Thursday, June 12, 2014

Something is working right now.

It's been a while since my last post but that doesn't mean that I've been inactive in my search for more answers and more skin comfort!

In my previous post, I talked about the Autoimmune + Low-Histamine diet that I started near the end of April.  Even though I was keeping record of every morsel of food that I put into my mouth, I failed to update this blog with this information beyond my first week (laziness... I just didn't feel like typing it all out).  Well, I'm still on that same diet but, as of 2 weeks ago, I also eliminated the food group of FODMAPs (garlic, onions, etc.) from my diet.

I had been trudging through the Autoimmune + Low-Histamine diet religiously for over a month.  After an initial period of improvements, I plateaued.  The bumps on my chest/neck looked & felt about the same and, honestly, some days were still quite awful.  A few weeks ago, I was reading Chris Kresser's book Your Personal Paleo Code in which he recommends that people experiencing skin conditions either do a Low-Histamine diet OR cut out FODMAPs (in addition to an Autoimmune diet).  Since I was already doing the Autoimmune + Low-Histamine diet, I figured.... why not cut out FODMAPs at the same time?  (Seriously, you get to a point where you don't even care if you can't eat most foods.)  So, I've been doing that for about 2 weeks now.

I saw a small amount of progress the first week, but was still really suffering when I got overheated/sweaty.  This past Sunday morning, I went outside to pull some weeds from the front yard and started overheating after just 2 minutes of weeding.  It put me into a FULL-MODE ITCH ATTACK.  Immediately, I went inside and put a thick mixture of Zinc Oxide & Witch Hazel onto my skin.  The itching subsided after a few minutes and I ended up leaving the mixture on my skin for the whole day (didn't really leave the house that day).  By the end of the evening, I noticed that the bumps from my skin had started disappearing.  So I've been putting the mixture on my skin for the past 4 evenings before bedtime.

My skin is looking more and more radiant/porcelain-like every day.  In fact, I barely recognize myself with skin that looks this good!  And it's feeling much more comfortable (though not perfect quite yet).

So, is it FODMAPs?  The Zinc Oxide/Witch Hazel mixture?  Or is it that I've been drinking massive amounts of fresh bone broth every day for the past 5 days?  Or is it that I've also started taking Zinc & Selenium supplements over the past week?  Is it because I've started taking a new probiotic that Chris Kresser recommends for people with skin conditions?  I'm wondering if it's one particular thing or if I've finally hit on the magic combination for my skin?

Of course, I'm typing all of this out and still wondering if I'll actually keep improving beyond this point.  Am I getting ahead of myself right now?

Lots of love to everyone.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Autoimmune + Low-Histamine Diet: Days 1-8

As I mentioned in my last post, I am trying to help my body heal faster (and more completely) by following the low-histamine version of the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) as outlined in Sarah Ballantyne's book The Paleo Approach.   I am hoping that this diet will not only help me to heal from TSW more quickly but that it will also eradicate my original issues with eczema which led me to use steroids in the first place.

In some ways this isn't an easy diet to follow as it requires a lot of cooking. At the beginning of my TSW, I wasn't up for cooking very much (if at all), but after seeing some improvements and having read through The Paleo Approach, I was excited to dig in and start controlling the healing process myself (instead of just waiting around for healing).  Now, I'm not only willing to cook, I'm actually feeling excited and empowered by the nutritious and healing properties of the food that I am eating at every meal.  I've gotten used to the fact that I need to cook all 3 meals every day and it's not feeling overwhelming or stressful at this point.  It just feels like part of my day-to-day schedule now.

Down below is my day-to-day food intake.  As you can see, I've only included the ingredients, not the method of preparation (besides "juice").

In red, I've highlighted the foods that caused a severe & definitive reaction (as you can see, I got off to a rough start the first few days).  These severe reactions (bumps, itchiness, hypersensitivity, etc) appeared within 20-40 minutes of eating and completely ruined my entire day after eating. These are foods that I am avoiding completely at this point.

In yellow, I've highlighted foods that I think caused a minor issue--including small patches of bumps, sudden onset of minor hypersensitivity, itchy mouth, sneezing, etc.  All of these reactions having appeared within 20-40 minutes of having eaten.

