Pixy's Quest for Health
I've been eating primally for about four months now, and thought that I should keep a log to chart my progress with resolving some health issues from here on out.
My main issues are:
-poor healing/thin skin
-about 10 lbs underweight, can't gain (5'1" and 94 lbs at age 22)
-heaviness/tightness in chest
-LOUD gurgling in chest, throat and abdomen
-hair loss/texture change
-and all of the anxiety and mood swings these symptoms bring
I've had digestive issues all my life (soy-fed baby, put on anti-biotics for nearly two years when I was 3 or 4). IBS-type stuff, and it was AWFUL. I remember spending many nights during my childhood folded up like a crampy pretzel, trying anything to distract myself from the pain and bloating. This continued through college, as I ate pasta, Easy Mac, Ramen noodles and other assorted nasties without realizing that they were the cause of my distress. My acne, which I've had since age 12, flared up something awful on my chin, in extremely inflamed, painful bumps.
Last July, my symptoms began to change. I don't know if it was due to taking supplements, a week-long course of Cipro, stress, or something else, but it came on rather suddenly. I went from one end of the IBS spectrum to the other, my cramping moved to my left side and grew sharp, and I felt tired and miserable all the time. I got bloodwork done (thyroid, CBC, etc.), a pelvic ultrasound- everything was normal. I felt like I was dying and no one could figure out what was wrong. My acne started leaving pits in my face, which it rarely did before. I tried probiotics and digestive enzymes, which did nothing to help.
Around January, I noticed something odd happening- my skin became very thin, dry, and fragile. I stopped healing properly; acne would fester on my face for weeks before going away, and always left a dent behind. My eyes and mouth dried out, my tongue became thick, and my skin gained a yellow undertone. I was put on an elimination diet by a naturopath (low-fat, mostly ground turkey, greens, chickpeas, some olive oil, kim chi, buckwheat, kiwis) with HCl, both of which did nothing.
In April, my hair started falling out, and my eyelashes and eyebrows flaked away. A few different doctors told me it was stress, that it would stop in a few months, that we all lose 100 hairs per day. My hair has fallen out at a steady pace since then; I've lost between 1/3 and 1/4 of my head hair, and maybe 1/3 of my eyelashes. The texture of my hair grew coarse, wavy and dry. My energy was still shot, I had bad reflux and generally just felt like a frazzled old lady.
Eventually, I saw a naturopath who tested my thyroid:
TSH: 3.4, up from 0.95 one year prior
Free T4: 1.21 ng/dL (.82-1.77)
Free T3: 2.9 pg/mL (2.0-4.4)
TPO: 8 IU/mL (0-34)
Antithyroglobulin AB: <20 IU/mL (0-40)
She said my TSH was slightly high and free T4 slightly low, and gave me a supplement with kelp, iodine and some other stuff to try. This flared up my acne horribly, made it difficult to sleep, and when I stopped taking it I felt incredibly ill for a day.
I saw a GI doc who ordered an upper GI series that turned out completely normal. I then saw an endocrinologist who took one look at my numbers and told me that I'm fine and there's nothing she could do to help. I began feeling like a hypochondriac.
So, here I am today, trying to pick up the pieces and play Mystery Diagnosis at the same time. I'm currently seeing a pretty good doctor who is running a series of blood tests. He also ordered a salivary test that said I have high cortisol and gluten intolerance.
Cortisol results I'm trying to fix:
I'm hoping that, with more time, eating primally will help to heal these issues. I think I ate a more horrible than average SAD for about 20 years (Trix for breakfast, Corn Pops for lunch, several pints of ice cream per week, Spaghettio's for dinner for many years as a child, Ramen, cheeseburgers, fried chicken and Easy Mac in college), so I know I probably have a ways to go to fix this. I'll be using this log to fine-tune my diet and lifestyle, and hopefully will eventually share a success story, as well.
This is what I do now:
Eat 100% primal most days
Avoid gluten like the plague
Supplement with Selenium, Magnesium, Vitamin D, B12
Walk a lot
Lift heavy things at work
Try to laugh often
Use emu oil + Aczone for skin issues
Things that have changed for the better since starting:
-HDL went from 52 to 96!
