Calming Rosacea…

As I track how people have found this blog, one of the most common search words used is “Rosacea.” Clearly I’m not the only one dealing with this issue. So let’s talk about it a bit¬† more and I’ll share what I’ve learned.

First, what is it? The most prominent symptom of Rosacea is red, inflamed skin on the nose and cheeks, often affecting the chin, forehead, and neck. When it’s riled up, it can be burning, itching, and dotted with white-head pimples. At its calmest, the skin is redder than normal. It can also affect the eyes, making them dry and gritty (Blepharitis) or worse (Keratitis).

Because the symptoms are most notable on the face, many people are convinced this is a skin disorder. It’s not. The skin is just a reflection of what’s going on inside. Rosacea is a digestive disorder. The only way to calm the symptoms for the long-term, and have any hope of actually healing the condition, are by improving one’s digestion and changing what one eats.

“But wait, my doctor says…” Yeah, yeah. I know. Your doctor says there’s no known cause or cure, you should be on lifelong antibiotics, you can have laser treatments to temporarily improve how you look, you should be using steroid creams to reduce inflammation, blah, blah, blah. Lifelong antibiotics? Yeah, right. That’ll fix my internal flora and fauna right up…and make me a patient for life. No, thanks!

The improvement of my Rosacea has included the following actions:

  • Betaine HCL – People with Rosacea tend to have insufficient stomach acid. Taking Betaine HCL with each meal noticeably helped my digestion. I was able to phase these out as my digestion improved.
  • Digestive enzymes – Also taken with each meal to improve digestion, and also phased out as my digestion improved.
  • Avoid nightshade plants – Nightshade plants, particularly tomatoes, can aggravate Rosacea. Other foods in the nightshade group include potatoes, eggplant, and bell & chili peppers. Sweet potatoes and yams are okay to eat, as they are not in the nightshade family.
  • Avoid spicy foods – Spicy foods can aggravate Rosacea symptoms.
  • Alcoholic beverages – These can increase facial flushing, which aggravates Rosacea. Reducing the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption can help improve symptoms.
  • Pay attention to your digestion – Which foods make your stomach say “Oof” for a couple hours after eating? Make note of these “oof” foods and avoid them. For me this includes bread and other refined flour products (especially sandwiches and pasta), sugary foods and desserts, deep fried and oily foods, and raw vegetables, seeds and nuts. Raw foods can be difficult to digest. Light cooking can be a big help.
  • Pay attention to your digestion – Which foods make you feel good after eating? Make note of these helpful foods and keep them in your diet. For me this includes whole grains (whole, cooked brown rice, oat groats, rye berries, barley, etc), leafy greens, sprouts, prunes, winter squash, sauteed vegetables, in-season fruit (not too much, though), and a pastured-raise soft-boiled egg now and then. Eating fresh and in-season makes a big difference¬† to my digestion.
  • Avoid medications that throw your internal flora and fauna out of whack – especially antibiotics and antifungals. If you have an infection that needs addressing, consider Vitamin C megadosing instead. I have personally seen Vitamin C knock out mononucleosis, pneumonia, allergies, colds, flus, and even hangnails. How much to take varies from person to person, but when fighting a serious infection dosages of 20-50 grams per day are not unusual. Everyone I know who has embraced Vitamin C consumption, at the level their body needs, has become a convert…because it works.
  • Eat live, fresh foods – Make or grow them yourself when you can. Make sprouts. Learn to ferment and pickle. Eat ginger and garlic. Make mustard. Make yogurt (without added sugar!). Go in your kitchen or out in your yard and learn how to do stuff. In the meantime, buy these health-giving products from people who already know how to do this stuff.
  • Listen to what your body wants – If you find yourself drawn to radishes and cilantro, for example, there’s probably a reason for it. Look up the medicinal benefits of various foods that you’re drawn to and add that information to your knowledge base.
  • Avoid food with garbage on or in it (chemicals and/or drugs), food that’s been messed with scientifically, and food that’s been shipped thousands of miles to sit on store shelves for months before being eaten.
  • Add green vegetables to your breakfast.
  • Eat less, chew more. Leave room in your stomach for digestion. Your food needs room to move around in order to digest properly. Give your digestion an assist by chewing your food thoroughly.
  • Fast every now and then – Fast for a half-day, full day or a couple of days. It’s good to periodically give your digestion a break to allow your body to focus on something else.
  • Improve your confidence and reduce your stress – Self-confidence reduces blushing. Calmness reduces flushing, and is less taxing on your body than stress.
  • Strive to improve your digestion, rather than just “avoiding triggers.” This is a perspective issue, and perspective matters. Focus on the positive, rather than negative. Look at what you need to embrace, while you’re letting other things go.

Rosacea is still an issue for me, but much less so. When it flares up, I can usually pinpoint what I did that aggravated my digestion. Lifestyle and diet changes take effort, but that is effort well spent. You and your body are stuck with each other, so you may as well learn to get along. Start listening to what it’s been trying to tell you. It will tell you what it needs. Breathe deep and listen with an open mind.

-Jenne Hiigel

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Learning to Walk…again.

