It’s Friday, everyone! And that means another Primal Blueprint Real Life Story from a Mark’s Daily Apple reader. If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these each Friday as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
Like many others who’ve jumped on the Paleo/Primal eating concept, I didn’t quite start following the regimen for weight loss. My issues stemmed from the life halting condition (which I believe to be an autoimmune condition) rosacea. For those who aren’t familiar with the condition, rosacea is an inflammatory skin disease known to have an effect on facial flushing and redness. In my case, it got to be pretty bad. Now to most people, including family and friends, this wasn’t such a big deal. So I had a bit of redness going on in my face… so what? Everyone flushes from time to time. But for me, it was an incredibly life halting experience that, for the time I had it, completely derailed my entire life.
I’ll hereby state that my condition was, in all likelihood, entirely inflicted by me. In my senior year of high school, I got swept away in the idea of gaining weight, building muscle and power-lifting. I made the jump all the way from 140 up to 180. I “beefed” or “bulked” up as some of my friends referred to it, but in all honesty, I was just getting fat. None of it was lean muscle. I don’t recall where my train of thought was at the time, but some foreign instinct told me to keep eating. Bad idea. At one point or another, I stopped caring about ‘what’ I was eating and was just shoving food in my mouth every two to three hours to “preserve muscle.” I was far too swept away in my own world of “Broscience” to listen to anyone else’s nutritional advice. But I still ate my whole grains and stayed hydrated, so I was being healthy, right? It’s ironic that the whole wheat/low-fat, FDA heart healthy diet is the one that eventually did me in. Over the course of a year, it hit.
Let it be clear. I absolutely HATE these pictures, but I’m sharing them with everyone because I don’t want to hide the truth of how bad it was. Look up a definition of “inflammation” in the dictionary, and you might find these pictures. If I can come back from this, I feel anybody can, especially those with a mild case.
Yeah, it was bad… So as it became worse, I checked in with my dermatologist and doctor. The provided diagnosis was always, “You have dry skin, apply this cream,” and “Your skin is too oily, use this harsh chemical on your face.” Over time, I just became fed up with it. None of the creams worked. Some of them masked the symptoms to some degree, while others made them ten times worse. I wasn’t getting anywhere and this had me frustrated and about ready to give up. Self-loathing started to creep in. I was afraid to look in the mirror some days. I declined certain social events based on the status of my skin. I couldn’t look at someone and have a conversation without contemplating what my skin looked like from his or her perspective. My once robust self-confidence had been gut-shot. I became reclusive and shy. Every time I went into the sun I got sunburned. I was told there was absolutely no cure for rosacea and I’d have it forever. I was going to have to live with this embarrassing inflammation for the rest of my life.
Then I started noticing something. Every time I ate, it caused a flair up, or at least some type of small reaction with my rosacea. It became a habit of mine to routinely check how my skin reacted to certain foods. Any processed foods, foods that came in a box, or something with 3,000 ingredients – flare up. Bread, flare up. Dairy, flare up. Vegetable oils, flare up.
Slowly I began eliminating things from my diet. I kept this up for the better part of a year. My skin was getting better, but I was still nowhere near coaxing it back to its pre-rosacea state. I’d eat the same exact foods everyday as a precaution to not set off my rosacea. I literally ate nothing but lean turkey, sweet potatoes, and olive oil for almost half a year! I couldn’t live like this, but I had to find something that worked. I was getting closer to the root of the problem, but this wasn’t sustainable, nor a healthy way to live.
I was at the end of my road. Eventually I found out about gluten intolerance and paleo eating, or what I refer to now as just, “Eating food that is nourishing to my body, opposed to destroying it.” I’ll make the grand statement right here: Adapting to a high-fat/lower carbohydrate, paleo way of eating has pretty much, if not entirely, cured me of my rosacea. Why? Even after curing it, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why rosacea comes on, but I believe, like most diseases, it starts within the gut. I think my particular case was a mixture of immune system problems, intestinal permeability, poor nutrient absorption, and SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth). Rosacea is just a sign of a deeper problem within the GI tract that needs to be corrected. Thankfully, the body is always trying to heal itself and when you take out the crap, you allow it to do so.