-more emotionally stable
Things that haven't improved yet:
-acne? (hard to tell)
-hair loss/texture issues
-digestive issues (cramping, gurgling, heaviness in chest)
Thanks for reading!
Last edited by QuirkyPixy; 02-06-2011 at 12:11 PM.
I eat pretty much the same things every day because I like to keep things simple.
B: 2 eggs and ground beef fried in butter, berries + yogurt
L: canned salmon or sardines, chard or collards, broccoli, butter
D: lamb chop, chicken thigh with skin or ground beef with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, 1/2 medium sweet potato with butter
Occasional snack of berries in coconut milk, 99% dark chocolate, carrots, spoonful of coconut oil with coconut flakes
I also eat Yukon gold potatoes without the skin and white rice sometimes.
All stuff is organic, free-range, grass-fed, etc.
I'm going to try to diversify a bit to get a wider range of nutrients for healing. I have grass-fed beef liver, some marrow bones and oxtails in my freezer that I'll be preparing when I stop being lazy. I read that bone broths are good for the gut, and liver is good for the skin (Vitamin A), so hopefully they'll help.
I've been so wrapped up in the "woe is me" mentality due to my health issues lately that it's great to take a step back and remember what I'm grateful for, including:
-a loving family, boyfriend and friends who don't care about my unconventional eating habits
-a relatively drama-free life
-a pretty easy job
-a neurotic but adorable cat
-warm bed to sleep in
-good food to eat
-nice clean clothes to wear
-a beautiful yard- I live in a marsh with ducks, rabbits and hundreds of birds of all sorts
-plenty of good, free books at the library (picking up The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Vegetarian Myth tomorrow!)
-having a body that's becoming more kickin' each day ;D
-the internet, full of great resources such as this website that are slowly helping me get better
-the knowledge that contentment doesn't come from having a lot of cool stuff
On another note, I've been noticing that I'm really sleepy about an hour or two after breakfast. I'm wondering if I have some sort of intolerance to eggs that causes this, but it seems like it happens far too quickly after I eat to be from an intolerance. I think I'm going to skip breakfast tomorrow just to see if anything changes.
Feeling kind of down today. The hair loss and scarring are getting to me, as both are getting worse. My hair/lashes/eyebrows have been falling out for over 8 months now, and I've been eating well for 4 months now and it hasn't let up at all. I've considered that Retin-A is the cause, but stress and thyroid problems are equally likely. I e-mailed my Dr. and asked him if he could order Vitamin D, ferritin, and the full thyroid panel for me but won't hear back from him until the middle of next week. If my thyroid levels aren't any better, I'm going to ask him if I can trial some hormones. This is getting old.
Here are some pics of what I look like now, body-wise, after 4 months of primal eating. I don't really have any "before" shots because I didn't think my body would change much, considering I've been a stick all of my life no matter what I eat.
I'm still pretty much a stick, but I'm -definitely- better off than when I started eating primally; got a bit more meat on my bones in key places (*cough*bum*cough*). Most of my weight is on the bottom half, in my thighs. I hope to add some muscle to my top half to balance things out a bit, as well as fill out a bit more. Ideally, I'd like to gain about 5 pounds and see what I look like from there. Don't really have a set plan to gain those pounds yet, though!
I also tried to get some good pictures of my horrible skin...but couldn't! I'm not sure if it was the camera, the lighting, the angles or a combination, but my scars and zits were really hard to see, unlike when I look in the mirror. Or maybe I'm just a drama queen when it comes to my skin. I definitely have dozens of indented scars of all sorts all over my face, but if they are only as visible to others as they are in this picture then I'd be pretty happy. I don't wear makeup, just a slightly white zinc oxide sunscreen.
I'm sure primal eating is helping my skin, though it's hard to know how much is due to my Retin-A use and how much is due to diet. My body acne is almost entirely gone, though, and I use nothing on that, not even soap. I still get some, but it's not nearly as bad as it used to be.
