Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book review: The Problem Skin Bible

Most books on medical topics are written by doctors who have wide experience in the field. Here’s a different kind: a short e-book by a patient, infused by the passion that comes from suffering from eczema for most of his life. “The Problem Skin Bible,” by Kevin Bk Truong,* founder of Miracle Skincare in Sydney, Australia, details the author’s recommendations for diet and lifestyle that he says will improve the skin of those suffering from chronic conditions including eczema.

I found Truong’s book of interest not because it has all the answers, but because it urges patients to take responsibility for their own conditions and tailor their lives to make their skin better.

In my opinion the best analogy for Truong’s book is not the Bible but rather one of the books that make up the Bible—one of those to be found later in the Old Testament. (The book of Job, perhaps?) It’s one person’s impassioned take on his experience, and best read with an understanding of the scientific and medical context.

Truong focuses largely on diet. From what I know he does not have a scientific or medical background. This is apparent in the inconsistent way he refers to allergy throughout. He knows what worked for him, and he has clearly read widely in the scientific literature.

I found many of his recommendations similar to those I might make myself—avoid processed foods and the products of industrial agriculture, stay clear of alcohol if you can. Toward the end of the book, he has a lot of good advice on skincare regimes and lifestyle choices.

But he also holds views I don’t agree with: e.g., that GMOs are bad for you. (My own view is that GMOs are not inherently bad, although they are engineered to tolerate higher pesticide levels, which could mean GM food contains more toxins).

He’s anti-wheat, which is fashionable these days. Sure, gluten allergies are a problem for some, but hardly everyone. Also he seems to believe that a number of foods generally considered wholesome (especially nuts and seeds) contain things that are bad for you, such as phytic acid—which is only a concern for people who eat a nutritionally restricted diet. To reduce phytic acid levels, Truong advises roasting nuts—which destroys the omega-3 oils that he then advises you take as supplements.

He also mentions that black pepper is a good spice, and in one of his recommended recipes he lists chili sauce as an ingredient. In my experience, black pepper and chili inflame my skin and cause itch. Obviously they don't for him.

For these and many other reasons, I can’t recommend The Problem Skin Bible as anything like an infallible resource. But I like Truong's positive attitude. If you are interested in how a fellow patient has taken the initiative to improve his life, you should check his book out. Contact him to request a copy.

*Truong tells me that "Bk" is his nickname and that he prefers to include it in his name.


  1. Very interesting - sounds like a book I'd definitely agree with as we found diet changes played a big impact on improving my son's skin AND I definitely agree with the author that GMOs are rather frightening. I've heard so much negative press on GMOs and not too much promoting it (other than the scientists and companies behind it), so I'd love to hear your input one day. It's always good to hear all sides to every story.

  2. I have seen no credible evidence that the genetic modifications to food organisms makes the end product bad for you in any way.

    As I said I am aware that many GM crops are engineered to tolerate higher pesticide levels and so food made from these crops could contain more toxins. But we're mostly talking about industrial corn--or at least I am--and if you avoid processed food you've solved the problem.

    Personally I see GM food as a major part of the solution to feeding billions of people on this planet, especially as the effects of climate change make themselves felt.

    Anyway, Truong's stance on GMOs was not the reason I can't fully recommend his book. His views on nutrition in general verge on the extreme--although there are some good ideas in there and he's presenting what has worked for him.

  3. Hi Kaspar,

    Thanks for taking the time to read through my book and write this honest review! I wrote this book to share my knowledge based on a combination of literary review and personal experience. I hope it helps more people to take a holistic view of managing their skin problems and not simply rely on cortisones and creams.

    You are right I have used the word allergy in a colloquial sense at times where in fact it is more accurately an intolerance as there is no immune response. Will fix this!

    I focus largely on diet as I feel it is extremely overlooked but also talk about lifestyle factors, personal care products being used and avoiding allergens. I was inspired by the paleo diet but tailored it to suit those with skin problems. For example fruits and vegetables are generally considered healthy. However those with skin problems are often sensitive to those with high levels of natural chemicals (salicylates, amines and glutamate). This is why citrus foods and tomatoes can be problematic.

    The diet is focused on repairing the health of the gut which has been linked extensively to all sorts of allergic conditions. It is a bit restrictive in the first phase however readers do not need to adhere as closely after their gut health is restored.

    From what I can see, improperly prepared grains, nuts and legumes contain high levels of antinutrients (phytates, lectins and gluten included) which are more difficult to digest at high levels and to those with gut problems.

    I also tend to try and avoid GMO foods yes as they have been bred to be more resistant to pests and do often contain more toxin levels. For example, the wheat we eat today is radically different to those from generations ago and contains significantly more gluten.

    In terms of seasoning I recommend starting with base ingredients such as salt, pepper, balsamic and base spices as opposed to buying prepackaged sauces. A diet also needs to be practical which is why I have included a number of tasty yet healthy recipes, one of which is rice paper rolls with sweet chilli dipping sauce.

    It is all about balance, knowledge and holistically targeting the problem. For those who are interested the book is available for free. To request a copy go to www.pearlcreams.com.au

    Thanks again Kaspar, keep up the great blogging!


  4. Agree that positive mindset is important to manage eczema. Different things work for different persons; personally I subscribe to what has been studied and recommended by medical community. Diet studies are not easy to conduct, nor readily funded. I'd though focus on probiotics and essential fats which are more widely studied :)

    take care all!
    Mei aka MarcieMom