Category Archives: Lifestyle

Guest Post: How to Heal Hormonal Acne Naturally

Amie, from Rebelle Nutrition, is a fellow NTP and Beautycounter consultant with a passion for healing the body from the inside out. Like me, she was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired all the time, and turned her health around with the power of real food. She started having way more energy and vitality, but her skin issues and hormonal acne took a bit more work and digging around to solve beyond simple nutrition. So here she is to tell you what steps made the biggest difference and resulted in the radiant, clear skin she has now. I hope her story and advice help you on your skin care journey!

Amie Tollefsrud - Hormonal Acne

Eating real food but still suffering from painful hormonal acne?

Here are the steps you might be missing.

So you’re eating a nutrient-dense, whole-food diet but still have annoying (and painful) adult acne. This was exactly my story a few years ago when I first made the change to a paleo-ish style way of eating. My fatigue, joint pain, and acid reflux all improved drastically, but the one thing I could not seem to get a handle on no matter what I tried, was healing my hormonal acne. It continue to pop up, month after month, no matter how “clean” I ate or how dedicated I was to my “natural” skincare routine.

After about a year of research, trial and error, and intense healing, I discovered 5 key steps towards healing hormonal acne that have worked wonders for not only myself, but dozens of my Nutritional Therapy clients who come to me with the same problem. Keep in mind, these steps are intended for those people who have already made the switch to a nutrient-dense, whole-food diet. Improving the quality of the food you eat is the first step towards healing; after which, I recommend bringing in the “big guns” aka these 5 steps:

1. Don’t guess, test!

Unfortunately, there are plenty of nutrient dense foods that can still cause a histamine response (or “sensitivity”) in our bodies. This is especially true of foods we eat on a regular (or even daily) basis. Without rotation and a wide variety of different nutrients, our bodies can create antibodies to these foods, causing a number of physical manifestations such as joint pain, eczema, migraines, or painful acne. If you are eating a paleo style diet that has removed inflammatory foods like grains, dairy, soy, sugar and other processed goods, it might be time to look into food sensitivity testing. But don’t worry, you don’t need to run out and spend hundreds on expensive testing just yet. There is an easy at home test I like to do with clients, called the “Coca’s pulse test” that measures your pulse rate in response to eating certain foods. Here’s how to do it: 

Pick 1 food that you suspect may be causing you problems (coffee, eggs, milk) make sure it is only 1 ingredient and not a combination of different things (banana bread, for example, would not be able to decipher it is the bananas, wheat, or eggs causing the reaction).

Take your pulse for one full minute, record.

Put the chosen food in your mouth and chew but do not swallow for 20 seconds.

After 20 seconds, take your pulse again for one full minute with the food still in your mouth (do not swallow). Record your findings. Spit out the food and rinse your mouth if you plan to test again.

What are your results? An increase of 6 beats per minute or more indicates a stress response from that specific food, and may mean an elimination protocol may be needed. The higher the pulse increase, the greater the response. (Want to watch a video tutorial of this? Go HERE!)

2. Heal your leaky gut

You might be wondering, but WHY is my body creating antibodies to delicious and nutrient rich foods? The answer: your gut is “leaky”. Leaky gut is the term used to describe the process of increased intestinal permeability; which means that undigested food particles are able to make their way into the bloodstream – instead of being properly digested an used as fuel. This causes the immune system to elicit an “attack”, aka a histamine response or sensitivity reaction (i.e. increased pulse rate). Leaky gut is at the root cause of nearly every health symptom imaginable, and I find that repairing the gut lining is one of the most successful ways to improve a variety of skin related conditions – specifically acne. Some of my favorite gut-healing nutrients include L-glutamine, collagen peptides, plenty of nutrient rich bone broth, and DGL

3. Change up your skincare routine

I’m willing to bet that if you have acne, you’ve already tried nearly every product on the market, am I right? As a nutritional therapy practitioner, I tried so hard to make the oil cleansing method work for me, but all it did was create a mess of my bathroom and make my skin look greasy. When I finally learned about Beautycounter, a company that aims to remove harmful toxins and chemicals from their skincare products (without compromising performance), I was sold. I now consider myself to be a bit of a Beautycounter whore; but when I first started out, there were 3 products that improved my adult acne better than ANYTHING else I’ve ever tried. Seriously.