Day 1 (April 24, 2014)

8am - 2 eggs (mostly yolks but left a little white)
1pm - 2 rice cakes, butter (comfort food....these foods are not acceptable on the diet)
5pm - yam, coconut oil, apple
7pm - juice: cucumber, apple, carrot, cauliflower leaves
8pm - chicken thighs, cauliflower, garlic, coconut oil
*was not able to go to work because of my reaction to the eggs

Day 2
8am - avocado (I must not have read the histamine list very closely because it's high in histamines!)
10am - apple
1pm - juice: celery, pear, cucumber, carrot ; beef cubes, cauliflower, garlic, c oil
4pm - apple, coconut manna
9:30pm - chicken thigh, butternut squash, onion, garlic, c oil
*went to work and suffered all morning during reaction to avocado.  Did not teach piano lessons this evening because of the reaction.

Day 3 
7am - leftover squash (onion, garlic), yellow carrot, beef cubes, garlic, c oil
11am - apple
12pm - juice: cucumber, carrot, beet, pear ; butterhead lettuce, microgreens, sweet potato, garlic, c oil
7:30pm - haddock, butterhead lettuc, red lettuce, microgreens, bok choy, carrot, beet, shallot, garlic, pork lard, EVOO

Day 4
8am - haddock, shallot, garlic, carrot, parsnip, beet, onion, c oil
12:30pm - apple, unsweetened coconut flakes
4pm - apple
5pm - seaweed snack (olive oil, salt)
5:30pm - beef cubes, garlic, c oil
8pm - chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, beef lard, c oil ; juice: cucumber, carrot, apple, celery, cauliflower greens

Day 5
7:30am - beef cubes, garlic, c oil, coconut flakes; juice: cucumber, carrot, kale, celery, apple
10am - apple
1:45pm - beef petite tender, broccoli, garlic, c oil, butter head lettuce, red lettuce, shallot, EVOO
3pm - juice: cucumber, celery, carrot, kale, apple ; coconut flakes
6:30pm - coconut flakes
9pm - yam, onion, garlic, c oil, EVOO

Day 6
9:30am - coconut flakes (slightly burnt but ate anyway), pear
12:40pm - chicken thighs, broccoli, garlic, c oil
9pm - leeks, carrot, parsnip, EVOO, garlic

Day 7
8am - juice: cucumber, celery, kale, carrot, apple ; chicken thighs, broccoli, EVOO
1pm - yams, EVOO
8pm - roasted bone marrow, beef ranch steak, onions, garlic, pepper, beef lard, c oil, microgreens ; juice: cucumber, carrot, kale, celery, apple

Day 8 (May 1, 2014)
8am - carrots
10am - coconut flakes, apple, carrot juice
1pm - coconut flakes, apple, carrot juice (remainder from earlier)
2:30pm chicken legs
9pm - zuccini, golden beets, onions, pepper, duck fat, beef stock (freshly made, with carrot, onion, celery, pepper)

***all meals on this list were prepared with either Himalyan Pink Salt and/or Celtic Sea Salt

So far as my skin goes, the first few days were absolutely awful--I had bumps all down my face/neck/chest.  I had a lot of healing to do after those first few days.  But, by the end of the week, a lot of the bumps had gone down in size and many disappeared.  The skin on my face wasn't peeling off everyday (like it had been) and the red/pink coloration in my face also started subsiding a bit.  I actually went to sleep & woke up fairly itch-free a few times however evenings have been/are still my most difficult times of day in terms of itchiness/hypersensitivity.  Wanted to see larger improvements already but I realize that this was only week 1--so I'll take what I can get.  The improvements that I saw were/are enough to keep me going with hopefulness!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Beyond TSW : Autoimmune Protocol + Histamine Intolerance

Since starting TSW in January, I have had a sense that I need to do more for my body than simply "stop steroids."  Not only does it make sense that the human body will heal faster, and more completely, if given the correct fuel (food!) but, considering my own story, I've still been trying to pull the puzzle pieces together to find an exact cause/remedy for my original skin issues.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've always had minor skin issues, but things really spiraled out of control about 2.5 years ago (at a time when I had not used steroids in years!).  I was not a "regular" steroid user until these unexplained (and terrible) rashes starting appearing in my adulthood.  For this reason, I am not satisfied that I will heal completely from stopping steroids alone.  For me, it's just Step 1 in a process.  As I've been undergoing TSW, I have been in a constant search for more information about how to heal my skin issues and also heal all of the other damage that the steroids did to my body (besides the skin).  I believe that I am finally starting my journey down the correct path to healing my body completely!

