Returning to Alan’s skin of many irritations, I thought briefly about all the possible causes of rashes. In the almost 30 years I have been a nutrition detective, I have seen rashes caused by all manner of substances.
Here is a list of the ones I can remember:
• Food reactions to chicken, eggs, olive oil, nuts, fish, grains (especially wheat and sometimes rice), potatoes, seeds, most fruits, a few vegetables….any food can do it but vegetables and lamb react the least.
• Medicines especially anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, anti-seizure meds and antibiotics.
• Bad stuff added to foods including preservatives, additives, colors, pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which is actually bacteria DNA spliced in to food.
• Contact rashes from creams, sun screen, soap, bubble bath, shampoo, dryer sheets, laundry detergent, pollen, swimming pool water, leaves, wool, animals (all sorts including a guinea pig).
• Molds (either outdoor varieties or from a sick house).
• Yeast problems.
• Touching water (true story). This was probably from the chlorine in tap water.
• Mites and other bug bite reactions.
• Essential fatty deficiency.
The list is long and basically includes almost anything you can think of but I had ten minutes to make a good guess. Most people can figure out topical contact irritants on their own unless it is something in the environment like pollen or mold. Once I saw a child with extensive eczema. The referring doctor and I tried all sorts of elimination diets and environmental changes but nothing helped. Finally, the family went to Italy for a month and the child’s skin completely cleared up. We then realized (through an additional process of elimination) that the problem was likely an environmental mold though we never knew exactly which one. Allergy testing also could not pinpoint it. Wouldn’t it be nice if your doctor recommended an extended European vacation for unresponsive eczema? Besides his wife had worked that angle pretty hard by eliminating the usual suspects without success. So, I ruled out topical culprits and circled in on the diet and family history.
If a food is causing such a complex ongoing rash it would have to be one that is commonly consumed. It cannot be mangos or pork chops because people do not eat enough of them through out the year to cause this much skin trouble. The number one frequently eaten food irritant responsible for bizarre, extensive rashes is gluten. I already knew his son was doing better off gluten. That made it very easy to ask the father to go on the same diet. For good measure, I added some supplemental fish oils to deal with the papules (or chicken skin) which are often a sign of essential fat deficiency. Those two steps are straight forward and will probably help. He readily agreed because he confessed after I suggested a gluten-free diet that eating too much bread gave him gas anyway.
You may be thinking, “oh come on!” After you go through all of this he admits that he thinks gluten bothers him. The answer was sooooo obvious all along. Why didn’t he figure out gluten was bothering him if his son could not tolerate it and he got gas when he ate it? Why most of us miss the obvious things about ourselves is one mystery I cannot figure out.