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And then I got sick.

March 4, 2013

Business is booming, life is sweet and weekends are mostly free and easy so why do I feel like death warmed up?

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Regular readers of this blog may recall me talking about my eczema and my disappointment at not being able to stop it despite me being a cosmetic chemist and having access to all the right ingredients and knowledge.   Well, I think I just got a little closer to understanding my problem and I wanted to share that with you, mainly because my most frequent health issue is my skin so it makes sense to talk about it on this beauty/ cosmetic science blog but also because I use my writing to learn and explore so while this may just help you it will certainly help me out heaps!

In order to grow we must first embrace darkness just like these little seeds sprouting from the ground.

In order to grow we must first embrace darkness just like these little seeds sprouting from the ground.

But first of all history (or her story if you like).

I was born allergic according to my parents and I have to agree with them.  Some of my earliest memories involve me taking off all of my clothes because they were too hot and itchy (it wasn’t my clothes it was my skin), of tummy aches and of feeling uncomfortable.  That’s not to say that I spent all of my time in that state but eczema and allergies did feature heavily in my growing up.  That said I had friends who had it worse and my allergies never got so bad that I needed hospitalization or extra-special care.  Just a large dose of calamine lotion, some cortisone and a few cool showers usually kept me on track.

As I got older my eczema changed and I stopped getting it on my body so much. Instead it crept onto my hands mainly because I spent a good slug of my teenage years working in a pub as a waitress/ washer-upper and cleaner. I loved this work but it played havoc with my skin.  Pair that with regular swimming training, running and a chemistry degree and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that things were going to get rough.

While at Uni I noticed that more and more foods were making me feel sick.  At first assumed it was just my erratic teenage diet of a massive breakfast followed by chocolate cake and/ or a granola style bar. Then I thought I was pregnant as I would feel sick in the morning and it would wear off by about 2pm……  Then I realised it was my 4 bowls of cereal and all that milk that were doing me in.  I stopped eating cereal, yoghurt and milk and started taking my coffee and tea black.

By the time I moved into my own home and got married I started to feel a little better as I could control what I ate more and had a much more regular life.  Things continued to be easy and fairly controlled even through two pregnancies  until we moved to Australia.

I spent the first year here with very, very sore eyes, hands and torso.  Until now I put it all down to the pollen especially as we moved to the Blue Mountains which are beautiful and wild but also jam-packed with native plants and aromatic trees as you would expect – I have always had hay fever.  I also suspected that my reaction to this new pollen was heightened by my new mother status (bub was only 4 months when we came here) and also as a consequence of the stress of such a big life change.

Anyway, that was 8 years ago and I did manage to get on top of it of sorts with the help of more antihistamines and more cortisol cream. Having used these products since being a young kid I didn’t think it weird at all that I was and continued almost to this day to take 2 x 1-a-day tablets just to feel ‘normal’ in the non-itchy department.

Finding beauty in the rain.

Finding beauty in the rain.

But then came 2012, the year that I had to re-evaluate my life in quite a big way.  I set up my consulting in 2008 and by 2011 things really took off but unfortunately I didn’t.  I started to go backwards due to a culmination of stresses (pretty much all business related in one way or another) and ended up being very, very stressed and confused.  My skin was still very itchy and prone to break outs of spots whenever the weather changed. I’ll come back to this later but I’ll add here that I have suffered from acne since being 12 years old, I still get more spots that is necessary for a 38-year-old 🙂

I used the bulk of 2012 to work on my mental health as that was clearly suffering and made massive strides in that area, so much so that by the last quarter of the year I’d made pretty much all of the changes necessary to succeed and live a very long and happy business life.  Those changes are still paying off.

Late 2012. 

At the back-end of 2012 I was advised by my doctor to go on a gluten-free diet because I had been complaining of bloating (again, I kept thinking I must be pregnant), tiredness, dry skin, itchiness and general sick feelings.  The diet plus the probiotic drinks that I’d been advised to take worked within a week and I started to feel really good again and between around October 2012 and mid January 2013 I felt pretty good.  But then I went on holiday and backed that up with a business trip to Malaysia and I swear  it nearly killed me – I’m still paying the price!

2013

Over the last 8 weeks or so my skin has felt like it is crawling – I have seen the drug addiction ads and can honestly say that I’d rather be that as at least that has a simple ‘cure’.  My nights have been affected as I spend most of my sleeping hours tearing shreds off my skin in my sleep only to wake up bleeding, sore and occasionally alone (hubby gets sick of it).  Food has once again become my foe and I have resumed feeling sick after every meal (although the bloating isn’t so much of an issue still) and I can no longer drink alcohol or coffee.  That last bit doesn’t bother me as I was never a big fan anyway but it did alert me to a bigger problem.  My gut and liver must be in serious dire straight and if that’s the case I need professional help!  Also when I was telling people about my 2-a-day antihistamine habit I started to get more ‘oooooh that doesn’t sounds good’ comments than I expected – I’d read the packet and small print and it said that you could pretty much take as many as you like so my daily routine never bothered me. Maybe I had been quite silly after all…..

