Friday, January 31, 2014

Enough already

After several weeks of progressively bad eczema, I caved about a week ago and have been using hydrocortisone to tame my skin. We took baby Simon in for his first check-up and I got to talking with my doctor who offered to write me a prescription. It's a low concentration which I've been applying once at bedtime (thin layer). It's crazy how well - and quickly - this stuff works. It's certainly not a long-term solution in any way, but I admit it's helping me battle the post-partum-winter-coldness-baby-to-care-for situation in which I currently find myself.

My sense is, without the cortisone use and despite the diet considerations, my eczema would still be progressing before healing. I'm still experiencing the odd touch of itchiness, maybe once a day (which is actually not too bad). Anyhow, I'll give the cortisone a rest for the next week or so and we'll see how things develop over that time. Fingers crossed.

Below is a chronological account of the eczema on cortisone. Again, apologies for the bad photography!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Riding the histamine roller coaster

I'm now seven weeks post-partum. Since my last post, I've continued my low-histamine eating approach, even taking it up a notch (thanks to The Low Histamine Chef). In that time (about two weeks), I've been riding the histamine (and corresponding emotional) roller coaster. I thought I was on the road to healing about a week ago, only for my hand to take another turn on me. My theory in that case - you see, it's constant analysis - was that canned coconut milk I'd been adding to my morning smoothie was the culprit.

In any case, here's a quick summary of what I'm doing to combat the histamine with a few observations, followed by a snapshot of my current diet...

  • I've added a bunch of anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory foods into my diet, such as garlic*, onion, ginger**, fresh herbs, and spirulina.
  • I've reduced my intake of meat (a bit, I'm only so strong).
  • I've cut out coffee (was having up to one cup).
  • On my husband's suggestion, I'm taking one diamine oxidase supplement with breakfast and another with dinner. This is a temporary measure to help boost me out of this symptom-filled, post-natal stage.
  • I've been using two main products on my skin - pure emu oil (Wax!t) and bum balm (Bare Organics). I like both of these products for soothing and moisturizing, plus they're both Canadian companies. For what it's worth, my skin seems to drink up the emu oil faster.
  • I'm trying with all my might not to pick at my skin, especially during this current stage where it can be very flaky if I haven't applied one of the above within at least an hour or so.
  • I've been entertaining some non-paleo foods to my diet, including white potatoes, white rice, peanut butter, and I even picked up some plain oatmeal earlier this week. I've done this for a few reasons: 
    • I feel like there's not much I can eat right now, so this is a bit of a consolation.
    • These foods don't appear to bother me in any way.
    • It's my diet and I can add if I want to (*to be read in the tune of "It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To"*)
This regime seems to be helping and the eczema seems to be retreating slowly. The tough part is accepting the two steps forward, one step back nature.

*Holy moses, I love garlic. If I'm to be truthful here, I've really just been too lazy to use it in earnest. I admit to having those little jars of pre-minced garlic abandoned in the back of my fridge in the past. But wow, garlic adds delicious flavour to pretty much any meal - I now find myself making self-flattering eating noises throughout dinner (mmm-mmmm).

**Ginger was a favourite of my grandmother and will always remind me of her :-) 

So here's what my diet looks like these past several weeks...

I've been on a smoothie kick of late, possibly because I picked up some plant-based protein powder at Costco recently and I like it. The smoothie has evolved a bit over time, leaning more on the greens and ultimately eliminating the fruit (started with 1/2 banana and a few blueberries). I also, as referenced above, stopped the coconut milk. It currently includes:
Mmm, delicious green sludge.
  • Unsweetened almond milk
  • Chia seeds
  • Spirulina
  • Almond or peanut butter
  • Lots of frozen kale
  • Protein powder (about half a scoop of this stuff:

I've been loading up on greens (excluding spinach, of course). Inspired - once again - by my mom, I've given salads another chance. You see, I love condiments. And I love salad dressings. So it's with a certain sadness that I resort to salad greens + onion + olive oil + S&P. With a few freshly hard boiled eggs and butter. I'm actually growing to acquire the taste (it's amazing what eliminating sugar and the like will do for the taste buds).

