Monthly Archives: January 2013

Need Opinions on Patch Testing

Good Morning Blog World!  So it’s Day 5 of the Candida Diet and I am feeling good.  I can’t express how glad I am that I did a “trial run” with the 10 days of Elimination Diet as this ‘practice’ on a restricted diet really helped curb my ‘bad food’ cravings and give me a positive outlook.  It’s not like it’s a piece of cake to do, but I’m encouraged in sticking to it as I don’t want to undo any progress that I’ve made so far.

Since it’s only Day 5, I can’t say for certain that I see a marked improvement in my skin yet.  I’m going through what I believe is a candida die-off reaction and everywhere that I’ve ever had eczema/used steroid creams has been red and dry.  I’ve been referring to myself mentally as the “Little Red Lobster”!  My face/neck are the most red (thank goodness for concealer!  it is amazing) but my skin seems like it’s getting softer, it doesn’t itch much, and I actually sleep better at night because I don’t feel so itchy.  Maybe this is also because I stopped using my face oil and face moisturizer with Vitamin E and am using just a really basic sensitive skin moisturizer with no vitamin E (Vanicream).

In a few weeks, I am supposed to have an appointment with another dermatologist for patch testing regarding topical substances (as in, this isn’t a food allergy test).  I was referred to have this done back in November when I went through finding out I was terribly allergic to topical aloe.

While I absolutely DO eventually want to have this patch testing done (there are things I *suspect* I’m sensitive to, but would like confirmation, like shea butter), I have a couple qualms about doing it around this specific time.  I don’t want to get any ‘false readings’ because my skin has been, and currently is, very sensitive.  There are many days where I feel like almost ANYTHING I put on it is bothersome, but of course I can’t go around with bare, dry skin, especially during winter as it would get so parched and flaky.  Contrast that to a few years ago when I could use a huge variety of products on it with no reaction and good results.  I also don’t really want to do it at the same time that I’m still in the beginning stages of this Candida diet, because that’s two big separate things that could affect my skin and I want to be able to monitor them each effectively.

So I’d like opinions on if I should wait to do the patch test.  I’d also like to hear your experiences with patch testing.  I’ve read a great post from The Allergista about it, but I would love to hear more experiences too!

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Candida Diet, Day 3

This is just a super quick post for now noting that I started the Candida diet over the weekend!

Phase 1 is listed as being 7 days where you eat only specific vegetables, a detox drink 2x daily, liver flush drink 1x daily, and vegetable broth.  I knew up front that I wasn’t going to do all 7 days because that’s a LONG TIME to subsist on only vegetables.  Plus I’m an active person with a relatively high metabolism and there is no way I could get all my caloric needs from vegetables for an entire week, and I ate quite clean before this already.  I was going to go as long as possible with the vegetables, (2-3 days in my estimation) and see how I felt.  The website also says that it’s okay if you only do a few days of the Detox (Stage 1) if your lifestyle doesn’t permit you to do all 7 days, it’s just that doing all 7 days may help you rid the Candida sooner.

It was TOUGH eating only vegetables for 2 days, but it honestly wasn’t as bad as I thought.   [You know you’re eating a bland diet when you view raw sauerkraut as a treat!  It actually was very good!]   I tried to eat throughout the day and I never really got crazy hunger cravings.  My cravings on Day 2 were not as bad as they were on Day 2 of the Elimination Diet, but maybe I just got used to self-deprivation!

But, by the end of Day 2 on only vegetables, I was ready for some actual food.  I was going to try and hold out one more day and make it an even 3 days.  Today I woke up and I definitely was experiencing some ‘candida die-off’ if not just sheer food deprivation symptoms.  I was weak, shaky, and felt REALLY hot – like I was burning up with a fever.  This didn’t alarm me; in fact I was glad because I felt like this cleanse was actually DOING something.  But, the thought of chewing through another plate of Brussels Sprouts and zucchini for breakfast (seriously, that’s what I had for breakfast the past 2 days) made me repulsed.  Even though I had made Kale Chips and they somewhat satisfied my need for variety, the thought of eating another whole day of vegetables was not enthralling, to say the least.  So I had eggs and noodles made only with brown rice for breakfast – much more satisfying!