To preface, I had previously started experimenting with the GAPS diet, but found myself having horrible reactions to leftover broth/soup, so I abandoned ship.  I know now that my reactions were histame-related (more information on this below).  Although the GAPS diet did not work for me, specifically, I still believe that it could be an excellent approach for healing for others.

Instead, I am embarking into:

The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body, by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD (her website: The Paleo Mom)

For those who know me, they know that I've eaten a mostly Paleo diet for over 3.5 years now (by mostly I mean 90-95%).  My diet has been fairly clean for a long time now, so parts of this approach are nothing new to me. However there is A LOT of information that I a.) did not know, b.) now understand the importance of incorporating for my own specific healing process!  On the whole, her approach is a bit more strict than "normal" Paleo, but for good reason!

Here's the rundown:

Besides the normal NO grains, NO legumes, NO dairy, the diet also excludes:
  • eggs
  • nuts
  • nightshades
  • coffee (of all the foods I am avoiding this is actually the saddest part for me)

Now that I'm not medicating myself (with steroids and only using antihistamines when absolutely necessary), I am also learning that I have a very severe histamine intolerance.  (Interestingly, The Paleo Approach also has a section about histamine intolerance outlined in the book!)  The great thing about not medicating yourself with drugs is that you can actually listen to your body and what it's telling you about the foods you eat.  

Therefore, I am also excluding the following foods (which are allowed on the normal Autoimmune Protocol, but should be avoided if you have histamine intolerance):



Fermented anything (meats, sauerkraut, etc)

Leftover meat (histamine levels rise A LOT once a meat is cooked/leftover)
Certain Fish (there's a whole list of types of fish to avoid due to histamine content)
Green Tea
All alcohol

Christopher made this list for me as a guide (it's hanging on our fridge).....

One thing I need to change about this list (besides the Green Tea that I crossed out), is Chicken.  Chicken is allowed, but shouldn't be as much of a staple as red meat which has a better balance of Omega-3's, etc.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the list of "Foods to Avoid",  I am feeling empowered by the "Foods to Eat" list!  It's limiting, sure, but there are a lot of delicious foods that I am allowed to eat so I'm focusing on those!

So far, I'm almost a week into this diet.  I had a few mess-ups during the first 2 days (both histamine-related) so I got off to a pretty rocky start.  Hopefully I've gotten the mistakes out of my system so I can proceed with the healing.  Within the next few days, I'm going to try to post my day-to-day diet on here to start creating a log of my food intake.

To wrap things up, it feels really good to take your health into your own hands.  Everyone undergoing TSW probably understands this at least in part (we're all going against the advice of our doctors to try to heal ourselves, aren't we?!).  For me, gaining my health back does not simply boil down to "stop steroids," I believe it's going to take more than that (especially if I want to avoid having to visit ANY doctors' offices for a long, long while).  I never understood the desire for "true health" fully before--even when I was eating Paleo prior to my skin condition!  Health has so much more meaning for me now than simply "being skinny."  And now, it's even taking on more meaning than "clear skin."  I want to take care of my body and not abuse it in anyway; I want to help my body function at it's highest levels.  For me, it's taken a debilitating circumstance to knock me upside the head so I can learn about real health.

More soon!

Monday, April 14, 2014

sad face weekend.

Big Flare #3 happened this weekend. I had a bunch of plans for the weekend but ended up staying at home almost the entire time.  It hit me hard on Saturday morning when I woke up.  My face/neck/chest was broken out in those curious little dots again, the texture was quite rough, the color very inflamed and it stung like crazy to even move my neck in the slightest motion.  Thankfully, the rest of my body wasn't effected.  Saturday felt the worst, Sunday was a tiny bit better and today I'm a little better yet, but not quite out of the woods yet.  Last time, if took about 4 days until the flare disappeared entirely and it left me with even nicer skin than I had prior to the flare.  Fingers crossed that my skin is even more beautiful yet in a few days!  Overall, I can't complain, as each flare feels less intense.  Even though I hate the flares because they mess up my plans, it's a great reminder that ultimate healing IS COMING!  My body is doing it's job really well and is trying to get me back into a state of healthiness!

