Monthly Archives: December 2012

And So My Elimination Diet Begins!

Tomorrow will begin the start of my Elimination Diet to try and discover any food triggers for eczema.  I will be eliminating the Big Seven (Eggs / Dairy / Soy / Wheat, Gluten / Fish / Corn / Nuts) plus a few other additional foods that I suspect could be a problem.  I discussed this a bit in my previous post about this diet, but ultimately settled on the following:

  • Nightshade vegetables (potato, eggplant, tomato).  Tomatoes always seem to irritate my skin in a perioral dermatitis type of way, and I’ve been reading about eczema sufferers being sensitive to foods in this family.  So why not start with a clean slate and really see if these things are a problem.
  • Carrot, Celery, Banana, Apple.  These are all foods that I eat somewhat frequently, but are also foods that are moderate to high as far as being cross-reactive with latex, which I get VERY itchy and rashy if I am exposed to.
  • Chocolate.  This is another food that I’ve read about eczema sufferers being sensitive to.  Of course, any dairy-containing chocolate is automatically out, but I want to stay away from even the vegan chocolate chips and dark chocolate that doesn’t have dairy.  I had some chocolate last week (given, it had dairy) and it seemed to give me a bit of the ol’ perioral dermatitis, so why not tease out if it’s the dairy or the chocolate (or both).
  • Coffee.  Wrote about this before, and I had a cup of coffee yesterday before I embark on this thing, just to see what would happen.  Again, I’m not sure if it was the coffee, but I got pretty itchy and my face and lips got irritated and dry.
  • Tea.  I drink tea pretty frequently, especially at work.  There’s a lot of different herbs and extracts and fruits in the various teas I drink, so I’m going to pull that out as well and see what occurs.
  • Caffeine/Diet Pop.  I know myself.  I will go crazy and suck down fizzy beverages to keep sanity.  Let’s not even open the door to temptation by just telling myself that these things are out for the moment.
  • Garlic/Onion.  Talked about this before as these are in the aloe family and I seemed to link garlic with a flare on two separate occasions.
  • Honey.  Same thing – I seem to be allergic to beeswax (bee propolis) so I’m cutting this out too.  I don’t eat honey anymore anyway, but just adding this to my list.
  • Beans.  I really wavered on this one.  I don’t seem to have any reaction to beans, but the problem with food intolerances/sensitivities is that they often can be delayed.  Since my brother is allergic to beans, and they are a food that I eat quite frequently, I’m getting rid of them too.

This whole thing sounds very restrictive and spartan, but I approach it optimistically.  “Hey!  It’s like doing a science experiment on myself!”

Today I felt slightly like a prisoner eating their last meal.  I lived it up a little by having a big vegetarian burrito for lunch, almond-milk yogurt, + a diet coke, and then chicken noodle soup, a BLT, and fries for dinner.  Yeah, I know…. sodium through the roof.  I did eat other good things like  vegetables and of course oatmeal.

Out of the Big Seven, I think I will miss Wheat and Nuts (and Beans) the most since they compose a large part of my existing diet.  I anticipate Soy being the hardest to avoid, because it’s in darn near everything.  I already tried to ‘purge’ my fridge and cupboards as much as I could of any offending foods.  Thankfully my husband and I eat pretty differently, so I shouldn’t be too tempted by his remaining foods.

Doing a gluten-free trial for a few days helped me become cognizant of how ingredients sneak into things.  I ate gluten free for four days, felt great, and only fell through twice – Once when I realized my multivitamin had a wheat byproduct in it, and second when I went to church and ate the communion wafer.  Oops.  Then I went on a gluten-bender, because Christmas came, and with that two straight days of being with family.   I didn’t notice any difference in my eczema during this time (given, not a very long period of time to tell), but I did feel overall just BETTER not eating gluten.  So it will be interesting to see how I feel being gluten-free for longer.

Here is a pictorial representation of many foods that I WILL eat over the coming week.  I will be eating these foods for ONE WEEK minimum and then re-introducing foods one at a time.

Miscellaneous niceties: maple syrup (for sweetener), flax seeds and chia seeds, Rice Dream Rice Nog, Nori (for making vegan sushi), Zevia soda (natural soda sweetened with only stevia).  Also olives and artichoke hearts, not pictured.

Miscellaneous niceties: maple syrup (for sweetener), flax seeds and chia seeds, Rice Dream Rice Nog, Nori (for making vegan sushi), Zevia soda (natural soda sweetened with only stevia). Also olives and artichoke hearts, not pictured.

