Category Archives: Food and Diet

TSW’s Bonus? Shedding Food Fears!

Before I found out about TSW and started the process, I was going crazy trying to chase down the trigger for this ever-worsening, spreading rashy “eczema” that I had.  Before focusing on food, I tried a lot of other things.  Some of them were good ideas; some of them were pretty ridiculous:

  • Changing or eliminating most of my facial and body products
  • Changing my laundry detergent
  • Drinking only bottled, distilled water (as I thought maybe something from the city tap water was to blame)
  • Selling my car (because it was old and had an A/C leak and I thought maybe toxic emissions were leaking into the cabin and giving me a rash)
  • Filing an anonymous OSHA claim with my workplace, thinking that I worked in one of those “sick” office buildings
  • I thought about getting a water filter for the shower but I never got around to it
  • Wearing zero jewelry as I thought maybe I had suddenly developed a severe nickel allergy that oddly would have spread all over my body
  • I drank diluted vinegar 2x daily since I read this could help (it was gross)
  • I went to a homeopath and took a remedy that seemed to make things worse
  • I went to a holistic doctor and spent a bunch of money on multiple appointments and special supplements that seemed to really do nothing

Looking back, these are clearly the frantic scramblings of someone that had NO idea what was going on with her suddenly-haywire skin….but someone that was absolutely desperate to find out.  Then we get into the list of all the food-type things I tried:

  • I went on the elimination diet and then, when that didn’t seem to do anything, the Candida diet.
  •  I considered trying the Paleo diet and the GAPS diet but thankfully I discovered TSW before I had to do any more diet stuff.
  • I was even considering going on this crazy “few foods” diet where you only eat chicken, rice, pears, and a few other foods.  How miserable would THAT be?!?
  • I gave up so many things in succession, or simultaneously, feeling that they were somehow linked to my skin’s condition – coffee, tea, sugar, chocolate, dairy, wheat, eggs, fish, meat, nightshade vegetables, bananas, foods that are moderately related to latex, nuts, corn, soy, citrus, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and there’s probably some things I missed.

Needless to say, being on these diets or avoiding all these foods was HARD.  Even though I didn’t give up ALL those foods at once, there were times when I was avoiding MANY, MANY foods.  The constant reading of ingredients, the not being able to eat in restaurants, the sheer planning that had to be involved in making and packing food, and so on.  It truly made me empathize with anyone who has to be on a restricted diet or give up foods for life.  I lost weight and I didn’t need to lose weight.  I was constantly crabby and deprived.  I felt like food ruled my life and I was afraid of eating anything, even though I did still eat.  My husband got frustrated and fed up with what seemed like a never-ending chase.  I wasn’t fun anymore because I was so obsessed with food.  I never went out with friends because I didn’t want to have to explain why I couldn’t eat anything.  I felt hopeless and futile and like I had developed weird food allergies that I would never be able to figure out.  (You can click on the “Food and Diet” subject link on my blog and read about all the past things there!)

Then TSW entered my life, and I finally had a name and a description for this wackiness that my skin appeared to be possessed with.  And as I entered and moved through it, along with moving through divorce proceedings, I was too weary to obsess about food any longer.  I had been on the Candida diet, but finally – I no longer cared, and I gave up.  There’s only so much one can take.  I went back to comfort foods with gluten and sugar and corn.  I ate food that my mom had made that was full of nightshade vegetables.  I sat alone in my bed and munched chips with garlic and onion.  I drank diet pop and tea and coffee here and there.  I got really daring one day and stuffed myself with pizza and cheese bread to see if anything would happen, since I thought dairy and tomato sauce were my nemesis.

And you know what?  Ever since I started going through TSW, I haven’t been able to truly link a single food to the condition of my skin.  All those theories I had about dairy and citrus and chocolate and bananas making things worse – I really don’t know if that’s the case, because I’ve eaten all of these foods without noticeable incident since TSW began.  And this makes sense, because a few years ago, before my skin started acting up, I could eat anything at all with no apparent reaction.  So it just didn’t make sense that suddenly, in adulthood, I would have developed all these food sensitivities, and it’s an absolute relief to know that in all likelihood, I probably have NO food sensitivities.  This also supports the mindset that it really doesn’t matter what you eat in TSW – sure, many people feel better about themselves when they eat “clean”, and I’m all for doing that, but if I’m itchy and restless and I want some pizza or chips on occasion, I’m going to indulge that, since – in the grand scheme of things – it isn’t going to affect how long my healing takes.

