Since this is a lifestyle blog – well, kind of – I believe it’s time I filled you in on the latest news from yours truly. I’m going through an intense phase. Not because it’s hot outside (for a few days at least). Not because I worked on my bachelor thesis until recently (I handed it in only last week). Not because I can’t find my lovely pair of light denim jeans. Far from it. I have a problem that’s far from skin-deep.
I suffer from a light form of neurodermatitis which is a noncontagious skin disease, a so-called atopic eczema. It often breaks out very early and many babies and children are already diagnosed with the disease. Neurodermatitis can affect the whole body or only certain areas. I’m rather lucky – I have problems mainly on the hands. At first, the skin is covered in a rash, then it becomes red, dry, parchment-like, and very sensible to water and the acids that can be found e.g. in cleaning agents and vegetables like tomatoes or citrus fruit. Often, I struggle with little wounds and my nails are affected as well. I’m not only concerned with the aesthetic aspect of this skin condition, but rather with the fact that I can’t use my hands as I would like to – typing on my laptop, cooking, cleaning, even putting on clothes can become quite a challenge. And I’m so lucky as to be only very slightly affected!
My Skin Story
In the past, I went from dermatologist to dermatologist and they gave me cortison salves that repressed the symptoms only for them to reappear even more forcefully. Doctors are still trying to find out what causes neurodermatitis – it’s very likely that it’s inherited but little is known about the initial cause. I grew up very close to nature, gardened, fed animals, and ate produce from our own wonderful garden. So no clinical environment that could have benefitted the development of an allergy. My parents experienced the same kind of childhood but are both also affected by neurodermatitis. It seems that the theory of heredity is valid. As I child, I had skin trouble on the crooks of my arms and the insides of my thighs but the rash disappeared, especially in summer when my skin was exposed to sunlight. The neurodermatitis was diagnosed when I was very young, but stopped to show in my teens and only reappeared on one finger of my right hand when I was about 18. Now, at almost 22, my right hand and parts of my left hand are affected; sometimes the neurodermatitis appears on my face, too, but thankfully only superficially (I hope to write a blog post about neurodermatitis skincare soon). After being heavily restricted by my skin when doing everyday tasks, I decided that I needed a change.
The Holistic Approach
Neurodermatitis affects each body in a different way – therefore, it’s hard to give tips that work for everyone. I stumbled across blogs promoting a change of diet and so asked my mum who conquered her neurodermatitis when she dispensed with certain foods for a longer period. She suggested that I should make an appointment with an alternative practitioner to find out what was actually wrong with my system and whether her method could work for me as well. I’m all for a holistic approach when virtually incurable diseases like neurodermatitis are concerned. Since conventional medicine is unable to cure it and no doctor seemed particularly interested in getting the total picture of my body, I hoped to find a practitioner who could help my to understand the workings of my body and deal with all the little issues that affected my skin. Skin diseases are often connected to a damaged digestive system and it seems more logical to fix the cause than to smear cortison on your skin in order to quickly cover up the effects. So I found myself a practitioner and with the help of applied kinesiology, other tests made by a microbiological institute, and my own experience we created a therapy plan. It consists of a special diet and symbiosis control with probiotics in order to restore my damaged intestinal flora. As I had already suspected, my immune system was destroyed because I lacked important bacteria in my gut. All of those discoveries matched the fact that my health had declined since November 2015; I had been ill several times and struggled with all sorts of health troubles. Now, I finally felt like the bodily cause for all this had been discovered and I was determined to make a change.
What to Eat?
It turned out that I had to cut the same foods my mum had already avoided. Many people criticise alternative healing methods and would argue that since my mum and I are different people it’s not clear whether what has helped her will help me as well. But, to be quite honest – conventional medicine couldn’t help me for more than 4 years and I have nothing to lose. For me, it’s also rather telling that my practitioner discovered that I should cut the same foods my mum stopped eating. Her hands are healthy and beautiful today. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you whether my diet plan can help you to conquer your neurodermatitis, should you be affected as well. I can’t promise that any of my tips will better your skin, but I want to suggest certain approaches that might inspire you to try this or other methods – maybe, one of them will eventually make your skin look and feel better. The diet is really healthy anyway, so if you’re looking for a detox or just an inspiration to eat healthier, read on!