PROTEINS: Turkey burgers, chicken sausage (just chicken and sage for seasoning), sunflower seed butter, pumpkin seeds

PROTEINS: Turkey burgers, chicken sausage (just chicken and sage for seasoning), sunflower seed butter, pumpkin seeds

FRUITS: Pears, pomegranate, dried dates, dried apricots

FRUITS: Pears, pomegranate, dried dates, dried apricots

VEGGIES:  LOTS and LOTS!  Kale, parsnip, green pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, acorn squash, lettuce, radicchio, beets and beet greens, broccoli

VEGGIES: LOTS and LOTS! Kale, parsnip, green pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, acorn squash, lettuce, radicchio, beets and beet greens, broccoli

GRAINS: Rice Chex, rice cakes, gluten free corn free pasta, quinoa, quinoa flakes, brown rice, millet, oatmeal

GRAINS: Rice Chex, rice cakes, gluten free corn free pasta, quinoa, quinoa flakes, brown rice, millet, oatmeal

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Makeup Review: Anastasia Lash Genius Waterproof Topcoat

Having an allergy/sensitivity to both Beeswax and Aloe Vera makes it VERY challenging to find mascara, as I’ve recently found.  Almost every single mascara has at least one of these ingredients, if not both.  Having found a great (non waterproof) one from Tarte, I then set out on the virtual world of the internet for my next challenge – finding a mascara that not only had no beeswax or aloe, but was also waterproof.  The Tarte one is pretty water-resistant and has held up perfectly through vigorous exercise where I was only sweating lightly, but for really sweat-crazy activities, I didn’t want to chance it.

This took me literally days of research (not all at one time though).  There are a lot of mascaras without beeswax that I found, often classified under “vegan mascaras” for those that don’t want to use animal products in their makeup.  But they all had aloe.

Googling “mascara without beeswax or aloe” did not help either.  Apparently it must not be too common to be super sensitive to both of these, because this Google search completely ignored the word “WITHOUT” in my search, and brought up many lovely mascaras WITH aloe.

So I had to do this the difficult way.  Pore through many mascaras and read the ingredients.  When I set out to buy a new beauty product, I almost always try the website Beautypedia.com.  This site has reviews of many, many makeup (and skincare) brands and will give thorough product ratings.  I take these ratings with a grain of salt, as something may be rated highly but have ingredients I don’t want (i.e., parabens or fragrance).  However, the Tarte Concealer and Mascara that I currently use were both rated highly and did not disappoint.

I started by filtering through the reviews on Beautypedia and looking at only the waterproof mascaras that were rated highly, and then cross-referencing other sites like Beauty.com to find out all the ingredients.  The whole while, I’m writing down notes for mascaras that look promising, crossing them out as I go when I find they have aloe.  Having no luck there, I decided to then just look at every waterproof mascara on Beauty.com.  I don’t list this laborious process to bore my blog readers, but rather to emphasize that when you have sensitive skin/eczema, you cannot just purchase the latest new makeup item, it all requires careful research, and maybe my research will benefit someone else out there that’s looking for the same thing.

Finally…. I found it!   Anastasia Lash Genius Waterproof Topcoat is a clear formula that “instantly waterproofs any mascara”.  No aloe, no beeswax, no parabens, no fragrance, and no need to have separate mascaras on hand – you can use your favorite mascara and just waterproof it on days or occasions when you need to.  I bought mine from Beauty.com using the link above.lash genius waterproof top coat

I tried it two days in a row, and although I didn’t put it through a HUGE sweat-fest, just incline walking, cardio machines, and strength training, I was very pleased.  No flaking or raccoon eye, no “crunchy” feel on my eyelashes and it didn’t really affect the look of my existing mascara either.  My only critique is it sticks the lashes together a little bit so they’re a bit less lush and full.

Current rating: 4 out of 5.  If it stays completely waterproof through an hour of kickboxing (where I emerge completely soaked in sweat), I will up that to 4.5 out of 5!

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Food Allergies – All in the Family?

Food-AllergiesFrom reading other eczema and allergy blogs, it seems that sometimes there is no set pattern to who gets the allergies in the family and who does not.  Sometimes all siblings are afflicted, sometimes only one has it very badly.

I have one older brother, and although we both have some variation of allergies, asthma, and eczema (he has asthma worse, I have eczema worse), we are most certainly not equal when it comes to food allergies.  I don’t have any ‘confirmed’ food allergies, and he has a LOT!  When pondering my upcoming desire to do an Elimination Diet, I had to wonder if perhaps I am sensitive to the same foods that my brother is allergic to.

