dish has so much flavor!

  7. “. . .on two separate occasions I asked my dermatologist if my sugar binges were causing my acne, and she vehemently denied it.”

    That just blows me away. My husband was recently diagnosed with “minimal” celiac disease, and his gastroenterologist doesn’t think a gluten-free diet matters. His solution was to prescribe prednisone to manage the symptoms.

    Congratulations on listening to the voice of reason and ignoring doctors that make no sense!

    1. It boggles my mind, too, since I originally went Paleo to help my acne (and it did so immediately).

    2. Don’t know how most conventional doctors can spend thousands of dollars and still have no clue how to make a person healthy.

  8. Great job. Fantastic you discovered and implemented all this in your younger years. I didn’t until my late 40s. It is what it is and I don’t dwell on it. But still wistful I would have known what I know now, earlier.

  9. Wow, what a great result for your skin! As an aside, my mom used to make tongue when we were young, I think she boiled it. I do remember eating it once or twice (not bad) but visually it was awful. It dropped off the menu over the years and I’m sure that’s because she never saw it in the grocery store any more.

  10. Your before and after pics look just like the ones you see in the magazines selling..who knows what? But I believe yours. Congrats for finding a good path for your life.

  11. I love the Friday transformations on MDA. It is so motivating and reassuring to see real life confirmations that the human body is adversely affected by processed grains, sugars, and factory foods. How do I tactfully forward your primal solution to my junk foodie friend who takes her teen-age daughter to the dermatologist every week for acne treatments?

    1. Hi Jack,

      I had terrible acne as a teenager, and for several years after, until I stopped the junk/fast food. It is incredibly embarrassing and uncomfortable to have acne, and I felt horrible every time a family member or friend made any comments with the best of intentions. Now I hate it when they mention how good my skin looks now!

      It sounds like you realize it is a difficult issue and that goes a long ways already. The best thing to do might be to share some benefits you’ve observed in yourself from going primal/paleo/whole foods etc.? Specific ones. Don’t mention acne at all, but I think sharing how it has helped you solve nagging health issues might raise the possibility of it helping her acne in her mind. If she asks you for some resources, you can point her to this along with some articles not about acne!

      Thanks Rachel and Mark for another resource on skin and diet! I had the same experiences others are reporting with multiple doctors and dermatologists… no Accutane, thank goodness, but I was on antibiotics for several years. Now I only use water to wash my face in the morning and evening! Scars have faded a lot as well.

      1. Thanks for the tip. She has a birthday coming up so I am going to anonymously send her a gift wrapped copy of Paleo Girl.

      2. I can definitely relate to you. Still to this day I’m very self-conscious about my face. My friends and family always meant well when they would comment about it, but it just made me even more of an introvert. I couldn’t even look people in the eyes because I could “tell” they were trying not to be grossed out by it. Yikes, I’m so grateful I don’t feel that way anymore.

  12. you are beautiful, congratulations!
    I also feel very disappointed about doctors and how they deny the connection between junk food and acne. And, I don’t want to waste my money on cosmetics anymore just to cover a problem with my skin, I want healthy skin!

    1. And don’t forget milk. Milk is not considered junk food, but caused years of raging acne for my daughter until she figured it out. All that’s left now are the scars.

      1. Dairy still triggers acne for me, and I’m 38. It’s worse than wheat in that respect.

        1. Yes, my daughter is 35 and still must avoid dairy. But she is forever changed by her ordeal with acne.

          I believe now that it is gut dysbiosis –the messed up gut biome that is the root problem. Until that is healed, you have to avoid all the trigger foods. I use the info over at “Animal Pharm” and my naturopath to work on healing my gut. I think it is working, too. I am much less sensitive to my trigger foods now. No asthma or allergies or colds or flu, and my gut mostly is happy and calm. Now. To be clear, I am not just paleo anymore. I use pre-soaked beans (Weston A. Price type), cooked then cooled, likewise potatoes and par-boiled rice, un-modified potato starch, and foods with all the soluable fibers that the gut bacteria love to ferment to make the short chain fatty acids that are so essential, such as butyrate, which the body uses to arrest cancer cells in the colon, among other things. It’s all explained in detail over at Animal Pharm, –Dr. BG. Also see Tim Steele’s work, and Free The Animal, his gut health posts.

