The Subclinical Toxicity of Vitamin A
Firstly, my only goals here are to both share some important findings, to ask for feedback, and learn more. I’ve been able to determine the real underlying cause of my Eczema. I think this probably applies to a significant group of others too. Hopefully, sharing this information will help someone else. But, there is a lot to this story. It is not simple.
Sorry, in advance, that this is so long and verbose. I just want to give you as much evidence and supporting information as I can.
I am not selling anything; nor promoting anyone’s products or services, or advice etc. I have the utmost empathy for anyone suffering with severe eczema. I have no intention of misleading anyone, or of giving anyone bogus false hope, or wasting your time. I am not a doctor; I have no medical experience, and I am not giving medical advice here. I have absolutely no experience in treating any kind of medical condition. I’m just an ordinary guy trying to get to the bottom of this.
I am not asking for anything other than your time to read this and for others to try to refute or support my claims with real evidence.
The surprising, and quite concerning, discovery for me is that the underlying root cause of my eczema is maybe even more serious than the eczema condition itself. It was affecting a broader area of my health. In other words, I am convinced that eczema is far more than skin deep. I think this is a critically important possibility for people to consider. Therefore, it is even more urgent that we resolve this affliction as soon as we can.
I am a complete layman in this field. Therefore, I am going to only use laymen terminology.
The term eczema is quite general and covers a very wide range of skin conditions. So, I want to try to define the form of eczema that I am talking about here. The eczema I am talking about is the condition where your skin is burning, peeling/flaking, and weeps some clear fluid, or has that tiny spotted and or lumpy appearance where you can scrape a fingernail across it to squeeze out some clear fluid. For me, my doctor described it as probably being an autoimmune response condition, and prescribed steroid creams. So, everything in this document refers to this type of eczema.
There are really two big important questions here:
1) What is the real root cause of Eczema?
2) How did we get into this state to invoke this root cause?
#1) What is the real root cause of Eczema?
I have zero doubt as to the answer to this question. Does my specific case apply to others? I don’t know for sure; I can only highly suspect that it does since my symptoms are very much (exactly ) like that reported by other people.
Could I be wrong? Yes, of course. But obviously, I don’t think so. Am I a one-off anomaly? Once again, I really don’t think so.
I have only proven the real root cause of Eczema on myself at this time. Admittedly, that is shockingly little proof right now. Naturally, one person does not make for a clinical study. Yet it is a pretty damn good case study; especially if you are in my skin. I don’t want to sound like that I am second guessing myself; because I am absolutely not. I am just putting all the cards on the table so to speak.
#2) How, and why did we get into this state?
This is a much tougher question to answer. I don’t really know the answer. I am only offering a long, and verbose hypothesis as to what I think could be happening. It is purely a hypothesis; and of course not proven. Never-the-less, it is hopefully a bit more scientific than just a wild-ass guess. It is the best I can do at this point in time. But, it is also not a complete shot in the dark either. It is based on at least a bit of research. Additionally, I raise what I think are very important questions and concerns for the medical community researching this topic.
Since I have only a tiny bit of experimental evidence to support my claims at this time; I should preface nearly every sentence here with: “I think”, or “maybe”, or “If I am right about this? etc.
But, doing that is just going to sound weird and make this awkward to read and for me to write. Therefore, I am going to write in the assertive, as if it is mostly proven. I will try to use the prefixes “I think” and “Maybe” when I am really making a guess.
Once again, when I use the term Eczema, it refers to this specific type I’ve described above.
With all of that, you should be skeptical. So please read this with a very objective and critical mind. I am also asking that you be open minded, since I am going to claim that the “nearly impossible” is “very possible; if not probable”.
I personally try to look at things with a bit of a scientific mind. With that view, the only thing that truly matters here is real evidence, and facts. The only goal is to get to the real truth. I most certainly don’t have all the answers.
With that bit of a disclaimer; let’s get on with it.
The root cause of Eczema is being in a State of Sub-clinical toxicity to Vitamin A.
What does sub-clinical toxicity mean? It means that the level of Vitamin A consumption, that is now toxic to us, is ridiculously low. It is ridiculously low compared to what is likely thought of as being clinically possible. In other words, the small amounts of vitamin A in our foods is now poisoning us, and causing eczema (and more). If you ask your doctor about this; he will probably state that this is more or less impossible. Therefore, the term “sub-clinical”.
How do I know this? I’ve used a simple food experiment to prove it. Anyone with eczema can easily repeat this experiment, and hopeful get similar or even better results.
My guess is that a lot of knowledgeable medical people will say that this is nearly impossible. The documented dosages required to reach Vitamin A toxicity are vastly higher, like 1,000 times higher! And these vastly higher doses are usually needed over long periods of time. They will probably claim that there is no way the average person with eczema, and on a reasonably normal diet, is in a state worse than chronic vitamin A poisoning.
Adding to that, if I claim that there are like 10+ million people in North America in this current condition of sub-clinical vitamin A toxicity; the response might be that; well that’s just insanely impossible.
Even worse, if a few clinical researchers accept that this is remotely possible, and try applying the standard treatment for vitamin A toxicity to some test cases; they are probably going to fail. They are going to fail because a diet that is just low in Vitamin A may not be low enough! I (we) are now at the extremely low point where we simply can’t absorb any more. How extremely low? A single slice of tomato, or a ½ glass of milk, or cup of strawberries, or a cup of dry cheerios, or a single piece of chicken, or pork, or a small portion of any of 1000 other foods can be too much. That last sentence is all ORs, not ANDs.
If you just go out and buy foods with nutritional labels listing 0% Vitamin A, this is not going to work. These foods may actually only have “Not a Significant Amount” of vitamin A. But, that “Not a Significant Amount” is for people in a normal state. For us, every micro gram is significant.
Then there are other foods, such as raisins that would appear to be perfectly safe. They are reported to have 0 Vitamin A. Yet they have carotenoids or beta-carotenes, and these can be converted to Vitamin A. The end result is the same. Then, there is information stating that your body is going to ignore plant based sources of Vitamin A when it is not needed. That information is a myth; it is simply wrong.
In our current condition, any food with even a tiny bit of vitamin A is now toxic to us, and burns our skin (eczema). If you think this is too bizarre to be true; well so did I. But, it is absolutely true.
I am a living example of exactly that. Moreover, I have absolutely reached this State of Sub-clinical toxicity to Vitamin A on a mostly normal diet. I am not near death. I was functioning reasonably well too; other than I had developed eczema.
The dictionary definition for Eczema is:
“a skin disease that causes areas of the skin to become red, rough, and itchy”
I think this definition is not quite correct. Eczema is not actually even the disease; it is just a really big symptom of the real underlying disease. Eczema is not an autoimmune disease either. Our immune system is working just fine. It is responding to a toxin.
However, there are three critically important points I want to make:
1) Eczema, or more specifically the Sub-clinical toxicity to Vitamin A, is NOT the same as classic / authentic cases of Vitamin A toxicity; yet most of the end symptoms are.
2) The path we’ve taken to get to Vitamin A toxicity is also not at all the same either; it’s probably worse.
3) The severity of our condition putting us into this state of Vitamin A toxicity is probably worse too.
This is not some sort of riddle. It is just complicated. I propose a hypothesis explaining the above statements.
With that wee bit of bad news; I think the good news is that the prescribed treatment for recovering from classic Vitamin A poisoning also applies to Eczema. But, we have to take it to a different level.
The immediate starting point is to adopt a very low Vitamin A diet. Get off of any supplemental sources of Vitamin A immediately. Surprisingly, this is not going to be low enough for a certain group of people. We need to go extremely low; like 0.000000 grams/day.
Just as importantly, you need to understand why this has happened. If you follow my diet, and resolve your current eczema condition, you have not at all cured it for life! It is not an infection. You can easily get back into the state where it comes back.
At this point, if you are thinking to yourself that this is all BS! Just consider one more thing before moving on.
The substance that is burning holes in your skin is quite possibly burning holes in other internal tissues of your body too. This is not just poisoning your skin; it is poisoning your body. So, I think you owe it to yourself to at least consider this as a remote possibility. Look at the evidence and hypothesis I present, and then apply your own good judgment to it.
Even better yet, you can repeat my (somewhat) simple food experiment, and look at the results first hand. If it’s correct, then not only can you add more evidence to support this, you are going to heal your skin at the same time. If it is wrong, then we’d all like to know that as soon as possible; and I’ll be very sorry to have wasted anyone’s time.
I would like to apply the time-honored scientific method to this hypothesis and ask others to repeat the exact same simple diet experiment.
You may not be scientifically inclined, or your skin is currently peeling/crumbling off and therefore you do not give a shit about the scientific proof at this time. I totally understand that too. But, be assured, this is not some one-time; quick fix thing. But, I do have a very high degree of confidence that it will permit your skin to heal, and heal completely.
