Struggling with Skin Rashes, Gut Health + Food Sensitivities
Let me start by saying that this post is completely based on personal experience and my hope is that it helps someone struggling with unexplained skin rashes and gut issues. If you are experiencing similar issues, please consult a doctor or other medical professional. This post is not intended to treat or diagnose any medical issues.
Starting from the beginning- when I was growing up I dealt with acne and eczema. I regularly saw a dermatologist during high school who proscribed me numerous topical creams, gels to “rid the acne and eczema”. While my acne got better and my eczema went away, the root problem was never solved. I continued to get minor acne flare ups into my young adult years, but nothing that wasn’t manageable.
In 2017 I started immersing myself in research and information about taking a more natural approach to food, nutrition and living. I started believing in “food as medicine” and learned more about gut health + treating diseases/conditions by finding the root problem.
Fast Forward to November 2017 I was getting bloated all the time! I also started to get hormonal acne which I had never had before. It wasn’t a random blackhead or breakout. These suckers hurt! And they were huge, like the kind that lives just below the surface of your skin. At this point I had been on hormonal birth control for about 8 years. I had always been on the same prescription so I went to my gynecologist to see if there was something we could do. It’s also important to note that I have had chronic UTIs and had been on daily or cycles of antibiotics for 8 years. She put me on a different birth control pill and sent me on my way. I was so hopeful this would help, though my acne got worse.
Then around the same time I randomly got a red itchy rash under my right breast that looked like eczema. I tried natural remedies such coconut oil and other things to stop the itching. It got so inflamed and red when I would sweat, I could barely get through a workout without it burning. I did some digging and stopped eating gluten and dairy completely in hopes that would help. It didn’t, all through December 2017 I put the rash and acne on the back burner. Once January 2018 started I decided to do the Whole 30 since I had great success when I did it the previous year. I wanted to see if anything would get better if I followed the guidelines of whole 30 and really got intentional about finding the root cause. A few weeks in I noticed the rash was getting bigger and it was still just as painful when working out.
At the end of January 2018 I was so fed up and frustrated. I felt that I was healthy, my diet was very clean, I was exercising. Something must really be wrong if the rash is spreading and I wasn’t seeing any improvements. My now husband and I were going to Las Vegas with my family at the end of January. On our drive to the airport we listened to YouTube videos of a girl talking about the effects of hormonal birth control. I was mind blown about all the negative side effects including disturbing the gut microbiome and depleting the body of nutrients. I found myself in a rabbit hole and dove into antibiotics and the gut. I FINALLY put two and two together to realize that I had been on antibiotics and birth control for 8 YEARS! No wonder I probably had gut issues. I went on to learn than my microbiome was out of whack and that problems in the gut can sometimes present themselves as skin issues. On our trip in Las Vegas I decided that I was not going to continue birth control and I would not take antibiotics unless absolutely medically necessary.
In February, I decided to seek help. I considered seeing a functional medicine doctor, but I was sticker shocked by how much it cost for an appointment. I was a broke college girl months into an unpaid internship. I was living at home and I knew my parents weren’t going to be on board- especially since it would not be covered by insurance. So, I settled for the dermatologist. I went in for my appointment and she took one look at my rash and said, “That’s not eczema, that’s a fungal rash”. She still had no idea what kind of rash, just that it was likely from a fungal bacteria. She prescribed me an oral anti-fungal and a topical anti-fungal cream. She warned me that it may not go away completely and it may return. As for my acne, she wanted to put me on antibiotics and a list of topical creams, to which I declined both. I left the appointment in tears feeling so disappointed and confused. I went home and turned to Dr. Google. I came across so many articles one of which stuck out- Candida Overgrowth. I did so much digging into this topic I was convinced this was the answer. However, Google will tell you what you want to hear and is not always the best option.
Although I knew what would come of seeing my conventional family practitioner, I went anyway because I was seeking answers and wanted any help I could get. I went in and had a conversation with my doctor about birth control, antibiotics, rashes, acne, diet, blah blah blah. She honestly had no idea what could be wrong. She said to buy different sports bras, stop doing cardio exercise to avoid sweating and she may refer me to a gastroenterologist. Like I said, I wasn’t expecting much out of this visit but I was hopeful. She also advised that I should continue the oral anti-fungal. So I did and I did see a little progress in the rash for the first time! However, a week later I noticed a spot forming in my underarm and I eventually got rashes under both my underarms. I convinced my parents to let me go see a functional medicine doctor because I knew they were familiar with candida overgrowth and would lead me in a better direction.