I think I'm mildly hungover from one glass of whiskey on the rocks. My alcohol tolerance seems to have gone way down; not sure if that's good or bad.
Also, I really need to tweak my skin care regimen. I don't know what else I can try, considering I've tried benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, clindamycin, erythromycin, adapalene, dapsone, sulfur, zinc oxide, light therapy, and tretinoin, and none of those have cleared me in the twelve years I've had acne. I've got the genes for super-sensitive Irish skin from my dad's side, apparently, because my skin seems to freak out with about 90% of the products I try. BUT I can't just leave it alone, or my pores will all clog and my face will be a flaky, inflamed mess within days. Also, taking antibiotics or Accutane while dealing with these health issues would be suicide.
I really wish that primal eating could clear my acne. I'm convinced that my skin is a reflection of my health, and that I shouldn't have to beat it into submission with several different chemicals just to appear like a normal human being.
I -have- cleared once in the past few years. Last year, I spent a week in Arizona with my boyfriend's family, eating whatever I damn well pleased (junk food, wooo), washing with a mild cleanser and moisturizing with coconut oil. My skin was mostly clear by the week's end, but started breaking out almost immediately upon our return. So is the acne caused by diet?
I know stress affects my skin, possibly more than anything else aside from topicals that don't agree with it and certain foods like ice cream. My acne stresses me out, and my stress causes acne. It's kind of hilarious. I need to find a way to break the cycle soon, because it's exacerbating the more serious health issues. Having excess cortisol floating around is horrible for healing, from what I've read.
I guess finding a good exercise routine would help. I find most exercises horribly boring, though, and it's getting too cold to spend as much time walking outside as I'd like to. I might pick up capoeira again just to get myself moving.
Last edited by QuirkyPixy; 11-29-2010 at 09:28 AM.
Hi Pixy. I've been dealing with acne for the past 10+ years - the scars, the spots, the anxiety & depression. I tried everything! Some things would work for a while others would just make it multiply. The doctors, the dermatologists, the endless amount of products, drugs and escalating dept ulitmately took me nowhere.. When I stumbled upon this site and Marks book everything began to change... My diet was tweaked & I began looking for a more holistic approach to my health, wellbeing and acne situation.
I started seeing a naturopath who finally told me something my other doctors denied ademently - internal health dictates external health. I went through food sensitivity testing, stress reduction proceedures & supplementation for what he called 'dry heat' in my body. It turned out I was sensitive to multiple things I ate on an almost daily basis for the past 10 yrs (apples, turkey, dairy, barley, oats, gluten, corn...) I was also told to stay away from sugar, honey, tropical fruits, spicy foods & generally heating foods - I was told to stick to cooling foods - salads, fruit, water, water, water, coconut oil, nuts, he also said that meat products were fine as they tested fine for me...
I began searching for more natural products for my face, hair and body. Here is my current regimine for my face: I use Nutrogena's beauty bar (see through orange bars - I cut in 4 so it lasts longer) If I have lots of makeup on I lather and rinse twice. After that sometimes I will use a microdermabrasion paste (derma-E) then I will mix 1/8c or so of Epsom salts with water to disolve & use a facecloth to pat over face - I do this until the mixture is gone & rinse. After my rinse I sprtze my entire face with Colloidial Silver, let it dry - I repeat this 1 or 2 more times; once dry I continue with moisturiser (tried coconut oil but only helped for a week or so - boo) I use Derma E (c-ester restructuring) I like all of the products I've tried from them (except the cleansers and the clear skin line) The Tea Tree and E moisturiser is my #2 pick.
I don't know if any of the above will do you any good but I really hope you find what helps for you. Ultimately my advice comes down to this; keep it as natural as possible, don't be afraid to steer away from the conventional if it is not working for you and believe that it will get better.
I wish you all the best!
Hi Pixy! Your journal is a good read so far.
I totally sympathize with your skin problems. I have had cystic acne since my teen years (and I am now in my mid-30's). Funny enough, I am of Irish heritage too. My skin gets very red, painful, flaky, with many pimples. I have tried everything under the sun, including everything you listed, except light therapy. I have also done a round of Accutane. Nothing worked, and it is all so toxic. Especially the long-term antibiotics and the Accutane.