So now I’m on Phase 2 and eating vegetables, certain grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc.), a few kinds of protein (eggs, seeds, chicken, turkey).  Last night my husband looked at me drinking my disgusting liver flush drink (olive oil, ginger, water – I didn’t realize ginger when raw has these little hairy fibers in it, so it was like drinking someone’s mustache, ew), shook his head sadly, and said “God bless ya for trying, honey.”  He doesn’t think this is going to work, and he has repeatedly told me that I mustn’t let eczema get my confidence down and I should just accept what I have, that “I just have to live with it”.  This is not the message I need to hear – I REFUSE to live with constant unpredictable eczema and a whole host of other symptoms that don’t make me feel like the ‘old me’ from a few years ago when I wasn’t dealing with any of this.  I will go down fighting no matter what.  I have devoted so much time and money to this and I will continue my fight if it takes me YEARS to find the answer!  Other people have figured out their triggers and I have COMPLETE FAITH that I can too.

And I do have something else to try, thanks to my friend Courtney over at her blog.  Her mention of having an allergy to Vitamin E made me realize that a lot of my personal care products have Vitamin E in them.  I’ve been using grapeseed oil (with vitamin E) on my face twice daily and although it worked great at first, now I constantly have red, rashy skin on my face and have to use huge amounts of Tarte Maracuja Oil concealer (which umm also has vitamin E) to look reasonably human.  I thought I might have an allergy/sensitivity to this when I started rashing out after using a Vitamin E cream, so I stopped using it but didn’t think to check for it in other products.  The good news is that about half of my current products DON’T have vitamin E (shampoo, bar soap, mascara, chapstick, my facial cleanser), but for the other half, I am going to eliminate ALL topical products with Vitamin E and see what happens.

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I was doing really well this past week, itch-wise.  After using steroid cream very cautiously and sparingly for just a few days on my back and legs and vowing to eat a STRICT dairy-free diet (no “cheating” and getting lazy about forgetting to find out the ingredients in things), I was looking and feeling a lot better.  Then, SOMETHING set my eczema into a tizzy yesterday, or maybe it was the day before.  I went into an “itch trance” as soon as I came home.  For those with eczema, you recognize an “itch trance” – all your ‘trouble spots’ start itching.  You itch uncontrollably.  You know it’s not good to itch, but even scratching doesn’t relieve the sensation and you just can’t stop from letting your hands wander all around, the itch traveling and your eyes glazing over as you wreak havoc on your tender skin.

Maybe I should have known something was up when the night before, I woke up with some “claw marks” on my thigh.  These marks are long, red, angry, and look almost exactly like they came from some angry wild animal, but they came from ME!  I keep my fingernails super short and cannot possibly inflict that kind of damage when awake, so I must REALLY be digging in voraciously.  My dear husband even woke up with a claw mark on his chest….sorry honey, guess I got a tad overzealous in the night and even scratched YOU instead.  So then the following evening I got really itchy, and this evening was the same story.

Rashtastic tummy

Eczema on my stomach. The rash stretches up both sides and then down into my hip area above the groin.

Warning.  Here comes a picture of eczema on the right.  My eczema, to be specific.  I had almost completely clear skin on my stomach before this “itch attack” from some unknown trigger.  It is not extreme, but it is not attractive either.

Now.  With a reaction like this, where I was pretty okay just a few days ago, I have some theories about what caused all this rash-tasticness.

THEORY 1: BEING ILL.  I’ve been recovering from a cold and bronchitis this week.  I mentioned in a previous post that my eczema always seems to get worse when I get sick.  My face got dry and red right away, but maybe my body is having a delayed reaction or there is some sort of “die-off” going on as my system rids itself of my illness, as I AM feeling a lot better than before.

