i’m finally writing this entry because my skin has shown me signs that all the things i tried previously didn’t actually prevent another flare up. my skin did improve slowly over the past few months after i adopted the changes, but the fact that my skin still flares only means one thing – i haven’t reach the actual cause of my eczema yet. also, my hypothesis that my flare was caused by leaky gut syndrome is ruled out.
that’s the only conclusion i can make right now – i have not found the cure to my underlying eczema. which means, this flare is actually an eczematic flare. it’s just a conclusion i’m even more sure of right now. some of you have suggested it may be TSW, some thinks it’s eczema. i think it’s eczema, even though it look so much like TSW. but that’s the thing isn’t it, the symptoms of TSW and eczema are sometimes so similar, it’s hard to differentiate.
a summary of the things i’ve tried in the past 5 months.
1. water fasting for 6 days
2. gluten free diet
3. leaky gut supplements
4. auto immune protocol (paleo plus a few more excluded food)
5. essential oils
*6. turmeric powder (i forgot to write about this previously)
i’d like to keep this entry short, so i’m just writing the main observations i made during these period.
0. traditional chinese medicine (TCM)
i know things are getting bad when my rashes didn’t go away within a week, and it showed signs of spreading. quickly went back to the physician i used to see in month 20, hoping to see the same success i did back then.
sadly it didn’t really help to tame the flare. i was on the medication for 2 months, my skin was healing too slowly unlike the previous time.
at that time i thought this is a sign for me to try something else this time. so i stopped seeing the doctor and embarked on the weird things i tried below.
am i desperate? hell yea!!!
1. water fasting for 6 days
i fasted for 6 days hoping to get my body into healing mode. i’ve read a lot about how the body switches on to its repairing mode once you take digestion out of the picture.
i did notice my flare subsiding a little about 5 days into the fast, but fasting was only a temporary way to get the body healing. while i did experience a reduction in my inflammation, fasting for prolonged periods is not practical for me. what if my skin takes months to heal? i can’t possibly fast for months!
as soon as i reintroduced food back into the system, the inflammation increased. so expected.
books i read:
1. Clean (Enhanced Edition): The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body’s Natural Ability to Heal Itself by Alejandro Junger
this is where i learnt the body’s innate ability to heal if we stop working the digestions so much. i’ve been practicing intermittent fasting for a while, and part of the reason is because i want to ensure my digestion gets enough rest.
2.Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program For Conquering Disease by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
i’ve seen positive and negative reviews for this book, some call the author quack, but it’s a good reference for a fasting noob like me. plus i was just fasting for 6 days, i know i won’t die.
3. The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health by Shelley Redford Young
as you can see i’m reading basically anything related to health. i didn’t have a clear idea of what i need to deal with. detoxing seems to be the first guess because the only reason why my skin will purge must be due to an accumulation of “toxins” within me. when i say toxins, it can be anything that go against good health. not to be mistaken with the scientific definition of toxins.
2. gluten free diet (it’s the atkin’s diet)
i’ve fallen off the atkin’s bandwagon since a year ago. i started eating bread and cakes again since my skin was good :X the moment my skin started flaring, i cut them out again. after the diet, i returned to a strict atkin’s diet.
things to take note of is perhaps the loss of digestive ability after the fast, so i only started eating proteins a week or so later i broke my fast.
i didn’t feel any positive nor negative impacts from the gluten free diet. my skin continued to flare during the coming few weeks.
since atkin’s and paleo are pretty much similar to me, i read up on it as well. NOT TO LOSE WEIGHT, just so you know. i was more interested in how diet can affect the immune system and overall health.
books i read:
1. New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great. by Eric C. Westman
not much science from my memory but lots of recipe and food ideas. it was really awesome reading them when i was fasting. not that i felt hungry (i read this book during the fast), but the lack of food suddenly made me appreciate food much more than i ever did.
2. The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf
i quite like this book because it did go into the scientific nitty gritty which i love. things better make scientific sense if they weren’t what’s taught to me in school. it helps me accept new ideas better if they were logical.
3. The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat by Loren Cordain
the front part was particularly useful to me as the author highlighted diet and autoimmune disease. obviously the bulk of the book was about weight loss, so it may be useful if you want to control your weight.
4. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter
this book was recommended to me, AND IT’S MY ULTIMATE FAVOURITE OUT OF ALL. all that science, the research, I LOVE IT. and this is also why i’m not going back to wheat or sugar even after i fix my body – i want my brain to be in tip top condition even as i die. i love my consciousness too much to lose it to dementia.
5. Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis, MD
it was on the suggested list on amazon when i was looking at grain brain. it had pretty good reviews, and since i’m on the no-wheat bandwagon, might as well digest this book as well. this book focuses on the weight aspect of a wheat based diet, WHICH I ABSOLUTELY LIKE TOO. it’s not just about weight, it also shows you why wheat may lead to metabolic diseases (diabetes, high cholesterol levels, obesity, cardiovascular diseases). just more reasons for me to avoid gluten (and sugar) if i want to maintain good health even as i age.
6. Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics and Shady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health by Denise Minger
i can’t actually remember if i finished this book, because it was repeating a lot of stuff that i already read from the previous book. i should revisit this book soon. it’s definitely fringing on the whole conspiracy theory thing. surprisingly, i can’t disagree. sometimes i don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing to have so much distrust for the entire economy. it feeds us, yet it breeds a whole list of unnecessary problems that requires more resources to fix.
7. Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health by Gary Taubes
this has got to be the hardest book i’ve ever read. i catch myself drifting away every few lines, so i have to re-read almost every sentence just to understand what the author is saying. i thought my comprehension skill was bad, but i can understand other books just fine! maybe it’s not me 😛 i actually finished the entire book because the title led me to believe i’ll find the answer to “what’s a better calorie”. i end up growing a whole new view on the agriculture industry, how politics and a capitalistic-motivated-self-interest can do so much harm to the general public. shame on you, millionaires without a conscience. and kellogg’s (and all other junk food industry), i’m boycotting you for misleading people into thinking your junk is healthy. probably an awesome book in converting you into someone who’s more mindful about what you put in your mouth: do you really need to eat it, or do you simply want to eat it because of the ads?
3. leaky gut supplements
about 3 weeks into my flare, i’ve already finished reading most of the books above (and a few more, but i forgot what were they). i read any books i can find on diet and health. then i came across this particular book.
The Immune System Recovery Plan: A Doctor’s 4-Step Program to Treat Autoimmune Disease by Susan Blum
the book covers the science and link between autoimmune diseases and leaky gut. i love the case studies in particular. i find the self diagnosis quite useful, even though i was sitting on the fence for many of the questions. sadly, the plan and required dosage was pretty much all over the place. i had a hard time compiling what i need before ordering my supplements.
i’m willing to try EVERYTHING to get to the bottom of my eczema. this book talks about leaky gut being the cause of all autoimmune disease, which really makes sense to me. of course, after trying it out, i found out it’s just a piece of the bigger puzzle within my body.
on top of a restriction diet, i’ve been on the supplements for 3+ months. changes were slow, and i do not know if it’s actually the supplements that helped my skin improve slowly over the past few months. it may or may not be them.
foods that’re restricted:
dairy, eggs, soy, wheat
a list of supplements FYI:
1. anti candida pills (only for the first few weeks)
2. L glutamine
5. fish oils
6. omega 3 oils
7. digestive enzymes
8. vitamin D (i added this on my own 1+ month ago)
the only thing i actually noticed was a very direct impact on my sleep after introducing vitamin D into my supplements. that night after i started vitamin D, my sleep became regular (around 11pm to 7am). but after a month, my sleep has shifted again.
other book i read during this time:
1. Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink Ph.d.
this is a fun read. i thought if i understood why we eat more than we think, i can do something about my voracious appetite. sometimes i feel like i’m eating more than what my body can handle.
4. auto immune protocol (AIP)
the AIP is a modified paleo diet. since i’m already on a restricted diet, i don’t see anydifficulty in avoiding just a few more food items. i read about this from thepaleomom.
1. nightshade plants (potato, tomato, egg plant, bell peppers)
(please refer to the website for the entire list of food exclusions, i only listed out those that mattered to me)
it was harder than i thought at first to adjust to the new diet because tomatoes are in a lot of my meals. i was doing this together with the leaky gut support. over the next 3 months my skin continued to improve slowly with small cycles of red/itchy/dry skin to normal looking skin. can’t be sure if my healing is due to the diet or supplements.
book i read:
The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Bodyby Sarah Ballantyne
also the author of thepaleomom blog! i didn’t finish the entire book because the book is rather disorganized. the sheer amount of information in there is astounding.
5. essential oils
i forgot how i come across essential oils and eczema. i chanced upon it, saw some good testimony by people who tried it. after considering for a bit, i decided to try it out as well since i found affordable oils. also, if it doesn’t work, the oils can be used for other purposes too, so nothing is wasted.
i used a blend of jojoba oil, lavender oil, and tea tree oil.
prior to this, i haven’t been moisturizing for almost a year. i thought – fuck it, since my skin is bad even after i went no-moisturizer, i’ll give this a try.
lavender oil is said to have anti inflammatory properties, so i though it’d be a good oil to start with. the tea tree oil is there for its anti-bacterial properties.
the oils did make my skin appear much better before they hid the dry skin. coincidentally, my skin was calmer during those few weeks, even though it continued to go through the healing cycles.
thinking back, sugar may have aggravated my skin because the day after i ate out with my family (sugar is used in savory food too), i started feeling itchy despite using the essential oils. could be coincidence.