Here I stand today. In an attempt to be truthful to you guys, I haven’t added any “filters” or fancy Photoshop tricks to make my skin look better or cover any blemishes. (Except the last one. That one has a filter. For better or worse, this is my skin in its natural, flawed sort of-HD glory!
So goodbye rosacea and autoimmunity! I won’t miss you! Truthfully, this article stands as a final farewell to my condition. I’m done obsessing over my skin the way I have the past three to four years. My skin is never going to be perfect, but I need to stop thinking I can make it perfect. I’m ready to start embracing and enjoying my life again! I’m ready to tackle any opportunity that comes at me, and with rosacea, I felt I could not do this. I read a thread the other day on a separate rosacea forum entitled, “What would your life have been like had you not been diagnosed with rosacea.” What people posted was genuinely tragic and upsetting to me. People declining job opportunities, living housebound sheltered lives and ignoring intimacy, marriage, and children just because of this stupid condition. This thread was so heartbreaking to me; I felt I had to share my success story with others in the hope that I could help other people. As exciting as it is to share individual success, my biggest hope is that it reaches someone and saves them from the same trap I fell into. With that said, I’m done obsessing over the status of my skin and letting it control my life. Even with my condition in total remission, I’m still hung up on what my skin looks like on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes I want to tell myself, “Dude, relax. You’ve put it behind you! Now move forward and don’t look back!” So I’m doing that. Once again, goodbye rosacea! ☺
Additionally here are some tips or steps to follow for those who are dealing with rosacea. This is how I healed my body. I’m not going to tell you to avoid hot baths, saunas, hot weather, cold weather, spicy foods (unless you’re nightshade sensitive), etc… the typical rosacea recommendations. I don’t feel those things should play into it.
- The Paleo Mom’s Autoimmune Protocol – I’m a really big fan of The Paleo Mom’s site and all she does. If I ever feel as if I’m having inflammation issues, I always have The Autoimmune Protocol to fall back on and it keeps all those issues at bay.
- Eliminate Gluten, Grains & Legumes Entirely (This is a Biggie) – Never cheat with gluten. Ever! Your body will heal when you eliminate gluten, but will continue to relapse if you cheat with it from time to time. There’s no moderation here, just take it out. Every time you eat it, you’re setting yourself back and opening yourself up to a host of food allergies. Gluten is the gateway food allergy. I truly think any food intolerance I’ve ever had (dairy, nightshades, nuts) originally stemmed from gluten. Most people find that without gluten for an extended period of time, their food allergies heal. Gluten can take anywhere from a few weeks to two years to leave the system. Its effects on the gut can be devastating. When attending social events, don’t let anyone persuade you to, “just have a little.” Without gluten and grains, I’ve become free from auto-immunity at last. I’m not going to let someone who has no concern over my condition set me back and ruin the progress I’ve made in my health. Also, look out for gluten cross reactors (for me, corn is one). Have I made it clear that I absolutely hate gluten?! Good.
- Eliminate Dairy – At least for a while. I’ve tried reintroducing it with grass-fed butter and the like, but it’s hard to tell if it’s giving me gut problems or not. I don’t get flare ups immediately anymore so its effects are hard to pinpoint. I was diagnosed with lactose intolerance as a kid, so maybe that factors into it? I think the casein gives me problems too. Absolutely avoid low-fat dairy. It’s gross anyway.
- Eliminate Vegetable Oils
- Be Mindful of Your O3:O6 Ratio – I eat a lot of oily fish, mostly salmon and sardines. I haven’t tried supplementation yet, but I might incorporate cod liver oil at some point. Especially with the cold weather rolling in. Also, more red meat like beef and lamb. I tend to eat pork and chicken too, but just not as much as the former due to O6.
