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/


Burgess Laughlin said...

On Monday and Tuesday, I tested oranges. I followed the general pattern that Dr. McDougall recommends for re-introducing foods after following the Elimination Diet. I ate one orange per meal for six meals in succession. I started at breakfast on Monday morning. By Wednesday, I have had no reaction at all.

I assume that my allergic reaction to grapefruit arises from something that is in grapefruit but not in other citrus fruit.

Now I can added oranges and tangerines back into my diet.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Last week I bought avocadoes on sale. When I cut them open, I saw streaks of a mold-like substance running through them. I tried to cut out those areas and I ate the remainder.

Within two days black spots, surrounded by some inflammation, appeared in the "caliper" region, where the schlerderma had appeared. At the same time, my hearing went bad: everything I heard was muffled.

My tentative conclusion is that the moldy substance was toxic. If so, this event is a reminder that sometimes a person who has leaky-gut syndrome may experience symptoms from causes other than foods producing acidity. Or perhaps the moldy substance did produce a very high level of acidity.

Smart Girl said...

Hello, my name is Sarah Aguilar, and I am very interested in your blog because I also am allergic to grapefruit. I have eaten oranges, lemons, mangos, papaya, pineapple, and countless other citrus fruit with no problems. However, if I am IN THE SAME ROOM with a grapefruit, for more than an hour, my eczema flares out of control for AT LEAST 3 MONTHS. The effect is the same regardless if I eat a grapefruit, drink the juice, sleep in a house where there is a grapefruit, or am in a house that also holds a grapefruit, or being in the same room as one for over an hour. Luckily I can walk by them at the grocery store and have no problems. This is all very strange to me, especially since I have no reaction to other fruits and vegetables. I started suspecting this allergy when I was 16 and recalled all of my severe eczema outbreaks were preceded by eating grapefruit, an usual fruit in my diet at the time(but I loved it.) I tested the theory, when my skin was totally clear, by applying a tiny amount grapefruit juice to my skin. Within two hours I developed a large itchy blister where I had applied the juice. It took 3 months for my skin to return to normal. I wonder what it is in grapefruit that I am so sensitive to? It's something not in other citrus fruit.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Thanks for the additional testimony about the destructive effects of grapefruit, for some individuals. Unfortunately, I have no additional information to offer.

I have read, in various places, that grapefruit should not be consumed with certain medications because it makes them ineffective. That might be worth pursuing.

Jenny Harris said...

I was very interested to read your blog and Sarah's comments. The skin around my eyes is very sensitive and gets extremely itchy. I also have a red patch on my upper lip and it feels as if someone is pricking the line of my upper lip with needles.

My GP prescribed Eumovate ointment but a dermotologist has since told me not to use it on my face and certainly not around my eyes. He recommended vaseline and says he often sees itchy skin around the eyes in people who work in air conditioned offices.

When I read your blog, I became aware of the citrus fruit I've been eating. A glass of grapefruit everyday; three or four clementines a day since November. The upper lip thing started when I was on holiday in Sardinia and was tempted to eat 4-6 fresh oranges every day for four days.

I'm now wondering whether I touch my face with citrus chemicals on my fingers.

Having read your blog, I'm going to try eliminating citrus fruits to see if there's any improvement.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Some of the occasional skin problems I have on my face do come from contact rather than from digestion. For example, the other day I was slicing an orange and a few drops splashed on my face. Within a few hours, I had inflamed spots. They are fading fast.

Tomatoes are a problem that way too. I can eat them without getting a reaction, but if I eat them and spill a little -- I am a somewhat sloppy eater -- then I get red streaks or spots.