Charcoal Bar for cleansing (morning and night)

Purifying Charcoal Mask (2-3x a week for a spa grade facial)

Balancing Face Oil for moisturizer (I know what you’re thinking, oil on acne?!? But hear me out- Beautycounter specifically formulated this oil for acne prone skin, to moisturize and balance out levels of skin sebum and actually reduce excess oil production – how cool is that?)

4. Get off the treadmill

I know, I know. This is one that my clients, nor I, wanted to accept. But the truth is, if you have hormonal acne and you continue to do intense workouts in the form of running, cross fit, cycling, or anything that elicits a stress response in the body – this is likely to be a key player in the formation of your acne.

Intense exercise leads to heightened levels of stress in the body, causing increased cortisol output and insulin production. For women especially, this can also throw off the delicate balance of progesterone to estrogen – amplifying testosterone levels and causing increased oil production, clogged pores, and – you guessed it: acne.

5. Zinc supplementation

Zinc is an amazing skin-healing mineral that most of us are deficient in, despite eating a good diet. Zinc has been shown to lower chronic levels of inflammation and prevent acne-causing bacteria on the skin to become painful and inflamed. It also helps reduce the bacteria on the surface of the skin that causes acne, reduces keratin production that leads to clogged pores, and balances hormones by keeping levels of acne-causing testosterone in check. If you aren’t getting daily sources of zinc from foods like oysters or pumpkin seeds, I recommend experimenting with zinc supplementation in the form of zinc picolinate for around 3 months or so (make sure to work with a practitioner). 

There you have it! If you are already eating a real-food diet but still struggling with hormonal acne, I hope that these 5 key steps will be as life-changing for you as they have been for the clients in my practice. 

Want more? Download my free e-book: Acne Free in 30 Days HERE

Amie Tollefsrud is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and minimalist living in Maui, HI. She recently downsized to a tiny house by the beach with her husband, where she spends her days surfing, building her online business, and figuring out how to cook real food without a kitchen. Find out more by visiting her blog, Instagram, or Facebook page.

What Great Grandma Ate / Jean Choi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Regarding other affiliate links and affiliate relationships: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and understanding.

Guest Post- How to Heal Hormonal Acne Naturally

My Mom’s AIP Journey Update: 5 Tools That Helped The Most

This is an update to my original post on starting my mom on the autoimmune protocol (AIP) for her rheumatoid arthritis while she’s visiting me from South Korea. You can read about what AIP is, and how we stuck with the diet while on a 1+ week road trip HERE.

AIP Journey Update: 5 Tools That Helped The Most


As promised, I want to update you on the progress of my mom’s AIP journey. She left for South Korea a few days ago after visiting me for 4 weeks total. During that time, I started her on the AIP diet, and also experimented with other healing methods that I want to share with you. It was a long and challenging month of taking care of her, but it was so worth it in the end and it brought us even closer!

These are some of the tools we used after our road trip, and how they affected her progress.:



AIP Diet

After coming home from the Pacific Coast Highway road trip, we continued with the AIP diet and it was much easier to stick to it than while traveling for obvious reasons. There were no distractions, we didn’t have to figure out how to navigate dining out situations, and I was just much less stressed out about shopping and preparing food at home.

AIP Journey

There are so many success stories with the AIP diet, where people see results within a week or even a few days. However, this wasn’t the case for my mom (as it isn’t for many others out there). She still struggled with joint pain on her shoulders, knees, and wrists. It really depends on the individual how quickly they see results, and this goes for any kind of diet change.

However, after 3 weeks, she told me that she was beginning to feel better. She described it as feeling “lighter.” She felt like it was easier to move around and took less effort to lift her limbs, which was great news! If you are trying out the autoimmune protocol for your autoimmune conditions, I hope you aren’t discouraged when you don’t see results right away. Your body takes time to heal and sometimes it can take months!


