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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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

Prepping for Sock Summit…

On Friday I’ll be getting on the train and heading for Portland. Sock Summit starts next Wednesday. I’ll have five-ish days to visit with my daughter and extended family in Portland, and do some typical tourist stuff (breweries & pubs, yarn shops, book stores… all the must-see kinds of places) before my daughter and I leave the real world for four days and immerse ourselves in knitting heaven.

As I start packing for this trip, I’m having to go through my yarn, needles and UFOs (to find even more needles) to make sure I bring what I’ll need for my four workshops. In addition, I have to decide what I’m going to knit on the train. It’s a 24 hour trip. That’s a good batch of focused knitting time. My options are pretty much  limited by how much luggage I want to carry. A variety of small projects seems to be where I’m leaning.

My book proposal is progressing bit by bit. I’m finding I’m treating this project the same way I would a knitting project. Each knitting project has it’s own timeframe. Some get focused attention from start to finish, while others get a good start, periodic bursts of attention here and there, and eventually a boost of enthusiasm to get it done and the ends woven in. Kind of like the mitered square afghan I’ve currently got wrapped around me while I type. It took me several years to get this afghan done and I am thoroughly pleased with the finished result. I love this blanket!

In spite of the slow-down on my book proposal progress, research for the book continues. Beer & Knitting Classes will continue monthly through the end of the year. I’ve even gotten a request for Beer & Spinning Classes, so I plan to add those to the line up in 2010. Beer & Knitting Nights continue semi-regularly, with our next one taking place tonight at Koberl at Blue (check out their beer list!).

In the tradition of knitters everywhere, I’ve gotten an idea for my second book even though I haven’t finished my first one yet. Fortunately, having a second book concept already underway when I approach a publisher could give me the potential for a two-book contract. So my knitter tendencies may not be such a bad thing in this case. (Or am I just demonstrating my extensive rationalization skills here?) As long as my book projects don’t turn into UFOs, I should be okay!

The working title for my second book is A Knitter’s Guide to Non-Alcoholic Beverages. Beverage choices in restaurants and bars for non-alcohol drinkers are generally limited to coffee, tea, corn-syrup-laden sodas and water. In this book I plan to explore other alcohol-free beverage options, with a focus on businesses that are taking this area more seriously and creatively. Alcohol drinkers shouldn’t have all the fun! And, yes… contrary to what many 20-somethings believe, it is possible to have fun without drinking alcohol.

On the Rosacea front, I’ve made significant progress. As I mentioned in a previous post, Vitamin C has been a big help. Then I read Mark Hyman’s book The UltraMind Solution and put into action his recommendations to fix my digestion and improve my overall health. With each passing day my digestion improves and my Rosacea becomes less of a issue for me. I even had a glass of red wine a week ago, with no major flare up. Now that’s progress!

-Jenne Hiigel

Rosacea Progress…

My challenge with Rosacea, which started affecting my eyes last December, has definitely put a damper on my research efforts for my book. Since alcohol aggravates my condition, I reduced my beer consumption to 2-3 beers per month.

My Rosacea also affected my motivation to homebrew. It’s hard to justify brewing my own beer when I am only drinking 2-3 bottles per month. Assuming I would want to drink beer besides my own homebrew, one five-gallon batch would have lasted me about three years! So, I’ve put my homebrewing activities on hold for now.

In order for me to move forward with my book project, it became clear that I had to find a solution to my Rosacea problem… and after several months of research and trial and error, I have!

I said “no thanks” to my opthamologist’s offer of a prescription for life-long tetracycline and started looking elsewhere. Several things have helped to calm my Rosacea – diet changes, avoiding triggers, accupuncture, chinese herbs, reducing stress, Rosacea-calming facial cleansers and toners, etc., but the clear winner in my attempts to improve my condition has been Vitamin C! I was blown away that the ultimate solution to my Rosacea (and my seasonal allergies!!) would be something so simple.

After reading a couple of books about Orthomolcular Medicine and the success people have achieved with megadose vitamin therapy, I decided to give it a try. The clincher was the claim that large doses of Vitamin C would relieve allergy symptoms. Since May is the month where I either endure itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose or stay doped up on antihistamines until June, I was open to suggestion for another alternative.

