ARGH!!!

It’s the itch that can never be itched- the never satisfied scratch! I seem to have gotten into the habit of waking up clawing myself : ( I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been stressed and upset/eaten the wrong things/slept in bed covers washed by something I’m allergic to or if I’m actually just allergic to myself!

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My skin would be in SERIOUS trouble right now if I had claws like this!

I’ve been trying so hard not to scratch but sometimes I do it without even thinking. The first thing I do when I wake up is scratch and then I get mad at myself for doing it.

What does everyone else do to try and stop this?

When I stay at my boyfriends I wonder if I’m allergic to his duvet, but then most of the time I’m fine.  There’s just no consistency with Eczema whatsoever.

I’m thinking the diet will help but it’s very early days.  I wonder if heat affects it- as spring is here the nights and mornings are certainly warmer.  I hate sleeping fully wrapped up.  Maybe I need to go back to being a child and sleep in gloves.  I remember my mum used to sew ribbons on so we could tie them, or I’d just wake up without the gloves.

I seem to have developed a rash all over my stomach too.  I’m trying to keep a record of everything I eat and how I feel but it’s tough.  There’s so many factors that affect Eczema.

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My stomach (although it’s pretty much all over my body right now)

After reading about people coming off steroids I really want to do this but I just can’t yet.  I’ve also read blogs of people who have quit moisturiser.  I am ADDICTED to moisturiser and can’t imagine not using it.  I’m going to try not to use it on my stomach and see if it just heals somehow.

How is everyone’s Eczema?

Love J x

Well I managed to fail my first attempt at the exclusion diet!  It was all going so well- two weeks of pure good food and I did actually notice a difference in my skin starting.

Then it all went wrong…

I think my main advice to anyone thinking of trying to adapt to a new food ‘lifestyle’ is this: BE PREPARED.

I had done a massive food shop and bought all the fruity and vegetable goodness I needed but as this ran out and I didn’t bother making food to take to work- I soon was caught with my pants down.

Trying to avoid dairy is so hard, it’s in everything.  The only way you can successfully do this is to make your own food and ALWAYS BE PREPARED.

I also think it’s vital to get support from your friends and family. My boyfriend hates vegetables but we do eat pretty healthy when we’re together, Sunday dinners are impossible- everything is soaked in butter etc!  No more Yorkshire Puddings for me now!

It’s also very tricky trying to grab food on the go unless you know you’re going somewhere that you can buy fresh food from.  There are several cafes in the city near me that offer gluten and diary free options, but they’re not always easy or cheap.

I also managed to fail a little by thinking ‘one teeny weeny piece of cheese wont harm me’, and then it becomes using milk when my dairy free milk has run out, etc etc and so forth the situation snowballs.

Snacking is also another issue, unless I took fruit/veg snacks with me to work when hunger strikes I wasn’t ready and in weaker moments I reached to the vending machine. NOOOOOO.

I’ve also been going through a bit of a tough time too, there’s a lot of emotional things going on in my life right now- friends, relationships, death.  I also had to have Lletz treatment too, which I still feel slightly shaky and emotional about.  It’s really affected me.  I lost my amazing Mummy to cancer and anything associated with that frightens me. I think we all need emotional support at times.

When I’m sad and upset I know my skin suffers, my hands are terrible again and I’m constantly scratching.  I wake up clawing myself most nights and I look tired and worn out.  I think Eczema is very emotional driven and it’s a viscous circle- your skin looks bad- this upsets you and then your diet, well being and everything else suffers and it gets worse – then you get more upset- and your skin gets worse…

I’ve restarted the ‘diet’ but I’ve decided diet is the wrong word.  It’s a lifestyle change.

I’ve printed out a list of acidic food and ‘good foods’ for me to eat and I also have this saved on my phone.

It’s tough but I want better skin and I want to know what it is that is irritating it, and if it is indeed food related. I seriously recommend reading the The Skin Cure Diet before embarking on an exclusion diet.  It opened my eyes to a lot and the link to yeast and Eczema is fascinating. I think there are so many blogs, doctors, health sites and all sorts out there it’s easy to get confused.  When I was looking into elimination diets there are so many do’s and don’ts you just have to decide what you want to do and go from there- in other words: KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Basically I wont be eating any food I’ve seen advertised!  Possibly with the exception of bottled water, it’s going to be tough but I want a better me, no scrap that I want to be me at my best…

‘Food is your best medicine’.

