People often ask me how I knew I had to stop eating gluten. I’ve really been planning to tell you the story since I started the blog, and I can’t believe it’s taken this long!
My skin had never been perfect. I had a little teenage acne and that sort of thing. Several years ago, a different kind of spot appeared on my forehead. It was a small, flat, red spot that I basically ignored. It gradually grew larger, but I just covered it with makeup and carried on. As long as I could keep it covered by hair, I didn’t think too much about it. Life was busy! This went on for a few years.
Was it the Makeup?
Then what had become a largish red patch spread onto my cheek area. Now I became concerned! I could no longer cover this up with hair. Makeup did a pretty good job of concealing it, but it was getting worse. I started to experiment with different cosmetic products trying to get this condition to improve. I also eliminated cosmetic products one by one, eventually replacing every brand I used. It seemed logical to me that something I was putting on my face was causing a reaction.
I even went without any makeup on days when I was not going out. I suppose it would be interesting to have a picture of what I looked like without makeup at that time. That would allow you to see how much of an improvement there has been. However, I don’t believe such a picture exists. I was not going to let anyone take a picture of me looking like that!
I hadn’t realized how good a job my makeup was doing of concealing my problem until the day my brother-in-law showed up at the door unannounced. It was a no-makeup day! Now this brother-in-law is someone I see on a regular basis. When I opened the door that day, he was shocked! He said, “Cathy, what happened to your face?” When I explained that nothing had “happened,” that this was just how I looked without makeup, he was very embarrassed. He need not have been. I was glad for the reassurance that the makeup was doing it’s job. This incident also shows how severe my skin problem was. I’m sure it was rosacea.
Search for a Cure
I continued to look for external factors to heal my skin. It was quite some time before it occurred to me that the problem might be internal. One day, as I was watching daytime television – the Marilyn Denis show, I believe – a naturopathic doctor briefly explained an elimination diet. She said that you eliminate certain foods until your skin problem goes away. I think she mentioned other symptoms as well, but “skin” was the only one I heard!
About this time, my medical doctor offered to refer me to a dermatologist. I said that I would like to try a dietary experiment first. As it turned out, I never needed that specialist appointment!
I Was Sceptical
A local naturopathic doctor gave me an elimination diet. As I followed it, I was still sceptical. I was in denial that I had a problem with food. As the name suggests, an elimination diet involves abstaining from certain foods for a time. Then each food is reintroduced one by one. You are to monitor yourself closely as you reintroduce a food, looking for symptoms. My problem at that time was that this didn’t give me enough time to see a noticeable improvement in my skin. I breezed through the diet and reported to my naturopathic doctor that no food had caused me any problems. I think this surprised and puzzled her. Or maybe she was used to doubters like me. She carried on to support my system in other ways with special supplements, etc. This was great, but there was no noticeable improvement in my skin.
The Light Came On!
Some time later, after maybe a year or two, I decided to give the elimination diet another go. This time, I paid very close attention to how my stomach and digestive system felt as I reintroduced each food. I remember clearly the day I ate bread after not having had any for a few weeks. It was winter. (January always seems like a good time for a new start.) Charlie and I had gone into the woods with skis or snowshoes and brought a picnic lunch with us. We brushed off the snow and sat down on a fallen log to eat. I was excited to be eating bread that day! However, before I got up off that log, I felt a rumbling in my stomach that indicated I had found my problem.
For the first three weeks or so that I had been on the elimination diet, I had been feeling very well. After eating bread that day, issues that I had just accepted as normal or thought were caused by drinking lots of water and eating loads of vegetables returned – in the bathroom department, if you know what I mean. From that day on, I have been careful not to eat gluten.
I have also experimented to discern whether my problem was just with wheat or with all gluten-containing foods. In my case, it seems to be all gluten, as I have reacted to barley as well.
Digestive Symptoms Vanished
My skin didn’t clear up immediately, but my digestive symptoms did. By this time, there was just a hint of improvement in my skin – enough to be encouraged. It took weeks or even months to see a definite improvement. It was probably at least a year or more before the rosacea completely cleared, but I was very happy to know I was on the right path.
I can’t explain how skin problems start in the digestive system. I’m not a doctor, but I have a friend who is! Dr. Kimberley O’Brien is a naturopathic doctor who practices in Calgary, Alberta. We spent some time together in Toronto where we were both attending a Food Bloggers of Canada conference.
Dr. Kimberley treats patients with digestive concerns like bloating and IBS as well as other symptoms like fatigue, acne, eczema, headaches, joint pain, anxiety and chronic sinus congestion. She says that all of these conditions are commonly caused by food sensitivities and that they can clear up quickly once the problem food(s) have been identified and avoided. She tells me that an elimination diet is her first recommendation to the majority of her patients because of how often people quickly experience significant improvements in their symptoms by identifying their food sensitivities.
Dr. Kimberley has an online program called the Elimination Diet Meal Plan that makes doing an elimination diet easier and much more enjoyable. The program includes meal plans, grocery lists, ingredient guides, symptom questionnaires and and over 70 recipes! You can learn more about her program here.
How often do we unnecessarily consider the body pain, brain fog, fatigue, or weight gain to be unavoidable signs of aging or the rosacea, acne, eczema, bloating, or frequent illness to be factors over which we have no control when in reality we could be feeling 100% better with a few dietary changes?
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you decide to go on and purchase Dr. Kimberley’s recipes or meal plans to make your journey to health easier, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. I am recommending this program because I believe so strongly that identifying and eliminating food sensitivities would be extremely helpful to many people!