I could just tell you to go on a 15-30 day diet of exclusively egg whites, beef, and white rice (cooked with olive oil, not butter), no fish, no chicken, no tomato, and no 10,000 other foods, and in a few days your eczema will start to heal, and maybe fully heal in 2-4 weeks. If you are currently on a low fat diet, then adding non Vitamin A containing fats such as olive oil to your diet may be critically important, and dramatically speed thing up too.
No, I did not just make up this magic list of foods either. They are just a select few foods (of any substance) that share a common, indisputable scientific fact among them. That is that none of them contain Vitamin A.
The exact list of foods that I think are safe, and the diet I followed are listed below. But, just to be clear, these foods are not on the list by what they contain, it is what they don’t contain. Amazingly, this requirement takes about 99.99% of all common foods off the list. Moreover, this is not a diet high in these foods, it is a diet 100% exclusive to these foods. This means 3 meals a day. If you cheat even a tiny, tiny bit, you may fail (please see my experiment notes for details). For example, a handful of raisins, or a few pieces of peppermint gum can send your skin in the wrong direction!
My safe food diet:
- Beef ( steak, roast, not cooked with butter) – , no hamburger due to added egg, no spices, no sauces, no ketchup etc.!
- Rice ( not cooked with butter, salt and black pepper is OK )
- Egg Whites ( not cooked with butter )
- Olive Oil ( 1 tablespoon / day, NOT optional, light and not EVOO)
- Occasional Vitamin C, and B supplements as you want.
- Cashews / Walnuts 5-10/day
- Coffee ( obviously optional)
THAT’S IT. NOTHING ELSE!
NO Omega 3/6 fish oils. Consider cod liver oil near deadly now, as maybe most other fish oils are too.
Once again, consider this list the ONLY foods you can now eat. There are theoretically a few substitutes, and additions but you have to be extremely cautious. Beware of Orange Metamucil too ( I have no solid evidence, I have just enough first hand experience to suspect it, even though it reports 0.0% vitamin A).
I did experiment off and on with some coconut milks; with mixed results. I thought the simple ones (ones where the only ingredients are coconut milk and water) were safe. But, they are not.
The ones with guar gum are absolutely not safe IMO. Also, I tried one with carrageenan, and had a near instant inflammation response. That experience may have been coincidental, but I highly doubt it. So, don’t take any needless risks with these at this time.
I found steak, and rice with olive oil to be quite delicious actually. It also provided me with tons of energy to get me through the day too. So, this is a bit of a lucky break in my opinion.
Once again, you really must understand why this is going to help you recover and adopt a correspondingly, and prudent long-term diet plan.
Why this diet works is all about this pervasive, insidious, little compound, found in nearly all other foods on the planet. You need to eliminate it from your diet at least until you heal your skin. But, you can’t stop there. There is more information needed. You will need to understand how to manage your longer-term diet to prevent getting back into this sub-clinical toxicity state. This may be as simple as avoiding all the “big ticket” vitamin A foods. I don’t know. Once again, I do not claim to have all the answers.
If you only have eczema showing up on a sporadic basis; I think you should consider that a very big warning sign. It could easily get much worse over time based upon your on going diet pattern. I would highly recommend that you avoid all foods that are high in Vitamin A for a good long time.
My own personal experience was that eczema showed up almost overnight, and persisted for eight months. However; this is not about me; so I do not want to go into those nasty details. But, I think I need to give you a bit more context for my own experience. Just please be assured, that I am not talking about some mild rash here and there kind of eczema
I am 54 years old. I had my first encounter with Eczema this year. I have no history with skin conditions, allergies, or asthma. There is no history of eczema in my family, etc.
I have been dealing with my Eczema for about 8 months now. It was very bad at times; as about as bad as some of the worst pictures I have found online. Yes, I have had the full body rashes, the boiled red leather face; yes, I have wet the bed sheets with some unknown clear sticky fluid that has oozed from by backside, etc. At times I looked like mr krabs in spongebob. . For the first 7 months, I was more or less just living with it as best I could. Only in the last month did I become to accept that my eczema was not going to magically go away on its own.
When I first got eczema, my doctor told me that it will come and go, but that I am more than likely stuck with it for the rest of my life. That was quite unwelcome news as I approach my retirement years. So, only in the last month did I set out trying to determine the real root cause of this scourge.
Theory and Hypothesis
The root cause of Eczema is that we have exceeded our body’s storage capacity and / or absorption rate for vitamin A. We are now at a sub-clinical toxicity level in our consumption of vitamin A.
How and Why
Once again, I want to state that this is only a hypothesis. It is only what I think may be happening.
The liver is the body’s primary storage organ for vitamin A, and it has a, more or less, fixed capacity for it. The key words here are “storage” and “fix capacity”, and we are at, or just nearing, the saturation point for this substance.
The key point here is that we don’t actually need to max out our storage capacity. As we get closer and closer to the max limit, our Vitamin A absorption rates are dropping quickly too. When our dietary intake of vitamin A exceeds our absorption rates; it is a toxic condition.
For normal people; with normal current storage capacity, they can absorb enormous amounts of Vitamin A very quickly with no toxicity effect.
However, as we start to fill up our liver’s storage capacity, the absorption rate is going to drop proportionally to the remaining amount. This is likely some inverse exponential decline curve. Or, the liver is damaged, and entire storage capability has been compromised? Or something else entirely is blocking the absorption of vitamin A?
Regardless, the end result is the same to us.
In the normal path; vitamin A is consumed via food, is digested, and is quickly stored away in the liver. The liver then safely releases that vitamin A to the remainder of the body on some as needed basis.
With us, our consumption of Vitamin A, or even a small portion of it, is not taking that path. We are taking in more Vitamin A than what can be absorbed, and safely stored, by the liver.
As we near saturated absorption rates with vitamin A, any excess vitamin A, or by-products of the breakdown of that excess vitamin A is moving into our other organs and skin. These organs are not able to deal with this toxic substance. This substance (vitamin A, or some derivative of it) is now eliciting an immune response, and thus our eczema condition destroying our skin.
I have read the documented absorption rates (for normal people) to easily be in the range of 400,000 IU in one dose. That is being safely absorbed as fast as it is being digested, so probably over a period of minutes.
What I am saying is that we are nowhere near that now. We are like 400 to 10,000 times less than that. This makes perfect sense too; as we fill up our storage closer to its max limit, our absorption rates are also going to start to approach nearly zero.
Once again, I think this may be thought of as clinically not being possible; at least on a wide scale. But, of course it is. It is just simple math. Given a certain history, and enough time, anyone can get into this state. From an engineer’s point of view, this is pretty much a mathematical certainty.
I think that it logically follows that the liver is not releasing stored vitamin A into the body in what I’m calling a raw form. It must be packaging that vitamin A in some form of a chemical safety blanket. When that packaged vitamin A arrives at the other tissues, those cells must then be unwrapping the vitamin A from its safety blanket. Therefore, for vitamin A to be safely transported around the body, it first needs to be in this safety blanket.
Therefore, to use my layman terminology, I am going to call Vitamin A that is digested, but not absorbed and package by the liver as being Raw Vitamin A. It is this Raw Vitamin A that is toxic to us, and burning our skin.
Now, whenever our digestion rates of vitamin A exceed our absorption rates; it is a toxic condition. We now have Raw vitamin A in our system. It is not wrapped in the needed chemical safety blanket.
I view this as somewhat similar to a poison ivy rash. With poison ivy the toxin is delivered on the surface of the skin by rubbing against the plant. With eczema, the toxin is now being delivered internally via food. In both cases your body mounts an immune response to the toxins.
You might be asking how can an essential nutrient become a poison at the same time? Yes, it can. This fact is actually well, well proven and documented; except just typically only at high chronic or acute dosages.
The common food triggers cited by the US and Canadian eczema associations; are milk, dairy, eggs, fish, tomatoes, spinach etc. The term “trigger” is a bit of a misnomer. These foods are not just triggers; they are part of the actual root cause. They both help build up and surge the body’s stores of vitamin A. So, it is not these specifically named foods that are the culprit. It is a common substance found in all these foods that’s the culprit. That substance is vitamin A.
As a quick sanity check here; think about all of your known, or the documented, eczema trigger foods. How many of them have vitamin A? Here are some of the top foods with the highest Vitamin A. Look familiar?
|Top Vitamin A Sources||Top Eczema Triggers|
|Milk / Dairy||Milk / Dairy|
|Bell Peppers||Bell Peppers|
To add more mystery into the mix, there is complex timing involved here too. It is complicated because these foods are perfectly fine, and safe when we are below the saturation point. But, once we are above the saturation point, they now become “triggers”, A.K.A. toxins. So, the toxicity of vitamin A is a moving target in both time and relative to the body’s storage condition. This moving target in time is probably part of the reason people have a hard time pinning down their own eczema “food triggers”, and fail in the long term with elimination diets.