Growing up with my brother, I became an expert label-reader whenever we went to the grocery store.  At a young age, I understood all the ingredients that were derived from dairy.  In restaurants, after he placed his order, all of us would clamor to confirm with the server, “And that isn’t made with butter, right?  Or cream?  Or any dairy or eggs?”

My brother, let’s call him Luke, is allergic to the following:

  • Eggs
  • All dairy
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Peas

As a baby, Luke was allergic to other foods, which he then grew out of.  (There are baby pictures of him with a red, rashy face and hands after eating corn, and I never recall him eating fish until adulthood).  The others, though, he did not grow out of.  I have a vivid memory of young EczemaExcellence and Luke, happily munching Sociables crackers together in the family car and then him promptly throwing up over the back seat (must have had whey or something in them – oops).

My mother got off blessedly free of any of the “atopic triad”, while my dear old dad must have been the carrier since he has all three as well (pretty mild as I’ve known him, although he was very sickly as a child with asthma).  Dad does not have any food allergies save the vague complaint that “Honey makes my mouth itch”.

So it makes me wonder – is there reason to believe that I would be sensitive to the same foods that Luke is allergic to?  I DO eat a lot of nuts and beans, but haven’t linked them directly to any ill effects.  And, while dairy DOES seem to be linked to making me itch, eggs seem to be quite benign (I recently ate six eggs in a 24 hour span and noticed no difference in symptoms).

Do allergies, food or otherwise, run in your family?  Do you and your parents/siblings have similar or different food sensitivities/allergies?

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And Lead Me Not Into Temptation

Today felt like a good day for me to practice self-control and adherence to restricting some foods, in light of my anticipated trial of the Elimination Diet for my eczema.

My very favorite cafeteria meal was being served at work – FISH AND CHIPS – but since this contains gluten, I decided to resist and try eating entirely gluten-free all day today.

Breakfast: Oatmeal with ground flax and a little bit of maple syrup.  Water.

Snack: Almonds.  Two slices Rudi’s Gluten Free Bread.  (I’ve never had cause to eat gluten free bread before, but this was very good.  It made great toast when I tried it the night before.  I kind of actually prefer it to regular toast!).  Stash Pomegranate Green Tea.  Water.

Glutenfree bread

Lunch (I haven’t eaten lunch yet at this point of the day but this is what I have packed at work): Brown rice and kidney beans.  Rice cakes and salt & vinegar potato chips.  Fresh vegetables (kale, radicchio, cucumber, and carrot).  One can Zevia Grape Soda (wonderful stuff – no calories and sweetened with stevia).Zevia  Water.

Snacks (to be eaten in afternoon): GoFree Gluten Free Trail Mix Bar.  Dried apricots.

Dinner: To be determined.  I have some Quorn Nuggets at home, but that I cannot use because their coating has gluten.  (Have you ever tried Quorn?  It is delicious!)

I love Quorn!

I love Quorn!

Quorn is a vegetarian chicken substitute that’s made with mycoproteins (a fungus, but don’t be grossed out by that) and some other stuff like egg whites and flour.  I don’t do tofu or any soy-heavy meat substitutes, and a lot of the other veggie burgers are heavily spiced and/or have garlic or onions.  This eliminates most ‘fake meats’.   So Quorn is an option I eat frequently as a ‘mostly vegetarian’ eater.

I have some eggs to use up before undertaking the elimination diet, so I think I will have scrambled eggs, steamed broccoli, and then either more gluten free toast or some hash browns.  I also have some Hemp Treats at home if I want something sweet later.Hemp Treats  Hemp Treats are ice cream bars made without any dairy/gluten/soy/nuts, but with hemp milk!  Tasty 🙂

Any other suggestions on gluten-free foods?

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The Food Elimination Diet

It is time to make some changes.  (I also changed my blog theme – I felt the old one was hard to read and I think this one is better!)  Changes that, in all reality, will be terribly hard and even potentially socially ostracizing, but that hopefully will provide a great deal of help to my skin.

As soon as the holidays pass, I am going to try the Food Elimination Diet to help manage my eczema.  I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I may well start this on January 1st just because it’s an easily memorable starting point and you have the whole psychologically motivating aura of a fresh new year.  I’d start it tomorrow, but I would be setting myself up for failure by doing it right before the holiday!

The Food Elimination Diet removes the BIG SEVEN of allergens:

  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Fish

And yes, I mean removing them all at once.  In addition to this, there are a few other foods/drinks that I plan to avoid, because of experiences with them in the past that leads me to believe my system does not take kindly to them.  These are:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Bananas
  • Honey
  • Citrus
  • Tomatoes
  • Coffee
  • Caffeine

And then, just because they’re really not good for anyone, I am going to try and avoid refined sugars and artificial sweeteners.  It’ll be no good if I follow this elimination diet but stuff myself with Gummy Worms out of sheer desperation!

