excerpted from caro's journal: topic: allergies

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2001_07_17:17: Physical Things

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The big news is that the mysterious rash cleared up for a few hours almost without a trace. The rash hit me suddenly right after Liz left, which makes it a month now. The only areas not affected are my face, neck, and chest. My whole body is swollen and the patches of recognizable rash are whitish. It's thoroughly systemic, as evidenced by the fact that the patches are infuriatingly symmetrically distributed. The itch is excrutiating and all-consuming. I feel as though I am one gigantic, oozing scab, and that my highest moral purpose is to scratch the scab completely off. Even the insides of my lungs have a scabby feel. There are some actual scabby patches that bleed, but mostly it's just lumpy swelling. Yesterday, I eschewed the low-waisted tights and the high-waisted top because two of the most hideous patches are right at my waist, and went completely covered. I think this was actually a good thing, because the tight, wet covering may have forced more of the steroids into my skin, as recommended on one of the web pages I read (the web page said to apply steroids and cover with plastic wrap!). When I got home from the gym, most of the signs of the rash were just gone without a trace. That was surprising, since previous trips to the gym had seemed to aggravate the rash; but at those times I think I was only wearing antihistimine gel.

Still testing the new allergy treatments, but I'm more and more convinced that they are working. Best bet is to head straight for the supplements before the morning shower. My nutrition book says to take 500mg quercetin and 500mg bromelain 20 minutes before meals; since it says quercetin works best with sugar, I add a piece of candy. By the time I get out of the shower my congestion is clearing up. Most remarkable is that the swelling and itching of this mysterious rash fades quite a bit, this morning to the extent that I could barely see where to put the cortizone and antihistimines. But if I don't use them it will slam me. So I guess. Then I cover all my skin with a nice coating of Vaseline petroleum jelly: no allergens in there, and hopefully it provides a vehicle that promotes absorption of the cortizone.

Later, with breakfast, I take all my usual vitamins, plus some extra calcium/magnesium; I've added ginseng as an antihistimine; and green tea extract and grape seed extract, which are supposed to provide long-term immune system support. I was pretty desperate when I ran out with my magazine to buy all this stuff, and I'm not compeltely certain which supplement is the most useful. My doctor had prescribed Flonase to clear my rock-solid head, but it made so little difference that I stopped after the first bottle and got the nutritional supplements instead. These cleared up my month-long congestion in two days flat, and it hasn't been back. That's a pretty good piece of evidence, but still could be coincidence.

Again before dinner, I do the bromelain/quercetin/sugar routine. I tried it without the sugar, since I don't EVER eat sugar on an empty stomach; but the sugar seems to be key. Using the method of difference, I'm leaning toward the bromelain/quercetin/sugar combination as the most efficient source of relief. My luck, they are both highly poisonous. Oh, well; at least, when I die, my last words won't be a nasally, "Quick, get me a tissue!" as I sneeze out my soul for its last out-of-body excursion.

The nutritional supplements seem to work more quickly and more dramatically than my usual chlorpheniramine maleate. I'm wondering if the diphenhydramine, which I only take at night, has been aggravating the rash; I know it aggravates my cough. My nextdoor neighbor Rosey has been commenting that she can hear me. I only take the pseudoephedrine occasionally now, because I wanting to eliminate it as a rash-causing factor.

Lots happened in the last two months that might have brought the rash on. I was attacked by ants, which raises itchy welts. I trimmed and played with the bougainvillea a lot when they replaced the pergola, and I react to the sap. I have a new plant, Brugmansia x candida "Plena", which is poisonous if eaten though it is not reputed to cause contact dermatitis; however, it does cause skin mottling and bruising in the sun if ingested, and my rashes are turning into bruises. Nevertheless, I get no localized reactions to it. I made a diningroom table out of my futon, and the wood isn't finished; I think it's pine. I changed laundry detergents, but I thought Armand Hammer was supposed to be less allergenic than All, not more. I repotted some indoor plants with sphagnum peat moss, which I've now mulched over with orchid bark to prevent it fluffing into the air. I've had several guests in the house but I was pretty strict with them. Those are the only things that I can suspect.

The itching and coughing have been keeping me awake long into the night, which means I sleep late. This isn't good for my allergic symptoms generally, I know, but I don't seem to be able to do anything about it. If I take diphenhydramine to make myself sleepy, it makes the cough drier and more harsh, which only keeps me awake. I've tried working out harder to make myself tired, but I just lie awake extra tired.

Saturday night I tried tequila to see if would help the rash. You never know. I've had good results sometimes when I drank to kill a throat infection. But this time I don't think it helped. Friday night I tried soaking in a warm bath with two cups of baking soda added. I don't think it did any more good than plain water usually does. Friday day I tried spending time in the surf, then not washing the salt water off. That was definitely not a good idea.
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2001_07_20:18: Social Considerations

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I wonder if this is my problem? Brandyn sent this link to an article on a diet high in polyunsaturated fats, which implicates increased consumption of margarine (as opposed to butter) in the increase in the incidence of asthma. It also reasons that increased polyunsaturates naturally causes decreased intake of Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, recently, I cut my dose of fish oil from two capsules to one, simply because I don't like it, and because Liz said that there's a mercury danger in fish oil.

I don't have asthma, or, at least, not actively, though I was diagnosed with it many years ago but only know of a single attack when I was in grade school, which may have been nothing more than that my lungs were packed with pollen after playing in a field of grass as tall as me. But asthma is caused by inflammation, and I not only experience that regularly in the form of sinus congestion but am suffering an acute attack now in the form of this skin rash.

The skin rash has subsided by about 75% in most areas today, but new small patches have sprung up and are profoundly itchy, most notably on the outer side of each ankle. And one old patch seems to have become infected though I haven't been scratching it, possibly because the cortizone has reduced my immune reaction. I'm hazarding a little bit of Neosporin, though I have avoided it for years due to its ability to immediately cause yeast infections. That's because of all the antibiotics I took for several years in grad school, following my first and exceedingly damaging illness: mononucleosis. Though I fully recognize that antibiotics and steroids were the only thing that kept me alive, fighting off severe lung infections and pneumonia, they are also what has made my bodily ecological balance so precarious. Unlike Tom, who proclaimed that he's not worried about the emergence of drug-resistant strains of bacteria, I've actually had my own, requiring that my antibiotics be changed and dosages increased until I'd reached the limits of technology and there was nothing left for me to take. So my doctors just prescribed the maximum dose of the most vicious antibiotic they had and kept me on it for months, which meant that I had raging yeast infections and no intestinal flora for many months more. Chemical-resistant strains of bacteria are a real worry, and I don't think it's just for people who have compromised immune systems.

This was the other main reason, aside from arthritis, which set in shortly after the year-long bout with mononucleosis, that I started body building in a serious way. The November 1995 issue of Muscle and Fitness had several articles about people who recovered from or held in abeyance various life-threatening illnesses and injuries by putting on serious muscle mass; according to their doctors, they wouldn't have lived otherwise. That was it for me. I obviously had nothing to lose and possibly everything to gain. And after a year I'd put on about 10 pounds and was able to get myself off nasal steroids and reduce the number of prescription drugs, and I've never taken any antibiotics since. The bigger I get, the healthier I get, so there's the incentive to just keep going. To me, this rash is nothing by comparison to what I've endured in the past.

So now I'll try cutting down on the margarine, and stepping up the Omega-3 fatty acids, and see how that goes. I do eat a lot of margarine made from soy beans; I suppose that all the exercise and muscle growth makes me crave fat. So I'll go get some butter instead, and eat more hamburgers, and take more fish oil.