Consumption of these foods are just continually adding more vitamin A to our bodies. Our bodies are also continually using up a bit of vitamin A everyday too. Therefore, it is a balancing act; you don’t want to get too much, and you don’t want to get too little. Imagine a low and high water mark where the storage levels are safe. Outside of these bounds, it is no longer safe. The remaining storage levels directly affect absorption rates; it is going to be inversely proportional, and maybe exponentially. That just makes sense in a biological system.
Therefore, there is a kind of threshold limit to the rate of vitamin A our bodies can safely absorb and store. We are now at; or beyond that threshold.
So, vitamin A is a double edge sword. It is a critical nutrient below certain storage levels, and a toxin once your body has filled its store for it. It is the cumulative amount our bodies have stored over time that probably really matters. After that point; any consumption matters; higher rates of consumption just make for bigger flare-ups!
In my own personal experience; I have eaten all of these cited trigger foods most of my life; and probably at somewhat unreasonable quantities too. I was daily eating eggs, milk, butter, and cheese, etc.. I was in generally good health until my eczema showed up.
Now, all of sudden, after all these years, these foods now cause my skin to peel off and weep some creepy clear fluid. And, it is not just one, or a few, of these foods, it’s ALL of them, each and every one of them individually!
That just does not make sense to me. How can I all of a sudden develop intolerance to all these different foods, exactly at the same time? That is just not logical.
Unless I am experiencing some major organ failure, or have some other horrible disease? Yet, I’ am conveniently ruling out that possibility, because so many young people are getting eczema too, and I hope they are not all experiencing some form of organ failure, or other disease. My hypothesis explains this new condition of my favorite foods now, all of a sudden, being toxic to me.
Given this hypothesis; the eczema condition could happen at any age. It probably depends upon a lot of different factors; with our cumulative dietary history being the most important one. But, it could even happen to a newborn due to the mother’s level of vitamin A during pregnancy.
Of course there are well-documented symptoms of vitamin A toxicity. Dry, itchy skin is just one of the symptoms. There are lots of other symptoms too. The common ones are:
- decreased appetite,
- itching (pruritus),
- hair loss,
- cracks at the corner of the mouth,
- peeling of the skin
- chronic toxicity results in bone pain
How many of these symptoms do you have? I think I had 4 to 5 of these; but not all.
I have read some documented extreme cases of vitamin A overdoses where people reported that their skin started to painfully peel off. Sound familiar?
However, while in a big flare-up, a key matching symptom for me was that my lips were incredibly dried out and had insane deep cracks form in them (symptom #6); like nothing I have had in my entire life.
This is the exact same symptom described in an account I found about a man acutely poisoned after massive vitamin A consumption. His other symptoms were red, inflamed skin etc. Sound familiar?
However, the documented levels of vitamin A intake required to reach that toxicity are extremely high. It is something like 5x or 10x the RDA (recommended daily allowance) levels over long periods of time. I eat just normal foods; I don’t take supplements; and never eat liver. So, there is no way that I had an extreme high intake of vitamin A. Yet, I am having the symptoms of vitamin A toxicity. But when you think about it, since the liver is a storage organ, we don’t actually need massive dosages at all to reach a toxic state. We just need to consume more than we use, and given enough time, we are going to reach this saturation state. For me, it has happened once in 54 years.
I can see children getting into this saturation toxicity state more easily. Then, once there, being slightly over or under their saturation point for a good long time; or until their liver grows large enough. This would be especially true for anyone that has ever eaten liver, or taken vitamin A supplements, or cod liver oil, or lots of tuna, or spinach or etc., or etc. for some period of time.
I can only find some scant references to other people considering this potential sub-clinical toxicity state; I think it is just not something the larger medical community has considered as being even possible. But, holy shit! There are something like 10+ million people with eczema, and for a good number of them the symptoms are surprisingly close to those documented for full blown vitamin A toxicity.
I think the medical community has just given these same symptoms a new name; calling it eczema. Because, it appears that no one is connecting these two conditions as being almost one in the same thing. Maybe part of the problem is that Eczema is medically defined as a skin disease. So, people are only looking at the skin symptom, and not the overall state of health.
In their defense, I can see why too. These are not exactly the same pathologies. And how many authentic cases of acute vitamin A toxicity does a GP see in their entire career? A scant few; is my guess?
Most people with eczema are not typically dosing with massive intakes of vitamin A either. So, why would the medical community associate this with a form of vitamin A toxicity? The literature for vitamin A toxicity states that you need crazy high doses. But, I think there is a red herring here too. The pathology of eczema is different.
With what I am calling authentic vitamin A poisoning, the prescribed treatment is to simply stop supplementing. Whereas, with eczema, we are all already at that state; most people are probably not supplementing, and may not have been. Moreover, they are also probably avoiding the high vitamin A eczema “trigger” foods.
I think this difference can be explained in the context of absorption rates. In cases of both chronic and acute authentic vitamin A poisoning, people are taking in high doses. Maybe those high does just can’t be absorbed fast enough, and the excess, in the time period between digestion and absorption, is not able to be stored fast enough. This excess is then delivered to the skin and causes the toxic symptoms (immune response).
But, in the cases of authentic vitamin A poisoning, these people will not have actually max’d out their storage capacity at all. They just surged their intake rate faster than it could be absorbed. Therefore, they get the toxic responses early and they seek medical attention. They also recover fast after they stop supplementing. They still have remaining storage, and therefore absorption capacity and they recover on a normal diet. Shown below is a rough sketch of acute vitamin A toxicity.
The chronic vitamin A toxicity case is just a variation of the acute case; it has more early spikes of lesser magnitude. However, in both scenarios, the end result is nearly the same. The rate of intake exceeds the rate of absorption for only a short period of time, and they have not yet max’d out their storage.
An analogy would be like filling the gas tank in your car. If you fill it too fast, it can surge back, and spill out a bit. You can mistakenly think you filled it completely; but you haven’t. Whereas; if you fill it very slowly, you can fill it to the very last drop.
Of course, with vitamin A intake the absorption rates slow down, as we get closer to our max levels of storage. Although this is just speculation on my part; it just makes sense.
So, in our case, we’ve filled up our vitamin A storage very slowly over a longer period of time. Therefore, we have indeed actually max’d out our full storage capacity, and to the very last drop so to speak. Now, not only is any little bit of vitamin A. intake toxic, but we don’t recover by simply being on a normal diet. We are already on a reasonably normal diet.
The sketch shown above represents people in the sub-clinical state ( that’s us with eczema). We are at the absorption saturation point; there is a now an incredibly low level of vitamin A intake that is causing the toxicity. It is much lower than what most medical people might imagine is even possible.
For us, we are way down on the tail end of the curve. Any tiny excessive bit of intake is now being dealt with by other organs. Once again, that toxicity is being played out on our skin in the form of Eczema.
If these charts are not doing much for you, here’s another analogy that may be clearer.
Your are going to fill up your bathtub using two different approaches.
Approach 1 – A High Pressure Fire Hose AKA:Acute Vitamin A poisoning
Just one blast from the fire hose and you have water all over your bathroom, it’s a mess. Moreover, you have not even come close to filling up the tub because you were filling it too fast. Most of it just sprayed out. Even if you try very carefully, as you get the tub closer to being full, more and more water is just going to blast out. Now, you have water everywhere, your clothes are dripping wet. Meaning, your skin is burning off and you go see your doctor for Vitamin A poisoning. But, you still have lots of room left in the tub, and you can go back to a normal diet.
Approach 2 – A tiny, tiny slow drip – AKA: Sub-clinical Vitamin A poisoning
In this approach you open the faucet to have a tiny slow drip, maybe one drop every 8 hours. As long as this drop is bigger than the evaporation rate, you are going to fill the tub. You are also going to fill it to the very last drop too. It is going to take a long time. But, it is a mathematical certainty. Once the tub is full, every additional drop will leak out onto the floor. Now every drop is toxic to you. This now causes your skin to slowly self destruct. You go see your doctor for Eczema. You have no room left in the tub. A normal diet is now toxic too.
Children have a lower level of vitamin A toxicity, and a higher probability for getting eczema because they have smaller livers. So they can more easily get into this sub-clinical toxicity state. This is also probably why children tend to literally “outgrow” eczema. Their livers get bigger with age. What about the poor kid born with a small or underdeveloped liver?
The other really important point regarding children is that their RDA is about 1/5th that of an adult male. However, food nutrition labels list the RDA % for an adult male on them. Therefore, a food portion that is labeled as being 10% of the RDA for vitamin A is actually 100% for a small child. So, basically, one glass of milk could be a 100% daily dose for a small child. It would be very easy for a child to exceed their RDA for vitamin A repeatedly. Even with smaller portions, children are far more susceptible to maxing out their RDA. For example, a tuna sandwich, with sliced tomato, and a glass of milk could be like 300% of a child’s RDA for vitamin A. What about breakfast and pizza for dinner? It could easily get to 500%.