If I wanted to, I could get REALLY crazy and eliminate all nightshade vegetables (besides tomatoes, that’s potatoes and eggplant) and foods that have a moderate cross-reaction with latex (apples, carrots, celery, melons, and oh yeah, also potato and tomato).  The verdict is still out on if I will actually do this too.

This begs the question.  What the hell am I going to eat??  Although it sounds very spartan, there are many foods available.  I plan on  eating a lot of rice, quinoa, oats/oatmeal, vegetables (esp. green leafy ones like spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower), beans, squash, some fruits, pure maple syrup as sweetener, and oh yes…. MEATS.

As someone who has been a quasi-vegetarian and has never liked most meats, even from early childhood, the thought of actually having to buy and cook raw meat for myself frankly disgusts and intimidates me.  I like fish, and I like bacon, but other than that I’m pretty ambivalent.  The thought of red meat is revolting (I haven’t had it in years on principle), and the thought of turkey or chicken is also gross.  I will eat it ONCE IN A WHILE (like at someone’s house, out of politeness) but cook it for myself and then choke it down?  Ugh.

At the same time, I don’t believe that I can get a perfectly well-rounded diet using just beans for protein.  As chicken and turkey are foods that are very low on the list of allergens, I think that this is an adequate trade-off to try for healthier skin.

MY PLAN:

From what I have been reading online about the Elimination Diet, people with eczema and other conditions have had excellent results with it, helping target exactly which foods bother them.  But, you need to follow it exactly.  No cheating and saying, “oh, well I didn’t have any gluten today, but maybe I can have just one cookie”.  Or, “Well, I’m not sure if there is soy in these egg rolls, but I’m only eating a few of them”.  This mentality is why my previous stints of ‘food elimination’ were not very helpful – because ultimately I ended up cheating.

So, I will avoid all of these foods for at LEAST 4 days – it may take up to three weeks – until I see improvement in my skin.

Then, I can start adding back foods one at a time, eating a new food 1 to 3 times a day and monitoring for any symptoms.  During this time, keeping a food diary is very important, as any ‘reactions’ may not come on immediately.  Basically I plan to add a new food about every week, as I think this will be enough of a time span to see what effects it may have.

FORESEEING OBSTACLES:

Basically I will not be able to go out to eat at all during this time, and will have to prepare all my own food.  I will also have to be prepared with PLENTY of food on hand at work, because if I get hungry, I will be subject to temptation.

I will also likely have to explain this diet to my family and in-laws.  My in-laws have a standing tradition that we go out for breakfast every other week, and they’ll need to understand why I’m not eating ‘normal’ foods.  (Really, I have no idea at all what I would eat in a normal restaurant on this temporary diet.  Bowl of lettuce and cucumbers??)

I will need to get over my abhorrence of meat and learn how to cook it.  I’m okay with this if it helps me, and I have some time over the Christmas break to plan shopping lists and recipes and meals for this Elimination Diet.  I will also not be able to have many packaged foods.  All I can think of right now for packaged snacks is rice cakes and Rice Chex.

I also anticipate feeling very deprived and depressed.  Yeah, this is a very restrictive thing, and I’m going to be eating foods that I don’t actually like.  Therefore, I will head this off by having some sort of non-dietary ‘treat’ or ‘reward’ system for myself – like if I make it through the challenge, I get to buy myself new running shoes or something.

And, before I set forth on this elimination diet, I might just have to have one final splurge.  I almost never eat dairy because I feel that it bothers me, but I’ve been craving pizza for days…. 🙂

Have you ever tried some form of eliminating foods for your health conditions?   Has it helped you?  Any advice for me?

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Booting The Fruit in the Yellow Suit

Witty title if I do say so myself 🙂

bananaOne of my upcoming posts, once I sort out all my thoughts for it, is going to be how I will be changing my diet in the coming weeks to try and pinpoint any food intolerances that I have.

There are three reasons that I want to change my diet and am willing to radically do so, even though I eat pretty well now (mainly vegetarian/vegan, lots of fresh vegetables every day, and try to eat minimally processed food – although I am still human and subject to succumbing to tasty restaurant food, salty snacks, and candy).