This was one of the things that helped my mom feel better instantly. I did some extensive Yelp search to find a holistic energy and body worker, and I found someone who incorporates both Reiki and deep tissue work.

It was important to find someone who knew how to work with people who has autoimmune conditions or other diseases. They had to be gentle enough to prevent further damage while addressing the individual needs of the client. Thankfully, we both loved the bodyworker we found and my mom told me that the massage was an amazing, healing experience. I could tell that my mom was able to move and feel better after the massage.

If you are in the Marin County, I highly recommend Veronica of Angelic Touch & Holistic Bodywork. Not only is she an amazing healer, she has such a warm and loving presence!

In addition, I also massaged my mom on many mornings and nights on her shoulders, especially when she felt that her joints were stiff and tight, and this seemed to help her immensely as well.


AIP Journey

It’s unfortunately rain season in Northern California right now, but on the several days that it was warm and sunny enough, my mom took about an hour walk outside. She’s a very slow walker because her RA affects her right knee which is constantly swollen, but she knows that she needs to get movement in as part of her healing process.

Just as important as the exercise was her exposure to sunlight. The natural rays of the sun carries Vitamin D, which is crucial for the recovery of just about any ailments. I could tell that she always felt so much better on the days that she went on her walks. I was bummed that it didn’t stay sunny for too long while she stayed here, but it definitely made a huge difference when she did take advantage of the few warm days we had in the past few weeks.


AIP JourneyThis is a bit of a controversial one, but I’ve been doing a bit of research on CBD oil and how effective it is for pain, inflammation, and various autoimmune diseases. If you’ve never heard of it before, CBD oil is the oil that’s been extracted from the cannabis plant and separated from THC, which is commonly known to give that high feeling in marijuana. CBD doesn’t have any psychological effects, however, but it does relax the muscles, reduce anxiety, and relieve pain and inflammation. It really depends on the person the dosage they need and what ratio or CBD to THC is the most appropriate.

While it may not be legal in all states, it is becoming a commonly accepted effective treatment for inflammatory diseases. When I talked to my mom about it, she instantly wanted to try it and thankfully, it’s legal in California. I picked up both topical and sublingual forms from a dispensary and instantly started her on the CBD oils. We rubbed the topical cream on the spots that were the pain spots on her body, and we started slowly with the sublingual oil, increasing the dosage a bit each day until she felt relief.

Though not dramatic, she did notice improvement right way. She felt less pain and was able to sleep much better. Though we didn’t experiment with it long enough, it seemed to work really well the short time she was on it.

If you are going through pain and inflammation, I highly recommend you research about CBD/THC oils and see what your state law is about using them.

Stress management

I saved the most important for last! With ANY disease, you can’t just heal with diet and treatments alone. You NEED to make sure that your stress level is low and managed. I know it can be hard for someone going through chronic pain, but there are ways to reduce stress like meditation, movement, massage, and other activities that you enjoy.

As for meditation, I downloaded my favorite meditation app, Calm (iOS & Android), on my mom’s phone and taught her some simple methods of breathing to get her started on meditation. My mom is also Catholic and very religious, so praying on a regular basis is also a great form of meditation for her.

It’s also a reality that you’ll commonly get into arguments and fights with your family members when you are together for so long. When I felt these emotions rise, I tried my best to keep them to myself and keep her happy without stirring up negative feeling. It was understandably challenging at times, but our relationship got stronger with the experience.

AIP Journey

AIP Journey


Finally, we are so fortunate that we live so close to Mission: Heirloom, a restaurant in Berkeley that caters to food allergies and the AIP diet exclusively. When my mom wanted to go out to eat, we were able to dine here without worrying about any cross-contamination which was a relief in stress for me and for her, especially when we were both a bit sick of eating at home all the time. At home, I also baked some AIP desserts so she can enjoy a treat now and then without feeling deprived, and this seemed to help a lot with her stress as well.