Then add on top of that, the good intentions of some parents that add cod liver oil, or a multivitamin supplement to their kid’s diet. Then, to make it even worse, add in this whole low-fat diet thing. What does that do to the liver’s vitamin A storage capacity? Can we make it worse yet? Of course we can. The current nutritional advice floating around about feeding our kids diets that are high in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, and added fish oils for omega 3. Is this more or less a long term prescription for getting eczema?
Therefore, it is not surprising to me that children have two times the probability of getting eczema as compared to the adult population. Vitamin A was being encouraged in early pregnancy too. It is not at all surprising that there were children actually born with eczema too. Since the medical community has reversed that recommendation; has there been a corresponding decline in rates of infant eczema? Are we now almost creating this kind of perfect storm condition for vitamin A toxicity in them; resulting in eczema, and other diseases?
Maybe at older ages our livers may have a reduced capacity for vitamin A storage, or our body’s daily usage amounts are just less. I don’t know. Just asking?
My basic premise here is that there is now a much lower intake of vitamin A that is toxic. My personal experiment leads me to believe that it is nearly zero! It is absolutely nowhere freaking close to an RDA number! That number is now an insane 3000x too high for me!
Once again, to complicate matters, it is not based just on the dose. It is based more upon what state our body is in relative to its absorption saturation point for vitamin A storage. It is a tricky moving target in time. I believe it this time based moving target that has made eczema such an elusive problem to solve. Can it get more complicated? Of course it can, and it does.
I think it also depends on your personal dietary fat consumption. If you are following a low fat diet, you could be making matters worse. From what I understand, our liver function is very dependent upon dietary fats. So, a low fat diet may lead to a much lower Vitamin A storage capacity too?
For some other segment of the population, maybe their body completely ignores the extra vitamin A, and it is passed through, with no harm done? I don’t know. Sadly, that is not true for us.
I know absolutely nothing about the function of the liver; other than one of it’s functions is to store vitamin A. But, I have to wonder; does it store the Vitamin A for later use; or is it more importantly storing it in a chemical safety blanket to protect us from it’s toxicity?
Therefore, to heal our eczema; we need to bring down our vitamin A intake to the point where our liver is not at it’s storage capacity limit for it. I think we need to do that by reducing our daily intake to nearly (absolutely) zero.
In my own personal circumstance; I think it took me a quite a long time to build up to this saturation level; so I think it is going to take quite a while to draw it back down.
In summary, the common eczema triggers; are not really triggers at all. They are just increasing our cumulative intake of vitamin A past a storage level tipping point. If we mini-binge even a little bit on these foods; we are spiking our vitamin A intake too. Thus the lovely “flare ups” that us eczema sufferers experience.
Therefore, it’s not just the 5 or 10 top “trigger foods” that you need to be concerned with. There are literally thousands of potential “trigger” foods! It’s just that they have bigger and smaller doses. Inversely, there are only a tiny number of foods that are truly safe; these are like rice, beef, egg whites. And these foods are only safe if you don’t cook them with butter!
If our storage levels are low, we can spike our vitamin A levels almost all we want with no impact at all. The vitamin A simply goes to storage. What I am personally finding is that even tiny amounts of vitamin A intake make my eczema worse; and it does so in 2-4 hours.
Therefore, the probability of the flare up is a moving target in time too. If our body’s storage state is low, we can probably absorb a pretty big dose of vitamin A, with no eczema or flare up at all. Once again, I think this is probably why it is so difficult and frustrating for people to pin down their exact triggers. One week they can eat food X, and the next week they can’t.
If you have kept a dietary history, please look at it in a new perspective; and that is in the view of you cumulative vitamin A intake. Also, any food with vitamin A can be a trigger if you are at the saturation point. So, it is not only a moving target in time; it can be almost anything you eat that is now dangerous. Worse, I have learned that you can’t even trust the food nutrition labels (at least here in Canada).
My own personal experience is that the correlation between Vitamin A intake and worsening eczema is as predictable as clockwork. Like I said above, it is also amazingly quick.
For some, this Vitamin A hypothesis might sound bizarre and just nuts. Yes, admittedly, it must. You might argue that vitamin A is documented as being good for your skin; and essential for your eyes too. Maybe it is. But if you are living in North America, your liver probably has quite a lot stored already. It is also documented to painfully peel off your skin off once you’ve reach toxic levels. That is not “good for your skin”. There are lots of websites giving advice; and recommending vitamin A. as being helpful for treating eczema too. I’m calling complete BS on that. Is there any real evidence supporting this advice? Is there one person on the planet who has successfully treated their eczema by supplementing with vitamin A? I very highly doubt it.
Okay, let’s get back on track here. Since vitamin A is in so many foods, it is nearly impossible that many people go a single day without getting some of it.
Clearly, if you are taking a vitamin A supplement; I think you should get off it immediately; and stay off it for like forever! Read all the labels on the food you are eating; and check other unlabeled foods for their vitamin A contents before consuming them. Don’t just trust the food nutrition labels; double check via Google too.
Eliminate your intake of vitamin A for a while and try to get your liver below its max storage level. I have now learned that vitamin A is in a vast array of foods, and enriched foods like breakfast cereals. It is also in many other foods that you might not expect it to be in.
The documented time to recover from acute and chronic vitamin A toxicity is 1 to 4 weeks. It took me ~4-5 weeks to recover; and that’s after making repeated mistakes. Still, I think this is not too bad. Most of that time was healing and not at all in any serious discomfort. The other good news, is that you can learn from my mistakes, and not repeat them; and hopefully heal faster.
If you consider trying this for yourself, I’d first try it for say 10 days, and see if your skin actually feels like it starts to really heal. The telltale sign for me that it was working, is that the itching stopped and I could actually feel the immune response back off. Can you actually feel your immune response back off? Yes, I think you can. And that happened in day 2 or 3 for me. The swelling and inflammation died down noticeably.
Obviously it will take at least several weeks, or more, for your skin to fully heal. If you have had a decent diet for the last while; dropping your vitamin A intake for a few weeks is not going to do any harm. You have a lot of it stored in your liver. So, you don’t have much to lose by trying this simple experiment. If you are on a low fat diet; you might want to reconsider that, but now you can only use non Vitamin A sources of fats; such as olive oil. Actually, there is something very important about olive oil. I believe that it was a critical part of my recovery.
Of course, you cannot completely stop your vitamin A intake for a long period of time either. You need vitamin A; it is essential. You are not allergic to it. You just need some time to draw down your body’s store of it. This might take some time; I really have no idea how long; it is probably 4+ months.
But, a kid with this condition is probably going to reach a normal state much faster because their liver is continuing to grow and get larger; and therefore increase their storage capacity and absorption rates.
If I am right about this; then at least we can pretty much eliminate this eczema condition. I think we can eliminate it pretty quickly too.
The only bad news is that the food choices are very limited. However, I’ll easily live on a diet of egg whites, rice and steak, olive oil, etc as opposed to living with eczema.
Also, over the long term, I think that I’ll be able to draw down on my vitamin A stores, to the point where I can get on a normal diet again. Time will tell.
Once again, I would really appreciate if anyone who has kept a detailed food history, to have a look at that in a new perspective in terms of vitamin A, and not the food names, and let me know if this fits with your experience.
If you think this is a crazy hypothesis based upon theoretical reason X, then please help prove it wrong. Prove it with real people with real eczema trying this same experiment. This is not some bravado, or challenge. I genuinely want the facts as much as anyone.
But, please don’t simply tell me that it can’t be, or it can’t work because of reason X, but prove that it can’t work with real evidence. Because, I am 100% certain that I have just proven that it does work, and that it is real. Moreover, there is lots of other existing scientific evidence in alignment with this hypothesis. This is not just a theory I have pulled out of thin air.
If you currently have severe eczema, this is a pretty simple, and safe experiment to try for 10-20 days. There are like 500,000,000 people in south east Asia living on a diet like this; so you are not going to die from it.
The key finding from my own experience, is that I needed to really take my vitamin A intake down to zero, and you can not trust the food labels for this information.
For me zero actually meant zero; not a tiny bit; pretty much not a micro-gram! Please see my experiment details reported below.
Pre Experiment Current Conditions and Eczema state.
Based upon my own history I’d classify my current condition to be Mild to Medium severity
- Backs of fingers are worst; the skin is a bit broken; peeling a bit, with a bit of weeping; it is worst on the first three finger of my right hand; and mostly between the fingernail and the first knuckle.