REASON ONE: My eczema and rashes are still not great.  I don’t like living day to day feeling uncomfortably, dry, and itchy, trying to avoid people because I’m self conscious, or worrying what I’ll see in the mirror.  And I don’t like choosing my outfits based on what rashes I am trying to hide.  Especially when I didn’t have bad skin a few years ago and remember the “time before eczema”.  Changing my diet will be extremely hard, but I’m committed to doing it, as it’s something I can try myself and doesn’t involve going to any doctors or health practitioners, and doesn’t involve steroids or other drugs.

REASON TWO: I don’t hold out a lot of hope anymore for remedies that are ingested.  I’ve tried many things – evening primrose oil, fish oil, black currant oil, and of course my Standard Process supplements including my thyroid supplement.  The next thing the holistic doctor is thinking is to use Milk Thistle, but I am kind of dubious since none of these supplements made any noticeable difference (and the Evening Primrose made me feel bloated).

REASON THREE: I recently saw my nurse practitioner and explained my symptoms and quest, requesting testing for hormones and thyroid just to confirm and/or rule out anything of that nature playing havoc with my skin.  I had wanted to find out about thyroid for a while, but an addition impetus for testing came about when I was researching about testosterone in the body and how low levels in women can provoke symptoms, among others, like dry, itchy skin.  And that birth control, which I was taking for a few years, can lower these hormone levels.  One of the other big symptoms of low testosterone is low sex drive.  I’m not into airing my private life on my blog, but let’s just say that if libido had a switch, mine is permanently set to OFF!  I got the results the other day, and everything was completely within normal ranges.  Now that I know it isn’t anything with my thyroid or hormones, I can focus on using DIET as a means to try and heal myself.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself, as I’m going to discuss my planned dietary changes in a future post soon.  Back to the title of THIS post.  I was just thinking the other day, “Geez, it’s going to be really hard to target what foods I might not tolerate well, since reactions are generally limited to my skin flaring up and don’t appear immediately – making it hard to tell what might be the culprit”.

Then I ate a banana (with nothing else) for a snack in the afternoon, and about 20 minutes later, my stomach felt uncomfortable and bloated.

I tested this again the following day by eating a single banana in the afternoon with nothing else, and same thing about 20 minutes later.  In addition, my skin started to get itchy a few hours later and I woke up both mornings with my face rather red and dry in patches.  “Trouble” sites that had been clear, now flared up, such as the back of my neck and under my eyebrows.  A definite flare, confirmed by the fact that one of my friends greeted me in the morning at work with a concerned look and asking if I was okay.  (I’ve gotten so used to the look of my own face with unhealthy looking skin that using other people’s reaction as a barometer is often useful).

Bananas and I have a little history – I tried to eliminate them in the past because I have a moderate latex allergy (it makes me itch terribly if I touch it, but I don’t have any sort of anaphylaxis or wheezing, etc.) and bananas are one of the foods related to such things, along with avocado, chestnut, and kiwi.  I hadn’t noticed any vast improvement when I had stopped eating bananas in the past, and I don’t eat bananas TOO much anyway, but I guess I forgot about this association since I bought a bunch at the store this weekend.

So, among other dietary changes to be noted in the future, I now have another thing on my list to avoid.  Slowly but surely, I’m ruling out things that affect me and my skin.  That’s just as well, I was pretty ambivalent about bananas anyway.

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The World Is Messed Up

No talk of eczema in this post.  No talk of anything pertaining to me.  All I have to say after I saw and read the news stories this evening, is “WHO KILLS INNOCENT CHILDREN?”

A gunman kills a bunch of 5 to 10 year olds in Connecticut.  And some man in China stabs 33 children.  What is wrong with these people?  Why must we live in such a twisted world?  How can there be so much evil that casts a huge, black looming shadow over all the good deeds that kind and normal people do every day?  And when will it end – does the world have to end and go through the apocalypse before we’ll see a stop to all these horrific things?  Or is it just going to get worse?

This is a big reason why I don’t want to have children.  Someone’s just going to kill them, or at very least bringing them into a world that’s fraught with random danger and evil is completely unsettling and not something I want to undertake.

These kids just wanted to live.  They never harmed anyone.  The 1st graders that survived by hiding in a closet said, “I just want Christmas… I don’t want to die”!!

I’m not an emotional person but that just got me.  Those poor kids.  They just wanted to see one more Christmas!!  I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face, and I can’t stop them.  We’re all going to become a nation that carries guns everywhere because you can’t even go to the theater or school without worrying you’ll get shot.  Then when I saw (posted by a friend on Facebook) the picture below of Jesus comforting a child, I REALLY started to lose it.  There’s surely a special place in hell for anyone that violently robs an innocent, defenseless child of their life in the manner that this gunman did.

That’s my rant.  I pray for these families and the community!