This past week when I was out of town in another state, I ate pretty crappy, as I am wont to do when I am “on vacation” and not near my beloved raw kale and carrots.  But I reveled in being able to eat whatever I wanted, because 4 months ago, entering a restaurant would have struck me with trepidation and self-consciousness.  I had greasy foods like fish and chips, a dish at an Asian restaurant that probably contained just about every big food allergen known to man (shrimp, gluten, nuts, eggs, and soy), and there was even one night that a friend kept buying me rum and Diet Cokes.  Alcohol used to ruin my skin – I would wake up with my face all red and dry, so I really hadn’t had any amount of alcohol in YEARS.  I was afraid to!  So this was another test.  And guess what?  I woke up the next day no worse for wear.  Yes, I did flare on my week away – namely on my limbs and groin area – but I attribute this more to just being away from home and not in my usual environment.  If these things were truly making me react, I feel that I would have more of a “whole body” reaction, and the parts of me that are mostly “healed” – my stomach, hands, neck, and face – did not really have any sort of flare.  Since I’ve been back at home, my skin has been going through the normal process of recovering from a flare – clearing up, redness fading, cuts and scabs healing, the whole deal, so this really was just another flare in the whole grand cycle of things, and not base d on what I put in my mouth.

So I really have to thank TSW for setting me free from the apprehension of food and drink.  Another positive to focus on with this burden we TSW’ers have been given!

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Three Terrible Trials

This is a quick update on the progress of my skin and life in general over the past few weeks.  I’m an optimistic person, so I’m not sitting at my computer downcast crying salty tears into the keyboard and messing up all the internal electronics, but things have not been easy.  Here are the three trials I have been dealing with:

1. POSSIBILITY OF TOPICAL STEROID ADDICTION, aka red skin syndrome (RSS). 

Multiple helpful bloggers have commented on my blog that my history and current rash/dermatitis sounds awfully like it is RSS.  I had read about RSS before, but was reluctant to believe that I could have it, as I didn’t have any of the symptoms like stabbing pain, uncontrollable itching, burning, weeping, oozing, etc.  I also had never used steroids long-term, but did use them sparingly over the course of a couple years.  However, what I DID and DO have is a rash that would not clear up, spread insidiously, and for the most part is ONLY in the places where I’ve ever used steroids.  And, I also CANNOT link it to anything concrete like diet, environment, etc., even though I’ve been trying for a good year or more.  Oh yeah, and it always came back worse after I used steroids, even though it would take 7-10 days.  The very last time that I used steroids (and the last time I intend on ever using them) was a few weeks ago when my face flared up like crazy along with having a cold and then bronchitis.  Now I know that the crazy rashtastic rash on my body, and my face, was probably a rebound reaction after using steroids.

The past 2-3 weeks or so have been hell for my skin, especially my face.  I’ve wanted to use steroids so bad, but I know that I’m taking steps toward healing by not using them.  All last week and the week before, the skin on my face was ridiculously dry and red, and around my eyes would become so tight that I would be very uncomfortable as the day progressed.  I’m happy to note that I appear to be entering a healing phase and look/feel much more normal.  I’ve left so many flakes of skin in the bed and all over the house, but when it peels off, the skin underneath is closer to being healed.  I’m certainly not totally healed (my hands and elbow creases are wrecked, for example… did I use steroids on these areas in the past?  you bet), but I’m confident in my body’s ability to heal, given time.    I’m also hoping that because I did not use steroids long term, the healing phase from them will be quick and maybe I can look reasonably clear-skinned again in a few months by summer.

2. CANDIDA DIET

Yes, I’m still on the candida diet, albeit a slightly looser version.  I still have not had any caffeine, soy, dairy, gluten, or… hmm, I am probably forgetting something else.  Today is day 18 and I’ve mostly gotten over the sugar cravings and feeling of deprivation.  I have entered the stage where I completely feel as though I could adopt this diet for life if need be.  I started to ‘cheat’ a bit a few days here and there (nothing big – I had a few foods with minimal added sugar, like sunflower seed butter, Rice Chex, and organic chicken sausage), but it didn’t seem to affect me.  I also started eating some corn, i.e. corn chips and Corn Chex, as well as beans (which you are not supposed to introduce until stage 3 when you see noticeable improvement).  So my current approach is the Mostly-Candida-Diet.  I’m honestly afraid to have something outright sugary like a dessert, as I feel like it would cause havoc.  However, if I really do have RSS/topical steroid addiction, diet may not play a big role in what bothers my skin.  I guess the Candida Diet isn’t that terrible of a trial, but in the throes of a food craving, it isn’t very fun.

3. RELATIONSHIP TURMOIL.

I wrote about this in a previous post – the current strain on my relationship with my husband.   So even though we’ve talked and discussed and been respectful of each other’s feelings, my husband is truly, totally convinced that we need to separate/divorce and that “I’ll thank him later”.  WTF?!?  Does he picture that I’m going to rush up to him a year from now and be like, “Oh, thank you, thank you!  You broke my heart, I’m so grateful for that!?”  I’ve written him a lot of angry/sad/spiteful emails to him over the past few days as I just don’t understand his reasoning behind wanting to leave someone that has been a devoted and loving companion for the past TEN YEARS (we started dating when I was 17! and have been married for almost 3 years), even though he insists that he’ll always love and care about me and that we can still be friends.   One of his most hurtful and selfish statements was that he wanted to separate so he can start fresh and have a family, and that he wanted to spend time being single.  So basically this implies, “I want children, just not with YOU” and “I want to run around and not be committed to anyone”.  I’m not the biggest child-wanting person, but I was absolutely willing to sacrifice and compromise so we could have a family together.  The threat of knowing he wants to leave me makes me want that even more strongly – I don’t want to be set adrift alone in the world and have to find someone else to love.  I’m not here to rant about my husband, or someday ex-husband (ugh, I hate writing/seeing that phrase, it seems so sad – imagining me being a divorcee’ at the tender age of 26 😦 ), but this, as you can imagine, has been a huge source of stress and turmoil.  It’s particularly awkward as we still live in the same house, but I don’t even want to talk to him as it’s the same repeated thing, he’s convinced we’ll be better off.  I can’t move out yet because I’m still going to school, but if things get really bad, I’ll move back in with my parents.  I still pray that it could work out, and I believe it could.  He is absolutely convinced otherwise.  I’m not going to cling to a sinking ship, so I just have been praying for God’s guidance and peace and hoping whatever’s out there in my future will more than make up for all the anguish so far.