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Here is what my skin looks like now:

(again most pictures aren’t that great- I need to buy a macro lens for my camera.  So much for being a pro photographer hey!)

Hands

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Body

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Feet & Legs

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I have been doing a LOT of research about diets and Eczema.  There is SO much information out there, possibly too much.  It’s hard to weed out what’s relevant, but that’s why I think reading the blogs of people who have Eczema rather than some corporate-funded tosh is so important (see my blogs lists on the right for the lovely blogs I read).

Two books that I have also read are: The Body Language of Health, which only has a small section on Eczema, but it recommends removing acidic food during the exclusion and introducing other foods gradually after a full detox, which is what I plan to do.

The other was The Skin Cure.  This book is really good and offers a different approach to most exclusion diets.  It discusses yeast and Eczema and all the dietary advice really makes sense. I’d recommend this, it’s easy to read and makes a lot of sense.
I’ve also ordered The Eczema Diet, so I’ll let you know what this is like.

Before I go completely cold turkey I decided to look at my Eczema from the other approach- is it actually all a load of rubbish and what IF I eat certain foods?  Obviously I know from my reaction that I’m allergic to peanuts and most other nuts so I’m not going to be grabbing a pint and a packet of KPs any time soon, but I did give all the bad foods a go to see what happened- for research purposes OBVIOUSLY ; )

As I may have mentioned before I had severe stomach problems a few years back and had all sorts of tests. There was the usual tests for Coeliac etc, but it turned out the bacteria in my stomach wasn’t digesting food properly, I had a Helicobacter Pylori Infection and I also had IBS (there are no tests for this- it was my Doctors conclusion).  As the doctors were, as per, unhelpful I paid for several food allergy tests, basically I couldn’t be arsed with all the exclusion diets, and I was told garlic and onions and a MILLION other things were bad trigger foods.  This probably wrote off half my diet.  It’s too easy to ignore what your body is telling you, but other than doing an exclusion diet how can you ever know what is working and not working for you?

So the last few weeks I’ve indulged in all sorts of crap and lo and behold my skin, and stomach wasn’t happy.  Whenever I eat curry I always have the garlic/onion thoughts in my mind and it has brought on IBS in the past.  However in terms of my skin the worst food was Pizza!  I feel like I’ve been scratching for days since eating that bad boy and I’ve also discovered pretty much any type of sweets/candy is a no go for me, which sucks as I do like a sweet snack every now and again.  Wine Gums are the WORST! : (

My skin has got pretty bad again in the last couple of weeks so I’m ready for a clean start and to give the diet ago, after all the pain and abuse I’ve put my body through, it deserves a break!  It’s weird- my legs and arms are always tell tale signs of my diet I think, the Eczema gets all patchy and spreads, I also CAN’T. STOP. SCRATCHING.  I’ve been going through some relaly tough times in my personal life too and I think stress is really affecting me.  I want to be happy on the inside and out.

I will post some pics in the next post for you to see, my skin isn’t the worst I’ve seen and I know there are so many people out there struggling more than me, but my eczema hurts and it upsets me and I’m sick of it!

So here goes the diet!!!

In 2012 I gave up dairy for over 3 months and I did start to notice a difference to my skin, however I wasn’t that consistent and it wasn’t enough to justify giving up my Brie addiction.

However as my Eczema has got a lot worse recently I have decided that I’d rather give up something I crave for a while and have good skin than eat crap that’s making me look like I’ve been dipped in acid.  If it turns out I’m not intolerant to certain foods then I can scoff away knowing I’m not harming myself.

There’s SO many different theories, diets and suggestions for exclusion diets.  I’ve done every food intolerance test there is- most come up with bizarre, contradicting results, and GPs always dismiss it.  I did speak to a dermatologist recently who was very helpful.  I am allergic to peanuts, this was severe when I was younger.  I also had horrific reactions to colouring and certain additives and E numbers in food.  I did my best to avoid these, but perhaps now as an adult fending for myself I’m less careful about what I eat.  I ate something a few months ago that made me a little wheezy and come out in a rash, I discovered it had peanuts in it.  I was very surprised at my mild reaction and assumed I was getting immune to peanuts and my allergy was fading.  The Dermatologist I spoke to suggested that although I may be less allergic than I was I might be eating more things with peanuts in than I realise which is having an effect on my skin.  I’d never really thought about this.  It got me thinking- I don’t actually check that much and I always assume as long as I don’t eat peanuts or peanut products I’ll be OK.  She also suggested I check carefully any products I use on my skin.  I’m VERY anal about what I use on my skin and spend a lot on decent products, which I will blog about later.