THEORY 2: PROPYLENE GLYCOL.  I don’t have any confirmation of being allergic to propylene glycol, but after reading The Allergista’s blog and her own struggles with a propylene glycol allergy, plus other bloggers that have commented on her pages finding out their own allergies to it, I am not going to rule it out.  ESPECIALLY since being sick, I’ve been sucking down cold & cough medicine regularly for the last, oh, 4-5 days.  That stuff is loaded with propylene glycol.  It’s also a possibility that I may be sensitive to it, but can tolerate it in small amounts (I use mouthwash daily with no apparent problems, which also has propylene glycol).

THEORY 3: HIDDEN DAIRY.  I’ve been very diligent about not eating dairy after the repentance of a past week’s chocolate bender that left me looking and feeling quite miserable.  However, the other day I made myself some chicken noodle soup from a prepared mix and, ignorant me, did not clearly read the ingredients.  I figured, there is chicken, there are noodles, and there are vegetables – why would dairy be sneaking into a soup like this?  Went back and read the package and yes, there was some unpronounceable ingredient way down on the list that I don’t even remember that then said in parentheses “DERIVED FROM DAIRY”.  Blah.  Serves me right to be more careful next time if this was the culprit.

THEORY 4.  NUTS.  After I went off my 10 day trial with the elimination diet, I did not go hog-wild on an eating free-for-all.  I actually didn’t eat nuts for a good while afterward, just because I had gotten so used to avoiding them and I actually now enjoy eating sunflower seed butter and pumpkin seeds instead.  But then one day I tried some peanut butter again, and then made a recipe with almond milk and ate that for a few days straight, and had a Pro-Bar (which has nuts) on two different occasions.  So perhaps nuts are another trigger of mine, or maybe I can only tolerate them in small amounts and this exceeded my limit.

Even though I haven’t strictly been on the Elimination Diet since stopping it and deciding to regroup,  I’ve been eating sort of a modified version of it.  I have not been consuming caffeine, fish, any nightshade vegetables, and hardly ANY fruit.  The only fruits I’ve eaten have been cranberries and blueberries, very sparingly.  I have eaten eggs, some corn, very small amount of soy (i.e. soy lecithin in vegan chocolate), and gluten very sparingly as well.  Because the four above things are the only things that have changed just before/around the time I got this itchy flare, I strongly suspect one of them is the culprit.

Random amusing story.  I had a friend with a chronic disease as well, and one time she was laughing because her doctor wrote down that she was having a lupus “FLAIR”, not a FLARE.  So we went around all day shouting “FLAIR!” and pretending we were covered in sparkles and glitter and all things that would make someone full of FLAIR.  It’s kind of a fun, albeit ridiculous way to think about eczema and other chronic conditions that flare.  Either that or I’m high on my propylene glycol-laced cough syrup.  These are not rashes, these are my sparkles!  This is not eczema, this is rainbows and bright colors and shiny things!  So for the rest of the night, I’m just too full of FLAIR to be anything less than fabulous.   😀

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My Absolute Favorite Vegan and Allergy-Free Recipe

The following recipe is vegan, dairy-free, fish-free, corn-free, egg-free – and can easily be made wheat-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free as well.

ALLERGY-FREE ‘MAC AND CHEESE”!  (I got this from this blog a long time ago and adapted it a little to my own taste).  I make this recipe literally almost every other week – I love it!  I make half the amount since it’s just me eating it, but the full amount would be great for families or multiple people.

You will need:

yum mac and cheese (2)16 oz package of gluten-free pasta, whatever shape you like
3 cups shredded Daiya ‘cheese’ (I like to mix them if I have both on hand and use half mozzarella and half cheddar… they also make a pepperjack flavor which could be good in this, maybe adding some jalapenos or ground chipotle pepper or something if you like it hot)
3 tablespoons soy free Earth Balance (a vegan butter substitute)
3 tablespoons gluten-free flour of choice
2 cups unsweetened dairy free milk (I’ve used rice and almond)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Gluten-free bread crumbs to sprinkle on top  (You can just toast a slice or two of gluten-free bread and crumble that in your hands to make crumbs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Drain pasta and transfer to glass baking dish.  Halving the recipe will use an 8 x 8 pan, making the whole recipe will use a 9 x 13 pan.

Mix about 2/3 of cheese into pasta in baking dish, set aside.