The ONLY thing that I have had any success with is coconut oil cleansing. i have completely given up on all skin cleansers, medications, topical treatments, etc. All I do is, once a day, massage a mixture (about 2/3 coconut oil, 1/3 castor oil) into my skin, gently steam with a warm washcloth, and gently wipe away the oil. If my skin feels dry after I finish, I rub a tiny dollop more of coconut oil on it. I am going to add a little vitamin E into the coconut oil for awhile too and see what happens.
Unless I am completely stressed out, which makes me break out a little, my skin is smooth, soft, white instead of red, and so much less painful and irritated. My acne scars also seem to be healing a bit, and the red spots left after a zit goes away also are fading faster. This has been almost miraculous for me - I had a terrible breakout a few weeks ago, as I was adjusting to being primal, and having some lady-hormone issues, and the breakout has cleared beautifully, instead of dragging on for months like they usually do.
Here is the website where I learned about the oil cleanse instead of the traditional method of stripping your skin with cleansers, which actually makes it worse. She recommends using olive oil, but I have had MUCH better results with coconut oil. The saturated fats in it are very anti-inflammatory and healing. Olive oil, not so much.
One more thing: sometimes if my skin is feeling rough or I just want to smooth it out before putting on makeup for a special occasion or something, I make a little scrub of oil and salt. The salt softens out any rough patches and also kills bacteria. Just wipe it off with a warm washcloth, same as a regular oil mixture.
Anyway, my two cents. I know the agony of lifelong serious acne, and I just wanted to share this simple thing that has finally worked for me.
@ flash and jazmin: Thank you both so much for sharing your experiences with acne. It's always nice to hear from people who've overcome their long-term acne issues without something like Accutane; gives me hope that I can, too! I will look into the products and treatments you recommended.
flash, believing that it will get better has always been the hardest part for me, considering the scars are building up and I've had so many failures with topicals. Thank you for reminding me of how important it is to stay positive!
jazmin, my cleanser contains oils already, but I like the idea of using coconut oil! Your skin sounds veeeery similar to mine, so it might work well for me. So have you cleared from using the oil cleansing method? And did you have blackheads/comedonal acne as well? I get every single type of acne imaginable, (along with every type of acne scarring imaginable; thanks for the genes, dad!) so it's been challenging finding something that addresses all the different types at once.
Got some test results back from my doc:
ESR: 16 (0-20)
Lyme Antibody AB: negative
Gliadin Antibodies (IgG, IgA): negative (but saliva IgA was positive. huh?)
So I'm not struggling with some nasty autoimmune condition, it seems. Good news!
I asked the doctor to order Vitamin D, ferritin, TSH, free t3 and t4, reverse t3 and thyroid antibodies tests. He ordered the D, TSH, and free t3/t4, ordered the ferritin but said he's "not sure what we're looking for there" (I want to make sure low ferritin isn't causing my hair loss), and said that the Reverse T3 and antibodies tests aren't useful because you can get better or worse clinically regardless of those numbers. I'll be going to get these all done on Thursday or Friday, I think.
I hope he'll be willing to let me try thyroid hormones based on my symptoms, as everything seems to point to a thyroid problem...right now, I just want my hair back and my skin to heal properly again. It'd be nice if my gurgling/cramping stopped as well; kinda sick of sounding like a coffee percolator all the time.
Forgot to mention: went to H-mart (the Walmart of asian grocery stores) for the first time today, and holy crap, I'm in love. I picked up some Okinawan sweet potatoes (beautiful deep purple in the middle), quail eggs (adorable), two pounds of beef knuckle bones for stew (way cheaper than at Whole Foods), and a skate wing. The seafood section is freakin' amazing; every sort of fish and shellfish I'd ever want to eat, whole, cut and cleaned, fresh, frozen; the number of options totally overwhelmed me. They also had fun stuff like frog legs, rabbit, pig feet and gallons of cow blood in the freezer. I'm going to have to make a trip back there soon.
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