Since my last skin related post things have been a little topsy turvy but ultimately I think things have worked out for the better. I think.
So after a couple of weeks I had to relax the whole restrictive diet because it was becoming super difficult to eat anything at all. I'm still off dairy, as I don't think that helps me in the slightest, but I'm hoping that a little time off will do me some good and I'll eventually be able to eat some cheese. By Christmas it will be nearly 3 months which is usually the time period the Drs recommend to not eat something before starting to try to add it back in. I want some cheese and cream at Christmas so this is perfect timing.
Things haven't been that successful though. Even with cutting out dairy and pretty much anything else remotely enjoyable, my skin didn't get much better. I definitely went through 'die off' (when the bad bacteria in your gut die releasing icky stuff into your body), because I felt so sick for 3 days that I was all set to go buy a pregnancy test! But even knowing that had happened, and not eating anything gluten based, or drinking, I was only seeing marginal improvements in my cystic acne.
Until I forgot to take a load of my supplements for about 3 days straight. Then my skin started clearing up. It basically happened because I had done some research about the optimal times to take different supplements, and I hadn't got used to my new routine. I kept forgetting to take my silica/biotin/zinc tablets, because I was supposed to take those in the morning before lunch. The probiotics and fish oil were night time tablets, and much easier to remember.
Once I noticed my skin getting better, I started researching what Biotin actually is (I remembered reading something on Caroline Hiron's blog about a B vitamin setting her skin off) and discovered that it competes for absorbtion with vitamin B5. There are some studies (although limited in number, probably due to the ease of treatment of B vitamin deficiency and the lack of money therefore in marketing cures around it - remember, a lack of research does not mean that there isn't any truth behind something, it often means nobody thought it was financially worth researching) suggesting that a deficiency in either B vitamin can trigger acne, although B5 deficiency seems more likely to trigger it than a Biotin deficiency.
Apparently (I say this because I am not a biochemical scientist) Biotin causes the skin to produce more oil, whereas B5 regulates sebum production to an optimal level. So too much biotin (and therefore an excess of sebum) in someone who has a susceptibility to inflammation under the skin equates to a big pile of cystic acne.
Of course this is easy to fix, once you know what is up. Stop taking the biotin. And to be extra safe, give your body a vitamin B5 boost, but from food rather than supplements. There is a fair amount of anecdotal evidence around mega dosing with vitamin B5, because technically you can't actually overdose on it, but as megadosing on anything is never really a good idea long term (and as the body can't store B5, in the short term it probably isn't worth it), I wanted to try another way.
B5 deficiency is relatively rare in the Western world, according to reports. But full on deficiency is not the same as not optimum levels, which like anything else are disputed by those in the know! Basically vitamin B5 is in just about everything we eat, especially meat and eggs. So veggies and vegans might need to be extra careful about their intake, but most of us don't need to really worry.
But still, seeing as I've been taking a whole heap of biotin every day, therefore potentially compromising my body's intake of B5, I figured a couple of weeks eating B5 rich food would be worth it.
This means my diet this week has consisted of liverpate (dairy free of course), whole grain bread, avocados, red meat, and sunflower seeds. Those little tiny seeds of snacky joy contain nearly an entire days dosage of vitamin b5 in 100g! Pretty neat! I love them anyway, I used to snack on them as a teenager like they were going out of fashion. Avocados are probably second on my list of important things to eat - they contain a whopping 2mg of B5 per fruit (that's 20% of your recommended daily intake). Liver pate is also pretty high, as is red meat. Anything whole grain also has a relatively high percentage of B5. I tell you, this is the best bit of the eating plan so far!
The good news is that I'm starting to see results. It is slow, but faster than anything before. The skin on my jaw and neck is heaps better, with no significant new cysts. The ones that were already there are healing well. The spots on my face that appeared last week are healing, and although I have a couple of pretty painful spots near my ears, they don't seem to be doing much, and will probably subside as we go on.
We'll see how long this continued good skin lasts, but I feel slightly more hopeful. One thing is for sure, after all these trying different restrictions, is that I have learnt what makes me feel good and what doesn't, and I feel so much better for it.