In 2009 my face started to peel in one tiny area on my left cheek. It was subtle. I’d exfoliate in the shower, and it would be fine.
But then it spread. And spread and spread and spread. And then it filled with puss and got red. And it hurt.
And it stayed that way for over 10 years.
In that 10 year period, a lot happened. I stopped feeling the pain on my face because it always hurt. I saw dermatologists. I used creams, gels, lotions, potions, salves, elixirs, cleansers, and toners—no dice.
I took all the supplements. And I ate and didn’t eat all the foods. I tried every possible acronym diet. AIP, AIP without tropical foods (yes, that’s a thing), GAPS, SCD, low-histamine, low-salicylate, and low-nickel. I ran all the tests. From all the labs. I fasted, went to the sauna, tried yin yoga, and meditated.
I saw all the doctors, the acupuncturists, and the hands-on osteopaths. The nutritionists and the herbalists. My most favorite functional doctor told me it was a lost cause. He said, “go home and be happy. Forget about it.”
I took prescription antibiotics and antifungals and antiparasitics. For two amazing weeks this drug combo worked. I sat at my computer, studying and feeling my soft skin. I thought I’d licked it. But it came back.
I ordered medicinal leeches from Canada and did self-administered leech therapy.
Y’all. LEECH THERAPY.
I subsequently learned a lot about hirudotherapy—leech therapy. It’s amazing, but that’s a whole other blog.
Nothing cleared it long-term. The rash would wax and wane with no connection to anything I could identify, and I just dealt with it.
In 2018, Andrew and I moved to Boston. I found a new primary doctor, and on my first visit he asked me about the rash. I gave him my spiel and he said, ‘that’s rosacea. It’s textbook.’
I was incredulous. How did the dermatologists not catch this? How did I, at some point, not figure this out? But, it felt incredible for this thing to have a name. I went straight home and, you guessed it—I Googled that shit.
The pictures of people with rosacea looked exactly like me—middle-aged women with fair skin and hair. And my rosacea was starting to sneak into my eyes. Ocular rosacea, reported Google.
Getting a diagnosis was revolutionary for me, in that:
1. I felt a sense of relief and control. Even if I didn’t know what was going on with my body, at least someone did.
2. Now I had a search term. It was time to put my research skills to work.
It just so happens that around this same time I had the insanely good fortune of being a student of Dr. Jason Hawrelak in my (stellar) grad program at the University of Western States. Thanks to Dr. H, I was learning evidence-based, but not widely known info on the digestive system, and specifically the gut microbiota.
I was also groking how little I actually knew about science, and I was starting to listen and learn in a way that reflected that humbling new realization. I took my rosacea diagnosis into class. I asked questions and used my weekly assignments to research rosacea.
It’s important at this point to say: I’m not going to give you the magic formula that will cure rosacea.
Why? Because that formula doesn’t exist.
Every. Single. Person. Is. Different. And every unique person will need different solutions.
What I will share are the steps I took that will be safe for any person who wants to try them. These steps may or may not be obvious to you, depending on your current dietary knowledge.
A lot of folks I’ve spoken with over the years come from a grains-are-bad/Paleo/”ancestral”/no-carb background that largely stems from two places:
- a super legitimate anecdotal experience of feeling better after focusing on a whole foods diet while eliminating certain foods
- a super lame cherry-picked data set that largely misinforms people about, among other things, the healing properties of plant foods and the possible detriment of large amounts of animal foods (yes, I just said that)
This blog series isn’t going to suss out the caveats of those two statements. That, also, is a whole other blog (and a worthy one). But, if, like me, you came from that world, heads up. In Part 2 we’re diving into grain-a-licious carbs, baby.