And so we come to last week.  It’s funny how these things happen but in a circle-of-life style moment it was work that brought me to my senses.  Last week was pretty big by my standards with three trips into the city booked (we re-located to a newly built office and small lab in the middle of last year to cut the commute and give me back some time and balance).  The city takes me 1 hour to drive to off-peak and 2 hours in so days city side can be quite long.  Anyway,  it was during my first of three visits that I noticed how utterly wasted I felt.  I had an all-day one-on-one booking which was great fun but meant that I was to be on top form between 9-5 after getting up at 5.30am to do the commute.  Needless to say I felt shattered and old. My client was bouncing off the walls with excitement and enthusiasm but even with my best happy-happy-professional-face I couldn’t hide my exhaustion.  She happened to be a herbalist and naturopath and the more I talked about her work and training the more my situation made sense.

I came home and booked myself into two places:

A natural health clinic to assess the state of my gut.

And hypnotherapy at Mind Mastery to help me summon up the strength to a) deal with the realisation that my health is seriously stuffed and b) to address a lifelong itch-scratch cycle and skin focus that I have (not surprisingly) built up over a lifetime of issues.

That lightbulb moment seems to be paying off although I now know that I am at the start of yet another mountain of unknown height and difficulty.

My first consult with the natural clinic brought up a suspected diagnosis of leaky gut syndrome (and no, that doesn’t mean I get poo in my pants, it’s all to do with your small intestine if I remember correctly).  We have to do a whole range of tests yet to work out exactly what is going on as ‘leaky gut’ is a bit of a catch-all for various issues and remains a rather controversial diagnoses in general medicine.  Still, everything she said made sense to me, the itchiness is probably intensified by toxins that the over-worked liver can’t handle, the tiredness and foggy brain again because the body is working so hard to maintain homeostasis while constantly under attack by rogue and mis-placed food particles and my skin keeps breaking out for the same reasons – especially when the seasons change sending my body temperature see-sawing so much that my tired system just can’t hold on.

I can’t believe it is that simple and yet that complex.

So, that’s where I am at today.  Sick but not sick and at the beginning of a journey that I’m hoping will put a lid on my eczema and other health problems.

I’ll keep you informed either way as if this works for me it could just give you some help, especially if like me you have been a long-time sufferer of any of the following:

  • Eczema
  • Dermatitis
  • Digestive problems
  • Stress
  • Acne

That said, please remember that I’m not a doctor and there are some  details of my journey that I may miss in this process that might be important – if I spot any holes I’ll fill them but it is important to realise that my current situation is a consequence of many, many things not least my job as a cosmetic chemist (although I suspect that is a minor part really as my problems pre-date that).

Wish me luck as I’m going for the first round of tests tomorrow. I will give you an update (not quite as long probably) as soon as I start getting some results back especially where it relates to my skin.

Amanda

PS: I choose a hypnotherapist for my mind work as it works well for me and suits my personality, art therapy, traditional therapy or even dance or music may work better for you. I don’t believe there are any right or wrong ways and as with any therapy session it is wise to understand that the majority of work will happen before and after the sessions at home, alone or with family.  Be prepared.  Working on my mental health at the same time as addressing my physical health is something that I feel strongly about as I see no separation between the two. In fact the digestive system is known as the second brain so it makes sense to do this.  There are many mental health service providers out there and believe me, you don’t have to be completely barking mad to feel the benefit.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Tina permalink
    March 4, 2013 11:30 am

    I wish you the best. I too am a sufferer of some of the same ailments but mine itch comes from psoriasis. I am constantly tired and do well to get through a whole day without nodding of (at my desk at times). I will follow your comments and because of this writing I have decided to see a nutritionist as well. Thank you. You are in my thoughts and prayers!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      March 4, 2013 11:39 am

      Thanks Tina, I wish you all the best too.
      My eczema has a genetic component to it like Psoriasis so I am fine with this being a life-long commitment to supporting a sub-optimal system but I’m sure I could do more. I didn’t mention there but I’m also keeping my doctor informed as while general practitioners view the body and disease differently to naturopaths they do have their place. Good luck xx

  2. kassalee permalink
    March 4, 2013 11:55 am

    Found this blog extremely interesting. Can relate to some of these symptoms and more so my 20yo daughter who has had various dietary and health problems you’ve mentioned over the last 4 years. Certainly food for thought!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      March 4, 2013 12:00 pm

      I think the most important thing for me looking at myself as a ‘case’ and trying to work out why I’m like this is the pre-disposition to allergies (genetic factors) plus extreme stress (starting a business, emigrating, overwhelming environment – new food, new pollen etc) over an extended period of time.
      Next stop is un-winding the damage which is going to be complex but fun if it starts working. Glad you are finding it helpful 🙂

  3. Kirrily permalink
    March 4, 2013 2:31 pm

    Ahhh Amanda, this is a familiar story! I used to wake up with a splitting headache every day. That’s if I could sleep. I felt like I had bugs crawling on me. Eczema, hayfever, asthma… Antihistamines all year round. Aches and pains and pretty much constantly feeling like I’d been hit by a bus. It was all a gluten allergy (with some intolerance to soy, dairy, and sulphites thrown in as well).

