After dealing with my own Eczema for a few months, I was wondering if any noteworthy names in history have had this disease. My curiosity was really two fold. Firstly, I just wanted to get a feel for how long humans have been plagued with this condition. Is this a recent “modern” disease; or has it been around for a longer time?
Secondly; maybe some historical figure has kept a food diary that would give us some clues as to what is causing this. Maybe there is something we can spot.
Well, I quickly discovered that Charles Darwin had this disease; and more; actually much more. He had chronic Eczema from before 1836, and suffered from it for the remainder of his life, for over 40 years. But, Eczema was only one of his conditions. It would appear that he suffered from multiple diseases actually.
It looks like there has been some interest from the present day scientific community in correctly diagnosing Darwin’s disease(s).
Here is a link to a 2005 paper from two researchers, Anthony K Campbell, and Stephanie B Matthews at the Wales College of Medicine, titled: Darwin’s illness revealed.
Their conclusion is that Darwin had suffered for these 40 years from Lactose Intolerance. They state that “Darwin’s symptoms match exactly those we have described for systemic lactose intolerance”. Bingo! There you have it; puzzled solved.
Well; I am not a doctor, and I have absolutely no medical experience whatsoever; and I have never had any Lactose Intolerance. But, I think these folks are completely wrong in their diagnosis. They (and we) and have missed some bigger clues that Darwin has left us.
Here’s a list of Darwin’s symptoms from their paper.
- Chronic fatigue and exhaustion
- Severe gastrointestinal problems, including pain
- Frequent vomiting
- A swimming head
- Severe headaches
- Joint pain
- Rashes and eczema
- Mouth ulcers
- Tooth and gum problems
- Heart palpitations
- Poor resistance to infections
The authors claim this is a perfect match for Lactose Intolerance. Wow! That’s a pretty horrible sounding disease. All that from drinking milk? How could that be? The actual documented symptoms I found for Lactose Intolerance are more like: abdominal cramps, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and nausea.
Why Lactose Intolerance is the wrong diagnosis is obvious.
Firstly, and fore-mostly; this the Charles Darwin we are talking about. Let’s give this man a wee little bit of credit. This guy was an amazingly observant and intelligent biologist and geologist. Of course, that does not make him immune to lactose intolerance; but it does tell us he was not completely stupid either. What about the diarrhea symptom? It is not on Darwin’s list of symptoms. Isn’t that the key symptom of Lactose Intolerance?
A few years ago I had a guy putting a new roof on our house; and he was telling me one day about being lactose intolerant. He was about 40 years in age, and he said that this condition had developed in his 20s. I asked him how he knew that he was lactose intolerant; and he explained to me that it becomes abundantly clear that there is a big problem; and that most people are going to make the cause and effect connection. Basically, he stated that if he drank a glass of milk he’d be heading to the toilet in about 2 hours to expel it. I don’t think he was medically diagnosed with this condition. It sounded like he just figured it out on his own; as do probably most people. More importantly, this guy was in great health, and worked all day long, up and down ladders etc. There was absolutely nothing wrong with this guy; he just did not drink milk or eat dairy products. No problem at all for this guy; life was just fine; as it is for most people with Lactose Intolerance, once they know what it is.
So, if this guy, and 1,000s of others, can fairly quickly make this connection between drinking milk and soon thereafter needing the toilet, then there is no way in hell Charles Darwin would not have figured this out in over 40 years.
The second, and equally obvious clue is that Darwin was suffering from very bad health while on his famous Beagle voyage. This was a voyage in hot tropical sun, and much of the time spent aboard ship. Of course there was no refrigeration in 1830; and there would have been no way to preserve milk or dairy products aboard a ship. Therefore; these symptoms were simply not from lactose. No way; nearly impossible.
But, Darwin did leave us some very big clues indeed.
Firstly, specifically regarding Eczema. It is interesting to know that Eczema was somewhat common in the 1830s; especially among the upper levels of English society.
This means that today Eczema is probably not being caused by modern day toxins; such as herbicides, pesticides etc. Although, these modern day toxins may still play a bit of a role.
Moreover; Darwin sought out some of the very same therapies that are used today to relieve his eczema symptoms; such as hydrotherapy. He also had chronic inflammation on the face; and grew his beard to hide this. Even more importantly; he had Eczema as a teenager and suffered outbreaks of eczema on his face and lips.