- Face is mildly affected; skin is a bit rough; very dry in sideburn areas ( no pun intended) with a rash up into the hair line,
- Behind the ears and inside the ear lobes is very dry and itchy too, but the skin is not broken
- Rash on abdomen, directly behind belt buckle area, and moving up to my chest; not too severe, just a bumpy rash, a bit itchy.
- Elbows are red, inflamed, and lumpy with nodules; AKA the eczema elbows I had for most of the last 7 months.
- Backs of hands have a mild bumpy, reddish rash; not too bad.
- I’ve been off the steroid creams for about a week now, so my eczema is active
Basic Experiment Procedure:
- Reduce my vitamin A consumption to a low level; but not to an absolute zero (impossible to do anyway).
- Monitor skin for any improvements. I’ll try to take a picture each day of my fingers.
- The literature I’ve read regarding recovering from vitamin A toxicity says that this is going to take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks. So, I am going to try this for 4 weeks, and evaluate from there. I’ll face the evidence at that time. If I don’t see real positive results within 4 weeks, then clearly I am wrong.
Two weeks prior, out of desperation, I did a pretty dumb thing. I damaged my skin on my fingers even more, by trying some other prescription cream (not for eczema), this will affect the time to heal. My fingers are a bit atrophied too because of the steroid creams.
Planning on False Positive testing
This experiment is a complete shot in the dark. I have no idea if it will work or not.
If I can get my skin healed with a minimal Vitamin A intake diet, then I plan on doing what I am calling false-positive testing. To do that I’ll get a list of foods that other people report as their triggers, but foods that do not contain Vitamin A. For example:peanut butter, and egg whites.
Then I’ll do a bit of a mini-binge with these foods just to see if I can flare up my eczema with them. If I can, then obviously my hypothesis will be invalid.
Findings and Observations
Noticeable improvement with the feeling of actual healing starting to take place.
It also feels like my immune response is backing off. How can I say this?
I say this is because the feeling in my skin is now the same as about day two or three of treatment with the steroid cream. The steroid creams suppress the immune response; and this current condition feels very, very similar to that. But, I am not using the steroid cream at all. But it is not quite a 100% back off yet. Never-the-less, this is an amazingly early positive indicator that I never expected.
The skin is still dry, and needs lot of moisturizer, but it is feeling like there is less swelling.
The skin is quite dry, but remarkably not itchy. The itch is gone. Are you kidding me? After three days!
However, the skin is also getting a bit redder. It definitely feels like scabs might form where the skin was damaged. It very much feels different than when the eczema was present.
The little nodules, bumps that had accompanied the eczema are also almost all gone too.
So, this is a big improvement, but the redness, and the quasi-scabbing feeling could very easily be misinterpreted as the condition getting worse. But, it is not worse. It has just changed. I think the most important thing is that the itching is now gone. This is just damaged skin that is now healing. So, this is an amazing improvement in only three days.
With the eczema, my affected skin had changed appearance in a creepy way too. I was able to look close at it with a microscope with 10-30x.
With the eczema condition the skin had turned into a kind of micro pattern of clear; translucent spots, almost like hundreds of pinholes per square centimeter. Somewhat like looking a piece of spongy swiss cheese. The area of the spot / pinhole was about 50/50 ratio to the okay looking skin. The pinholes were not really open holes, but more like transparent skin covered pockets. This pinhole appearance was present for the entire last 7 months; and never did improve, even with the steroid creams. Secondarily; my skin on my fingers had developed kind of a lumpy feel. The lumps were like small little nodules. The nodules almost looked like small warts. But, they were not warts; just raised bumps; and probably 100’s of them if counted on all three fingers. I’ve later realized that these bumps are actually deep blisters.
I think the translucent pockets actually contain the clear fluid that oozes out when I press hard and scrape a fingernail across the skin. Scraping a fingernail across the skin more or less causes the top layer to just crumble and fall apart. This layer of skin has no structural integrity remaining. The skin is just more or less disintegrating where there is significant weeping. What is in this clear fluid anyways? Has anyone ever tested it for some form of retinol?
Now on day #3, this pinhole appearance was nearly 100% gone; on the micro scale, the skin is back to a much more normal healthy appearance. The pinholes have mostly filled in / closed up. The lumpy feel (nodules) is nearly gone too.
This healthier appearance on the micro scale is also a clear indication that things are healing, and moving in the right direction. Just lots of moisturizer needed at this time.
My other observation, not at all related to my skin, is that I definitely feel more alert, and more energetic. This could be completely psychosomatic; but I actually do feel better.
Just OK healing progress today. But needing lots of moisturizer again today. I probably made bad lunch choices today; maybe I was feeling a little too bold that this scourge was behind me. Had a cajun chicken sandwich and a dark traditional beer. Not sure about if this is having a negative impact or not. But, I think it might be.
I started a new job 3 days ago, and have been cycling to work too; it is 6 km each way, with a quite a bit of elevation changes. So, I’ve been sweating a bit on the home-bound commute too. So, this could be factoring into things.
Had an 12oz orange juice at Starbucks this AM. The label on the bottle said 0% vitamin A. This was a bad choice. Definitely feeling a regression; I am getting some bumpiness, redness, and itching back. This really sucks. Checked Google, the orange juice may of had something like 1000 IU of vitamin A. Maybe, there is some nutrition-labeling rule that low levels can be reported as 0%.
I also had a pastrami sandwich at lunch that had a bit of butter on it too. So, that was another small source of vitamin A.
If I am right about this whole vitamin A theory, then it looks like my tolerance for any daily dose may be quite low; maybe near zero. This observation closely fits with my theory; but I can almost not believe this. Maybe there is some other random thing going on here?
OK, for now, fine; I was never a big fan of orange juice anyway. I just need to be more careful in trying to really reduce all vitamin A sources at this time.
So, today has been a big step in the wrong direction; that is discouraging. I still think I am on the right track with my vitamin A theory; but not sure how to interpret these new conditions.
Too busy to report; but still dealing with the regression.
Almost back to the state I was in 2 days ago; but not quite as good.
The spottiness; pinhole effect is back a bit (smaller areas), as are a few of the nodules. I also feel a tingling in my face; like I am on the verge of another flare up!
My current condition is not horrible, but it is definitely a setback.
On the other hand, it is interesting to consider the near immediate reaction to seemingly trivial amounts of Vitamin A in my food choices.
I think most normal people would consider this to be just insane.
Have pastrami sandwich and an orange juice, and your skin starts to self-destruct! It’s bizarre, but true. A year ago I would have never had this kind of reaction to any of these foods!
I think the volume of vitamin A I had in these foods was not very high at all; maybe ⅓ the RDA.
So this could mean that my current condition is so close to some threshold or I am completely off track on this vitamin A toxicity theory, and something else is going on.
However, I have very little doubt that my Eczema is caused by diet; since it has a nearly immediate response to my diet (my condition worsens within hours of having these foods).
In other words, I have no doubt that this is a form of poisoning, or some deteriorated body state that causes the diet to be a poison.
Had a burger for lunch today; it probably had eggs in it; but a man does have to eat. Also had a tablespoon of ketchup with it too. Wow, I am really going overboard here huh?
If I am reading my results correctly, this seemingly insignificant amount of vitamin A is enough to tip things in the wrong direction. That should be considered to be nuts, almost unbelievable!
My fingers are now my barometer on the state of my eczema.
About the same as above.
I have been taunting this scourge a bit; by having ~5 egg whites for breakfast again this AM.
I read on some hospital’s web page describing common eczema triggers that egg whites were the culprit, and not the yolks. So, I’m calling BS on that.
I seemed to be fine with egg whites yesterday too.
Current Conditions are:
- Rash and bumpiness on my abdomen is now fully gone; skin is smooth.
- Skin on my face is smoother too.
- Dry itchiness behind and in my ears is nearly 100% cleared up; the skin is feeling far more moist, and smooth. Not itchy at all.
- Rash on the backs of my hands has completely cleared
- Rash on my elbows has completely cleared too; looks very normal now; this is the first time in 7 months!
- Fingers are still undecided; they are slowly getting better; but still a bit of weeping this AM, still much better than what they were like on day #1, the backs of my fingers are now my eczema’s last stand… this is now the battle ground; I have to beat it here or it is going to beat me.
- Weirdly… and this is a very early observation, but I think there is more hair growing on the tops of my feet, and the back of my legs. Not that I pay any attention to these things, it just kind of jumped out at me this AM. No, it is not a full moon.
I think this is damn good progress for only 8 days!
Another setback. All I can say; F. I am not happy. The skin on my fingers if going back to the mushy swiss cheese condition. Some weeping fluid to go with this lovely feeling too.
Okay, maybe I shot myself in the foot again. I had a small bowl of sherbet ice cream last night. The nutrition label said it had 0% Vitamin A. Man! will I ever learn?
