Growing up I suffered from eczema. I had large patches of it on the creases of my arms and on my eyelids. It would crack and burn when I would sweat. It itched incessantly. My eyelids were so painful I couldn’t use soap on my face.
It was embarrassing and I would try to hide it, but clothes made it hot and that made it worse.
Then it showed up on my fingers. Tiny blisters that would itch and ooze and crack.
I bought every sensitive skin lotion available. You name the brand… I tried it. I probably spent $1000 on lotion. None of them worked. A doctor prescribed me a steroid cream that relieved some of the itching, but as soon as I stopped using it, the eczema would come right back.
If you asked me about it… I would just tell you… I have eczema… I’ve always had it.
When I got out of the Navy it was so bad that my skin was listed as a service-connected disability.
Yeah I’m not kidding.
So back in 2014, at CrossFit Lake Stevens, I got peer pressured into doing a Paleo Challenge. I say peer pressured lovingly because at the time I really didn’t want to do it. My friends convinced me and at the end of class on the final day to sign up, I went ahead and paid the $10.
I figured… at least if I cut out bread for a month, I’ll probably lose a few pounds.
I dutifully followed the rules of the challenge. No grains, no dairy, no legumes, no processed foods, no refined sugars, no alcohol.
I don’t think I lost any weight…. But I did feel better.
In fact, I liked how I felt so much I decided to stick with it after the challenge. It wasn’t until about 6 weeks after I started eating that way that I looked in the mirror and it dawned on me. I didn’t have any eczema….and I hadn’t seen it in weeks. My skin was completely clear.
Also, the bumps I used to have on my upper arm… the raised goosebump looking things…were gone.
The icing on the cake was that in addition to the eczema, the acid reflux disease I had experienced since childhood was also gone. Like the eczema, I had been on prescription medication for this health condition for years. It was gone.
The experiment of N=1 … the 1 being me… gave me information that no doctor had suggested. Something in what I was eating was affecting my health. AND….It had nothing to do with calories, protein, carbs or fat.
Wheat, gluten and dairy did not work well for me. “Work well for me” is a huge understatement. Blistering eczema was what I could see on my skin. It troubled me to wonder how the food intolerance was affecting the inside of my body and what I couldn’t see.
Since 2014, I have made the choice to eat a gluten-free diet. I say choice because nobody forced me. Remember the doctors didn’t have an answer for me, only a prescription. I understand exactly how this food affects me and I never eat it deliberately. I also avoid dairy about 95% of the time. When I choose to have dairy, I usually feel like crap. I get zits on my face and have joint pain. I am having dairy very very rarely these days because I don’t want to feel like that.
Here is the takeaway – doing an elimination diet… In my case the Paleo diet… dramatically impacted my health. It didn’t give me 6 pack abs or increase my back squat by 100#.
I have a hard time imagining how much time and money I would have wasted on these health conditions over a lifetime. That is a lot of Aveeno lotion and tums! But also a lot of physical damage to my body and cells.
I share this story because I strongly believe many people should do a Whole 30/ Paleo elimination diet at least once in their life. Take ownership over your body and do your own experiment of N=1. Don’t wait for someone to tell you that you “can’t have something.” Find out for yourself what foods work best for YOU and then choose to avoid the ones that don’t.
Have you ever done an elimination diet and discovered a health condition that was related to food?
Do you have a skin issue that you are suspicious might be related to food?
Post in the comments your thoughts and questions!
In the next blog post on this subject, I will investigate how food choices impact inflammation in our bodies.
Here are some resources if you would like to do an elimination diet.