Darwin also made the connection between eating foods and worsening conditions; but he was not able to pin down an exact cause. Of course, Darwin was limited in his resources, and did not have modern science nor Google to help him. In addition to the above documented symptoms; Darwin also determined that he was quite sensitive to sunlight; and avoided the sun.
He did make an amazing, I’d like to say a brilliantly amazing, observation. He determined that his only really safe food was raisins. At one point, he lives on nothing but raisins for something like 5 weeks straight! How the hell did he figure this out? Of all the real foods of on the planet; there are like 5 of any substance that have zero vitamin A, and one of them is raisins. However, once again, this raisin only diet was aboard ship. I don’t know if he repeated it once back in England. So, maybe the raisin only diet was not a brilliant feat of elimination, but made much simpler because he had a very limited selection of foods available. A much bigger question; is did he eat the liver of fish while aboard the Beagle? Did he eat the organ meat (liver) of other animals such as the turtles? What we do know is that he did eat Atlantic saltwater fish; and this is generally high in vitamin A by itself.
So; what were Darwin’s symptoms really of? I think it may have been chronic subclinical vitamin A toxicity. Celiac or Crohn’s disease’s are other very good possibilities. (I think Crohn’s disease is actually Eczema of the GI tract).
source 1: http://www.healthline.com/health/hypervitaminosis-a#Symptoms3
Symptoms of acute vitamin A toxicity include:
- abdominal pain
- increased pressure on the brain
Symptoms of chronic vitamin A toxicity include:
- blurry vision or other visual changes
- swelling of the bones
- bone pain
- poor appetite
- nausea and vomiting
- sensitivity to sunlight
- oily skin and hair
- itchy or peeling skin
- cracked fingernails
- skin cracks at the corners of your mouth
- mouth ulcers
- hair loss
- respiratory infection
Source 2: NIH
- severe headache
- blurred vision
- muscle aches and lack of coordination
- followed by skin desquamation and alopecia (hair loss)
- dry skin
- cheilosis (fissures in the corners of the mouth)
- muscle and joint pains
- fatigue, mental dullness
Let’s match them up; just for clarity.
|Vitamin A Toxicity (aka poisoning)||Darwin’s Symptoms|
|cheilosis (fissures in the corners of the mouth)||Eczema on the lips|
|fatigue, mental dullness||Chronic fatigue and exhaustion|
|abdominal pain||Severe gastrointestinal problems pain|
|vertigo, mental dullness||A swimming head|
|severe headache||Severe headaches|
|commonly documented with Eczema||Insomnia|
|bone pain||Joint pain|
|skin desquamation and alopecia||Rashes and eczema|
|mouth ulcers||Mouth ulcers|
|gingivitis||Tooth and gum problems|
|respiratory infection||Poor resistance to infections|
|confusion, vertigo||Social anxiety|
|sensitivity to sunlight||Sensitivity to sunlight|
So, now we have a near perfect ( and realistic ) match on these symptoms. Maybe if I looked a little more, Trembling and Heart palpitations would be included on the match list. Actually, vitamin A toxicity is still a bit of a superset of Darwin’s symptoms. I think mouth ulcers are a very big and early warning sign of this toxicity (firsthand experience).
Let me tell you without any doubt whatsoever, and also from direct firsthand experience, and as documented above, eczema on the lips is none other than vitamin A poisoning!
In my personal experience; I slowly built up to this subclinical toxicity levels of vitamin A over a period of 5-10 years. I did so on a perfectly normal diet too. I know about most of these symptoms firsthand; but they built up very slowly over time. So slowly that I really did not think about it too much. However, there is no question about it. When I adopted my vitamin A elimination diet; they almost all receded very quickly. It was then hugely more obvious that I was suffering from most of the above documented symptoms.
I also personally noticed a bit of hand trembling while being in this toxic state. However, I don’t think I experienced heart palpitations. But, I could easily see heart palpitations happening as part of an anxiety attack.
How did Darwin get into this condition? The same way I did. And the same way the 20+ million people with Eczema, and the 700,000 people with Crohn’s, and 5+ million people with Alzheimer’s have today.
Diet! Mostly, ordinary diets too. Lots of fish, brightly colored fruits and vegetables; etc. That’s all you need.