If I'm out of fresh greens or eggs or just want something else, I'll nuke a frozen leftover dinner meal (see next). I often have an organic gala apple for dessert, sometimes with almond or peanut butter (mmmm).

Standard lunch fare.
I have to say, with the introduction of garlic, my dinners are getting better and better. Not more complicated, mind you, but more delicious. Below isn't the best dinner pic, but I'm usually too hungry and tempted by my dinner plate to think about blog pics. (Keeping in mind that's also any household's crazy time). Anyhow, dinner is generally meat + veggies + tuber. Pretty basic, but tasty stuff. Our dinner veggies of choice lately include parsnip fries (included below), roasted broccoli, green beans, peas, and sweet potato.
Note the bok choy - a recent and most delicious addition. The gunk on the steak is extra garlic and ginger from the bok choy side.

With all this said, here are a few recent pics of my hand. The photos are in chronological order, the first pic having been taken around Christmas Day if I'm not mistaken, and the others at various points since. (Apologies in advance for the poor quality and inconsistency in photo taking.)

It started with just a wee bit around the middle finger nail and some hive-like red spots.

Starting to spread over a couple knuckles and in between fingers, but still reasonably manageable.

More redness and the creeping across the hand increases.

Now between all fingers, with the index finger taking more of the brunt.

Ouch. More redness, more creeping.

Doesn't look so bad here - but it depends on lighting, time of day, if there's anything on it. Likely one of my delusional "I think it's getting better" moments.

Quite dry. The winter, cold, warm, constantly tending to baby-ness  tends to aggravate.

Hmmm, maybe not getting better so much.

After going for errands yesterday and at my wits end. So many irritants in a simple outing for groceries - cold, warm (i.e. increased body temp while inside store w/jacket), jacket sleeve, glove, etc. Quite sore, raw feeling.

See something in this post that could be aggravating my skin? Let me know via comments.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The honeymoon is over

Well, it's happened. In October, I posted about the glory of the placenta, which was curing me of virtually any and all histamine-related symptoms. And now, five weeks post-partum, the eczema is back in a serious way. I recall someone tweeting me that it came back "with a vengeance" for them, so I can't say I wasn't warned.

Here's the beautiful source of my histamine hiatus :-)

Here's a confession: I intended to scale down histamine trouble foods a good month before baby's due date. Well, that turned into about three days of scaling back. In addition, I did eat some left overs during baby's first week that my wonderful mother-in-law magically put in our fridge. Last, but certainly not least, there was Christmas of course. I typically try to keep my holiday indulgence eating to Christmas Eve (which this year included popping a couple diamine oxidase supplements), so there were definitely poor choices made on Christmas Eve.

All this said, my skin is not good. And it sucks. I have, however, been managing to keep a positive attitude (with a few exceptions). Part of my getting this under control has been getting myself a copy of The Low Histamine Chef's book, The PALEO Anti-Cook Book: Antihistamine & Anti-inflammatory Recipes for Health (yes! There's a low histamine chef). I've been perusing this e-book for ideas to go beyond simply reducing histamine and seeking out more antihistamine ingredients. Now that I'm over the initial depressed feelings of "this is so complicated" / "I've never even heard of these ingredients" / "crap, I don't have a juicer", the outlook is good.

Here's how the skin was looking about a week ago (four weeks post-partum)...

Red, blotchy face is back.

This photo doesn't do justice to the condition of my right hand, but you get the idea.  In fact, it validates for me that it's now worse.
And so, the task now is to get my symptoms back under control, while eating a delicious, whole, fresh, (paleo) diet that's rich in antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods...during the dry winter months...while caring for a new baby (spoiler - you use and wash your hands a lot).

Oh wait, I have another confession: we've been eating white potatoes. But it's totally okay, because the super awesome Liz Wolfe (Cave Girl Eats) said it was okay.