It seems that my large flares coincide with my menstrual cycle.  My 2 previous flares happened a day or two before my cycle started; this time it happened a day after it started.  I guess it's good to see a pattern starting to happen.  We'll see if that trend continues.

One other issue that made my weekend even a little more sad.... my closet shelf fell in the middle of the night (and right after I had ironed 4 of my dresses).  What can ya do.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

95 Days: no huge complaints. just little ones.

95 days already?

Overall, my skin has shown a general improvement since the beginning of my TSW.  The texture of the majority of my skin is generally soft and smooth (it was formerly very roughly textured).  Somedays my skin sheds & flakes a lot, other days not so much.  I still have a general (and unnatural) "pinkness" to my coloration--some days it's worse, somedays it's not so bad.  Although I feel like things are continuing to look up, I'm not seeing any dramatic improvements like I saw last month; I seem to have hit a plateau.  Most days my skin looks/feels pretty much the same.  I guess that's a good thing?  But I'm still craving the dramatic improvements.

Despite all of this, the itchiness has been uncontrollable lately.  I'm constantly crawling in my skin even though it looks/feels generally better.  It's so awful.  At least my itching no longer rips my skin apart, as the skin is quite strong. I'm taking a 10mg hydroxyzine pill every couple days to cut down on the itchiness.  But the itchiness is actually waking me up in the middle of the night now.  Although I was very itchy before, the itch actually seems much worse now?  I don't understand.

I did have 2 more bouts with herpes recently.  Two weeks ago, I had a few sores appear on my chin, which went away within 5-6 days with the help of an antiviral.  Then this week, I had some appear right around my left eye lid.  That seems to be under control again, thankfully.

Ehhh.  The itchiness makes me want to stop writing.  I'll try to update again soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The difference of a few days.

Just wanted to post a quick update with a photo to show how quickly the skin changes when you're undergoing TSW.

Compare this photo to my photos from just a few days ago when I was flaring...

Not nearly as bad!  Woohoo (for now at least!)!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rough, itchy week.

I haven't updated in a while primarily because things have, for the most part, been going pretty well.  For the past month, I've been able to live my life mostly normally with moderate comfort.  I haven't had to call off of work or cancel any plans and I haven't felt unwell enough to let my skin stop me from doing the things that I've wanted to do.

In comparison to how well I've been doing recently, I did, however, have a bit of a rough week this past week.  The itching, which had been fairly moderate recently, came back with a vengeance this past Monday and is still going.  Despite the itching, my skin looked pretty good for most of the week but really took a turn for the worse on Friday and Saturday (yesterday).  My neck/chest area has broken out in the same little bumps that I've experienced in varying degrees all along.  This time, however, the pus wasn't the same clear liquid that I had before.... it's more of a solid (like acne).  Gross.  WHY?!

Yesterday was possibly the worst day to look & feel so awful--I had a gig playing piano for a Purim celebration down the street.  I was front-and-center before the eyes of hundreds of strangers.  Ooooph.  I covered my neck with a big scarf to make my rash less visible and that helped me feel more comfortable, emotionally. 

Here's a few pictures from yesterday before I left for the gig:

Still trying to dress well despite the skin.

When I got home, I immediately started a Dead Sea Salt bath and hopped in the tub.  It felt so soothing after a long day.

So far today, I'm hanging in there.  I'm fasting this morning-afternoon to see if it helps my skin at all.  I also drank some edible clay to help detox a little bit.  Hoping these things will help relieve my current symptoms somewhat.  It's good for the body, anyway, so it's a healthy thing to do regardless.

This really makes me wonder about flares.  Is it just a natural cycle that happens regardless of anything?  Is it food related?  Is it related to the menstrual cycle at all?  These are questions that everyone undergoing TSW deals with.  Why are there no real answers yet?!

At any rate, I'm still very happy to be off of steroids.  At least now I can try to listen to my body's natural signals and figure out what it needs on my own.  Just hoping that this current thing settles back down a little bit.