057: Dangers Of Eliminating Too Many Foods To Fix Your Skin Rashes

Have you been told to try an elimination diet to help your skin rashes?

Or maybe you’ve been told to try some sort of diet that’s specific to your skin condition. (Yes, there is an Eczema Diet and a Psoriasis Diet out there.)

The problem is that while these diet can be helpful for some, not everyone gets better.

Some people get worse.

And some unfortunately get pushed to eliminate more and more foods from their diet with the hope that it will somehow turn things around only to be left feeling really frustrated.

Recently a community member shared her journey with elimination diets to address her Psoriasis. The results were pretty surprising to the group and her story is one that underscores why I often say that you can’t always just fix skin rashes with food.

Please take a moment to listen to her powerful experience and the lesson that she hopes to share so that you never have to go through this yourself.

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

In this episode:

  • Dark side of excessive elimination diets for skin rash conditions
  • Why Elaine got so sick trying to use a food-only approach for her psoriasis
  • Unbelievable before and after photos people share online
  • How long should you try out an elimination diet before asking for more help

Quotes:

There is a lot that food CAN do to help you, but when you’ve had serious long-standing issues, taking out more and more foods is not wise. Biochemistry in your body is incredibly complicated. And your body doesn’t make everything it needs to thrive and fuel these systems which is why you do need to consume them. There are essential nutrients like specific amino acids, vitamins and minerals that you must eat and absorb on a regular basis. Without them, you can end up having problems down the road as your stores become increasingly depleted.

I fully applaud you that you didn’t just get fed up and throw in the towel miserably accepting that your skin is cursed. Instead, you make meaningful changes daily with the hope of ultimately breaking free from symptom management. But if you’re not seeing massive improvements after 3 to 6 months of eliminating foods or if you struggle to reintroduce them and find that you’re reacting to a growing list — it’s time to ask for help.

Basic salad with other foods eliminated

Dangers Of Eliminating Too Many Foods To Fix Your Skin Rashes (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome back to episode number 57 of the Healthy Skin Show!

Today’s episode is a rather serious one. We’ve got to have a serious chat here about elimination diets.

You’ve often heard me say that there is a danger to eliminating too many foods. And yet you’re bombarded by all these incredible before and after photos of people who claimed to have eliminated a fairly large number of foods or food groups and finally “healed” their skin.

I’m not here to say that they’re lying.

It’s certainly possible that their skin healed up from trying a specific diet, but it’s also the case that they are band-aiding a hidden biochemical or gut or hormone problem by removing certain types of food.

Sometimes they’ve also made a bunch of other changes as well, but solely assign success to the diet when really all those other changes muddy the water making it difficult for you to know what actually did the trick.

And then there can be the challenge that people don’t often talk about where they then get stuck being unable to reintroduce the foods they’ve removed without triggering a skin rash flare of their eczema, psoriasis, etc.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone listening to this that I spend quite a bit of time cautioning people about this. That food cannot always fix everything and that there are some serious dangers to elimination diets that are too restrictive, go on for too long, and that ultimately aren’t warranted.

And yet, many of these people look at me like I’m crazy because there are diets specific for some of the skin conditions I talk about here at the Healthy Skin Show.

“Why would there be books on them if it didn’t work?”

Well, to some degree they can help, but they do not help everyone.

Let me repeat that… they do not always help.

And in some instances, they make things worse.

Large assortment of different raw foods

Elaine’s Story About Using Elimination Diets To Fix Her Psoriasis

So instead of ME telling you about the danger of elimination diets — I’m going to share the journey of Elaine who is a member of my private Facebook community. She gave me permission to share this because she doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else.

“I have psoriasis and over the past 8 years I've tried every diet going from Gluten free, to dairy free, nightshade free, lectin free, Paleo, AIP, and more recently, Vegan.

I wanted to share that almost two weeks ago, I passed out with low blood pressure and a low heart rate. The ambulance took me to hospital and I'm home now, but undergoing tests to understand why this has happened. I've also had diarrhea every morning since I passed out.

My blood pressure is still low — with the systolic in the 80’s. It was 50 when I was admitted.

The reason I'm sharing this is that I believe that my highly restrictive diet has led to many deficiencies and I feel this has contributed to my ill health that I'm experiencing now. I have lost a ton of weight which I need to regain.

Please be very careful when taking huge food groups out of your diet. There are many other important factors to consider when it comes to skin health, such as stress reduction, sleep and quality of food as opposed to food restrictions.

I'm now eating meat and lots of other foods that I had denied myself. I will not adhere to these unsafe diets anymore. Obviously some restrictions can be good but not all that I had taken out. I don't want anyone else's health to suffer the way mine has. 

