I’ve been wondering for a little while now whether I might have avoided some of the allergies, sensitivities, and food intolerances I have if I had gotten help to figure out the cause of my problems sooner.
The body is an amazingly complex construct. I won’t pretend to have any specific medical knowledge, but one thing that doctors have always told me in relation to my eczema is that your body is most reactive when it is already reacting. What this means is that when your body is already fighting off what it feels is a foreign invader, its defenses are heightened and status is on high alert looking for anything else that might also be a foreign invader and need fighting. In practice, the rash is going to keep popping up stronger and in more places and more allergies will be more likely to form, until you can effectively treat the source and cause the inflammation in your body to decrease. After that, small triggers will pass by uneventfully more easily.
Over the month of December, I didn’t get out of the house much. Even then, I picked up a rash that expanded and worsened to cover my chest, upper back, neck, and arms, and was also affecting mucous membranes in other areas of my body. It wasn’t until I was put on a systemic steroid for five days that I was able to recover with help from topical medications.
With constant low-level inflammation in my body over the past 20 years, is it possible that my heightened immune system started seeing foods and chemicals it wouldn’t normally have ever become sensitive to as another invader to be fought off? I may never know. Can I one day get the level of inflammation in my body down low enough to allow me to enjoy some foods again? Maybe, but I don’t hold out much hope. What I do know is that I am being extra careful right now not to push too many possible allergens onto my already taxed immune system. I don’t want to limit my food and living options further.
Inflammation in my body really has hit a peak a couple of times in the last seven months. While camping, the constant barrage of hand sanitizer and liquid hand soaps ate away at my skin and eyes. At a convention and in a hotel, the air conditioner “freshener” and constant contact with contaminated surfaces really got to me. One thing I never noticed before was how tired inflammation can make you. Yes, allergies can cause stuffy noses that degrade sleep length and quality, but the actual inflammation itself also puts your body into overdrive using energy to fight perceived invaders, and it’s exhausting. I attended the convention Thursday night and Friday for half a day, and was beyond tired all of Saturday, barely able to climb the stairs on my way back to the convention on Sunday at noon. I didn’t think I’d make it. Just walking around couldn’t have caused all that. A short internet search confirmed my suspicions about my sudden extreme fatigue.
It turns out that a lot of allergy sufferers also suffer from fatigue, or even chronic fatigue syndrome. I feel for any of you who live that day in and day out. It’s no way to live at all.
The last thing I’ve recently realized is that eczema and other skin reactions leave you open to opportunistic infections. While my lips were dry and cracking from the allergic reaction, they began to seep. It took a combination of Polysporin (Neosporin for US folks) and topical steroid to treat it. This had never happened to me before, but now that it has happened I will know what to do and be more watchful for infection of reaction sites in the future.
I know that food sensitivity can cause inflammation, but I’m not sure about the reverse. What I do know is that I am now a lot more careful about what I put in and on my body to prevent further problems. Not only that, but the best way to prevent more inflammation is to reduce inflammation on a day-to-day basis as much as possible and then treat any symptoms as soon as they appear.
Someday our society has to realize that we’ve pushed our bodies and this planet to their limits with the millions of harmful substances we’ve added to our bodies and the environment, and get back to living in harmony with ourselves and the land.