Melt Earth Balance in small pot on medium or medium low.  Add pepper, then add flour until combined.  Stir in dairy-free milk and stir for a few minutes until everything is combined – the mixture should thicken up a little.

Pour this mixture over the pasta in the dish, mix well.  Top with the remaining cheese and sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs over the top.  Dust with paprika.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  ENJOY!

NOTES: This dish also tastes nice if you mix in garlic powder or Italian seasoning along with the first 2/3 of the cheese.

yum mac and cheese (1)

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Catching a Cold – Does it Worsen Eczema and Asthma?

Catching a coldToday, I am home sick with a cold.  My husband had it first, and although we were careful to avoid kissing or sharing the same toothpaste tube, I guess it’s the inevitable gift that keeps on giving.  I look terrible, I sound like a frog, and my lymph nodes feel like they’re the size of golf balls.  Ever the optimist, I don’t really mind this – it provides me with a legitimate excuse to stay home and get some much-needed things done!

I consider myself very fortunate – I usually only get sick about once a year.  I attribute this to my mostly plant-based and whole-food diet, consistent exercise, and general upbeat attitude.  Oh yeah, and I’m also a germaphobe who regularly sanitizes things like my cell phone and car steering wheel, as well as refusing to touch public surfaces like door handles and gas pumps without some kind of barrier like a glove or paper towel.  So I’m sure that might work in my favor.  But when I DO get sick…. oh, it’s the cold of the century.  Other people will catch a cold and have it linger annoyingly for a week, but still be able to go about their business.  My double-edged sword is that my cold will be over in 2-3 days, but will hit HARD during that time.

When I get sick, there are two other things that occur along with the general nose-blowing and coughing and sore throat and overall misery.

First, my skin gets really dry and red and irritated looking.  Mainly on my face.  Sure, the area around my nose is bound to get dry what with all the assault from using tissues constantly.  But other areas (the same ones that are subject to flare) get dry and red as well – around my eyes, my forehead, and parts of my neck.  Basically it looks like I’m having a flare/reaction to something on my face, even though it must only be due to my system fighting off the cold.  Secondly, my asthma always gets affected – even when the cold has passed and I physically feel all better – I still get a general shortness of breath; my asthma acting up DAYS after the fact.  (I’m supposed to run a race next weekend, but my asthma could well still be kicking my butt by that time!)

I’m not sure if this is just a side effect of the cold virus interacting with my various chronic maladies or what, but I’m curious if this happens to any other asthma/eczema sufferers?

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Little Tiny Victories

Over the weekend prior to this current one, I went on a chocolate bender. I ate a bit every day for a couple days straight. Bad, bad, bad. I [illogically] rationalized it to myself as, “Well, I am eliminating all temptations by eating them…then when I start the candida diet, they won’t be in the house mocking me with their chocolatey goodness.” Right. After not eating dairy in quite a while due to the elimination diet before that, I confirmed once again (as if I needed reminding) that dairy definitely seems to be one of my itchy triggers. I usually don’t have a problem resisting chocolate, but I always get a wild craving before ‘that time of the month’. Give me the chocolate and get out of my way! 😉

My forearm started itching almost IMMEDIATELY after eating a York pattie, and then by the time Monday rolled around, my legs were itched into even more of a mess and they were so dry and irritated that it literally hurt to walk. I could not stand the burning and itching and finally did something I’ve been trying to make myself do for WEEKS in order to help my skin – I took a COLD SHOWER. It was certainly uncomfortable while I was in there, but I was pleasantly surprised that as soon as I got out, I began to warm up and the itching was way down. I was also proud of myself for doing this because it was hella cold and unpleasant. I resolved that night to eat ZERO dairy onward. Zip, zilch, none. Now I already was avoiding dairy for the MOST part, but I admit that I got kind of sloppy about it. Getting my chocolate fix on every month, eating foods without reading the ingredients to know that they might have some whey or dairy by-product hidden in them, eating at restaurants without looking at the ingredients on their website beforehand, etc. Just because I was barely eating any APPARENT, VISIBLE dairy doesn’t mean that I wasn’t consuming it and that it wasn’t harming me.