There is something humbling about taking something you already know how to do and trying to learn a new way to do it. Sometimes this is forced on us, due to an injury or other disability, and other times it is a conscious choice…to expand our awareness, skills, and abilities.

I’ve had this experience before when I taught myself to knit left-handed. I had decades of experience knitting right-handed, but as soon as I turned my knitting around, I was suddenly a novice…again. I learned patience and humility, and was reminded of the benefits of taking new things slowly – adding to your expectations as the motions start to feel more natural. As far as problems, mistakes, and frustrations go, most of them resolve on their own with additional practice. As I’ve regularly told my knitting students, we’ll just worry about the problems that won’t go away.

When I decided to kick off my shoes nearly two years ago (literally, and for as long and as much as possible), I figured I would need to allow time for my feet to toughen up, but overall I thought going barefoot would be pretty straight forward. I mean, sheesh, I already know how to walk. I’ve been doing it since I was nine months old. (It’s true. I was an early walker.) So how hard could it be to just kick off my shoes?

Well, it turns out that barefoot walking is not the same as shoe walking. In fact, the only thing the two really have in common is that you are upright and putting one foot in front of the other. Aside from that, I can point out far more differences than similarities.

The two biggest differences are stride length and how your forward foot hits the ground. When wearing shoes, we learn to take long strides and hit the ground with our heel first. When walking barefoot, your stride is shorter and the ball of your foot is what comes in contact with the ground first…your heel coming down last.

I learned pretty quickly that walking barefoot was not just about kicking off one’s shoes. I had to abandon my old ways of walking and become a novice again. I found myself reading books and watching videos to learn how to walk barefoot. As frustration and confidence have taken their turns over the past couple of years of my barefooting journey, I’ve had to tell myself the same things I regularly tell my knitting students: Relax. You can do it. It’s easy once you learn how. Find your natural rhythm and it will become second nature.

Frustration kicked in again recently when I kept getting early-stage blisters on the balls of my feet, making it painful to walk barefoot. This has been an ongoing challenge. Clearly this was a problem that wouldn’t go away until I learned something new and changed how I was walking. After a day or two of wallowing in my frustration and sore feet, I took a deep breath and did some more research.

My problems are poor posture, over-striding, and horizontal friction when the ball of my foot connects with the ground. (Thanks to Steven Sashan of Xero Shoes for the helpful info on his website!) So it’s time to take a couple of steps backwards and walk shorter distances until the adjustments I need to make start feeling more natural and become second nature.

Step-by-step we learn new things…sometimes more literally than others.

-Jenne Hiigel

Freshening up…

As I go about my day-to-day life, I’m often asked “How’s the book coming?” Since my last post on this book blog was almost 18 months ago, it is a fair question. I continue to research and write most every morning (striving to get up by 5am, so I can write for a couple of hours before work) , and progress is definitely happening, but not necessarily in the direction that would make an estimated completion date predictable.

My knitting/beer book project hit a speed bump in the last couple of years when my body started complaining when I drank beer or wine too regularly…typically in the form of aggravated Rosacea symptoms, increased challenges with dry eyes, and excessive nighttime thirst. I do better when I limit my consumption to once or twice a week at the most. And yet, when I talk to people about my book project, it’s natural to want to do so while sharing a pint.

As I began looking at what would be needed to promote my book once it was finally finished, I determined it would be really hard to talk about and promote my book without a glass of beer in hand. And so, a quandary. Ignore my body for the sake of the book, or adjust the book for the sake of my body. Since my body and I are stuck with each other for a good while longer (hopefully!), I decided to opt for the latter course of action and have adjusted the focus of the book.

By keeping beer in the picture, but also adding the subjects of medicine and bare feet, it calms the beer-focus and hopefully will allow me to promote the book without feeling compelled to drink more than my body cares for. The medicine angle will be a discussion of things that aide and promote wellness and healing, which mostly rules out pharmaceuticals. The bare feet focus will introduce readers to the rebel act of kicking off one’s shoes, and the health benefits of doing so.

Another factor that slowed my progress was the health decline and eventual passing of our family dog, Booboo. He died in June 2013, just a couple months shy of his 15th birthday. That experience impacted my life far more than I had ever expected it to, in both good ways and challenging ones. It sparked an idea for a second book project…currently titled, “Lessons From Booboo About Life & Death.”

A third topic that has been bubbling up on my priority list is the need for schooling to be non-compulsory. Radical idea, I know, and yet quite important. I’m planning to dabble in that subject here and there, and hopefully get some writing done for that as well.

So…with renewed focus on my original book and two more book ideas that are demanding some attention, I decided it was time to refresh my web presence. I’ve established a website…jennehiigel.com…that has links to my book project blogs. As I get some writing done on one of the three topics, I will post some or all of it on the relevant blog. I would thoroughly appreciate any and all feedback…what you like, what you don’t like, what interests you, what doesn’t, and so on.

I have my website mostly up and running, although there are a few pages that just have the comment “Coming Soon…” My first priority will be to get those webpages completed, and then I’ll get back to the book projects themselves. Progress is definitely happening, but not necessarily in the direction originally envisioned. And yet, isn’t that the way life tends to work?

-Jenne Hiigel