I felt compelled to tell others so that they can hopefully avoid the same route.

As I’m a fan of yours Jennifer, I’ve seen that you’re one of the most honest people who has been trying to get this message across for some time.

I just hope other functional practitioners realize this too before more people get sick.”

Elaine, I want to thank you for taking the time despite how ill you feel right now for speaking up on a topic like this that is NOT popular.

I am appreciative that we found each other and that I can support you and help you share your experience with others.

Different food ingredients

What Elimination Diets Can’t Fix

I’d like to add a few thoughts about what Elaine has touched on here.

There is a growing concern amongst many of my fellow nutrition and physician colleagues about the excessive reliance on elimination diets.

In fact, you’ve heard from quite a number of my guests and colleagues on this show as well as on the Eczema & Psoriasis Awareness Week 2018 (and you will hear this echoed again during the second Awareness Week coming this fall) that relying exclusively on food eliminations can be harmful.

There is a lot that food CAN do to help you, but when you’ve had serious long-standing issues, taking out more and more foods is not wise.

Especially not without the help of a trained professional.

Biochemistry in your body is incredibly complicated. And your body doesn’t make everything it needs to thrive and fuel these systems which is why we do need to consume them.

There are essential nutrients like specific amino acids, vitamins and minerals that you must eat and absorb on a regular basis.

Without them, you can end up having problems down the road as your stores become increasingly depleted.

Even aside from this, your unique history and genetics could put high hurdles in front of you that just simply isn’t present for someone else.

It’s possible to have hidden infections even if you don’t have any gut symptoms and that stool test you had run by your doctor through a local lab comes back clean.

Even those tests marketed to you (the consumer) to test your gut microbiome can’t tell you if you have infections because that’s not what they’re meant to do.

I’m not implying that you can’t address your skin without help from a professional, but there has to be a point where no amount of googling is going to help.

It just creates more confusion because the human body is so complex.

I spent 3 years in grad school learning nutritional biochemistry and integrative nutritional assessment. I studied at least 30+ hours a week for 3 years — and I can tell you that I still had a lot to learn when I graduated.

Even now, I learn new things all the time… and so are scientists and doctors!

We still do not fully understand everything about the human body. Research is still evolving and creating incredible connections and opportunities within dermatology and skincare.

Shocked woman looking at clock

How Long Should It Take To See Results With An Elimination Diet?

I fully applaud you and everyone else out there who gets fed up, but instead of throwing in the towel and just miserably accepting that your skin is cursed, you take action to make meaningful changes.

I love that people are looking at their health and their skin rashes from a completely different perspective than conventional dermatology route of “well, you’ll just have to live with this” and manage your symptoms.

But if you’re not seeing massive improvements after 3 to 6 months of eliminating foods or if you struggle to reintroduce them and find that you’re reacting to a growing list — it’s time to ask for help.

Going down the rabbit hole of just blaming food can lead to some very serious health consequences that can cause massive harm and land you in the hospital.

That’s why Elaine wanted to share her story because this was a real wake up call for her that she hopes you never have to experience yourself.

I’ve seen way too many people in my clinical practice who’ve whittled their diet down to five foods.

And not only do they not feel better, they become afraid of trying to add back foods because they think it could flare their rashes, or it’s got histamines or salicylates or FODMAPS or nightshades or any number of reasons that are now contributing to a state of orthorexia and too many symptoms to count.

Very deep hole

The hole can get so deep that relief from symptoms can take a long time.

I truly do not mean to scare you here. I’m not saying you shouldn’t give an elimination diet a try, but when you start cutting out more and more and not seeing improvements after 3 to 6 months, food alone may not be the right approach for you.

If you’ve got any questions or thoughts about elimination diets and all the skin rash specific diets out there, leave a comment below so we can continue the conversation!

And I hope that you’ll support Elaine on her mission as she begins her long journey to better health to share the dark side of elimination diets.

And of course, don’t forget to subscribe to the show and then rate and review the HSS on your podcast platform of choice.

It’s my hope that together we can spread the message that there are more options than just creams and pills for rashes… but at the same time having honest and open conversations about how to use natural tools (like elimination diets) safely.

I hope you have a wonderful day and I’ll see you in the next episode!

There is a lot that food CAN do to help you, but when you’ve had serious long-standing issues, taking out more and more foods is not wise. Biochemistry in your body is incredibly complicated. And your body doesn’t make everything it needs to thrive and fuel these systems which is why you do need to consume them. There are essential nutrients like specific amino acids, vitamins and minerals that you must eat and absorb on a regular basis. Without them, you can end up having problems down the road as your stores become increasingly depleted.