    Good luck working out what it is for you!

  4. March 4, 2013 2:59 pm

    Have you tried a juice fast? I am on the first day of a 10 day fast. last time I fasted it did wonders for my spiritual, mental and physical health.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      March 4, 2013 5:38 pm

      No I haven’t tried that. I am sure it would be useful and will mention it to the nutritionalist as I think I’d better get my blood tests back to see if I’m not allergic to any of the juices first. Good idea though

  5. March 4, 2013 9:57 pm

    I’ve been a regular reader here for a while now and wish you the very best for getting your health back on track.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      March 4, 2013 9:59 pm

      Thank you so much, I am vet confident that I can do that but expect it to take a bit of time. In the meantime I’m still inspired to keep working away. Thanks for reading by the way, I really appreciate that too 🙂

  6. March 5, 2013 9:08 am

    You poor thing! I believe you are taking the best route to eventual good health – just persevere. As you probably well know, it will take a long time to heal a long-standing health issue. You may find immediate benefits once the natural health clinic can give you some more definite diagnoses and you start your journey toward optimal health; and always remember that if issues resurface, it doesn’t mean your treatments are no longer working. Too many people give up when their health appears to back-slide. Taking the natural way to good health can often need tweaking and it will be worth it 🙂 xxx

  7. March 5, 2013 3:26 pm

    Amanda I really feel how much this would be affecting you but stay strong! I know what it is like and I know this sounds odd but I am confident I can help you and I would love to. I am not a doctor or naturopath Amanda but I struggled with severe eczema since birth and like you I was taking antihistamines everyday and constantly being prescribed ever stronger cortisones. I saw every top doctor, dermatologist and herbalist but nothing was working long term.

    I can relate to how mentally tough it is. You are constantly tired, feel so self conscious and just want to live a normal life without worrying about your skin everyday. My skin was seriously horrible. It was all over my face, body and neck and would constantly get infected. I also struggled with weight issues and loved my chocolate cake and cereals too!

    It was not until I hit a massive low and was sick of life that I realised I needed to get off the drugs. I kept researching everything I could about diet, started exercising and stripped all the chemicals from my life. I was also lucky enough to meet a chinese herbalist who made me a cream from pearls which was the only thing that worked for me.

    Since then Amanda I have been able to turn around my life and start living again. I ended up giving up my corporate life at IBM, Deloitte and Staples to run my own skincare label based on holistic healing which includes diet, lifestyle and creams.

    I realised there was SO much incorrect and often conflicting information out there, especially in regards to diet Amanda. I kept getting asked the same questions. Over the last 3 months I have been writing down everything I know into a book.

    I have tried all sorts of diets on myself for my skin and I now know it is all about supporting your gut health and immune system. We have oversensitive immune systems which end up getting damaged due to things we eat as well. Amanda, I believe you can be even more specific than gluten free!

    I also found limiting dairy, cutting processed foods, cutting all grains except rice, balancing your omega 3 and 6 fats, using the right cooking oils, limiting nuts, preparing legumes properly, reducing sugar levels and the big one I took ages to figure out…eating fruits and vegetables that are low in natural chemicals (based on research from the allergy unit of the prince alfred hospital in sydney).

    Instead eat organic lean meats and fatty fish, lots of low chemical fruits and veg and substitute wheat based products for rice for example rice paper, rice crackers, rice bread.

    I came across your site from the new directions website and love what you are all about Amanda! Keep up the great work and I would love to have a chat with you or anyone else who has skin problems!

    My email is kevintruong8@hotmail.com or 0424 060 788!

  8. RealizeBeautyEd permalink
    March 5, 2013 4:59 pm

    Hi Kevin and thank you so much for your comprehensive advise, it really does make sense. I would love to have a chat with you and swap notes but think that I’m now on the right track with my local team of therapists. You are right that my diet needs more refining as does my perception of who I am – I need to stop identifying with ‘itchy girl’ which is what I’m going to blog about soon. Thanks and lets keep in touch.

  9. March 14, 2013 3:54 pm

    I totally understand getting sick. I’ve been struggling with allergies for 2 years (gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, yeast, coffee, asparagus, celery, cranberries, mushroom, halibut and cod) and I know how difficult it can be. Just know that you can do it and eat. Good luck! =)

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  1. Identity Crisis – Goodbye Itchy Girl | Realize Beauty

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