I quickly built up my Vitamin C intake to about 10,000-15,000 mg per day and have been maintaining that for the past three weeks with very good results. My allergies are under control without antihistimines (for the first time in years!!) and my Rosacea is significantly improved. While my Rosacea is not yet cured, it’s getting better every week.

I’m now able to consume a few more bottles of beer each month, without causing serious aggravation of my Rosacea. Moderation will be key as I continue to allow my body to heal, but I now feel confident that I will be able to enjoy more frequent beer sessions, as part of the research for my book, and my own homebrew again sometime down the road. A Knitter’s Guide to Beer is back on track!

-Jenne Hiigel

Refreshing My Book Concept…

Ever since I started teaching Beer & Knitting classes last October, it seems as if I’ve shelved progress on my book project and my homebrewing. In addition to the classes, my time has been filled with holiday activities, family issues, and trying to find a solution to my Rosacea… which is aggravated by alcohol consumption.  In hindsight, though, it turns that everything is related (isn’t it always!) and that the experience I’ve gained through the Beer & Knitting classes has helped me to see a better way to approach my book project.

Even my Rosacea has a connection to beer… and not just because it can aggravate my condition. I found an amazing line of skin care products by Googling “rosacea hops”. I did this after noticing that IPAs with a high hop content don’t aggravate my Rosacea nearly as much as some other beers. My proving beer for this is Firestone’s Union Jack. Darn awesome stuff. The product that turned up in my Google search was evanhealy’s Blue Lavender Cleansing Milk, designed specifically for Rosacea and includes hop extract in the ingredients. Pretty cool! And the stuff works amazingly well.

As I was planning my Beer & Knitting class offering through the end of the year, and thinking about what I’ve learned from my previous five classes, I realized that the way I’m approaching my Beer & Knitting classes is how I want to approach my book. I’ve revised my Table of Contents and am motivated to start writing again. I’ve also decided to include several of my own knitting patterns in the book.

I’m making progress on my Rosacea, and have found that I can have a half-bottle of beer now and then without much problem. I now have hope that these two things in my life (beer & Rosacea) will be able to find a way to work together.

-Jenne Hiigel

Working Through A Quandary…

What’s a person to do when her current book project benefits from the regular consumption of beer, for research and inspiration, and her health condition is greatly improved by avoiding alcohol altogether? Hmmm…

I’ve had Rosacea for years and have learned to just accept my bright red face as an unavoidable side effect of my enjoyment of beer and wine. For those of you unfamiliar with Rosacea, the red face is not related to the amount of alcohol consumed. Some red wines will turn my face red after ONE SIP.

In December, however, my Rosacea developed into Blepharitis (a form of Ocular Rosacea) where the constant inflammation of the facial skin starts to affect the eyes. The dry-eye symptoms became difficult to just shrug off. It was clearly time to take my Rosacea more seriously and work towards improving my condition, rather than just managing my symptoms.

I have a great  appreciation for my eyesight and would prefer to not have it deteriorate… at least no more than age is already doing. I decided it was time to see a doctor to get a professional diagnosis and opinion. The ophthalmologist confirmed my Rosacea/Blepharitis diagnosis and offered me an ongoing prescription for tetracycline to help manage my eye symptoms.

Enduring the side effects of life-long antibiotic use for the sake of symptom relief just didn’t sit right with me, so I thanked him for the diagnosis and declined his prescription offer. I then went home and dove deeper into my research for alternative treatments to reduce my symptoms, rather than just mask them.

I’m now working at this issue from several angles including diet changes, Chinese medicine, homeopathy, herbal supplements, digestive aids, healing skin-care products, organ cleansing, and…  alcohol avoidance! Argh!!

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on my mood at the time), the alcohol avoidance is helping to improve my condition. I’ve limited my beer consumption to Beer & Knitting Classes (once a month) and Beer & Knitting Nights (approx every six weeks). It is my hope that as my Rosacea improves, I’ll eventually be able to enjoy a beer more frequently than once or twice a month.

On the plus side, the one beer that seems to aggravate my Rosacea the least is my current favorite… Firestone’s Union Jack. I’m not sure why this is, but since Union Jack has a massive hop content and hops aid digestion and Rosacea is related to digestive problems, then maybe that connection has something to do with it. Whatever the reason, I send thanks to Matt Brynildson for creating such an awesome beer!

My health is very important to me, but so is this book project. I will continue to work towards making progress in both areas.

-Jenne Hiigel