This post is written by Eliana Ferdman and is based solely on her opinion. All opinions expressed by authors and quoted sources are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, publishers or editorial boards of SelfHacked.
After starting to work at SelfDecode, I realized that while I had no diagnosed conditions, I wasn’t optimally healthy.
I had mood problems, acne, lack of motivation, energy issues and got sick at least once a month. I had most of these issues all along, but they felt “normal” to me, and I didn’t even realize I had them.
Honestly, I always thought that a lot of ‘biohacking’ was all a placebo effect and BS, to be honest.
Nevertheless, I relented and followed the recommendations from my SelfDecode Mood report.
Overnight, I noticed I was much happier and emotionally balanced.
Once I saw the power of SelfDecode and personalized health, I naturally started seeking solutions to my other health issues.
Acne, Brain Fog, Low Energy
A few months after moving to California, I started to get a really bad case of acne, along with cognitive issues. These were on top of the motivation and energy issues that I experienced in the past. I was sleeping 10-11 hours a night and still felt drained.
I first sought to tackle my acne. I browsed through SelfHacked to see if there were any natural remedies that could help me. I read the posts and tried some of the tips, but they didn’t work. I bought creams and took some supplements, but nothing helped.
After doing more research, I found that the real problem wasn’t just acne, but that there were underlying issues I wasn’t aware of.
I had read that acne could be caused by high testosterone and high insulin. So, I started searching for testosterone in SelfDecode’s symptoms and conditions analyzer and found that I had a rare genetic variant that can result in higher testosterone.
High insulin or IGF-1 was also a possible cause of acne.
Then, I realized that I needed to do a lab workup which included checking my hormones, such as insulin, testosterone, estradiol, and IGF-1.
While I waited for my lab test results, I decided to do some experiments to rule out common dietary or environmental causes of my symptoms.
Auditing My Diet and Environment
When external remedies and supplements weren’t working, I wanted to see if the food I was consuming was causing my skin issues. I first tried an elimination diet, as these symptoms can often arise from food sensitivities. I checked my genes for lectin sensitivity. While I didn’t have the bad genes for this, I still went on the elimination diet to make sure my diet wasn’t the cause.
When I didn’t feel any better from trying an elimination diet or going keto, I investigated whether there were any sources of toxins or mold exposure in my environment.
I stopped using the air conditioner, left all of our windows open, checked our water cooler, and I went outside more often. I also tried to take activated charcoal. These steps didn’t help. Environmental problems didn’t seem to be an issue for me.
Last, I tried going off my birth control for 2 months to see how I felt, because birth control can alter your natural hormone levels. However, it seemed like all of my issues got worse when I stopped taking it.
After going through all of those experiments, I concluded that my diet and environment were not the sources of my issues.
Looking at Labs, Genetics, Symptoms, and Clinical History
When I got my lab results back, I plugged them into LabTestAnalyzer and found that my ferritin, testosterone, and estradiol were out of the optimal range. My insulin and IGF-1 were optimal, so I knew that those weren’t the cause of my acne.
However, my doctor had said my labs were completely normal.
I even went to a gynecologist, who said my hormones were normal when I specifically asked. She did a few tests to exclude conditions such as PCOS. While the gynecologist wasn’t very helpful with fixing my issue, she did rule out the possibility of a diagnosable disease, which I felt was important.
I started to read about testosterone, estradiol, and ferritin more on LabTestAnalyzer and SelfHacked.
It became ever more clear that higher testosterone could cause acne, and estradiol is very important for brain function and iron storage (which ferritin measures).
Things started to make sense. High testosterone, low estradiol and low ferritin fit with my symptoms of acne, brain fog, and low energy.
Testosterone and estradiol are supposed to be balanced. High testosterone and low estradiol can compound health issues caused by an abnormality of one or the other.
Iron is critical for motivation, energy and brain function. Ferritin is a marker for iron storage. Estradiol helps increase iron storage to compensate for blood loss from menstruation. But when Estradiol is low, ferritin decreases.
When I checked the symptoms and conditions analyzer on SelfDecode for testosterone, it turned out that I had a rare variant associated with higher testosterone.
I then asked myself, what changed since I got to California? I stopped smoking marijuana and started exercising more. And, it turns out that marijuana is estrogenic and can also lower testosterone. In addition, exercising can increase testosterone.
It could be that the combination of exercising more intensely and quitting marijuana could’ve exacerbated some underlying health issues. However, I didn’t want to start smoking again.
I did work in more rest days, and it seemed to help a bit. However, I was still having issues.
So my genetics, lab tests, symptoms, and clinical history started to form a clearer picture. I had high testosterone and low estradiol. I just needed to balance these hormones to get into peak health.
Fixing My Hormonal Problems
I looked up ways to increase estradiol and decrease testosterone on SelfHacked and LabTestAnalyzer. I followed some of these tips and it helped me, but not enough. I felt like I was still not optimal.
Since the natural stuff wasn’t as strong as I needed it to be, I searched for pharmaceuticals suited for me, to make sure that my issue was indeed too much testosterone.
Someone mentioned Spironolactone, which is an anti-androgenic drug that is FDA approved for acne. It seemed to have a low side effect profile, so I asked my doctor for it. After a few weeks, I started to get tons of energy and literally every single issue I had disappeared. The drug isn’t known to have these effects, but in my case, it’s testosterone-blocking effects were not only fixing my acne, but also my energy issues.
However, I’m always interested in minimizing the number of drugs I take, so I opted for a birth control where the progestin was an anti-androgen (blocks testosterone). The birth control I had been taking before was one where the progestin actually had some slight androgenic effects.
So I took a birth control that had an anti-androgenic progestin, combined with ethinyl-estradiol, and the next day the brain fog cleared, I had super high energy levels, I was waking up refreshed after 8 hours of sleep and my acne had disappeared!
SelfDecode’s Data-Driven Approach to Personalized Health
I used to be skeptical of biohacking, but I followed SelfDecode’s data-driven approach TWICE and it worked. First, I fixed my mood issues, then I improved my acne, brain fog, and energy levels.
Now, I’m no longer a skeptic, but a full-believer in this approach and the fact that anyone can improve their health with their genetic and lab data, as well as some self-experimentation – especially when working with a good health coach and/or physician.
If you want to try it for yourself, it goes like this:
- Determine the health issues that you want to fix.
- Exclude any serious, diagnosable conditions.
- Audit your environment and diet to eliminate any potential stressors for your symptoms.
- Examine your symptoms, genes and labs to find the root causes.
- Implement your gene and lab-based recommendations.
- If possible, get the help of a health professional to guide you through the process.
- Test each change one-by-one to determine their effectiveness in improving your health.
- Retest labs that are suboptimal to see if they are improving.
I hope my story helps you to take your health into your own hands because it really is that easy.