I’ve always had bouts of atopic dermatitis (eczema) since I was in my early 20’s. I would get patches of rashes on my legs and sometimes elbows. I would call it the “Winter’s Itch” because I always started in the winter months and then would clear up by April or May usually with little intervention. There were a few times where I would have to visit my Primary Care doctor or a Dermatologist to get a steroidal cream to help the healing and to avoid any type of skin infection like cellulitis. For the most part it was manageable and I just assumed it was a part of my genetics that I would get it every winter.
Then, in February of 2016, everything changed in my life. I had just lost my 82-year-old grandmother who I had lived with most of my life. I was there by her bedside as she died of kidney failure; the experience of watching someone die is no easy task. The moments haunt you as you realize how utterly resilient the human body is; how it fights for it’s very last breaths, but also how vulnerable it is to disease, infections and sudden death. Although this was a sad experience it was one I was grateful for as I go to show my grandmother my love in her last moments. A month later I would experience another loss, but this one was unexpected.
I got a call the morning of February 17th; my mother had been found dead in her bed. Due to Sudden Cardiac death. My mother had many health problems such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Most of these, I would categorize as lifestyle diseases, partly due to a low socioeconomic status as a single mother for most of her life, working in shoe shops in a small rural town in Maine. Although she had all these health issues, I never thought of her as dying so suddenly. She was the primary caretaker for my grandmother and lived with her since I was 14. My mother had now lost her purpose, taking care of my grandmother and I believe it broker her heart, literally.
I was shocked – might be the best word to explain it at the time, in a state of disbelief and sorrow. I couldn’t sleep, focus at work or home. I was becoming withdrawn and angry. As an introvert, I would replay my life repeatedly in my head. Did I show my mom I loved her enough? Did she know I cared and missed her even though life would get in the way and I wouldn’t call or visit for weeks or months at a time? Did she know how excited I was to have her be at my wedding that would be later that June? Did she know how grateful I was that she always accepted me, even when I wanted to wear a suit and tie as a 7-year-old at my first-grade school pictures? Did she know how proud I was to have her as a mother? These were the questions that plagued my mind.
Outwardly, I started to experience severe cases of eczema. My arms and legs were getting very red and irritated patches that would ooze and bleed. I started to google what I could do to naturally stop the itching and started to use some coconut oil and other non-steroidal treatments. Nothing was working. I felt this was systemic. The stress of my mother and my inability to talk about it was eating me from the inside out so I decided to meet with my Naturopath that I had been working with to optimize my health. We started by looking to see if I had Leaky Gut (increased intestinal permeability) and ran a series of blood tests and allergy tests. Leaky gut, if you don’t know, is when lipids and proteins from what you eat pass through the gut lining. The body believes it is being attacked due to these foreign bodies and it cause systemic inflammation. I had moderate permeability. What was more concerning is how my IgE food allergy test came back. I was showing moderate to high reactions to 32 foods that I was commonly eating. Through working with my practitioner this was more evident of poor gut health as everything I was eating was passing through my gut lining.
I immediately cut out the 32 trigger foods and began to start repairing my gut by using collagen hydrolysate and homemade bone broth from pastured chicken bones and grass-fed beef bones. My symptoms were not going away immediately as I had hoped and I began having eczema breakouts on my hands and fingers that were causing very itchy and painful bouts that usually happened at night. I was still not sleeping and now on top of it I was embarrassed by how my hands looked! I was 1 month away from getting married to my beautiful wife, how was I supposed to take pictures when I was breaking out everywhere in oozy blisters?! This of course raised my stress even more and I became more and more discouraged. What could be causing all these issues?
What I realized is, it was stress. Stress was causing my body to be dysregulated. My food sensitivity test, blood tests were all coming back that I had systemic inflammation. I needed to calm the stress and repair my gut, big time. I researched different diets that would support repairing my gut. For about 4 months I tried the Autoimmune Protocol diet or AIP for short. This diet cut out any possible food sensitivities such as eggs, wheat, gluten, dairy, legumes and nuts. My diet consisted of lots of vegetables, fruits, collagen and bone broth and healthy fats like coconut oil. I started to feel a bit better and was noticing the eczema on my legs and arms was going away. What continued to persist was the oozy blisters on my hands.
I went back to my Naturopath and we decided to do another round of testing that I read about from Dr. Russel Jaffe. These 8 biomarker tests would give me a good sense of what was working and not working in my body. There was one test that I was looking forward to getting and that was the LRA by ELISA/ACT test. This was another type of food sensitivity test that looked for delayed reactions to foods, delays that could happen 1-2 days after consumed. This test came back and said I had a very high sensitivity to Orange, Tea and D & C Orange #5 and moderate reactions to Baker’s Yeast, Bananas, Chocolate (I KNOW, THE WORST!), FD&C Blue #1, Red #40 and Vinyl Chloride. Wow, what was so interesting about this is that nothing from my IgE test came back as a reaction anymore. Did that mean I was no longer sensitive to the foods I loved, like eggs and nuts?
Knowing this I removed all the LRA test foods I reacted to and started to slowly, one at a time, add back in the other foods I had removed from the IgE test. First, orange or orange peel is in EVERYTHING. I mean, it was in my lotion, in my hand soap and in my organic cleaning supplies. Who knew?! Orange peel is an incredibly effective organic cleaner – which is great except my hands didn’t like it. I removed all these products and stopped drinking tea and eating chocolate which was a daily event for me. I also upped my intake of Collagen Hydrolysate and started to drink Bone Broth Protein. This coupled with a few other suggestions from my provider like increasing my Omega 3 intake and adding in a B-50 Complex. Within 2 weeks my hands started to clear up. I was seeing my body start to heal itself. For the next two months, I would be symptom free, no more eczema.
It’s now been 5 months and during that time I’ve only experienced a few breakouts which I correlated back to either yeast exposure (also in everything like chicken broth from a store) or orange exposure. I find myself having to ask when we do go out to eat if orange is in whatever is being cooked. You would be surprised how much of this citrus is in everything. Now, I can eat dairy, nuts and eggs again with no reactions and it has greatly improved what I can and cannot eat. I also notice I am less bloated and gassy. I also have a clear mind and am sleeping better. My quality of life has greatly improved and this was due to getting to the root of my problem. I knew that topical steroids would work and did work to clear up my reactions for a small time but I needed to know what was causing this systemic inflammation that was appearing on my body. What could I be doing to clear it up from the inside out? I found my answers and continue to experiment with optimal living – you can heal your own body! Be well!
Co-Founder of Kinsey Academy