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Candida Diet, Day 10: Is This Right For Me?

As of today, I am on the 10th day of the Candida Diet.  I started the Probiotics last week, and 7 days later (last night) I started taking 2 antifungals (oil of oregano and caprylic acid).  Heavy doubt is starting to be cast into my mind if this Candida diet was the right thing to do.   Clearly, if it in fact IS Candida, I didn’t develop it overnight, and it’s not going to clear overnight – I understand this.  I also know that I need to give the antifungals a chance since I just started taking them.  So, I know it’s only been 10 days, but here are some reasons:

  • My skin has not gotten any better, and in fact has gotten markedly worse.  For example, before I started the diet, I was able to wear short sleeves with little problem – my arms were quite free from eczema.  Now I have huge rashes in the crease of each elbow, rashes on my wrists, and tiny rashes scattered on my forearms and tricep area.  There is a rash stretching around my neck like two angry red hands grabbed me in a violent strangling attempt (maybe I’ll post pictures later).  I look like a domestic violence victim, which is probably why people at work were giving my neck weird looks.  The rashes on my legs are as persistent as ever, and the rash on my stomach and hipbone area (the one that I posted a picture of here) seems permanently here to stay.  I don’t know if this is just horrible die-off reaction and I was riddled with Candida and this is a good sign, or what.  I refuse to use steroids because there is also the thought in my mind that this is a ‘rebound’ reaction to having previously used steroids, or even a mild case of topical steroid withdrawal.
  • I am losing weight, and I don’t NEED to lose weight.  I feel completely awkward and weird saying this, since many people struggle with their weight, but at 5’9″ and being down to 130, my husband is starting to complain that I look “too thin” and “not healthy”.  I have an athletic build and normally hover more around 135 to 140.   The average model is 5’10” and 115 pounds, which is unbelievably thin, and inconceivable that someone like me would still be “too heavy” to walk the runway, rashes or not (Shaking my head at American media and their unrealistic ideas of beauty).
  • Speaking of my husband, this diet is putting a strain on our marriage (a separate post on this to come later).  My husband has expressed dozens of times that “this diet is stupid”, complains that my restrictive eating habits are affecting him as well (since I can’t eat anything from restaurants), and oh yes, constantly tells me that “I need to eat something”.  He also thinks that I’m not consuming enough fat which is drying out my skin.  Although I HAVE been eating foods with good fats like olive oil, plain grilled salmon, and pumpkin seeds, there could be something to this statement, I’m not sure.   His statements frankly hurt my feelings and provoked me to willingly cheat on the diet last night – the first time I’ve broken it – trying to find the highest-fat, vegan food I could locate in our cupboard, which happened to be a jar of natural peanut butter.  Three huge spoonfuls never tasted so good, but now I’m back on track.  I was worried I might react to it, but I didn’t seem to wake up any worse.
  • I am starting to crave foods that I never even craved before.  This diet allows no sugar (except stevia as a natural sweetener).  I’ve had a mad hankering for cupcakes the past few days, and I don’t even normally LIKE cake.  I feel like when I go off this diet, I’ll turn into a binge-eating monster, which also is not healthy.  I’m hungry a lot of the time, and even though I am trying to pack in as many calories as I can, they are all coming from gluten-free grains, vegetables, and proteins like seeds, chicken, and salmon – I may well not be getting enough.

I DID have the miscellaneous thought that maybe I am allergic/sensitive to eggs, as I have been eating them almost every day on this diet.  However, I did a ‘trial run’ weeks earlier where I abstained from eggs for a while, then ate about 6 in a 24 hour span, and saw no ill effects.

Basically, I feel very trapped.  I’ve been praying for a sign that I’m doing the right thing, and I haven’t seen one yet, LOL.  I’m scared that if I go off the diet and start to eat the “forbidden” foods again, my skin could go absolutely haywire.

But, because it’s important to see the positives in things, here are the good things about the Candida diet.

  • I’ve developed an appreciation for gluten-free grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, and buckwheat.
  • I’ve developed an insane sense of self-control when it comes to food.

If anyone out there has further experience with the candida diet, please weigh in!  Am I likely to get better if I keep sticking it out??

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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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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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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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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.

DISCOURAGED!  😦

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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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