But, since Darwin had such severe eczema at such an early age; he had to do something really wrong. I believe it was probably due to regular liver consumption. It is documented that organ meat was popular with the well to do in England at the time.
What I now personally know, and what Darwin documented; is that once you saturate your body’s store of vitamin A, it is extremely unlikely that you are going to randomly get out from under it.
He now had a chronic disease(s); that plagued him through to the end of his life.
Modern medicine is labeling Eczema, Crohn’s, Lupus, Arthritis, etc. as autoimmune diseases. I don’t think that makes any sense whatsoever, for all kinds of reasons. These are really auto-poisoning via chronic, and subclinical toxicity to vitamin A.
Oddly or not, I have little doubt that Alzheimer’s is a member of this illustrious autoimmune disease club too.
The myth in the medical literature is that you need massive doses of Vitamin A to get into this state. The bigger myth is that you’ll quickly recover after you stop overdosing.
Well, no you don’t, and it depends. It is mathematical. That vitamin A you’ve accumulated is not going away. Once you’ve accumulated too much you reach a tipping point or a threshold. And then you more or less fall over a cliff into serious disease from this deadly toxin. A better metaphor might be to call it a trap door.
You’ve saturated your body’s storage capacity. Once you’ve fallen through that trap door, there is almost no getting out. Even a mere few micrograms of vitamin A consumption are enough to keep you in a toxic, or near toxic, state. You’ll continue to be in this toxic state for the rest of your life if you don’t take evasive action. You need to go to zero, or near zero consumption. But, instinctively, and based upon current nutritional advice, you are probably going to do just the opposite. You are now sick, therefore you are probably going to eat even more healthy foods.
Please pass the raisins Mr. Darwin; but not the golden ones; thanks very much.
Naturally, I have a ton of respect and admiration for what Darwin accomplished. I have little doubt that if he were alive today, he would have been able to determine the true root cause of this scourge quite quickly. Sadly, it has been almost 200 years since Darwin documented his symptoms, and of struggling with Eczema. Modern medicine has not even begun to solve this disease. It has only become far more prevalent in our society. Something is hugely wrong.
The lessons I think we can learn today from Darwin are:
- He was really suffering from subclinical vitamin A toxicity for most of his life.
- He stayed in this state for 40 years, and without modern day supplements; just diet.
- He had resulting Eczema as a symptom of this for most of his life too.
- Eczema is probably not an autoimmune disease at all; it is most likely just another symptom of subclinical vitamin A toxicity.
- Eczema is not caused by a modern day toxin; or pollutant.
I don’t want to call this Hypervitaminosis A. That is not the case at all. Hyper implies very high doses of vitamin A being consumed. This situation is much different. It is really getting into the state of vitamin A saturation, and then remaining slightly, or moderately above that level. Therefore, the term InsidiousVitaminosis A may be more appropriate.
Why do so many young people experience Crohn’s disease at around 20 years of age? There is something special about this number. It is not a coincidence.
It is obvious once you understand what is really going on here. Yet, it is also somewhat complicated too. Please read my posting on the connection between Eczema and Crohn’s disease.
Sleeping Tiger said:
Grapes contain Vitamin A. So does the drying process remove the A from them when they become raisins?
Here’s a link to the more info about grapes. (It’s a good site for detailed nutrition info in general. Lots of detail on the foods they list. You have to scroll way down though to get to the info in the chart on Vitamin A.
I know that your knowledge and therefore thoughts and opinions have changed about some foods you talk about here on your blog and so I wondered if this is one them.
That’s a good question regarding grapes and raisins. If the raisins are truly sun-dried, and they would have been traditionally, then the vit-A would have been broken down (some of it being converted to vit-D). But, I’m not sure about modern day processing methods. Maybe some producers don’t use sunlight to dry grapes? I don’t know.
Yes, I do change and update my food choices based on new information. We are still early in this investigation. But, I do occasionally still eat some raisins.
Thanks for the link, and thanks again for all the reading, and interest.
Sleeping Tiger said:
Yes, I am fascinated by this whole idea/hypothesis. Thank you for your reply. I’d bet modern day grapes/raisins are indeed NOT truly sun-dried. But I’ll likely add them to my list and try them out.