          Low carb paleo, which is not recommended here by Mark Sisson anyway, often is like a miracle for short-term weight loss and good health, but then longer term, other health issues may pop up, because you’ve starved out your good bacteria, to put it simply. It is not simple, in reality. The micro is complex…the macro is “eat like Great Grandma ate” (she had a cow, chickens, garden, etc. lived to 102. Never had an antibiotic in her life).

    2. Other than many doctors’ lack of awareness about the connection between the gut and skin, some doctors may also have experience with patients eating healthy diets with no junk food who still get acne. I am one of those people, and my triggers are all histamine or histamine-releasing foods, a large portion of which are actually fruits, veg, and fermented foods. Personally, wheat and non-fermented dairy have never been triggers for me. Addressing my underlying health issue of PCOS resulted in some improvements (still ongoing). The acne story is complex, but obviously eating healthier is good whether or not it clears up the skin.

      Acne rosacea is connected to SIBO, and acne vulgaris may be as well, so getting tested and treated for that is also something to consider, since avoiding triggers can get difficult. It pays to look for the underlying issues.

      1. I’ve had mild acne all my life. For me it has never been anything I could clearly pinpoint. There was never much of an “Aha!” moment regarding foods I’ve eaten. Going Primal didn’t make much difference. Like you, I try to avoid foods high in histamines (wine, vinegar, fermented foods, etc.), which does help to some extent. Regular use of probiotics and, oddly, gelatin (Great Lakes brand) also helps, so possibly it’s related to gut issues. I chalk the rest up to heredity and mostly ignore it since the problem is rarely very noticeable.

  13. Wow – what a great story of transformation. Like Alma, I agree that physicians don’t always understand the impact of diet on not only skin conditions, but epigenetics as well. We are the ‘tribe’ to start teaching! And, the best way to teach is to show results – and, tis is another example.

  14. Just love Fridays for all these great stories. Congratulations for you ongoing success. By posting these on FB, I managed to convert my younger daughter to adopt Paleo/Primal and lo and behold, her acne vanished and she now has healthy skin which tans instead of burn and peel off like icebergs breaking loose from the continental shelf. Thanks again, the pictures are worth more than a thousand words.

  15. Thanks for sharing Rachel! You are glowing now. My husband had life-long acne, back-ne, eczema, dandruff, etc. until we went Primal over three years ago. His skin problems mostly went away – just an occasional flareup that is controlled with some Bentonite clay and dandruff shampoo. An observation – when he was having a bad skin flare-up, he would often get gum issues at the same time. He also had life-long digestive issues which are 90% gone today.

    Our bodies’ mechanisms work together – each organ, each part doesn’t work alone and doesn’t get sick alone. I wish the medical establishment would someday learn this.

  16. Way to go! As usual, I’m curious if you told your doctor about these results, and if so what did he/she have to say?

  17. Well done Rachel!!

    Have you heard of the Autoimmune protocol? Some of the additional foods avoided (nightshades, nuts, seeds, eggs, etc) might be some of the culprits adding to your occasional flares. Paleomom’s website has some great, detailed info.

      1. Yes! I love The Paleo Mom. Her website is so informative and she’s so sweet. Great AIP recipes too!

  18. I am in love– don’t tell my wife–this is a great story for many reasons.

    Cow tongue? Cow brains? Cow-a bunga!

  19. Nice. First thing I notice when I’m consistent is skin (and body odor) changes. Good job and it thank you.

  20. You are beautiful and your story reminds me of myself. The inability to gain weight, the acne, the accutane treatments (2!), the lack of self esteem and emotional damage.. and the healing process. Keep smiling!

  21. Thank you so much for sharing your story, an excellent reminder to all of us who are not 100% of the time either but continue to see improvement through consistent dedication. You are stunning! Congrats!

  22. My IBS has been much better since eliminating grains too. I used to be super into bodybuilding and weight lifting but I hit a point to where I couldn’t gain anymore weight because I was nauseous and having digestive distress, making it impossible to keep on the gains.

    Now I’m much better, although a stress-reduction protocol is still necessary otherwise IBS will flare it’s nasty head.

    Good story!

