Many of you may already know of Georgi Dinkov. For those who don’t, let me introduce you! I have much respect and admiration for his tireless research into biochemistry and physiology, his dismantling of common misconceptions around health, and think it’s important to support his work. Here I ask the brilliant Bulgarian what his research has leadhim to understand about acne and skin breakouts. He agrees wholeheartedly that acne is an issue to be treated from the inside-out, not the outside-in.
Georgi, if you could start by telling us about your background and the work that you do today
My academic background is in Computer Science but since 2002 I have been exposed to biochemistry and medicine. My first work after college was as a bioinformatics specialist at a biochemical outfit known as Protein Information Resource (PIR) that created and maintains the protein databases pir.georgetown.edu and uniprot.org and my job consisted of coding most of the backend search functionality for those websites. The team behind PIR and UniProt consisted of about 50 world-class biochemists, doctors, geneticists, endocrinologists, etc. I was one of the few IT people on that team and naturally the conversations and activities revolved around biochemistry and related topics. I became interested in the field and for the next three years took courses, seminars, lectures, etc on biochemistry, endocrinology, and physiology taught by people on the team at Georgetown University, NIH, NIST, etc. Those three years of more or less medically-related studying formed the needed background so that I can start reading the literature in the field.
Since 2005, I have been reading extensively all kinds of scientific studies and books, and that’s how the bulk of my knowledge (assuming I have any) came about. Over the last 6 months I started planning and implementing my own scientific studies. Some of them use IdeaLabs products (Georgi’s boutique range of supplements), and others are done just for the sake of challenging certain established but completely unfounded hypotheses in medicine such as androgens being a cause of prostate cancer, certain omega-6 (PUFA) fatty acids being “essential”, cancer being a genetically driven disease and as such impossible to reverse a “cancer” cell back to normal, metabolism being a small and largely unimportant downstream factor of genetic makeup instead of actually being the primary driver of health/disease, etc.
My day job is still as an IT professional, but every waking minute outside my IT work and family activities I devote to my biochemical “hobby”, the IdeaLabs clients, and trying to expand my knowledge in as many fields as I can. That last part is actually quite important. There was a time (the Renaissance) when “knowing a little bit of everything and one thing well” was considered an absolute requirement for intellectual enlightenment and enabling the progress of mankind. These days it is all about extreme specialization and we can see the result of that attitude. So, try to expand my mindset any way I can while focusing mostly on biochemistry and physiology.
Particularly in regards to skin issues such as acne and a propensity to pimples, there is more emphasis on treating breakouts with topical potions when the main cause is generally gut related / hormones / nutritional deficiency. From your research would you agree that small intestinal bacterial overgrowth / endotoxin are usually the major underlying culprits, and not androgens as we’re told?
digestion: to clear the skin, first clear the gut
Yes, so the two biggest things internally that affect skin health are digestive health and hormonal health, and they are directly linked. The way the skin looks on a person is actually a very direct indication of their intestinal health. Even a slight inflammation in the intestine will bring out these weird red spots and they can happen anywhere really but they mostly happen on the face and neck, and maybe the legs and arms. If they start happening on the torso that’s actually an indication that the situation is more severe. They tend to start at the extremities and then if it things worsen you start getting spots etc. on your back, your abdomen and your chest etc. Actually the same thing happens with psoriasis and other “autoimmune” conditions, although I don’t believe in autoimmune diseases, but the regions progress the same way; it starts on the extremities and if the condition worsens it presents centrally on the torso.
I’ve recently come to the end of a six year stint of continuous breastfeeding (one child then the next, no break in between) and in that time I’ve learnt so much more about nutrition and hormone interactions. It’s been a very special time of my life but at the same time the most exhausting and demanding thing I’ve ever been through. And worth every bit of the exhaustion of course.
At the time of the birth of my first, I was thirty six and determined to be as well nourished and physiologically balanced as possible to feed her with gusto without depleting my self, so I hungrily ploughed through research for information that was surprisingly not readily available. Read more of this post …
A great alternative to carrot salad. They lower excess estrogen, endotoxin and nitric oxide; when well cooked, mushrooms help move along in the intestine anything that will not be properly digested that could therefore potentially increase endotoxin and estrogen. Their fibers absorb toxins and disinfect the bowels in much the same way as those in bamboo shoots and raw carrots. And by this means they are very helpful in treating small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
They contain phytochemicals that inhibit aromatase activity (synthesizes estrogen) and breast cancer proliferation. See here and here.
