Saturday, July 05, 2008

I found a way to beat my eczema

I never did make myself start the UltraSimple Diet that I mentioned two posts ago. It requires quite a bit of planning and discipline... more effort that I've been willing to give. My primary reason for wanting to start this cleanse diet isn't for weight control, it's to find out exactly what I might be allergic to.

I've had eczema for as long as I can remember. It's been an itchy, life-long battle, and one I've never come close to winning... until now! One of the ideas behind this period of dietary restriction is that some foods cause mild allergies that manifest in the form of a delayed reaction. For some it's asthma, for others it's sinus congestion, for me it's eczema, mostly on my hands.

What I did instead was to cut out some of the food items listed as possible allergens for many people. What I found out was I'm allergic to wheat, milk and possibly chocolate. I was really hoping wheat wouldn't be a problem for me, because it's in so many foods that I love. Unfortunately this wasn't the case. For a week I refrained from eating bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, pizza, and cereal containing wheat. The irritating rash on my hands gradually began to clear up!

I was both thrilled and dismayed at the same time. I had some lasagna one day, and the next two days new itchy blisters appeared on my hands. No more wheat for me. I was sad, but at least now I know one of my problems!

After banning wheat from my diet, I would sometimes experience new rash breakouts... meaning there were one or more other items I might be allergic to. A friend had brought over a gallon of milk and I had been having that for breakfast with my corn-based cereal. (I normally drink soy milk.) I stopped using the milk and my eczema again began to clear. Yogurt and cheese don't seem to be as big a problem for me as milk, but I still have to be careful about my dairy intake.

Why couldn't it have been peanuts? That's easy to avoid. I wouldn't have been quite so affected if it had been something not quite so ubiquitous as wheat and dairy. It makes it increasingly difficult to be a vegetarian.

As for chocolate, I have suspicions about it. I've been abstaining for a couple weeks now, so I'll have myself a dark chocolate candy bar soon and see if anything happens a few days afterward.

If you'd like to try this strategy of identifing possible allergens in your diet, be sure to carefully read ingredient lists on the foods you buy. Also, research what foods are wheat-based that might be called something else. For example, cous-cous, grahm crackers, and semolina are all made from wheat. When you do start cutting foods from your diet, give at least a week to see results. Patience is key. Good luck!