STATUS REPORT. My skin continues to improve. It is becoming thinner, free of itching, and very slightly oily (not chalky). It remains very sensitive to abrasion. E.g., shaving (with an electric, rotary shaver) still causes inflammation and subsequent peeling if I press too hard or if the razor becomes hot. I continue to be pain-free (no arthritis, tendonitis, or bursitis, except for occasional muscle pains due to posture problems. (My right shoulder still slopes down, but I am working on correcting that.)
EXPANDED DIET. 1. In the meantime, using the standard test, I have reconsidered a few foods that had given me unclear results in earlier tests. I can now regularly eat dried figs and canned tomatoes (diced). I had avoided both because of the prevalence of seeds which I could not conveniently remove.
2. Helena Kloosterman, who is neither a nutritionist nor a physician, has provided a short list of foods, rated for Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL), a subject I have discussed elsewhere. Her list is based on calculated values, not laboratory results. Consequently, I have been reluctant to even test (one serving per meal, six meals in a row) some of the foods she says are alkaline-producing. The list, accompanied by a formula for the calculation of PRAL, appears on her weblog, Bitter Poison, here:
Most of the foods rated as alkaline-producing in her list are not surprising: fruits and vegetables. Others were a surprise. For example, from my own tests of corn, oatmeal, rice, and wheat, I had tentatively generalized that all grains (indeed nearly all seeds of all kinds) were acid-producing and therefore to be avoided. (Production of an acid condition, in the kidneys, is not the cause of my inflammatory problems, apparently, but it has been an infallible "confounder" or "co-incident" indicator or "proxy" predictor of inflammation.)
Kloosterman's calculated list shows the grain quinoa (pronounced "KEEN-wah" or "key-NO-ah") to be alkaline-producing. I hesitantly bought a 26 ounce (737 gram) bag of quinoa from a chain grocery store (Fred Meyer, Kroeger) that carries Bob's Red Mill products. I ran the standard test and got no adverse reaction in the skin on my face. I now eat it regularly, about one serving per day, on average, while continuing to eat most of my starch (the core of my meals) from "roots" (potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabagas). I note however that Wikipedia lists quinoa as technically a fruit, not a grain. Apparently quinoa grows on a bush, not a grass stalk. Perhaps its "fruitness" is why it is not acid-producing. I don't know. I am ignorant about biochemistry.
The fact that at least one grain (if that is what quinoa is) is (slightly) alkaline-producing, and thus okay for me to eat, does confirm one pattern: There are exceptions in almost every category. For example, generally beans, nuts, and grains (all seeds) are acid-producing; however, green beans (string beans), hazelnuts (Filberts), and quinoa are exceptions to their categories.
Kloosterman's list also shows some beans -- such as pinto beans -- as being alkaline-producing, but she states that for the raw form, which no one eats. Does cooking making them acid-producing? I do not know.
FEB. 25, 2010 UPDATE: In the last few weeks I subjected pinto beans and lima beans to the standard reintroduction test (eat one serving per meal, six meals in a row and look for a reaction -- in my skin, in my case). I got no reaction. I then began eating beans (cooked, about 1/2 C per meal) at two meals per day. After about 10 days, my eczema returned in mild form.
I threw out all the beans and I returned to my regular diet of fruit, vegs, and starchy roots. Within 12 hours the eczema began fading! The beans probably were the cause of the problem. Perhaps they have a long-term, cumulative effect that doesn't show up in the standard two-day test.
This result shows that I cannot automatically trust the Kloosterman list, which shows merely calculated, not lab-tested values, especially where the list says "raw" and I don't eat the food in raw form.
Summary: Limiting my diet to fruits, vegs, and starchy roots (and possibly quinoa) works.