- Try and Eat Grass Fed
- Eat More Saturated Fat and More Fat in General! – Saturated fats regulate the immune system. Fat is my highest macronutrient, sometimes getting anywhere from 60-80% of my calories from it. In the case of SIBO, you have to starve off the bad bacteria in your small intestine. Adopting a high-fat/low-carb diet disallows the sugars to reach the bad bacteria crowding the small intestine.
- Bone Broth!
- L-Glutamine – Best source is food, but the supplemental powder form is good for intestinal health and can help repair the damage done. L-glutamine cured my “post-meal flush” that many people with rosacea experience.
- Try Gaps and SCD (Specific Carbohydrates Diet) – A lot of people with rosacea have carbohydrate intolerance. This might have to do with SIBO, pancreatic issues, and insulin. I’m honestly not sure why we have such a problem with carbs. God knows I used to eat a lot of sugar on SAD (Standard American Diet). Starch like sweet potatoes are very healing to the gut, but not particularly your best option of choice when it comes to SIBO. I really love all vegetables and most fruits (blueberries, bananas, pears, cantaloupe), and I tend to limit my fruit anywhere from 0-2 pieces a day. Usually on the weekends I’ll eat some carbs in the form of sugar. I tolerate most paleo baked goods, but avoid stuff like agave nectar. Most days I’m in ketosis, but every once in a while I’ll do the paleo cookies, cakes, etc… Just make sure they’re higher in fat for SIBO.
- Stack Up On Veggies (Low FODMAP if Your SIBO Issues Are Bad) – Really go for nutrient density here. I always eat my veggies with fat for maximum absorption.
- Probiotics – The only probiotics I’ve experimented with are Bubbies Sauerkraut. Be careful with probiotics in the case of SIBO, as there are particular strains you might want to avoid that could make it worse. Soil based probiotics like Prescript-Assist Broad Spectrum seem like the best choice.
- HCL – Work on stomach acid. You need more of it, not less. So wean yourself off the PPI/acid reducers if you’re on them. HCL, apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut. Don’t restrict yourself from sea salt.
- Sleep and Stress – I used to think these weren’t so important. VERY wrong. There’s a definite connection between the gut and stress and how much sleep you’re getting.
- Don’t Scrub Your Skin Like it’s the Bathroom Floor – The best thing I ever did for my skin was to just leave it alone! Excessive exfoliating and washing only messes with your natural oil production and confuses your skin. The only thing I ever use on my skin is water and natural soaps.
- Exercise – I used to do a lot of power-lifting, sometimes lifting six or several days a week. Key word: moderation. Don’t fry your central nervous system working out vigorously every single day of the week. Take the time to rest, sleep, and make sure your cortisol is well regulated. Excessive exercise and chronic cardio is a recipe for disaster. The attitude in fitness and bodybuilding nowadays is, “Push, Push, Push!!!” and “Work and train like a madman!” No. I’ve gotten better results with just keeping my diet in check and getting better sleep then I ever did spending hours in the gym.
- Intermittent Fasting – Just don’t be constantly grazing on food or snacking spontaneously throughout the day. Fast every once in a while. Every so often, don’t worry about it. I usually eat three meals and a snack a day. Some days I just say, “Forget it,” and eat when I’m hungry. Nevertheless, stop the six to seven small meals a day advice.
- Get Some Sun – Maybe it’s not the best to step into the sun if you’re very flared up, but we need vitamin D. Stop eating all the above-mentioned foods and you won’t get sunburned every time you expose yourself to the sun.
- Finacea Gel – This is the only rosacea pharmaceutical product I can endorse. I do think it helps to some extent, but only by masking the symptoms. It’s not a cure and it’s certainly not enough to take your rosacea into remission. I use it, but if I had to choose between diet or medicinal cream, without hesitation, diet and gut health is vitally more important.
Basically, anything that’s good for your digestive and gut health is good for your rosacea!