“God is our refuge and strength; an ever-present help in time of trouble”.  Psalm 46

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Exercising with Eczema and Asthma

running-shoes-many-pairs-colorfulI like to exercise.  I also have both eczema and asthma.  I don’t talk a lot about asthma on this blog, mainly because it’s quite well controlled (thankfully) and doesn’t impact my daily life like eczema does, but many people, like me, are in the same boat with the “atopic triad” of allergies, asthma, and eczema.  So this post is my take and my musings on exercising with both of these conditions.

ASTHMA:

I have been on Singulair for about 10 years.  I just take one pill every evening, and I’m generally able to exercise and do whatever I want, wherever I want.  I do have a rescue inhaler (ProAir), but I barely need to use it.  My asthma, though, if it comes on, is usually exercise-induced.  There are three instances in where I will get short of breath and feel my asthma start to affect me:

  • If it is very hot and humid out.  This doesn’t happen much in the upper Midwest here, but when it does, this will actually make me SUPER short of breath.  I have woken up (rarely) during a hot summer morning barely able to breathe and grasping around frantically for my rescue inhaler.  This is also where I have an audible whistling wheeze when breathing, because my airway is just so narrowed.  During these infrequent situations, exercise is completely out of the question, as I get winded just existing and schlepping  around the house.
  • If I am exercising hard in very cold weather.
  • If I have started to exercise reasonably hard without a warm-up.

If you are reading this blog and you’re a non-asthma sufferer, here is an approximation of what it feels like to have asthma.  Take a big breath.  Really big.  As big as you can.  Go on, try it!  Did you do it?  Holding your breath?  Good.  Now try to take another breath on top of that one.  Feel how uncomfortable it is to try and suck down more air?  Of course, that would simulate REALLY BAD asthma, so to simulate more mild asthma, take like half a big breath.  It’s still an uneasy feeling to know you can’t get a full amount of air into your lungs.

My advice to other exercising asthma sufferers: DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE the power of the warm-up.  I am an impatient person when it comes to exercise.  I want to go out and do it, get it done, feel accomplished, and move on with my day.  I want to launch into high energy activities like running and kickboxing FULL TILT.  I do not like to warm up!  But, I know that I will often start to get that uncomfortable feeling, maybe even start to wheeze a little.  It is so much better if I ease into it gradually, or if I do a warm-up for 5-10 minutes first.  Cooling down is also a good idea.

Also be aware that having asthma can make you tired during exercise.  Even if you are not actively wheezing or feel short of breath, your airways might still feel compromised and the respiratory muscles of a person with asthma have to work harder to get that air in.   Sure, I have had days where I had to cut my exercise short because of this, and felt very disappointed.  However, I have kept at it and been able to build up my cardiovascular fitness and do lots of fun exercise-y things, like a 2 hour kickboxing jam, a 60 mile bike ride, and a full marathon.

ECZEMA:

No matter what your state of eczema or how uncomfortable your skin, I am a firm believer that exercise is always good for you.  The release of stress, the increase in circulation, the psychological benefit to your self-esteem and well-being – all excellent.  It doesn’t even have to be hard exercise where you sweat, as sweat can irritate eczema.  Walking, light yoga, and weight training are all good choices that are not extremely sweaty activities.

For me, I don’t generally get too itchy DURING activity – the exercise itself is usually enough of a distraction.  But, when exercise is over, if I am really sweaty and let the sweat sit on my body (i.e., if I don’t get to shower immediately after), or have been wearing clothing tight to the body that holds the sweat in, I can start to get itchy.

However, this can be a double-edged sword.  Although theoretically I should be wearing very light, loose, minimal clothing so that the sweat won’t get trapped, sometimes I simply cannot wear shorts without feeling self-conscious, if I have rashes and am in a public place like a gym.  Tank tops are usually no problem as my arms are often okay, but my legs have been one of my worst rash sites for years.  Even when they are rash-free, I have lots of scars from scratching.  I belonged to a large gym in the past, where there were rows and rows of treadmills, and I could kind of hide away in a corner treadmill with minimal worry that people could see that I had eczema.  Here, I would run in running shorts, but as soon as I was done, I would put on athletic pants and THEN be able to walk back to the weight-lifting floor or back out of the gym feeling covered up and secure.