6. turmeric powder
one of my skin friends suggested i try turmeric powder. i’ve read about curcumin’s anti inflammatory powers previously.. since turmeric powder is a staple in the indian cuisine, and singapore is a multi-racial community, i can get turmeric powder dirt cheap to try.
no harm, right?
i’ve tried it for about a month or so? can’t tell if it works, because the first 2 weeks my skin felt better, and then the subsequent 2 weeks, my skin got into another cycle.
esther told me to add a dash of black pepper as it increases the curcumin absorption. apparently a small amount of black pepper will increase absorption by 2000%???
my recipe is as follow:
1L of water
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder (like a tiny mountain)
and i shook my black pepper container twice
i let the water boil before adding the powders.
then i let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
despite all the above efforts, my skin still flared 2 weeks ago (coincidentally, i had a home made dessert packed with sugar the morning before my flare, courtesy of my dad with a sweet tooth). i’ve been sugar free since the beginning of my flare 5 months ago. who knows, perhaps the avoidance of sugar improved my skin!? i can’t be sure which variable contributed to my gradual improvement (up till the latest flare that is).
i was lost for a bit, because i’ve tried all i know and yet, my skin flared (when i say flare, it means a huge deviation from my usual healing process). i won’t lie, i felt discouraged initially when my skin flared. all my efforts did not prevent a flare.
but after thinking it through, a negative result is perhaps the best result i can get. how do i prove that the above method works? if my skin stayed cleared for life? but what if my skin stayed clear not because of the methods, instead it stayed clear for some other reasons unknown to me?
if my skin did stay clear, the best i can say is “the above methods might have healed my skin”, because i can’t be sure they (and not some other unknown variables) actually healed my skin. getting a negative result tells me straight away that the above methods is not the answer to the root of MY eczema (who knows, it may work for you?). also, i may probably have to stay on such a restricted diet for life, which doesn’t make sense to me because i was alright eating all those foods just a year ago (eating them did not lead to a flare within a few months)!
in the name of a scientific experiment, both the positive and negative results are meaningful. a positive result just means i can’t rule out the possibility of my hypothesis being correct. a negative result is more clear cut, because it tells me my hypothesis is wrong.
i hypothesized my eczema flare to be caused by either a gluten intolerance, or leaky gut syndrome. now that i know my hypothesis is wrong, I CAN MOVE ON AND TRY NEW THINGS!!!
i’m full of hope right now. and i want to share my hope with all of you.
the next thing i’m experimenting with is TCM. it’s different from the previous time because now i make sure i know what the physician plans to do. i want to tailor my own treatment with the guidance of a practitioner.
i’ve came one big round back to TCM because the above results have told me i’m not treating the actual cause.
i’m not trying to convince anyone that TCM is the answer for everyone. it’s something i’m going to try in the coming months, and i’m pretty hopeful i’m on the right track this time round.
and it also sort of explains why my skin was good the past year. previously i didn’t credit TCM for my healing because i still had small little cycles during the treatment (plus, i simply can’t conclude that it must be the TCM that healed my skin based on the reasons i proposed above!). looking back, the months of rebalancing my health might have given me the resistance to all the external stimulus (food, environment, or emotions) in the past year. i only realize this after reading more about eczema from the TCM perspective.
things don’t happen over night, it’s often an accumulation of assaults that lead to an imbalance in the internal environment. in other words, when i’m weak, any thing can trigger a flare.
then, why didn’t the medication work in those 2 months? because the physician gave me really mild drugs that seek to heal my skin in the long run instead of taming the flare right there and then. i guess the doctor wanted me to heal slowly and peacefully over time instead of an overly aggressive treatment that may further disrupt the balance in my body? i’ll just assume the best 🙂 finding a doctor who can deliver to my expectations is really important. i guess it means i’m on my way to finding that right doctor for me.
since my latest flare 2 weeks ago, i’ve visited other physicians for a different opinion. this time i went prepared – i did my research and asked appropriate questions to understand the treatment they’re giving me.
there’s always hope out there. in fact, i’ve known since young that in the TCM perspective, skin issues (even psoriasis and eczema, which are said to be incurable in the realms of allopathic medicine) can be cured. CURED! NOT JUST MANAGED.
but to cure it, you have to nail it at its roots. often times, the path to finding that underlying cause is tumultuous. but an experienced doctor who bothers to treat the cause instead of the symptoms can help you reach the destination faster. of course, there will be some lifestyle adjustments that need to be made. but hey, health isn’t something that should be taken for granted – especially for me who’s genetically predisposed to have eczema. it just means i have to work harder than a normal person to stay healthy.
and yea, there are also a shit load of TCM practitioners who only treat the symptoms. what if finding that doctor is even harder than finding the real cause of my almost-life-long skin issues?
that’s why i’ve been reading so much on TCM. i have to help myself because no one cares about your own welfare more so than yourself. ok i take that back. my parents care a lot about me, but it’s always best to rely on ourselves than on others. but you can rely on me when it comes to sharing what i know, and my experience 🙂 getting myself equipped with the relevant knowledge means i reduce the risk of being screwed over again.
i guess all these flares are just signs to tell me to start looking for the suitable solution for myself. taking things into my own hands feels good.
i can be sick, poor, devastated, discouraged, but i can’t be hopeless, because hope gives me the energy and drive to turn things around. it’s the piece of carrot i dangle in front of my eyes to keep me going.
and if i keep going, the tough will get going one day too.
spreading some love and hope to anyone who needs it.
let me know if you all would like a detailed account of all the methods i tried above. i might have to write individual entries for some because of the amount of information i have.