Overall, I’m so grateful and happy that my mom was able to stay with me and start on her AIP journey. If you couldn’t tell, we are extremely close, and this experience brought us even closer. While her symptoms aren’t fully gone and she’s still on her road to recovery, I can tell that she improved a lot while she was here with the combination of all of the methods above. By the end of it, she felt lighter, in less pain, and just happier and more relaxed than when she first arrived. I hope that she can stick to the diet in Korea and continue to see improvements down the road!

If you or your loved ones are going through sometime similar, I want tell you to not be discouraged when you don’t see results right away. These things take time and you do need to try out different methods and find the ones that work specifically for you. Our bodies are all different, so we can’t expect something to work for us because it worked for someone else.

If you have any questions about my experience, feel free to contact me! I would love to chat with you and see if I can help.

My Mom’s AIP Journey Update- 5 Tools That Helped The Most

My AIP Road Trip with My Mom

AIP Road Trip

I recently went on a 2 week Pacific Coast Highway road trip with my mom from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the holidays. My mom has had rheumatoid arthritis for a few years now, which is an autoimmune disease in which your body attacks your joints, and has yet to find relief from pain and discomfort. She still has a hard time walking at a normal pace and gets tired easily throughout the day.

It’s been frustrating and difficult trying to convince her to go on the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) diet for a while now, especially because she lives in South Korea, where almost all foods are heavily spiced and filled with nightshades and soy sauce. It was too daunting for her because she has a hard time cooking for herself with her aching joints, which I completely understand. So when she told me she’ll be visiting for the holidays for an indefinite period of time, I thought, “What a great chance to put her on the autoimmune protocol!” And it was!

So today, I want to share my experience of what worked, what didn’t, and how we were able to stick to the diet for 2 weeks during out AIP road trip. But first…

What is the Autoimmune Protocol?

Although I’m familiar with the Autoimmune Protocol as an NTP and what it’s about, it’s a whole different beast when you are attempting it yourself, especially while traveling, and it took a ton of preparation and education beforehand.

The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is a diet designed to heal the gut and reduce inflammation in the body for anyone dealing with an inflammatory disease. Especially for those who are suffering from an autoimmune disease, AIP can be quite helpful because it limits all foods that are known to cause allergies and inflammation like eggs, gluten, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, dairy, processed foods, vegetable oils, alcohol, and nightshades like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and all types of peppers. Yes, it’s restrictive, but after some time of feeling better, you can start re-introducing some of the foods back in one at a time to see which foods you do not react to and which ones you do.

All autoimmune diseases begin in the gut. Once the digestion is compromised by poor diet, stress, genetics, and/or toxins, it can lead to leaky gut, which means that inappropriate food particles seep through your intestinal lining and into various tissues in the body. Eventually, the body cannot differentiate between its own tissues and foreign invaders, and starts attacking its own tissues. This can manifest in many different ways and this is how different types of autoimmune diseases form. My mom’s autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, is the type that attacks her joints.

By limiting the foods that inflame the gut, AIP can reduce the inflammation that affect the body as well. 70% of our immune system reside in the gut, so it’s extremely important to heal the gut first in order to heal the body. And that’s why the AIP diet works for so many people!

Preparing for the road trip

Like I mentioned above, it took me a few hours of studying and educating myself to get prepared for this trip. I had to start from scratch with how to cook in the kitchen, what spices to use (and not to use), and which new ingredients to purchase that were AIP-friendly. AIP blogs like The Paleo Mom, Phoenix Helix, The Curious Coconut, and Autoimmune Wellness were EXTREMELY helpful. I also bought 2 books: The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook and The Autoimmune Wellness Cookbook, and I can’t recommend them enough if you are starting your AIP journey. They had some amazing insights and recipes to start out with.

AIP Road Trip

Besides the knowledge piece, I did a ton of prep cooking before the beginning of the trip. I made Fig Energy Bites (above photo), AIP Mayonnaise, Bacon-Beef Liver Pâte, and Carrot Ginger Soup from The Autoimmune Wellness Cookbook, as well as bone broth, sauerkraut, and AIP breakfast pork sausage.