Another option if you want to get really sweaty and get a great workout, but don’t want to worry about feeling on display, are group fitness classes.  Depending on the gym (and this held true for the one I went to), the classes are often held in semi-darkness with dim lighting.  Also, I guarantee people aren’t checking out your skin… they’re too busy concentrating on their own moves during the class.  I would go and take a spot near the back row, bring a long sleeved tech shirt and/or pants with me, exercise in shorts, etc., and then put on the covering-up clothing before I walked out of the studio door into the bright lighting.  I’m actually considering going back to this gym – I haven’t belonged to it for months just ’cause I have had a bad bout of feeling very self conscious, eczema-wise, and also I’ve been simply exercising outside which is free.  I also want to go back to the gym as I would like to become more regular about doing yoga – I think the calming meditative aspect of it might benefit my eczema in situations where I scratch simply out of habit and/or stress.

Home exercise also must not be underestimated.  I will be frank that I get kind of lazy and unfocused if all I have is an exercise DVD.  I find it hard to get the motivation to do it, since there are always other things I could be doing around the house.  I would much rather exercise outside if I can.  But, I have been using some P90x on DVD here and there, and it is nice to be able to wear whatever I want and not have to worry about anyone seeing, since I’m in the privacy of my own home.

What are your experiences exercising with eczema and/or asthma?  Are there any activities you avoid?  What are your favorite ways to exercise?

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Five Favorite Things, Part 1

First off, I want to thank everyone in the blog-o-sphere for all the traffic, support, and nice comments as of late.  I am still sorting through all the “likes” in my inbox and checking out new blogs from people who have stopped by!

I have a lot of subjects that I want to write posts about as of late, but today’s post is just going to be kind of a random smattering of Five Favorite Things that I am loving as of late.  Things that are small but enhance my life in some way.  I intend on doing more installments of “Five Favorite Things” maybe every month.

In no particular order:

1. BAKING SODA.  baking soda I just recently discovered the tip of adding baking soda to a bath to help stop the itching of eczema.  I can’t believe I didn’t know about this before!  I’m pleased to note that since the whole aloe-rash debacle, my face has stayed reasonably presentable with maybe just a few minor dry or red patches here and there sometimes.  (I believe this is directly linked to what I eat, as I put the same products on my face every day and I don’t think it’s due to a topical contact dermatitis.  For example, I flared up a tiny bit after eating four sour-cream-and-onion chips from a friend at work, too late realizing my apparent sensitivity to things in the onion and garlic and aloe family).  However, my body, namely my legs and torso, has been very rashy and itchy.   Protopic is slowly working which is good, though.  And the Baking Soda has been excellent at helping me to not itch at bath-time!  I just add about 2 tbsp or a small handful to running water (along with some finely ground oatmeal) and it is very helpful.

2. cocoon sweater Cocoon Sweater from Target.  I love these so much that I have one in three different colors – and I might even go get more.  I am always looking for clothing that strikes the balance between being reasonably stylish yet comfy, and this fits the bill.  They are VERY soft.   They are  incredibly versatile – right now I am wearing one at work over a plain brightly colored t-shirt and a multi-strand beaded necklace and I look and feel pulled-together.  Yet, on the weekend, I can wear the same sweater over a graphic tee and with jeans and be more casual.

3. Blistex 5 star Blistex 5-Star Lip Protection.  After finding that I was sensitive to aloe and beeswax, and having had a negative reaction with shea butter as well, it was pretty darn tough to try and find a lip balm with sunscreen that had none of these ingredients.  Oh yeah, and I didn’t want anything that was flavored, either.  AND I didn’t want to shell out a lot of money for a specialty lip balm online.   Regular Chapstick does fit the bill, but it has only SPF 4.  I like to exercise outside (running and biking) frequently so I like to use more SPF for those times.  I was very pleased to find this product at my local drugstore.  It has SPF 30 and just a very faint, pleasing flavor that’s kind of vanilla-y.  It is long lasting and makes my lips feel protected in the cold!

4. Beauty Rush lip gloss In the same vein with another good product for lips – Victoria’s Secret Beauty Rush Lip Gloss.  I went through and purged all old lip glosses from other brands, because most of them have beeswax or potentially irritating ingredients like peppermint or citrus-derived ingredients.  This gloss has none of those, has a pretty mild flavor/smell, is very long lasting, and feels nice – not gloppy or sticky.  I’ve worn it for three days straight so far with no issues of irritation!

5. stash tea Stash Tea!  I like the ritual of drinking something warm, especially in the winter.  Since I pretty much gave up coffee, I have developed a deep love and appreciation for tea.  As I work at my desk right now, I have four different kinds to choose from!  But I have to say that Stash Tea is my new favorite.  I am currently enjoying trying the flavors in my Superfruits Sampler, and their Licorice Spice tea is also incredible.

 

What are some of your random little favorite things as of late that bring a bit of joy to your life?  🙂

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Waking Perpetually Tired: Scratching and Sleep

TIRED  Is being tired a lot just a normal part of adulthood and the busy frenetic lifestyle that we’ve set up for ourselves as a culture?