Could it be that the food producers only need to list the MAXIMUM vitamin A a product contains, and not if it contains ANY? Meaning, if they don’t want to get a product tested for actual Vitamin A, they can just claim 0%. On the other hand, they can’t just claim 50% when the product only contains 20%, because that would be misleading the consumer; the consumer is not getting what they think they are paying for kind of thing? Whereas, since Vitamin A, is such a common naturally occurring substance, and no one is allergic to it (except us), it is easier/cheaper to just list a product as having 0% Vitamin A. If that does not affect sales etc. why not? Is this a Canadian specific thing?
I have no freaking idea. Sadly, this AM, I am paying the price, one way or another, for this little indulgence.
Then again, this new mini flare up may not have anything to do with Vitamin A at all? Maybe it is just the milk, or some other mystery ingredient? Either way, a year ago I could have literally eaten a gallon of ice cream, and only ended up with maybe a sugar buzz. What the heck has happened to me? Now a mere few ounces are toxic! Still, it could also be that a the few micrograms of vitamin A in there are toxic too? Or maybe, my body is messing with me, and randomly cycling my skin between healing and peeling? There is simply not enough evidence at this time to say.
Okay, it’s now time to get even more serious. For the next two weeks I am going to be much more careful with Vitamin A consumption. Of course, I won’t even bother with nutrition labels; I think they are worse than useless; they are probably misleading in this regard.
Still, I did have ~4 egg whites again this AM. My fingers were slowly healing during the day. So, I think I am pretty safe with this source of protein.
There was a hot sun today on my bike ride home, lots of sweat on my face, hopefully I am not Mr Krabs again in the AM.
I did okay today; with some actual healing progress. Yet, the skin on my fingers remains quite damaged. Obviously, it is going to take some more time. The inflammation has backed off once again. My face remains sensitive feeling; luckily it did not flare up.
I am amazed at how reactive my skin is to seemingly insignificant amounts of “triggers”. I have 6 spoons of ice cream and within hours I pay a painful price. I wonder how this is even possible? However, I am not going to re-run this little test again anytime soon.
More importantly, how can anyone say that eczema is not food related? It is 100% clear to me that it is. I am looking forward to the false-negative testing.
A bit more healing; no regressions.
A bit more healing; no regressions. Skin has a light brown, very thin scab over it.
I think that my skin will be fully healed in 2-3 more days. All other locations are still clear too.
Not much change today either way. I had an un-packaged blueberry muffin and a cookie in a restaurant this AM. Maybe not a great idea?
I have more or less scrubbed off those very thin, light brown scabs. Just more or less washed off in the shower. This is exposing some raw skin underneath.
Not much change today either way again. Some healing; but maybe stalled a bit. I don’t think applying Aveeno moisturizer to healing skin is helping now. So, I plan on stopping that.
Another setback / regression this AM. I had fried chicken legs, and dry cheerios and some potato chips last night for dinner. Safe right? Wrong!
I thought chicken had no vit.A too. Completely my mistake.
Add the nutrition label on the cheerios box claims 0% vitamin A too.
Turns out that the chicken alone was probably like 400 IU. I’m suspicious about the accuracy of the number on the cheerios too.
I noticed a Cheerios box in the USA lists 10 % Vitamin A, and in Canada the nearly identical box say 0%. The food product looks the same. Are they adding Vitamin A to cheerios in the USA? Or, are Canadian labeling regulations more lax?
Nevertheless; here we go again. Skin is turning back into a micro Swiss cheese with weeping.
Shit, my fingers are now like a built in Geiger counter for Vitamin A ( at least in the context of keeping with my theory). Thankfully, it is mostly only on my fingers this AM. Face is tingly too; but not much else.
So, this is likely another 3 day setback. Of course the damage to the skin is nearly instant. To heal the skin is going to take 3+ days. I really believe that I am not drawing down my vitamin A store at all (of course that whole concept is just my theory anyways). But, miniscule amounts of vitamin A intake are now toxic to me. I don’t want to think too much about what this really means.
Or, somehow, something else in chicken and cheerios are now toxins? Pretty unlikely isn’t it? No, it is just my screw-up. When I first started this experiment, I intended to go just low on Vitamin A. At that time, when I looked at chicken it was quite low, so I put this into my memory as in the insignificant, and safe, range. Wrong! It is very significant. My body is now like a machine in responding to Vitamin A intake; it really is. I’ll report back in 3 days.
Had some strawberries 2 days ago (~ ½ cup ); resulting in a wee bit of another setback. Small areas of the skin on my fingers went to mush again.
Okay, that’s the last strawberry for a while! Clear to me now that an extremely low intake is not low enough. It has to be zero! Every microgram of Vitamin A, is now going straight to my fingers.
But, now on day #18, making more good progress. Also, the skin on my face and elbows is now even smoother, and nicer feeling; it’s not oily; but feels moist. Once again, the entire rest of my body is fine too, other than the fingers. Even on the fingers there no weeping left on the skin; the mush is now back to real skin again. All just healing mode now. Starting drinking this coconut milk yesterday; it appears to be 100 % safe ( 0.000 vitamin A?). My general health is also feeling very good too.
I had another huge setback last night. I was so close to being at band-aid free.
Once again! I decided to spice things up a bit and try pork roast, rather than beef. This should have been safe; since I checked the web, and the site I referenced claims that pork is 0.0% VA. What could go wrong? Just for the record, this is the only change I made to my diet yesterday. So, it was just rice and pork, rather than rice and beef. That’s it! Absolutely nothing else. The only other change from my routine, is that I did exercise for about ½ hour.
Boom! Within 4-5 hours of eating the pork roast my fingers became inflamed again, and by the morning the top layer of the skin had disintegrated into a crumbling micro mush; and weeping. It is like my skin had been burned off with some form of acid. The end result is probably about equivalent to dipping the backs of my fingers into boiling water. So, just to clarify this, by substituting one food that has zero VA with one that has a micro speck of it has now burned the skin off my fingers.
How can this possibly be? I think we are talking a few mere µg of VA here. This microscopic amount would likely be impossible to find in someone’s body! Yet, my immune system was able to quickly marshal this out to my fingers for disposal. Has my low vitamin A diet made me hypersensitive to it at the same time? It is also entirely possible that this is some random cycling by my body, and it has nothing at all to do with the pork. I have to remain open to other possibilities. In other words; this apparent correlation is not at all conclusive.
This is a very bad burn this time. This is going to take at least another 5+ days to heal now. Once again, the damage happened in mere minutes, and will take days, and days to heal. A few fleeting thoughts of applying the steroid creams. But, I can’t do that, as that would prevent me from seeing what is really happening here.
The good news is that I seem to be recovering from these incidents more quickly now. Because, I am pretty much only trying one food change in one day. I am also keeping to what I think are ultra low VA foods. Therefore, the actual volume of VA I have taken in is quite low too. So, the duration of the burn is like ½ day, and not prolonged over many days. However, I do find burns from meat sources do last longer than say ones from butter. The time from digestion to the start of inflammation is also longer with meat sources; 4-5 hours.
It is of course now abundantly clear to me that we are in a significantly different scenario compared to either acute or chronic toxicity. Applying the recommended treatment here of just “not supplementing” does not apply; at all.
I think I know why now, it is quite explainable. It is all making sense. In a way, this is worse than acute or chronic VA poisoning.
There is of course, another possibility too. That I am facing acute liver and / or kidney failure? I hope not; and I really don’t think so either.
Also, I am wondering why is it that these recent burns are only showing up on my fingers? Have they become the path of least resistance? Or has the skin there been severely damaged by all the steroid creams I have used? I don’t know.
Although, this setback is once again quite discouraging, and actually a bit painful, I still consider myself very lucky. I have been able to completely clear up all other areas, and am generally speaking feeling very healthy. Actually, more so that in any other time over the last year. Overall, my skin is doing great too.
In other words, I have made huge progress. Yet, my fingers are proving to be incredibly difficult to fully heal. Is it possible that there is some lingering free Vitamin A in my body that my immune system is moving out to my fingers?
But, the overall picture of what is really going on here is becoming more, and more clear to me. It is making perfect sense; although I am not happy to be facing that reality.
Mathematically speaking, I think I am way down on the asymptotic part of the absorption curve. This is a tricky bit of business to overcome, and even explain. It is also scary.
I am now very convinced as to VA being the true root cause of this scourge. I mean, is there any other chemical compound that is in pork, and not in beef, and is clinically proven to be able to burn your skin off, and do so at the µg dosage?
Next time I decide I need to spice things up; I am just going to change from beef and rice; to rice and beef.
I’ll report back when my fingers are fully healed.
Where have I been for the last 10+ days?
Well, I thought the last burn on my fingers was going to take like five days to heal. It was taking longer; much longer, just way too much longer! Something was wrong.