They help lower excess serotonin (some symptoms of elevated serotonin include: loose bowels, profuse sweating, IBS, nausea, irritability, depression, aggression, tinnitus) and reduce intestinal irritation).
They work as an antihistamine.
Mushrooms are also a source of high quality protein (especially important for vegans).
Who would’ve thought: powdered milk in place of flour. Ray Peat really is a genius! These beauties are rich in calcium and protein, and almost completely devoid of PUFAs. They’re surprisingly fluffy, with a texture fairly similar to a regular pancake, but without the gluten, phytates and starch.
Skim milk powder (not full fat milk powder, here‘s why) is also a handy nutrient-dense ingredient to have in your pantry for thickening ice cream and custards, in place of things like gums and cornflour.
Emma: How does your red light device compare to or differ from the red light apparatuses used in skin clinics for beauty treatments?
The most unique feature of our lights compared to others are the specific wavelengths used. Every major red light therapy provider uses the common wavelengths of 630nm, 660nm and so on for their products. These are just the cheapest and most readily available wavelengths in terms of LED technology, and while still somewhat effective, aren’t optimal in terms of biological stimulation. We know from the T. Karu et al studies (see here) that the peak wavelengths in the red range are closer to 615 nm and 675 nm, and light at these wavelengths is up to 40% more efficient at biological stimulation than your standard red lights. In the future all light therapy products will focus on these ranges, as the mainstream catches up with the science, but for now we are the only ones targeting the optimal wavelengths.
For a long time I’ve been interested in light therapy. Up until recently I’ve just dabbled with 250W incandescent bulbs, and the odd red reptile light, suspended awkwardly in chicken lamps or whatever lamp I could access that would take such high wattage bulbs. However I only used these sporadically, not fully understanding the difference between these types of light spectrums and exactly why I was using them. Then I heard about the Red Light Man, Joe Hollins-Gibson, all the way over in the UK. His website clarified much of my confusion, and inspired me to get more serious about using more red light, more regularly. I purchased one of his compact but powerful Red Light Devices (pictured below), and when I contacted Joe directly with more questions, he generously shared more of his knowledge with me. Since then we’ve been Skyping and have put together this 2 Part Q&A that will hopefully throw light on this topic, if you’ve been unsure yourself about how light therapy (red light in particular) can improve not only your skin, but your overall health.
I also highly recommend you read the information Joe already provides on his site, and that you follow his Blog too.
Emma: How did you first get into light therapy and what inspired you to get into the business of making your own lights?
Joe: I’m not quite sure where I first came across red/IR light therapy. I think it’s one of those things many people have heard of, but usually dismiss outright as woo-woo and unscientific. The dodgy marketing pervasive in the industry doesn’t help with that. Plus it can be expensive, inconvenient and with no obvious mechanism behind it.
“Orange juice contains the antiinflammatory chemicals naringin and naringenin, which protect against endotoxin by suppressing the formation of nitric oxide and prostaglandins (Shiratori, et al., 2005).”
“Orange juice contains naringenin which is effective against melanoma, and guavas contain apigenin, also effective. A diet consisting of milk, orange juice, guavas, cheese, and some eggs, liver, and oysters, with aspirin would be protective against the spread of the tumor.”
“Substances that inhibit inflammation are likely to also inhibit excessive collagen synthesis, serotonin secretion, and the formation of estrogen. Besides aspirin, some effective substances are apigenin and naringenin, found in oranges and guavas. These flavonoids also inhibit the formation of nitric oxide and prostaglandins, which are important for inflammation and carcinogenesis (Liang, et al., 1999).” – from his article ‘The Cancer Matrix‘
“When I get sour oranges I make marmalade from the peels, if they are organic. Shred, soak, cook slowly simmering in water for about an hour before adding sugar, and letting that simmer without boiling until it thickens a little. When it’s cool it thickens more. The peels are rich in antiinflammatory chemicals, more than the juice, and the marmalade is a good way to get sugar with the cottage cheese or parmesan.“
You would’ve seen articles in women’s magazines claiming sugar is “ageing” and the cause of glycation which leads to skin wrinkling and sagging. These articles generally conclude with recommendations for ‘anti-glycation’ topical skin products and (sigh) a “sugar-free” diet. This post is just a small collection of information to get you thinking and hopefully have you see that sugar* is actually not the bad guy here.