I put steroid cream (mometasone) on the worst spots of my legs and back for a couple days and then weaned off of it, and so far it’s been a few days and the eczema hasn’t returned and everything is healing nicely. I really did not want to resort to the steroid cream but I figured why not give them a fresh start and let everything heal, since that stuff really works.

My back with eczema.  It's hard to take a picture of your own back so excuse the awkward angle!

My back with eczema.  Very irritated and very itchy. It’s hard to take a picture of your own back so excuse the awkward angle!

My back about a week later after using mometasone sparingly and resolving to avoid all dairy.  Healing nicely!

My back about a week later after using mometasone sparingly and resolving to avoid all dairy. Some scars, yes, but healing nicely!

Rather than beat myself up about my lack of willpower in resisting chocolate, I thought about some other positive things. It occurred to me yesterday that I completely gave up caffeine when I first started the Elimination diet on Dec. 30 and I have barely thought about it or miss it at all. This coming from a girl that used to hide soda pop under the bed to get her morning fix and used to have to stumble bleary-eyed to the coffee maker first thing in the morning before I actually felt human. I’m proud of this because it gives me the feeling that I could easily go the rest of my days without caffeine, and also gives me the encouragement that if I need to give up other things for good, that the cravings eventually go away and it becomes a simple thing to resist.

My supplies for the candida diet arrived in the mail today (probiotics, antifungals, and whatnot), so I am really eager to start. Only delay is that I have caught a slight cold this weekend so I am going to wait a few days until I am 100% better. I found an interesting post on Jennifer’s blog that spoke right to me in regards to candida, specifically the sentence:

“Addressing food sensitivities involves a bit more than just removing the offending food items.  Often, an underlying aspect of toxicity and/or leaky gut (permeable intestinal tract) or yeast (candida) accompanies allergies and food sensitivities.  These problems need to be addressed before the allergies/sensitivities will go away.  If you attempt to remove the food item only, you will likely find that you react to more and more foods without resolution of your symptoms.”

That last sentence right there really made me have an AHA!! moment.  There are a bunch of foods that I feel I “react” to, that have piled up with mounting succession and this sentence really seemed to confirm for me that the candida diet is the right thing to do.  Disclaimer: If you are reading this blog and considering trying the candida diet, please consult a medical professional.   I am not doing this diet under the supervision of a physician, but I understand the inherent risks of any restrictive diet, and I also would break the diet if my health began to suffer.  I’ve also consulted numerous physicians in the past re: my eczema (dermatologist, naturopath, holistic physician) and many things have been tried with no lasting effect, so all things considered plus the “risk factors” I had for candida (past illness/antibiotics, taking birth control) point to this being a positive step.

I was talking with my mother today and I realized not only how restrictive it is for me to go out to eat with all these ‘food fears’ and mounting concerns about foods that may or may not harm my system and skin (I am no fun at restaurants currently, let me tell you), but how closed off I am in regard to my own personal health challenges and the willingness to discuss them with others.  Besides this blog world and my husband, no one else really knows about my ongoing battle with trying to target triggers for my eczema.  They may have seen it on my face or limbs if it’s bad, but they don’t know how big a part of my life it has become in that it’s a constant “hobby” to search out more information about healing it, and I never talk about it with other people unless they bring up eczema first or if they were to ask.  My parents know I have eczema, of course, but I never talk about it with them either.  Today my mom and I spent some of the day together and we found a coupon for a local pizza place renowned for its tasty deep dish.  She said, “Here, you can go out to eat, they have great pizza!” My face fell a little and I mumbled, “Well… you know, I don’t really eat dairy.”  Ever chipper, she cheerily said, “Well, you can just tell them to not use cheese!!”  Discouraged, I said, “Um, I don’t really eat tomatoes either, they bother me as well.” A look of heartfelt concern passed over her face and she looked at me and said in the most genuinely caring way, “Oh, you poor thing”.  The love and care I felt from her in that moment was immense.  I immediately opened up to her and began telling her about the candida diet and alluding to my multiple suspected food sensitivities.  She was genuinely sympathetic, interested and eager for me to do it and see what happens.  It really made me realize that my personality trait of being so introverted and closed off is not always a good thing – this is my own mother for goodness sake, who loves me unconditionally.  Sharing these things with her really made me feel better and it’s something I’m going to try to do more often!