I was down to two small areas on the backs of each finger; each area about 1 cm2. It was just sort of teetering between healing mode and inflammation. The very light tan, very thin skin layer would form, and in a few days peel off again, with just a touch of weeping.
How could this be? Is my entire hypothesis about to be shot down? I do have to look at the evidence. Or could it be something else? Well, silly me! I have been adding in a few more what should have been “safe” foods.
Here’s my exact list of foods that I am now eating:
- Egg whites ( ~ 2 times per week )
- Occasionally trying coconut Milk ( Labeled as 0.0% vitamin A, some brands with guar gum, some without)
- Orange Metamucil ( Labeled as 0.0% vitamin A)
- Golden Raisins (reported as 0% vitamin A)
- Occasional Vit C, tablets
- The recent additions are the coconut milk, Metamucil and Raisins. Do you see my mistakes? Well I made several of them here. The first was thinking that I was just taking a long time to heal this big burn; after all I am 54 years old kind of thing. No; things were taking way too long to heal for another reason. The second mistake was once again trusting food labels. But, I am a numbers guy. I trust them.
Possible Suspects ranked first to last:
- Golden Raisins: Google and others reports 0.0 vitamin A in a cup of them
- Metamucil: it is labeled as 0.0% not just 0%. I figure that there is no way a big manufacturer is going to label something as 0.0 % vitamin A, and that not being accurate.
- Coconut Milk: 0.0 % vitamin A, at least this is white in color; not Orange or Golden
- Entire Theory is wrong: hope not
Turns out; after doing a bit more research that the raisins are probably high in Carotenoids, or beta-carotene. This is probably what makes them “golden”. This is a precursor for vitamin A, Once you eat it, the molecule is easily split and you get vitamin A. Also, I became somewhat convinced that the guar gum in the coconut milk was having negative impact too.
The Metamucil is labeled as being Orange Flavored. I don’t know what that is exactly, but I am a bit suspicious about this “orange” thing. But I can’t incriminate it without knowing the facts. Maybe it’s all coincidences? Maybe my skin in randomly cycling, and I am making the wrong associations?
Never the less, I stopped snacking on the raisins, and stopped the Metamucil, and coconut milk just in case too. Bingo! It was literally like turning off a switch! The very next morning I was back to healing mode; and the inflammation was gone!
Okay, there’s the insight I was missing before regarding food labeling. Clearly, food that have 0% vitamin A, but do have carotenoids, or beta-carotene are labeled as 0% vitamin A.
This also may explain the strawberries experience. Anyway, back on track here.
Day #30 – 43
For the last 10 days it has all been progressive healing. There has not been one single day of regression. It has been slow healing, but always in the right direction. I was band-aid free at work this week too. This is the first time in 4+ weeks without band-aids on my fingers to hide / protect my skin. The skin looks almost fine now.
Day #44 – 54
I really wanted to wait until my fingers were a 100% perfect before calling the final result on this. This should be a pretty big day for me. There is now not a speck of Eczema anywhere on my body. I can actually feel my skin being completely inflammation free; as are other areas of my health. I’d like to declare this my VE day, for Victory over Eczema. But, that is maybe a little too dramatic. Never the less, I think there are probably a lot of long term eczema sufferers that would be extremely happy to be in nice skin again. On the other hand, there is the realization here that there is maybe a much bigger underlying concern that still needs to be addressed. Just for the record, I’ve not use one single bit of steroid cream since starting this experiment.
Conclusions and Observations
I think the results of this experiment very much support the hypothesis. I am actually astonished as to how quickly and directly the initial body response was. The improvements in other areas of my health that I have experienced very much fits with this hypothesis too.
Therefore, I think it could be a huge step in understanding the root causes of this scourge. Or it could be a huge example of talking myself into something? Of course, there is that chance of falling into the age old human trap of believing what we want to believe; and not what the evidence tell us.
I sure hope not! And I am looking at the evidence big time. The indisputable fact is that my skin is now perfectly recovered. This is after eight months of not one single day without this scourge! Yes, it has taken 4-5 weeks; but still a pretty nice result.
The second indisputable fact is that my overall health has hugely improved too. These are just too significant to be disregarded as coincidences.
However, I am really trying to remain completely open minded and objective. Clearly, we need a lot more similar experiments to validate or refute my claims. I think we need to repeat this experiment at least a 100 more times, getting exactly the same ( or faster ) results.
I was quite optimistic in the first week; because the initial results were so direct, and nearly immediate.
That optimism subsided in the second week due to the setbacks. These setbacks were due to my slip-ups, and mistakes in thinking I could tolerate low amounts of Vitamin A.
I think it was very fortunate that I decided to just follow the prescribed treatment for Vitamin A toxicity; and first just attempted to reduce my Vitamin A intake. If I had started out by going with 0 Vitamin A intake, it would have introduced more unknowns. Was it the lack of Vitamin A that cured my skin, or was it some other food I eliminated kind of questions?
By going with the low consumption first; I discovered I actually needed to go to zero. Whereas, if I went with zero first; I could have easily assumed that low would have been good enough. But, it is important to state that most of my eczema condition was cleared up with only low consumption.
More importantly, my mistakes of adding a bit of Vitamin A containing foods to my diet provided very strong evidence correlating it to my skin peeling.
I know for certain that my baseline diet of white rice and beef is 100% safe. When just on that baseline food; my skin was always going back to a healing mode.
But, I was concerned about not having a bit of other nutritional value in my diet such as Vit C, fibre, etc. I assumed that strawberries would be safe because they are extremely low in Vitamin A, and high in other nutritional value. And a tiny bit of ice cream can’t hurt either, etc. kind of thinking.
But, pretty much each and every time I did this, my skin stopped healing, and went to mushy, self-destructing, peeling mode. So, I’ve got this baseline of safe foods, and the addition of these other minimal Vitamin A containing foods turned my skin in the wrong direction. Here’s a list of them (from memory)
- Chicken ( ½ breast / 4 legs)
- Green Peas (maybe 10 of them in a samosa )
- Orange juice (12oz)
- Ice Cream (6 spoons)
- Cheerios ( 1 bowl dry)
- Butter Croissant (2)
- White bun (1)
- Strawberries ½ cup ??? I am only ~ 70% sure the strawberries should be in this list ???
- Raisins ( 1/4 cup for several days)
- Guar Gum in coconut milk ( maybe no vitamin A, but possibly blocking the olive oil???)
Amazingly, I think each and every one of these foods, and at these volumes, caused my skin to start peeling again. It happened within 2-4 hours of digestion so the timing correlation is like 100%.
Other than water molecules, what is the one common compound shared by these foods? And the common compound is clinically proven of being able to burn your skin off?
It is Vitamin A.
I think this is quite strong evidence supporting my theory. If I had gone with zero Vitamin A from the get go, I would not have this evidence. When I first started this experiment, I thought that there is was no freaking way things could be this simple. Why has no one else documented this apparent connection?
Well, I think the connection is that simple. Long term detoxing from Vitamin A could prove to be far more complicated. There is also the possibility that my digestion of Vitamin A is now going straight to my skin, and bypassing any attempt by my liver to store it. Is this liver failure? Is something else blocking my absorption of Vitamin A? I don’t know. Once again, my overall health feels quite good; better than any other time in the last 8 months.
Unknown Sources of Vitamin A.
I think that needing only three weeks to resolve and heal most of my condition was pretty good. Especially when you consider that I’ve been poisoning myself for well over a year.
Importantly, for much of that three weeks I was not “suffering” at all. Just more or less minor wound healing kind of feeling. I was able to go to work fine, etc. The setbacks were discouraging; but not remotely disabling. I just put band-aids on my fingers.
Still, I really think I could have recovered faster if I had not gotten tripped up by mislabeled foods, and my own mistakes, and therefore inadvertently consumed more Vitamin A than I thought.
But, I never imagined that there are just a small handful of foods on the planet that do not contain vitamin A. I don’t know what to think if I did not have the rice and beef to live on.
Autoimmune Response Theory
When my doctor first told me that eczema was an autoimmune response; he stated that “the immune system is mistakenly responding to something that is not there”.
I was not quite buying it. It just did not seem reasonable to me. What seems more likely is that the immune system is responding to “something that is there”; it is just that researchers have not identified that “something” yet. Is it also possible that the “something” is a derivative of Vit. A, and researchers are not surprised to find it because, it is such a common compound that it is not viewed as being foreign to the skin? Maybe if they are not looking for vitamin A, they are not treating the samples carefully enough. Since vitamin A is a light sensitive molecule, it could decompose in the time period between sampling and testing? I don’t know. But, this light sensitivity probably explains why people get some relieve using photo-therapy as a treatment for eczema.