After I haven’t been eating pork for almost two years now, I also had to stop eating dairy products made from cow’s milk, wheat, and raffinated white sugar.
Let’s consider: all of the foods I need to avoid are in virtually any prepared meal except for vegetables and meat. I can’t eat pizza anymore, or pasta, or cake, or sauces, or sweets; sugar and dairy can even be in products like poultry sausages! It’s incredibly hard to find anything to eat when you’re going out or just want a quick snack. Vegan places, lovely as they are, usually substitute meat with wheat which is more harmful to my skin than e.g. organic beef and chicken. I missed cake so very much. And ice cream! And pizza! And cheese, oh, cheese …
At some point I realised that I had to find ways to enjoy the food options that were still open to me. So I compiled a list with basic foods that I can eat without having to worry about my skin. I’ve already experienced an improvement – my rash is not as bad as it used to be and the skin needs less time to recover from the acute episodes of eczema. I’m currently in the 4th month of my diet and will keep you updated on the results! Recipes will follow!
The List – Food vs Neurodermatitis
- Rice Milk and Oat Milk (instead of cow’s milk)
→ nice to eat with cereal or to drink in your coffee or milkshake, sometimes problematic when cooking – they are naturally sweet and you might need to use more salt when you’re making something savoury, also they don’t have all the properties of cow’s milk which might prove problematic when baking (therefore, it’s advisable to look up vegan recipes that always substitute dairy)
- Spelt Flour (instead of wheat flour)
→ can be used exactly like ordinary flour, might only be slightly more expensive and is usually not used in fancy baked goods you can buy
- Spelt/Rye Bread, Rolls, Pasta (instead of their wheat alternatives)
→ can be found in many bakeries and organic supermarkets and taste lovely, might be more expensive but are more filling than the wheat alternatives
- Raw Cane Sugar and Agave Syrup (instead of raffinated white sugar)
→ can be found in many organic products and can be used just like ordinary sugar, taste slightly more caramelly and fruity respectively which usually adds a nice depth to the taste of whatever you’re making
- Goat’s/Sheep’s Cheese (instead of cow’s milk cheese)
→ exist as cream cheese, feta, camembert, and in slices, can be found in virtually any supermarket – don’t be afraid of the taste, it’s not as strong as you would suspect and definitely worth a try!
- Oil (instead of cream and milk)
→ many recipes rely on dairy products, but rather than trying to recreate these with soy alternatives, try to find oil-based recipes like pasta sauces and fry-ups the taste of which will note disappoint you because you won’t get a cheap copy of a dairy-based meal but rather an original, delicious taste
- Sorbets and Soy Ice Cream (instead of milk ice)
→ you can get them in organic supermarkets (often sweetened with raw cane sugar) or in special ice cream parlours than can often be found online – find one in your city before the summer has drawn to a close, sorbets are the most refreshing treat against the heat!
- Prepare your own meals. You can be sure what’s inside and it’s a much healthier option because there are no preservatives, flavour enhancers and other possible allergens.
- Cook together with loved ones. If everyone eats the same meal, you won’t be tempted to have foods that are bad for your skin.
- Get inspired on vegan websites. Many of them already specialise in organic, healthy food alternatives. You can always substitute the ingredients you can’t eat or don’t like.
- Always read the list of ingredients on foods you buy. There’s sugar and dairy in so many things where you wouldn’t suspect it!
- Remember the diet is not forever. At some point, your skin will hopefully recover and you can slowly return to other foods. It has worked for my mum!
- Embrace new foods! There’s so much to discover and your taste buds will be thankful, trust me.
Feel free to ask about my health diet and food options in the comments!
Have a lovely day and enjoy whatever you’re eating today!