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Killing the Green-Eyed Monster

(For once, this is a post that’s not really about eczema at all, just something I need to get off my mind.) 

I made a friend a few years ago.  Not just ANY friend, but the kind of friend where you can talk forever, share interests, and inspire each other to be better versions of yourself.  The kind of friend where you leave your interaction with them feeling uplifted and refreshed.  This friend was really a one of a kind person.  And it’s HARD to find good quality friends these days – when social media has blunted our actual human interaction and everyone has their nose buried in technology with the excuse that they can keep in touch any time.  I really loved this friend.  I loved them like a family member.  And that’s saying something for me, as an alone-time loving introvert who has many casual friends, but barely any very close friends, and definitely not friends to which I apply the word “love”.

This friend and I shared gossip.  We bonded over similar activities.  We shared a sarcastic, self-deprecating humor and poked fun at each other.  We cracked crass jokes, laughing uproariously together at our sparkling wit.  I gave much of myself to this friend, figuratively speaking.  Maybe too much.  I gave more to this friend than they gave to me.  Never again.  I should have cut the generosity when I saw I wasn’t getting much in return.

This friend then moved many, many hours away.   Tearful goodbyes were exchanged, with promises to keep in touch and someday to visit in person.  Friend and I corresponded by email a couple times, writing lengthy emails talking about everything going on in our respective lives.  I prayed for this friend, prayed that everything would go well for them.  Prayed that maybe I could move away too and continue the friendship near them.  This friend then…began to drop off the face of the earth.  I kept reaching out, always being the first one to reach out.  After one particularly lengthy email I wrote to Friend, I went months hearing absolutely nothing.  Like walking through a snowy landscape looking for a sign of anything green and living – I heard nothing, saw nothing, and so I waited.

Then I decided to be the bigger person, dismissing the shallow thoughts of “Maybe Friend WANTED to forget about me.  Maybe Friend never liked me and all of this was an act as they had nothing better to do.  Maybe Friend saw the crazy eczema on my face and my puffy eye (at the time) in the weeks before they left and decided they didn’t want to associate with such a leper anymore”.  I reached out to Friend, requesting their address so that I could send them some well-wishes for the holiday season.  Friend responded with an overly apologetic email, saying they were so sorry for never getting back to me, and they felt bad, blah blah.  Whatever.  At this point I am getting peeved at Friend.  I don’t mind if Friend wanted to forget about me, but at least tell me the truth.  Tell me that we’ll never speak and we’ll be like hermits in our respective suburbia, never once interacting again.  Tell me that you didn’t like me, point out my flaws, and explain in excruciating detail why you want to break up this friendship.  All this is fine.  I can handle that.  I have a skin as thick as tank armor and I love being alone.  I don’t need you, Friend.  All I need is for you to be straight with me and lay bare why you refuse to communicate with me.  Friend, I don’t even understand.  I go to the lengths of sending you a holiday card (expensive, at that) with a cheerful message of times past.  And I hear nothing.  Not even a “Thank you”.  Not even a paltry text or email saying “I appreciate your card, I’m just so busy right now but I wanted to let you know that was very kind.” Nothing.

And this Friend has unknowingly created a monster.  This Friend doesn’t have time to talk to me or other friends they left behind, but they have the time to post all kinds of pictures of their new life.  Pictures of places I’d like to be.  Activities I’d like to be doing.  I content myself with my own life, counting my blessings and holding my head high with dignity.  I really don’t want to be jealous of this friend.  Jealousy is an ugly emotion, starting with a little bit of envy and morphing into a full-blown greedy obsession.  But… how I would love to be hours away in a new place, starting a new life, and having the choice to cut myself off from anyone I chose.  Moreover, I want to do great things and make this Friend jealous.  So many emotions to sort out – I loved this friend, I began to despise this friend, I grew jealous of this friend.  All I know is that if and when this Friend ever misses our friendship and reaches back out – they will get nothing more from me.