My first appointment with my function medicine doc was amazing! Our appointment was over an hour long and she asked me questions I had never heard a MD ask before. We went so in-depth to my diet, lifestyle, behaviors and environment. I finally felt relief like I was on the right path! We ran many blood tests to look for celiac disease, thyroid and metabolic panels, inflammation markers. During this time, I remained gluten and dairy free, followed an anti-fungal diet to avoid any possible inflammation. The blood test didn’t have any significant results.
The next step was doing a stool test to look for candida overgrowth, inflammation, possible SIBO/SIFO and leaky gut. The results came back that I had significant inflammation, a pathogen called citrobactor, not enough Lactobacillus Acidophilus bacteria in my gut, sub-optimal digestion of fat, and no candida overgrowth. From here I went on a protocol taking a daily probiotic, multiple herbs/supplements and a powder supplement called Inflammacore. At this point in time it is April 2018 and I am about to go on my bachelorette party the same day I got my stool test results. So, I waited until after the weekend to start the supplements. When I got back from the weekend, filled with drinking and eating, I noticed a new rash on my back. The only thing I could link this to was beer and pizza, since I hadn’t been having either of those in months.
I started the supplement protocol, and continued a dairy free and gluten free diet and eliminated eggs as well because I had been eating them every day for a year and was thinking of anything I could that could be the missing link.
As I was continuing the protocol, I got married at the end of May 2018. I was very concerned and upset because my wedding dress had an open back and the small spot on my back a month before had grown a lot and was very visible. We had a beach wedding and my rashes were exposed for all our friends and family to see. I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me but I put on a happy face and decided not to worry about it because getting married is the happiest and best part of my life! Tyler and I went on an amazing honeymoon and I tried as hard as I could to keep my rashes at bay despite all the tropical drinks and copious amounts of food available at all times. I limited myself to one tropical umbrella drink per day. I quickly remembered that sugar doesn’t help. My rashes would get hot, red, inflamed and itchy when I had the sugar filled beverages.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
Once we got home and settled into our married life I decided to do a food sensitivity test. I had continuously been listening to podcasts from experts in the field and came across the “test don’t guess” philosophy, WHICH MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. There is no way I am going to heal leaky gut if I keep eating food that are causing irritation and inflammation in my body.
I did an at home test from a company called Everlywell. It was affordable, easy, quick and reliable. I got my results back this month (July 2018). It tested 95 different foods and I was positive for 18 mild sensitivities. Most of which were foods that I eat every single day. I am sensitive to tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, garlic, green olives, yeast and brewer’s yeast (PIZZA AND BEER), sesame, turkey, egg whites, egg yolks, cashews, green beans, malt, bran, barley and codfish.
At the time I am writing this post, it has been about 2 weeks since I have eliminated all of the foods I am sensitive too as well as continuing gluten and dairy free. I have continued GF and DF because although my rashes are still present, they have gotten significantly better over the last 9 months, and those two are constants in all the craziness. I am taking a daily probiotic and collagen peptides to aid in gut healing. My acne has improved but just like my rashes, are still here. I have also incorporated Bentonite Clay masks to my face and rashes, which helps absorb the moisture and dry out acne and rashes. Coconut oil and caprylic acid are a big part of my diet due to their anti-fungal properties.
I have made significant improvements in my skin during this journey so far. I am staying positive and only looking forward. I have shed many tears through this process, but I am getting closer to restoring my gut health and skin. I still don’t have clear answers but what I do know is that a happy belly is so important for our overall health!
The most important thing I can share is listen to your body! The rashes on my body were a wake-up call, like a red flashing light (literally) saying HEY SOMETHING IS WRONG. Slowly I put the pieces together and now it makes sense to me. Hind sight is 20-20! I can’t wait to feel 100% everyday. But for now, I am taking it one day at a time and strive to be intentional about how I can best treat my body and nourish my gut to achieve optimal health. If you are struggling with anything similar to this, you are not alone! Stay positive and keep on digging. Be an advocate for your own health!
If anyone has questions or comments please feel free to ask! I plan to share the rest of my journey and progress on rashes, acne, and digestion. I also highly recommend seeking out professional help/guidance (ideally from a Functional Medical Professional).