It was the same GP that got me thinking about my skin in general.  This was a new doctor I’d never seen before.  After all my frustration at being sent away with stronger steroids and told to ‘get over it’ she was a breath of fresh air.  Although I did walk away with a heafty  prescription for two new steroid creams to try and antibiotics….

Anyways, she suggested that in order to see if it really is food affecting me I’d need to do a full exclusion diet.  She was VERY skeptical about food intolerance but as my Eczema has been so wildly inconsistent and weird recently I’d like to strike off food allergies as suspects once and for all!  Even if it turns out I’m ok with most foods, which I suspect I am, I’d rather know than be wondering.  The GP also told me that she thinks stress is a factor.  I’ve had quite a lot of upset recently with family and my relationship, however this is ok at the moment so hopefully that will help.  Talking to a few ladies at work they suggested work may be a stress factor.  I changed careers last year and was on a trainee scheme for a whole year in 2013, this year  I’m working on my own and not as a trainee and every day I wake up with the fear that I wont be good enough or I’ll make a mistake and not know what I’m doing.  I’d never even thought about work before!

There are many, many factors that can contribute to skin flare ups, and in my opinion what we put into our body is important.  Look at avid gym goers, models and athletes- they don’t look like they do by stuffing their faces with crap.  All the ‘celebrity diets’ are a load of rubbish.  If you want to be slim and healthy you have to eat properly and exercise.  There’s no magic pill.  In the same way I think food affects skin.  I know for a fact if I eat a bag of Wine Gums, my skin is awful.  Go figure.

There are many good books and websites on exclusion diets so I’ve started with going back to basics, as suggested in The Body Language of Health book.  I have been reading several blogs, including Scratch Me Not, which was a real interesting read. I will write up the foods in my next blog.

If you have done an exclusion diet then let me know your thoughts, if you are starting out on one then good luck! x

I have ‘suffered’ with Eczema since I was born.  It has been a curse and something only other people who have the condition can understand.  I remember being regularly hospitalised with it as a child, being bullied at school, and having it always affect what I do, eat, and wear.   I remember vividly the cruel comments, the ‘special treatment’ the looks, the words, the taunts.  Everything.  You never forget this and you learn to hide it as best you can.  Luckily I have always had amazing friends, and a very supportive family.

As a child, and a teenager, at every visit to the doctor they would reassure me ‘don’t worry – you’ll grow out of it’.  With hope and expectancy I went through my teens, and twenties clawing at my skin just waiting for this to happen.  I’m still waiting…

I think for so long I’ve just dealt with it by not dealing with it.  A couple of years ago when  it was really bad a GP said to me (after my second visit in two weeks) ‘you have to accept you have it and move on, there’s no cure’.
I remember ringing my Dad and crying desperately down the phone to him.

Eczema is recognised as a chronic illness.  It ruins people lives and inhibits what you do.  Fellow sufferers will understand the desperation and frustration at not being able to control this horrific curse.  It can make you do crazy things, and act crazy.  I’ve scratched myself until I’m bleeding and then carried on, I’ve burnt my skin on purpose hoping it will take away the itch, and I’ve allowed it to stop me take over my life, believing that there was nothing I could do to stop it.  I’ve had some really low points, had counselling, and tried every medical treatment going pretty much- from tablets to light treatment.  It just appears out of nowhere and I want to get to the bottom of it.

I think as a young person it’s so much harder to deal with- kids are cruel and your skin is harder to hide.  I did gymnastics and loved sport so I had no choice but to ‘bare all’.  I hated it.  Just growing up is hard enough without everyone starring at you and calling you a freak because you have lizard skin sometimes! I also seemed to be allergic to everything- I have to be careful how I sit on grass, be aware of anything that comes into contact with my skin and watch what I eat.  I was very healthy growing up- I couldn’t eat sweets because of the colouring and E numbers in them, and food content is a BIG factor in the condition of my skin and always will be.  My Mum always helped me with food- keeping me off cows milk and steering me away from processed foods and sweets.  She used to make me special gloves that she’d bandage onto my hands in the hope it would stop me lacerating my skin with my nails.