Is being perpetually tired an indicator that something is ‘off’ internally?

I thought about these two things when I pondered the fact that, along with the progression of my rashes and eczema, my sleep cycle seemed to have a subtle, yet pervasive deterioration.

The tough thing about it is that there are a lot of things that can make someone feel tired, and because the change in my fatigue and energy levels was not rapid nor dramatic, it’s even more difficult to think critically about what to do differently.

So bear with me as I verbally ‘think [type] out loud’ and try to make sense of it.

One COULD first blame my attempts to cut out caffeine.  There was a time when I was addicted to caffeine.  Years ago, I would actually sleep with a Diet Mt. Dew under my bed, so that I could slug it in the morning before even planting my feet on the floor to greet the day.  Then, 2 years ago, we got the magical Keurig coffee brewer as a gift, and so I started drinking one mug of coffee every morning (but as more of a morning ritual than for a wake-up call).  Caffeine, when used judiciously, is a wonderful drug.  It adds a certain ‘sparkle’ to the day, makes me friendlier and more productive, and makes me able to run or exercise faster and longer.

However, we all know it’s not good to be overcaffeinated.  It stresses out the adrenal glands and can dehydrate us.  And of course it can backfire by making us MORE tired when we become dependent on it.  Knowing that it’s something I don’t NEED, I tried to keep my use of it very minimal starting around July of this year.  This was also the time that I gave up coffee and have only had coffee a handful of times since then.

So, my system should have acclimated to minimal caffeine by now.  Let’s next look at stress and sleep level.  I would say that I get around 7-8 hours of sleep a night, trying to make it closer to 8.  Maybe this is not enough and I need to be one of those 9 hour people, but even on the days that I get 8+ hours of sleep, I still often wake up with an underlying tiredness.  Along with this tiredness comes a lack of ambition and focus.  I’m a functioning member of society, I’m able to keep my house reasonably clean, and I manage to get things done at work and school, but I used to have a whole lot more “get up and go” and not be as restless and distracted.  I trained for and completed a marathon last year, but I couldn’t imagine doing that now.  My joke is that my “get up and go”, got up and went!

I don’t have a problem GETTING to sleep.  I can usually sleep almost any time, any where (Which was one of the first things that tipped me off that something was different – I could sleep in the middle of the day, at work, at school, while watching TV at home, etc.)  My night time routine is always to read something in bed, and then I’m out within about 5-10 minutes.  I just have a problem dragging my ass out of bed in the morning and then feeling blah for the rest of the day.

Having these ‘symptoms’, along with a couple others that I’ll visit in a future blog post (I hesitate to even call them symptoms, because most adults in this country probably feel that way) gives me pause, as they are notably different from the way things ‘used to be’ for myself.

When thinking about the possibility of something being ”off” internally, my first thought goes to thyroid, as a lot of these complaints can be associated with abnormal thyroid levels.  I visited the topic of thyroid in a previous post, where the holistic doc provided me with a thyroid supplement.  I have since used up the supplement (it was about a month’s supply) and am due to see her again in about 2 weeks, but I didn’t notice any radical improvements while on it.  (The biggest improvements came from ceasing the use of anything with aloe and beeswax, but that was improvement on my face – the eczema on my body is in about the same state.)  However, in retrospect, I find it odd that she would put me on a thyroid supplement without actually having my thyroid levels tested.  So the other day, I visited my nurse practitioner and then got blood drawn at the lab to test for thyroid and other hormone levels, as I’ve not actually had these tested.  I don’t have the results yet but I’ll be eager to see them.

So now we examine my actual sleep habits themselves.  I am an extremely restless sleeper (I also have a mild case of ‘restless legs syndrome’ – I totally get the pulling/tingling feeling late at night sometimes) and have been told that I thrash around, roll back and forth rapidly, and kick in my sleep.  Not to mention itching in my sleep.  Sometimes I will be consciously woken up and be scratching incessantly at myself.  I don’t usually wake up with noticeably more damaged skin, but yesterday I woke up with a few “claw marks” on my arms where I must have been trying to scratch.  I’ve tried the whole ‘socks over hands’ thing, but they always come off.  I also keep my fingernails very short so I can’t do much damage, but the overwhelming urge to itch is almost always there at night.

Thus with that, the question is akin to “which came first – the chicken or the egg”?

Am I restless because I’m scratching?

Or am I scratching because I’m restless?

What are your thoughts on being tired?  Are your sleep habits affected by eczema or other health conditions?

 

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