Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 200

A milestone of numbers.  Today is Day 200 of my topical steroid withdrawal.

It's been a long road with continued ups & downs.

I'm keeping everyone in the TSW community in my prayers.  Every one of you is dealing with so many difficulties in life--physically, emotionally, spiritually.  No words could ever truly express all of the tortures that we are enduring inside of our bodies right now, but we can take comfort in knowing that it WILL end in time.  We will all get through this.  Our lives will keep going long after these struggles have gone.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A tough 3 weeks + herpes outbreak on neck

After my last update, my skin really wasn't so great for a few weeks.

The worst of it happened on mine & Christopher's anniversary weekend.  We went to Manhattan for a couple days and I ended up having a terrible reaction the first evening there.  We had gone out to see a play and I was feeling a bit itchy/sensitive afterwards (though it wasn't anything terrible at that point), so I decided to take a DSS bath when we got back to the house (it was a friend's house which is immaculately clean & beautiful). I believe that I reacted to a.) the chlorine in the water (because I became very itchy in the water), b.) drying off with a towel that smelled heavily of laundry detergent/fabric softner, c.) sleeping in a bed that was likely washed in the same detergent.  It was BAD.  Really bad.  I ended up scratching the whole top surface of my face off and wasn't able to sleep (or hold still) for hours.  The next morning, I woke up and the skin on my face was super tight and broke easily with the smallest scratch.  We ended up coming home early instead of spending another evening there.

From that point, the skin on my entire face continued to peel off every evening for, at least, the next week.  It would feel super tight (hard to smile without ripping the skin on my cheeks) every morning/afternoon.  By the evening, the whole surface would crack apart and peel off.  It's been about 10 days now and it's finally starting to get back to a more consistent state (though it's still peeling quite a bit, it's not nearly as bad as the whole surface peeling off at once).  I would love to avoid that ever happening to me again.  It's so incredibly painful.  And it's also super embarrassing to go out into public.  I didn't take any pictures of it while it was happening--I was just so down about it.

Last Monday, I also had an outbreak of herpes.  It was confined solely to my neck (I didn't get any sores on my lips, which seemed weird to me), so I think I was a little slow to realize what it was at first.  It took a few days for me to pick up on what it was.  Here's a picture of what that looked like:

It was difficult to move my neck in any direction for a few days until it cleared up.  I decided to take an antiviral medication (Valacyclovir) to clear it up quickly--I didn't want to take a chance that it got any worse.  Once the medication ran out, I continued using more natural "antivirals" (L-lysine among other things).  The herpes is no longer active but there's still a little healing that needs to happen for all evidence to fade away from my neck.

Oooph.  This stuff is so relentless.  If it's not one thing, it's always another.

Hoping for a good streak again!  Please!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another small flare despite my best efforts.

Just wanted to update that I've had a flare up since my last post.  In fact, it started the same day that I wrote about how well I was doing!

It's already starting to subside quite a bit, but the skin on my face/neck/chest--which had recently been looking nearly-normal--broke out in pink spots & patches.  It was nowhere close to how bad it had been during previous flares, but still frustrating, nonetheless.  The itchiness & hypersensitivity felt unbearable even though it really wasn't any worse than anything I've already experienced. I think it just hit me a little harder on the emotional side of things, because I was really starting to think that I was coming up on the end of the tunnel and I thought that I wouldn't experience any more unbearable flares anymore.  Live and learn, I suppose.

I was racking my brain trying to figure out what might have caused the flare to happen.... but, truly, nothing about my diet or lifestyle changed.  I didn't make any slips from my diet, my stress levels were pretty low.... I can't think of anything that was different.  Perhaps it was a hormonal shift or something that I'm not able to realize.  Or, perhaps there is some truth to what people say about flares happening for no rhyme or reason?

Here's two pictures:

Despite the flare, I still believe that everything that I've been doing (diet and otherwise) is helping my body to heal faster & more completely, so I will stay the course.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Photo update: 176 days

I'm thankful to report that, since my last post, my skin is still hanging in there and continuing to improve.

Here's what my chest looked like in January....

Here's what it looks like now....

Here's what my hand looked like in January....

Here's what it looks like now....

You can see that I'm not completely out of the woods yet.  There's still skin discoloration on various parts of my body and I'm still quite itchy overall.  I continue to have minor issues from day to day, but nothing close to how it had previously been.

If I had to narrow it down, I would credit a few things for my fast-ish recovery time:

  1. Dead Sea Salt baths/not showering/not moisturizing
  2. Eating a very clean Autoimmune/Low-histamine/No FODMAPs diet
  3. Drinking homemade meat/bone broth constantly (like it's water)
  4. Getting lots of rest (though still trying to get out and do the things that I enjoy!)
  5. Zinc Oxide/witch hazel mixture (stops itching when I get overheated/super itchy)
  6. Prescript-Assist Probiotic

I can hardly believe that I'm already at 176 days.  The beginning stages of TSW felt like it lasted forever (like I'd never improve) but, anymore, the days seem to be flying by.  I feel so thankful for the recovery.... but I also feel thankful for the whole process (as difficult as it is).  What a learning experience this has been (and continues to be)!

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!