Once again, I think about the similarities between eczema and a poison ivy rash. I think in both cases the immune system is working just fine, and is doing its proper job in responding to a toxin. However, unlike poison ivy, the blisters with eczema are really deep under the skin. For the longest time I did not even realize that the nodules ( lumpy skin ) were actually deep, deep blisters. My guess is that the body is not able to store the vitamin A in the liver, and the immune system is doing the best it can by forming these deep little blister pockets under the skin to store it.
I drank coffee every day of this experiment, and I don’t believe it had a negative impact. Nonetheless, coffee does promote sweating, so indirectly it can worsen eczema. I also did not reduce my coffee consumption, so I don’t know if reducing or removing it from my diet would have helped or not.
I totally agree with others that say sweating causes their eczema to worsen. I think what is happening is that the sweat is bringing the toxin closer to the surface of the skin where the immune system responds to it. I know nothing about the actual mechanisms of sweating; so I leave this up to others to validate or refute. Just thinking out loud kind of thing here. I’ll bet dollar to donuts that the immune system is responding to some form of Vitamin A though!
By needing to take milk, cheese, and butter out of my diet, I have also removed a lot of fat too. I think this is a bad thing. So, I have been compensating a by using olive oil to cook with; maybe a tablespoon of it to cook eggs whites, and rice. I was hoping that coconut milk could be another good source of safe fats. I am now quite sure that is it not. It is most certainly not with the guar gum. Maybe the guar gum was blocking the absorption of the olive oil? I don’t know. I’ll let someone else figure this one out. Never the less, I think olive oil is also critical to success here.
Weight Loss / Gain
My body weight stayed about the same in the first two weeks; but started to drop some later. Maybe -12 lbs. over the entire 5 weeks. I think that most of my weight loss is probably attributable to my daily 12km cycle commute.
My energy levels were fine; and I actually started to feel much more energy, and more alert about by day 2 or 3. My thinking clarity has improved a lot over the last three weeks too.
More Hair Growth
Yes, I definitely have more hair growing on my body; and in places I have not seen it as long as I can remember.
Well, firstly we need a lot more evidence to prove or disprove this Vitamin A sub-clinical toxicity hypothesis.
Please help with more evidence, pro or con, if you can.
If you decide to repeat my experiment; then please be very careful, and try to completely eliminate Vit. A sources. I had difficulty doing so, and it prolonged my recovery significantly. One mistake will cost you 3-4 days of recovery time. Once again, be good enough to leave comments about your results. If you have the time; keeping food diary would be a help too; or just take a picture of each meal.
For me, the most obvious scientific thing to do at this time would be to do a simple positive test:
- keep my diet as unchanged as possible ( rice and beef )
- take 1-2 pure vitamin A pills ( or just a tiny fraction of a pill )
- wait for my skin to peel ( or not )
That would be pretty much an indisputable piece of evidence. Sadly, I just don’t have the courage for that at this time. Call me chicken-shit if you like.
If I was younger; maybe? I have just been through too much, and can’t risk being out of work again either. I am 99.99% sure I know what would happen. Still, it sure would be nice to have that one data point though. But, nope, I’m not going to do it. The pain price / job risk is just too high.
What I am willing to do, is some false negative testing over the next weeks. I think this is a low risk endeavor. At some point, I will also try to very slowly introduce low Vitamin A containing foods back into my diet too. But, I will probably never again in my life eat a tomato or bell pepper.
Thoughts on the Steroid Cream Treatment
My personal experience was that the steroid cream worked very well in suppressing the immune response. Therefore, it did a very good job of controlling the symptoms. On one hand, it was of course very beneficial; especially with few alternatives.
But, I have wondered if this is not why the body locations of eczema jump around a bit. Could it be that we are blocking the immune response in one location, and this is just forcing our immune system to flare up at another one. As a analogy, it is like squeezing a water filled balloon. No matter how hard you squeeze it in one place, it is just going to pop out somewhere else.
The Steroid Cream Treatment may also be permitting skin infections to occur if you do scratch it open. Of course, you really don’t need to scratch it open at all; since in “flare ups” the top layer of the skin just disintegrates on its own.
Also, I can’t help to think that suppressing the immune response is somewhat counter productive. I think an analogy would be like the engine light coming on in your car. Rather than dealing with the root cause of the problem, you reach under the dash and pull out the wire going to the light. Clearly, you are just going to run into bigger trouble down the road.
Conversely, not using the steroid creams is a bit nuts too. I have found out first hand, this Vitamin A toxicity is quite capable of literally burning your skin off. So, you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Clearly, the only acceptable solution is to remove the root cause as fast as you can.
I am not sure what the best approach is while going on the ultra low vitamin A diet. I did it without using any steroid cream and had almost no problem. But, it was critically important to me, because I wanted to be able to notice every tiny response my body was making to my diet changes.
Once again, it was almost no problem at all. My immune system stopped “autoimmuning” on about the third day. However, whenever I made a mistake, and consumed a bit of vitamin A, I did get a smallish flare up on the backs of my fingers. This too was quite easily tolerable. But, then I had 10 ounces of pork roast, and that literally burned the skin right off. That took like 8+ days to heal from. Although it was not too painful for an adult; I sure can’t recommend doing this; especially not for kids.
So, I think it could be better to detox off of the Vitamin A, and keep the steroid treatment going, as needed, while doing so. However, I have no idea what impact or impediment this means for healing your skin. Also, I have to wonder if the immune system is being prevented from removing this toxin in your skin, will it just buildup and linger there and cause a bigger flare up (burn) once you do stop with the steroid treatment? Or, is it possible to safely kind of grow this toxin off your body as your skin naturally regenerates? I don’t know these answers.
My last thought about the steroid cream, is that maybe there is a better topical interim treatment as you are healing. I think that the toxin that burned the skin off my fingers was probably strongly acidic. Could a base type compound be used to neutralize the pH in this acid? I’m just thinking out loud kind of thing here. It does not really matter now. That’s a research topic that would likely take years to develop. Let’s just deal with the root cause of this scourge.
Am I fully healed?
My skin is fully healed. It is not only healed; it also feels very nice and smooth, moist, almost oily, but not greasy kind of oily. It feels like it is suppose to feel.
Overall, my general health is very significantly improved from where I was 2 months ago too. Yet, I don’t believe my liver is even close to being fully healed / recovered.
I definitely feel like I am still at a near toxic storage level / low absorption rate of Vitamin A; or whatever is blocking my safe absorption of vitamin A.
I don’t feel like I have drawn down my Vitamin A storage levels at all. I actually feel like I am very border-line. I am planning on doing some more research to calculate just how long it will take to lower my storage levels. Anyone know? I think it is going to be a scary number. Is it really possible to draw down your own liver store? I am really counting on that!
If, today, someone offered me a big cash reward to eat a single tomato or bell pepper; I’d turn them down. I think I am that close.
I’ll also be very diligent about spotting any signs of the return of the eczema conditions. For me, the nodules (bumpy skin) on the elbows and fingers showed up well before the first big rash. If I see them again, I’ll know that something is up.
If I am right about this hypothesis, then obviously, we’d all be very interested in any safe means of more quickly bringing down our storage levels of vitamin A.
In the mean time, at least I now have nice skin that I can live in, my general health is hugely better, and I have a bit more hair too. At the very least, here is a diet that I think could be used by anyone with severe eczema.
More Research and Possible Related Conditions
I know it is kind of semantics, but the good news could be that eczema is not the actual incurable disease we’ve been told it was. It is just the seriously nasty symptom of an underlying poisoning; and that is probably curable. Also, I wonder if there has been more inflammation going on internally, and not just what was happening on our skin? I most certainly think so. I think this may be the root cause of other diseases too. The most obvious one being nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and Rosacea. I suspect kidney disease too, and another related evil killer. Once again, I have no doubt that eczema is more than skin deep!
Of course, there could be a huge amount of value for the medical community in just knowing that this sub-clinical Vitamin A toxicity level even exists. It may take decades of official research to clinically prove / refute any of this. Will someone even notice and attempt it? I sure hope so. Equally, I think there are some important considerations for the food industries too. Why are they supplementing so many foods with this substance?
What about worldwide statistics relating rates of Eczema with general levels of Vitamin A consumption? My guess is that North America, Australia, and Western Europe are going to have the highest rates; since we are fortifying our foods the most. Maybe the Scandinavian countries being a bit higher than the rest due to higher fish oil consumption. Conversely, lesser developed countries probably have lower rates of Eczema. In other words, I’d expect rates of eczema are inversely proportional to the rates of Vitamin A deficiency. I have no idea really; it just would be of interest to find out if there is a correlation.
Here is a map of Vitamin A deficiency, I expect the areas in green to be the highest in Eczema rates. Areas in red and orange being the lowest. Can anyone please help with real data?
I am happy to discuss my experience with anyone who is serious about getting to the root causes of eczema.
Thanks for taking the time to read this; I hope this helps someone.