(*WARNING* includes some images that may not be for sensitive viewers)
In the summer of 2005, my skin started to fall apart. It began innocently enough... my hands were dry and I sought out lotion, a product I never had a history of using. The lotion helped, but not enough, so I bought extra strength lotions, designed for more serious dry skin.
The cracks and cuts on the palms of hands worsened and I took it to the next level;
Burt's Bees Hand Salve, Bag Balm, Neosporin and band-aids... but nothing helped.
I had my friends shuffle my cards at poker, I photocopied things repeatedly at work to cover up blood spots on documents from my wounds and I used Super Glue once, to glue a deep crack on my palm together again. Never again. Around this time, I developed a small itchy spot on my right foot, acne on my back and gradually, psoriasis on my elbows. I'd never had skin issues in my life but by late fall, I was a mess.
The first dermatologist I went to see told me that I might be allergic to water and ordered me not to get my hands wet for several months. He wanted me to shower with plastic bags on my hands and rubber bands around my wrists. He tested the itchy spot on my foot for fungus... negative. The second dermatologist I saw wasn't sure what was causing it either. He also tested the itchy spot on my foot for fungus... also negative. He called it chronic dermatitis and said there wasn't much I could do about it. He gave me steroids and sent me home. The third dermatologist had no idea what the cause might be and wanted to try Radiation Therapy. By this time I had changed my soaps and laundry detergents, gave away all of my wonderful wool socks, and automatically passed the deck of cards to my neighbor for the deal. I said, "No, thank you" and went home defeated.
A year later, the problem had persisted and worsened, in some areas.
I went to see my first naturopath in January of 2006. Immediately and without hesitation she determined that a food allergy was to blame for everything aside from the issue with my right foot (which she just wasn't sure about). She gave me the option of following an elimination diet or paying for a blood test. Since I had heard that blood tests were often inconclusive, I opted for the elimination diet. She had told me it wasn't going to be easy... that "most people couldn't do it". It felt like a "double dog dare", so I did it with gusto, to prove to her, and most importantly, to myself, that I could!
It certainly wasn't easy...but I took it upon myself to view it as a personal challenge. And since I was going to be giving up just about everything, i knew i would lose weight. I wanted to keep off that weight for good, so I began working out daily. I had the determination and the motivation. I had to tell myself that the suffering I must endure during the diet is worth it, if in the end it means a better and more comfortable life. It is only two months out of my entire life.... For all I knew, the results could mean an end to my skin issues completely!
The first thing I did was I ate through my cupboards. I had to start from scratch. I couldn't do this"half-assed". I gave things away to friends that I couldn't have, as I didn't want temptation in my home. It made it easier for me to eat all of the things I had at home already that were "no-no's", and then start replacing those items with ones I was allowed like taro chips, rice crackers and hummus. I began eating those items before actually starting the diet. My goal was to begin the diet after February 14th, Valentine's Day. By then I was ready because I already had a jump start on a new routine, without completely depriving myself of treats that would be harder to give up, like red wine.
It took me a while to find substitutes for those some of those treats... to fulfill cravings for items like chocolate, but once I did, it wasn't so bad. LARA BARS and JOCOLATE BARS are a "god-send", so to speak. And I ate a lot of chicken to counteract my sweet tooth, which is a pretty light one compared to some. Fruity flavors of sugarless gum were also terrific distractions and sparkling water, which I never cared for in the past, became a special treat. I HAD to look at it that way, like it or not, but I eventually grew to enjoy it.
Eliminating all these allergens, and then detoxing your liver to get traces of those allergens completely out of your system, is the only way to start seeing results. It's science. You can't go wrong. My naturopath told me it would take about a month and a half to start seeing results, so when I was approaching 2 months and NOT seeing any difference, I got worried and called her. She said, "Keep doing what you are doing until it works. It WILL work, it just takes longer for some than for others. Do it for as long as you can stand to do it. You are missing *something*. Figure out what it is"
I was bound and determined. I had given up SO many things! I had been very good staying on the diet... I kept going. In my times of weakness I was lucky to have dear friends in my life, as they were extremely supportive.
A week later, something occurred to me. One thing I had been doing in my routine was visiting the local bento place around the corner from work for lunch 3-4 times a week. I skipped the sauces, naturally and had been ordering the plain grilled chicken only, veggies and rice. It was a perfect mid-day meal and I never felt hungry until dinner time, which was great. However, it never occurred to me that the chicken might be marinated in something I wasn't supposed to have prior to grilling, so I went there and asked them if they marinated the chicken before grilling. Sure enough! What do they marinate in?
I stopped eating the bento and brought my own chicken, rice and veggies to work... my skin started to clear up.
On April 9th, my diet came to an end and I slowly started to reintroduce foods.
On April 13th, I declared that sugar was pure evil.
About a month later, I still declared sugar as pure evil.
Prior to doing the Elimination Diet, I looked like this:
Less than 6 months later, I look like this:
In other words, from a size 16:
... to a size 12, and eventually to a size 10 petite!
My hands have cleared up 100%. The acne on my back is almost non existent. Both elbows are completely free from psoriasis. I can shuffle cards at poker without help from my friends. I haven't used any band-aids on my hands in a long time. I can clap and be part of the audience participation during performances. I have more energy. I can shop without bleeding on the merchandise. I've lost 40 lbs. I can fit into clothes I could never fit into before and I can shop in stores I never could shop in before. My troubled knees don't hurt as much anymore. I bike or walk to work. I eat smaller meals, more often. My mom recently was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and it so happens that smaller meals are recommended for preventing this genetic condition, for which I'm prone to developing.
As far as the itch spot on my foot went, however, well that's another story and unfortunately one that gets much worse. No improvement, meant a final issue to tackle. I had no idea it would become SO serious. Even after giving up all sugar and fruit for two years, and eventually most other foods, the histamine reaction became intolerable. I was miserable and in pain. The national organizations for psoriasis and eczema didn't even have support groups or anyone I could commiserate with. I was desperate for a solution. A neurologist, an oncologist and a podiatrist later, I started seeing naturpoaths again. By this time I had developed celluitis, an infection of the deep tissues and I had lost more weight, but wasn't getting the nutrition I needed I to repair the damage my body was inflicting on itself. It was pretty bad.
I felt like a burn victim.
I used a waterproof cast protector at night, filling it up with aloe vera juice and pumping the air out so the liquid would surround my skin, and bath me in moisture so that I might have new skin by morning. It was another band-aid, but only a short term resolve to the problem. I wore Una boots, a cast made from zinc and glycerin impregnated gauze to keep the skin moist enough to regenerate. Eventually I submitted to oral and topical steroids, antibiotics... the whole works, so I wouldn't die of the infection. The drugs killed the bacteria and helped repair the skin, but a week later the itch was back, worse than ever.
It would take another 6 months before I would discover the cause and eventual solution to the problem. Although it tends to be more complicated than a simple singular or dual answer, I know now how to keep myself in balance so that the dermatitis is at bay. I do this without drugs and with a delicious diet. When it does make an appearance, I can usually pinpoint the source of the problem and heal it fairly quickly. It's not always easy, but the experience has broadened my food horizons and has forever changed my life, for the better.
I hope this little account helps you find the determination and motivation to see your health challenge through. Without a doubt, we have to be willing to accept the life changes that come with this process. Life down the road holds improvement for us, just believe that you have the strength to find the answers you seek.
Let me help you succeed in your goal!
Whether it is to guide you through an Elimination Diet,
share recipes, prepare small meals on the go,
or create a week long meal plan that is right for your preferences and budget...I'll do the research and together we'll be making some good food YUM.