Very few people discuss/recognise the emotional effects of eczema.  A dermatologist I was referred to provided me with some counselling which helped a little.  I don’t think people realise what skin conditions can do to a person mentally.  We live in a perfect photo-shopped world where everyone has flawless, honey coloured skin, and what we see is usually edited so much it’s a far cry from the original.  It not only affects how you feel about yourself but impacts on friendships and relationships.  I could have the body of a Victoria Secret model and I’d still want to keep the lights off.

Eczema goes in cycles, when it’s not so bad I barely think about it, but when it flares up it’s always in my mind and I feel so low and upset.  I don’t even want to think about how much time I’ve spent feeling down about the way I look.

An ex of mine made a joke about my hands once and was absolutely mortified when I instantly burst into tears.  I think he was surprised at my reaction, because despite occasionally moaning about my skin, over the years I’ve hidden away how I feel along with hiding my skin.

I must say I am VERY fortunate compared to some people who have it.  I have been lucky not to have had it on my face, until a few weeks ago.  I think because of this it always amuses me when people find out about my condition and react with surprise ‘I didn’t know you had it!’   Of course you didn’t!!!  I hide it well.  Why do you think my hands are always up my long sleeves? or that I wear gloves (winter is both a curse for my skin and a blessing as I can get away with wearing gloves all the time).  My skin is never on show unless I’m going through a decent spell.  Of course you didn’t notice it, silly.

Someone recently said to me when I said I wanted to start an Eczema blog ‘what, so you can show everyone you’re skin?!’ this instantly got my back up.  I’m very defensive about my Eczema, the barriers go up the instant someone says anything or looks at my hands.  Years of dealing with this definitely leave scars. I get angry and I go to this awful dark angry place where I want to just hide away. It’s not about showing my skin to the world- far from it.  I’ve been hiding it for all these years why would I want to show it off?!  This is to help me, and to help others.  There is a MOUNTAIN of information out there and even more ignorance.

Before my Mum died she was always looking into ways of alleviating my condition.  She was an amazing lady and searched tirelessly for things to relive my sores and often mixed aromatherapy potions to help my skin, and most of them did!  I need to adopt her dedication into making things better for myself.

The other week my hands were itching so bad I did what I’m sure many people have done and ran the hottest water I could over them.  Once it got to the point of scolding and I could barely feel my skin I realised that enough is enough.  The doctors are NEVER going to tell me anything different.  Their job is to prescribe drugs, which I’m addicted to.  Someone suggest Homeopathy recently, but I will blog about this another time, this intro is getting way too long as it is- but it’s quite therapeutic writing about how I feel, which is after all the purpose of this blog.

I know that I am addicted to steroid cream.  It’s a fact. This is also a recognised condition (read here for more info) There are many side effects from using Steroid cream, it’s thinned my skin so bad that I bruise like a bad peach now, my hands look like I’m about 90 and they are also teeny tiny.  Steroid treatment can stunt growth,  this skin, and in my case gave me thin, spidery blood vessels and a lot of damage.  You can read more about the side effects here.

My Eczema has got progressively worse over the last few months and I feel exhausted from the up and down emotions, the pain, and frustration. I suffer from allergies and I was thinking of titling this blog ‘allergic to everything’ because I feel like I am, it gets me down and really obstructs my lifestyle. It’s so hard to keep on top of it and I think this blog with encourage me to do so and also reassure me that I’m doing everything I can to help myself.  As I’ve got older I never let Eczema get in the way of what I want to do- I’m active, I have a horse (despite being allergic to everything associated with them) and I very outgoing. It does affect some of my lifestyle choices and dietary requirements and it’s important I keep this up. I’m hoping by writing this blog it will force me to be open about my skin for the first time, encourage me to try new things, look closely at my diet, raise awareness and most of all document my condition. I’m tired of hiding it and I’m tired of moaning, because I wont simply grow out of it.