  23. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m 52 and recently started going primal along with my husband and daughter. We’ve all been feeling so much better and my IBS has almost resolved. Everyone is dropping weight except for me, but I’ll be patient and hopefully soon I’ll lose too.
    The person who needs to go Primal the most is my 17 year old son who also suffers from IBS, but he refuses. He is a huge meat and chicken eater ( cooked with just spices) which is great, but I can’t get him to look at a fruit or vegetable except the occasional raw carrot. Any suggestions?
    Incidentally, my son and I absolutely love tongue! We buy PIckled tongue which I then boil. Is that ok?

    1. Years ago, my mother “cured” one of my brothers of this same problem by making lots of salads with yummy dressings and sometimes sort of hiding veggies in other dishes (spinach and cheese omelet and meatloaf comes to mind).

      I have done this for years with my 17 year old son who wasn’t much of a fan of fruits or vegetables when he was younger. He has always liked strong spices, dips and tasty dressings/toppings/sauces. Cut up veggies with a tasty dip or cut up fruit in a bowl of yogurt is a hit with him as are Cobb or Greek salad. Most of those sauces are not 100% paleo but so what? As long as he’s eating the veggies, I’m happy. He now LOVES just about any vegetable or fruit. Admittedly, I can’t yet get him to go full primal/paleo but I do see him making MUCH better food choices on his own. An example: for a recent pot-luck he attended, I thought he’d want to bring something like chips and dip but he chose to bring kale salad. 🙂

      It’s a process, but there’s hope. Good luck!

  24. Amazing story! I also struggled with rosacea acne, and noticed a HUGE difference shortly after going Primal. IBS is still an issue even post-Primal, but definitely much improved. I love your blog! I am also from South Florida (Ft. Lauderdale area). I kind of want to check out some of these places in South Beach you mentioned (e.g. Tap Tap) now. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Awesome! There’s not nearly enough primal people in South Florida. One day I’m hoping to experience more of a health movement here similar to that of Austin, Texas.Now it seems like most of my coworkers are Vegans lol…

      1. Totally agree. I have noticed the same thing in South Florida regarding Vegans. While I applaud their effort to improve overall health, I can’t help but hope that one day, they will come around go Primal. But hey, whatever works for people. I am all in favor of a diet that emphasizes the high volume consumption of vegetables (just not the legumes and grains).

  25. To Rachel, congrats on such a drastic transformation! You look great and I’m glad you feel great, too 🙂

    And to Mark, thank you for being genius enough to post these on Fridays. Weekends are when I’m most likely to make bad food choices, and while sometimes I don’t read these until Monday, if I catch them on Friday before I leave work, it motivates me all weekend to stay on track!!

  26. So awesome, Rachel! As a Rosacea suffer myself, who like you turned it around, It makes me so happy to see people having success with this way of eating. You’re absolutely right that it’s connected to IBS/SIBO/Hormonal/ Gut problems.

    I actually did a whole write up on rosacea(In form of a success story) for Marksdailyapple a few months ago. Here’s the link if you’re interested. Below I added an entire article of tips with how I beat it, and how I feel others can conquer it too.


  27. When researching Rosacea a couple of years ago, I found a plausible theory that it is an immune response to bacteria that have multiplied past a personal threshold of tolerance. The bacteria are associated with mites that eat sebum. Therefore, anything you eat/do that causes excess sebum production ends up causing the inflammation. Besides a clean diet, I use CereVe cleanser which I believe is very suited for people with Rosacea. Also, I have Soolantra from the dermatologist if I make any mistakes (usually from eating nuts or dark chocolate). fyi, I can eat real yogurt daily with no issues.

  28. Hello! For three years I’ve had rosacea on my cheeks. For me, it has been really difficult to accept it. A few months ago, I couldn’t even leave my house without makeup. The treatment that is helping me a lot is DermaalMD’s treatment for rosacea.

  29. I have severe redness caused by rosacea on my cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead. it’s sort of a horrible sunburn without makeup foundation covering it. I made a decision to undertake dermalmd rosacea serum to ascertain if the redness would fade so I could live a normal life and not worry such a lot about how bad it’s and the way embarrassed I always am due to it. I’ve had the serum for about 5 days now and therefore the redness has already faded to a light-weight pink and I am wearing tons less foundation!! this is often amazing stuff. I put it on after my shower every morning and it moisturizers also as eases the redness.