Firstly, I want to say that I don’t think wrinkles are necessarily bad. I’m proud of my laugh lines. Wrinkles are indeed inevitable but the thing is, they needn’t develop prematurely, and if you’d rather not accelerate ageing of the skin, know that sugar is not the culprit, but rather the oxidative breakdown of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) is.
“Many people are concerned about the spontaneous glycation that supposedly happens in the body when sugars react with proteins, though they are really mostly the result of PUFA degradation.” – Ray Peat PhD
“The fragments of deteriorating PUFA combine with proteins and other cell materials, producing immunogenic substances. The so-called “advanced glycation end products” that have been blamed on glucose excess, are mostly derived from the peroxidation of the “Essential Fatty Acids.” The term ‘glycation’ indicates the addition of sugar groups to proteins, such as occurs in diabetes and old age, but when tested in a controlled experiment, lipid peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids produces the protein damage about 23 times faster than the simple sugars do.” (Fu, et al., 1996). – Ray Peat PhD
In fact, sugar actually helps to prevent tissue breakdown (seen in the skin with sagging and loss of muscle tone), by ‘sparing’ protein:
“Sugars* (fruits etc) are far more effective than protein in preventing protein degradation in the muscle.” – Ivy & Portman PhD
The stress of a low-carb / low-sugar diet, and stress in general, decreases our production of carbon dioxide (putting us in a low metabolic state), and actually increases the glycation of proteins. Read more of this post …
Here is the second half of my interview with Rob Turner, former professional American footballer and founder of Functional Performance Systems. If you missed Part 1 of this interview, you can read it here
Pictured: My ‘little’ brother weight training:For a long time he’s done weights, running, as well as Cross-Fit and Heavy Haulers in recent years. He has worked hard without supplements or protein powders to become well ‘built’ and toned, with the ideal “fit aesthetic” most men strive for (with low body fat % and low pulse). But recently after experiencing exhaustion, and insomnia, and learning more about nutrition through his nagging sister, he’s working to get his pulse and basal temperature up again, training less, ditched running, not training on an empty stomach, and including more of the foods to help compensate for exercise-induced stress. He’s made a conscious effort to ignore popular advice to go ‘low-carb’ and is instead downing “taboo” sugary OJ, fruits and dairy with great results; feeling better, looking healthier and more solid. Still a way to go to resurrect thyroid function (as it is for all of us) but I commend him for challenging the generally accepted beliefs about “fitness”. (Photo by Melita Jagic, taken at CrossFit Blackburn)
Emma: Rob, Like me, you’re a huge supporter of the work of Ray Peat PhD. What was the main thing that drew you to his research in the first place, and nutritionally, what do you see as the most important ‘Peat’ principles people should adopt for improving their functional fitness? Read more of this post …
Meet Rob Turner, a former professional American footballer, and now personal trainer, health coach and educator, founder and owner Functional Performance Systems gym in California. Rob kindly agreed to share with me some of his wealth of knowledge on the misconceptions of ‘fitness’, the potential dangers of aerobic activity, and how to exercise efficiently and intelligently, with minimal stress or metabolic damage.
“The dictionary defines fitness as: possessing a quality of strength and overall health. Nevertheless, for many people today, fitness has become more about how one looks than how one feels. This is a cultural standard that has nothing to do with what is natural to our species’ design.” - Kathleen Porter
Today we associate being fit with looking “cut”, being able to run for miles, and having a low resting pulse. How do you think we came to this definition of fitness and why is this not necessarily a “healthy” state?
Rob: I had a conversation with a female figure competitor this week, and we spoke about her preparation leading up to the competition. She was on a near zero carbohydrate diet 14 days before the show while also maintaining her training schedule of two workouts a day including fasted cardio in the mornings. During this time period, she experienced fatigue, sleep issues, a spaced out feeling, and found herself unknowingly sitting at green lights in her car a few times. Her brain energy supply was low as a consequence of the carbohydrate restriction. Despite having what modern culture at large would consider an impressive and lean physique, she was not feeling healthy during her show prep.
Body fat percentage nor muscle size define health status. The “cut” look is a relatively new cultural phenomenon with a genesis during the late 1970s when bodybuilding started to progressively gain more acceptance. A “ripped” person can be healthy, but having a “6 pack” doesn’t guarantee a state of health. Read more of this post …