Jul 19, 2008

Allergic reaction to grapefruit: Scleroderma

[REMINDER TO FIRST-TIME VISITORS: Be sure to read the oldest posts first. They describe the "-itis" problems I have faced and the main solution. The later posts deal with details.]

About five years ago, I was in my worst condition. All the inflammatory problems were in full bloom. In addition to the arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, iritis, and colitis, I had a bouquet of skin problems (dermatitis). Over the years, the eczema and the rosacea have faded away, almost completely. As they disappeared, another problem came to the forefront: In the caliper region between the nose and mouth, on each side, a thick, red section of skin appeared. The top layer of that area was very dry and cracked like a tiny mosaic. These symptoms came and went on their own schedule, and I could not find any correlation between this condition and my other skin problems.

Provisionally, I now know that the condition was scleroderma. The cause appears to have been a plain allergic reaction (possibly independent of the leaky-gut problem) to grapefruit. I was eating a lot of grapefruit (inexpensive, tastes good, easy to prepare and store). As soon as I stopped eating grapefruit, the problem began to fade. Now, two weeks after beginning this new experiment, the thickness has diminished by half, the redness is fading steadily, and the cracking is almost gone. I have hope that the condition, now requiring little attention from me, might go away completely.

My skin, all over my face and neck, still remains extremely sensitive to abrasion. I never wear a hat, I must frequently adjust the position of my eyeglasses on my nose so that the skin underneath the support pads will not thicken, and I must be very careful not to let a blanket rub against my face when I am sleeping. Still, I would say my skin problems are more than 99% gone, in terms of how much attention they require.

Working on the possibility that my allergic reaction might arise from all citrus fruit, I am now avoiding oranges and tangerines as well as grapefruit. Perhaps in a month or so, I will test oranges and tangerines individually, using the standard test Dr. McDougall has described for his Elimination Diet.

So, now my general rule of foods that I can eat is: Any root, any vegetable, and any fruit (including gourds) except citrus fruit and those fruits, like figs and tomatoes, which contain a lot of seeds. (I eat no animal products, except honey; and no foods made from seeds.)

Burgess Laughlin
Author of The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, www.reasonversusmysticism.com/

Jan 21, 2008

Final Problems

What I have learned over the last few years is that the symptoms of my inflammation problems disappear when I follow my anti-itis diet, making no exceptions whatsoever.

I eat only fruit, vegetables, roots, and gourds. I exclude from my diet (1) all animal products and (2) all plant foods made from seeds (beans, peas, nuts, grains, and conventional seeds such sunflower).

1. Causes? What I don't understand is what those two groups have in common, if anything.

a. Thanks in part to DianeR in the McDougall Discussion forums, I have uncovered one possibility, but remember that I have no scientific training, so I am flying blind here. Apparently, what the two groups of foods have in common, that might also be a cause of leaky-gut symptoms, is that they both contain a high level of either of two amino acids: cysteine and methioline. Both of these amino acids apparently are high in sulfur. I do not know if the problem is the sulfur as an element or the particular sulfur-laden amino acid molecules as a whole.

b. Further, if my problem is truly a "leaky-gut," then does that mean that these two amino acids appear to my immune system to be an invading virus, which my immune system then attacks, thereby setting off a chain-reaction of effects leading to inflammation symptoms? I do not know.

c. Last, seemingly many of the foods I can eat (such as fruits, vegetables, roots, and gourds) are generally low in fiber compared to plant foods I cannot eat (such as grains, legumes, and nuts). Is that general (but not invariable) pattern a coincidence? Or does the fiber in acid-producing plant foods (grains, legumes, nuts) add to or accompany other elements that cause an immune system reaction? The fiber discussed here is, I understand, technically called "dietary fiber," a misnomer that actually names fiber which normally passes all the way through the gut and is not digested. Could it, in my case, be partly passing through the holes in my intestine and triggering a reaction? I do not know.

2. Cure? The second major question I have not been able to answer is whether leaky-gut syndrome can be cured. I know that careful diet management can practically eliminate symptoms. What I would love to do is solve the problem. Can that be done? I do not know.

Specifically, do the holes in the intestine gradually close up by themselves as time passes? I do not know.

When my budget allows, my next step will be to hire a physician, physiologist, or other researcher to help me find answers (if there are any).

Burgess Laughlin
Author of The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, www.reasonversusmysticism.com/