Has anyone else had experiences like this with a good friendship gone sour?

Time to Regroup

Diet1 hard for dogs

It is time to regroup and start fresh.  Thanks to the great comments on the post where I got discouraged on Day 10 of the Elimination Diet, I am armed with new knowledge to heal my skin.  I DID break the diet the other day, but only because I knew that I would be starting over.  I didn’t eat anything real crazy – some corn chips, gluten free toast, and marshmallows.  Even though days before I had been dying for a slice of pizza (and I normally try to stay away from pizza, so I don’t eat it much), I could not bring myself to permit buying a slice or two.  Just knowing how bad it is for me with the triple threat of white carbs, acidic tomatoes, and of course cheese, I could not, with good conscience, put that stuff into my body.  This is a good sign as it means I can resist other ‘bad’ foods!

So I am going to start anew with the Candida diet that Jennifer told me about.  It really makes sense to me that the different life events and happenings in the past few years are what contributed to my eczema getting gradually crazy flared out of nowhere when I never had it real bad before and can’t get it to go away regardless of trying so many things.  I have ordered everything I need, like the probiotics and antifungals, and as soon as they arrive in the mail in a few days, I will begin!

I thought that I would be discouraged that I ‘wasted’ 10 days of strictly prohibiting foods without carrying the diet completely through enough to find out anything, or even knowing for sure if I avoided everything, since the oats I was eating every day may not have been gluten-free.  Instead, I view this time as an excellent “practice” for the Candida diet.  The Candida diet at first is even stricter than eliminating all the foods I had given up.  While 7 days of only vegetables, broth, and detox drinks sounds spartan and intimidating, I know that I can do it because I already got practice in documenting every single thing I eat, adapting to new vegetables/foods/recipes, effectively resisting temptation, and tactfully explaining to people (if needed) that I am on a special diet for health reasons.  I know it is a long road to get the candida out of my system, but I’m actually very excited about it!


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Elimination Diet: Discouragement

I’m on Day 10 of the Elimination diet, eating raw kale and swiss chard (this isn’t quite as miserable as it sounds, as I like feeling virtuous from eating raw greens), and feeling quite discouraged as I have seen NO OVERALL IMPROVEMENT in my eczema.

My legs are scabbed and scratched.  I can’t stop from itching at them at night.  I have the same lovely torso and back rash that makes me thankful it isn’t bikini season yet.  My arms still get itchy.  All of this is the EXACT SAME as it was when I was happily eating gluten, corn, nuts, and other commonly allergenic niceties.

Does it normally take longer than 1-2 weeks to see improvement?  Does this mean I am ‘intolerant’ to some other kind of food?  Did I mistakenly eat something ‘bad’ for me?  Should I start all over and ONLY eat chicken, brown rice, and kale?  Should I give up?  Is it something in my environment not under my control?  Will I have a skin revelation in a few days if I wait it out and magically get better?  Does no improvement mean that I am not intolerant to corn/soy/dairy/eggs/nuts/gluten/fish?  So many unanswered questions.

Regardless, I refuse to believe that this is “something I just have to deal with”, especially when I had multiple years almost eczema-free.  I am going to stay on the diet for another 4 days (so 2 weeks in total) and see what happens.


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Elimination Diet: My Food in Pictures

Three foods that I ate for the first time, and LIKED, over the past week on the Elimination Diet:

  • Cinnamon Chex (thanks to Amanda at Celiac and Allergy Adventures for that suggestion – satisfies my need for a crunchy and flavorful snack)
  • Beet greens (Who would have thought…. they have a slightly sweet flavor and go well in a green salad)
  • Sunflower seed butter (I still prefer peanut butter, but this is a nice protein snack if you can’t have nuts).

But the granddaddy of excitement in new foods came on the second day when I discovered that I was able to make cake that was dairy free, gluten free, soy free, nut free, potato free, and egg free for this diet.  I had seen this Namaste Foods Spice Cake mix on the gluten-free shelf and was thrilled when I realized I could just substitute flax seed for the eggs in the directions.  I don’t normally even like cake, but I just wanted to have SOMETHING that said “Hey, I am treating myself”.  I put raisins in mine and I have to say it is really good.