AIP Road Trip

I also bought tons of snacks for the road. The last thing I wanted was us getting hungry and having to stop at a random restaurant in the middle of nowhere, where we have to slip on the AIP diet because nothing on the menu is compliant. These snacks were lifesaver on the road and it was able to hold us up until we found a kitchen or a food allergy conscious restaurant.

Some of the snack items were:

Dining in

During the 2 weeks, it took us about a little over a week to get from SF to LA, with many stops along the way. We made sure to only stay at Airbnbs with a full kitchen, so we can really focus on quality home cooked meals. Like I mentioned, I used the cookbooks that I bought and AIP blogs for delicious recipe ideas and inspirations. However, I’m such a free spirit in the kitchen and don’t like to follow recipes exactly. So after trying out several recipes, I quickly got more comfortable with AIP cooking, and was able to produce my own recipes and ideas. You probably noticed that my past few recipes are AIP-friendly and that’s because I was able to be more creative once I became familiar with the Autoimmune Protocol!

AIP Road Trip

One of the most helpful tricks was batch cooking, especially when we wanted to spend more time exploring the area and the beautiful coasts and less time in the kitchen. By making multiple portions at once, we were able to enjoy the leftovers for 2-3 more meals which made sticking to the AIP diet much more manageable.

Dining out

When first going on the AIP diet, it’s really difficult to dine out because most restaurants use cracked black peppers, nightshade spices, and vegetable oils. I knew that eating at restaurants may be unavoidable at times while traveling, so I researched a lot to find places that were food allergy friendly, gluten free, and/or farm-to-table to make sure they used quality ingredients. Yelp was honestly our best friend and I used search terms like “organic,” “gluten free,” “nightshades,” “paleo,” and “food allergies” to find dining spots that would cater to my mom’s diet.

AIP Road Trip

AIP Road Trip

I was actually surprised about how accommodating these restaurants were and how they allowed us to change the dish completely to fit my mom’s diet. I even asked some places if they could cook her food in olive oil instead of vegetable oil and they were totally fine with it. I think the trick is to be super nice and friendly, and don’t be afraid to ask a bunch of questions.

It was surprising to find out that a lot of the servers knew what nightshade vegetables were! We ended up paying a bit more for her meals but I think it was totally worth it to stay on the safe side. We even brought our own dressing to the restaurants so she can enjoy burgers and salads without worrying about the inflammatory oils in the dressings they serve.

It was a bit more difficult when we decided to eat Korean food in LA, because all the sauces and side dishes were heavy on the soy sauce. However, we were able to get Korean BBQ with non-seasoned meats, and oxtail soups that we asked them to hold the black pepper for. It worked out really well and we were able to avoid non-AIP foods to the best of our abilities.

My mom’s progress

It’s actually a bit too early to tell if the diet has changed her flare ups. We’ve been on the road for 2 weeks with occasional dining out, so you can see why it’s difficult to be 100% compliant to the AIP diet. However, I do see that she has more energy throughout the day and she’s been talking about how much better she’s been sleeping. She’s also been eating a lot when this time last year, she didn’t have much of an appetite. This is a good thing because she lost so much weight in the last few years because of her illness and she has always been skinny. I think the diet definitely helped her feel better overall so I hope to update you later when there’s more progress.

The road trip is over but my mom is still staying with me for an indefinite period of time, so we are sticking to the AIP diet while she’s here. Expect to see more AIP recipes from me because that’s mostly what I’ve been cooking up recently!

AIP Road Trip

If you or anyone you know suffers from an autoimmune disease and you need help on how to get started, or if you have any questions about my experience with my mom, do not hesitate to contact me! I love sharing my stories with you all, especially if it can help you or your loved ones in your health journey. I look forward to updating you again soon so stay tuned!

What Great Grandma Ate / Jean Choi is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Regarding other affiliate links and affiliate relationships: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and understanding.

AIP Autoimmune Protocol Road Trip Travel