No need for eggs - most baking recipes will adapt fine to using flax seed as a substitute.  Use 1 Tbsp flax seed to 3 Tbsp water to equal one egg.  Stir together and let it sit for a bit before adding to the recipe.

No need for eggs – most baking recipes will adapt fine to using flax seed as a substitute. Use 1 Tbsp flax seed to 3 Tbsp water to equal one egg. Stir together and let it sit for a bit before adding to the recipe.

Another “recipe” that was pretty decent and made me feel like I was eating something with some actual variety and substance was this dish of sauteed vegetables over rice pasta (I used DeBoles Rice Fettucine).

It's no restaurant food, but it was pretty flavorful and much better for you!

It’s no restaurant food, but it was pretty flavorful and much better for you!

I sauteed green pepper, yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, and marinated artichokes in some olive oil with sea salt and Italian seasoning and put this over the pasta.  Now this is the dish that I was referring to when I mentioned in my last post that I had two suspicions as to what might have made me itch.

When I was reading articles about nightshade vegetables, I only saw potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplants mentioned.  Now perhaps this is my own fault for not doing more research, but I did not realize that peppers are also included in the nightshade family.  If I am indeed sensitive to these plants, I should not be eating peppers and I did eat this dish twice over the past week.  So that’s my first suspicion.

My second suspicion is also related to the ingredients in this dish – I have also been reading that some people are sensitive to foods containing yeast/molds.  This includes baked goods (most breads), cheese, mushrooms, vinegar, and any condiments or foods with vinegar (such as pickles, mustard, green olives, mayonnaise, and ketchup – gosh, how sad would a hamburger be without these things).  Now I can’t say for certain if this is me, but I have eaten mushrooms twice and some other foods containing vinegar, like some of the Whole Foods chicken breast I eat uses it as a seasoning.  These are also all foods that I really like/crave, as if you’ve missed my incessant whining about craving pizza over the last, oh, 4 posts.  😉

Another fun way to give rice some variety on this diet and make it more palatable is to make Vegan Sushi.  Vegan sushi makings

All you need is to cook up a big batch of brown rice (I use short grain for the sushi), have some nori sheets at the ready, and have some vegetables chopped into long slivers for the filling.  In this picture I used baby Bok Choy and Radicchio.  Carrots are excellent in this too but I had given them up for the time being on said diet.

Put a nori sheet on a plate and spread a line of warm rice about 1 inch high over the bottom border of the sheet.  Lay your fillings in a line upon the center of the rice.  Roll up the nori sheet, using a little bit of water on your fingertips as you go (this helps hold it together).  Use a few drops of water to seal the nori (just get your finger wet a few times and run it over the border).  Place the nori rolls in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, then slice into sushi-sized bites with a sharp knife when you are ready to eat them.

I was also PUMPED to find a gluten free, corn free, soy free, dairy free, egg free pancake recipe.  I used this recipe to make Teff Pancakes except I modified it by using flax seed instead of eggs, rice milk + lemon juice in place of buttermilk, Earth Balance Soy Free Vegan butter in place of coconut oil, and then no molasses or bananas on top.  You’re not going to fool anyone into thinking these compare exactly to the usual gluten-filled pancake, but they have a very pleasing flavor and consistency.  The recipe author says that they have a chocolate-y flavor, which I don’t really taste, but I highly recommend trying them anyway.

Teff pancakes.

Teff pancakes.

Then putting everything together, I was able to still pack lunches for work that were varied, extremely nutritious, and generally vegan, while still adhering to all the Eliminated Foods that I  was avoiding.  Here is an example of one of my lunches:

Clockwise from center: Teff Pancakes, vegan sushi, a pear, salad with various greens, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans.

Clockwise from center: Teff Pancakes, vegan sushi, a pear, salad with various greens, dried apricots, pumpkin seeds, kidney beans.

I haven’t seen a whole lot of sites with recipes or suggestions for Elimination-Diet friendly foods, so maybe this will help someone else out there and give them some ideas!

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