The Stomach Diaries Part VII ft. Erythema Nodosum

March 1, 2018

The Stomach Diaries Part VII

I can’t believe it’s been 1.5 years since my last Stomach Diaries blog post update (if you’re new here and have no idea what I’m talking about, go here). I’ve been doing smaller frequent updates on Instagram and Instagram Stories. For a while, nothing had changed with my health, so I didn’t feel an update was necessary, but let me catch you up to speed on what went on in 2017 and what’s been going on in 2018 so far. We left off in August of 2016 when I had just seen my gastroenterologist for the first time and my hand eczema was improving from the high dose of prescription probiotics he had given me. I started getting acupuncture more regularly and by about January of last year, my hands were the best they’d ever been. They were still dry and a bit blotchy, but my hands have always been that way, so I’d call it pretty normal for me. It was a relief for my hands not to be swollen and to regain full flexibility in my fingers. The only thing I changed in my diet was taking the prescription probiotics from my GI, so I can only attribute it to that. Even though I started out taking my probiotic “cocktail” (kefir, apple cider vinegar, honey, pomegranate extract, turmeric, and prescription probiotics) twice a day, once I started feeling better, I pared down to once a day.

Around March of last year, I encountered the most intensive, stressful project I’ve ever done for school. I was working 15-18 hour days every single day for about two weeks. I hardly had time to shower never mind moisturize my hands throughout the day. I noticed my hands getting drier than usual which was to be expected since I wasn’t moisturizing as much. But even after I finished my project and started back into my regular moisturizing routine, my hands were still getting drier and beginning to crack. I had one deep crack in the center of my palm that looked like someone had stabbed me with a knife. Remembering how painful my hand eczema got in the past, my hackles were up and I knew I needed to nip this in the bud before it got really bad. I started my sleeping with bags on my hands protocol—when I sleep with my hands creamed up and sealed in plastic food storage bags to make a steamy, humid environment that helps the cracks close up and dryness subside. I covered my cuts with Tegaderm during the day. I religiously got acupuncture once a week. My hands improved, but I still couldn’t get them back to the soft, non-irritated way they previously felt. Finally, sometime in June, the cracks started closing up for good, and by the end of June, I was down to just nursing three small paper cut-like cracks on my fingers. I didn’t change a thing with my diet (still eating primarily fruitarian).

The Stomach Diaries Part VII ft. Erythema Nodosum

July was pretty uneventful. My hands were still half-cracked, half-healed. At the beginning of August, I noticed a bump on my arm. It started out looking like a bug bite, then got big like some bad bug bites get. It wasn’t itchy, just sore, red, and very warm. It stayed like that for a week. A week later, I noticed the same sort of bump forming in my armpit. Then, I got a bump so big on my knee that my ENTIRE KNEE started swelling up. Around this time, mini red bumps formed on my right shin which got redder, hotter, and bigger. Then, my left knee and leg broke out. I had bumps on my arms and legs all the way to my ankles. I also had a mini bump underneath my eye. The bumps were shiny, inflamed, tender, and terribly painful, but not itchy. They looked like boils. You might remember me Storying about this on Instagram. I had a freakout session when I thought I had somehow gotten an infection from acupuncture and went to urgent care. The doctor looked at my lesions and assured me it was not an infection. I had something called “erythema nodosum.”  Erythema nodosum is a skin inflammation that manifests itself in painful, sore bumps, commonly on the front of the legs. They last anywhere from a few weeks to several months before shrinking into little bruises, then completely going away. The causes are so varied (strep throat, sarcoidosis, fungal diseases, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and more), it’s difficult to pinpoint what the trigger was for me. Besides taking pain killers, there isn’t anything you can do about it. You just have to let it run its course. I continued to get acupuncture on my back because the rest of my body was far too inflamed to stick needles in it. We worked on needling points of my body to clear excess heat. My legs and ankles were so swollen with bumps, I could hardly walk and my entire body pulsated with throbbing. The incessant throbbing kept me up at night, even with my legs elevated. I couldn’t work out or wear long pants (thank goodness it was summer when I could wear skirts and shorts!). My internal body temperature fluctuated from being chilled to overheated as if I had the flu. About a week and a half into my full body erythema nodosum explosion, I felt so restless, I decided to go for a swim. My entire body ached and my skin felt like it was on fire. I thought maybe working out would help move the blood circulation and at that point, I didn’t think anything could make me feel worse. The cold pool water felt so refreshing on my skin and the workout felt amazing. I didn’t have gravity putting the pressure on my body that exacerbated the throbbing.

The Stomach Diaries Part VII ft. Erythema Nodosum

The Stomach Diaries Part VII ft. Erythema Nodosum

At the end of August/beginning of September, I had a trip planned to Portland and Seattle. I needed to get better or else I wouldn’t be able to go. I scoured the Internet trying to find some sort of natural remedy I could try for erythema nodosum. I was already getting acupuncture and eating all the cooling foods I could to try to clear out the excess heat from my body. I stumbled upon an inactive forum post from someone who said Cleavers tincture worked wonders. Before I even closed down the web page, I was on my way to my local herbal store to get Cleavers tincture. Within two days of me taking the tincture, the throbbing and aching in my arms and legs got less intense. At that point, I only had a week until I left for my trip. By the end of the week, I was able to walk normally! My body still ached, but it felt so. much. better. I cannot tell you how good it felt to get relief from the incessant pain and throbbing. My erythema nodosum continued to heal during the week of my travel. By the end of my trip, it was almost completely gone. The bumps had shrunken down and I was left with bruise-like marks on my body where the bumps were—battle wounds. These marks faded within a week.

The odd part about my erythema nodosum breakout is during this time, THE ECZEMA ON MY HANDS HEALED! It was like my body was too busy being inflamed on my arms and legs that it didn’t have enough heat left to inflict upon my hands. My hand eczema has not come back since.

Okay, are you still with me? Now that we’ve gotten the skin update out of the way, let’s talk about food. I’m still taking my probiotic/kefir mixture every morning. Other than that, sauerkraut, kombucha, a healthy amount of fish oil and herbal supplements, I’m eating 100% fruit. I eat about 15 bananas a day. I buy most of my food from farmers’ markets, but when I go to the grocery store, this is what my grocery cart looks like:

The Stomach Diaries Part VII ft. Erythema Nodosum

The fruits rotate depending on what’s in season at the time. Right now, it’s primarily apples and strawberries. And always bananas. The cashier usually tries to strike up a conversation with me, like “You like bananas, huh?” I do admit it does look like I’m feeding a small army of monkeys.

In September, I was talking to my neighbor who mentioned her husband just got back from an Alaskan fishing trip and caught more wild Alaskan salmon than they could ever eat. It doesn’t get much fresher than that and this was my cue to try eating salmon. I was already regularly taking fish oil, so chances were my body was okay with salmon. I’m pleased to say that salmon is fine! I’ve been eating only a few bites a day because I don’t want to overdo it. I’ve also tried eating black beans, seaweed, persimmons, melons, grapes, and grapefruits, but all of those are definitely no-gos. I noticed a pattern with my body that it can only tolerate most fruits. Every time I introduce something other than fruit (over the years, I’ve tried sweet potatoes, most squashes, most root vegetables, kale, nuts, seeds, and oats), it doesn’t go well. During my appointment with my GI last month, he said to continue eating what my body can tolerate AKA my schizophrenic fruit/probiotic/kefir/sauerkraut/kombucha/salmon diet, then keep trying to re-introduce foods and see how it goes. According to my blood work, my thyroid is fine (thyroid is commonly a culprit of autoimmune issues), but my white blood cell count has been consistently low. This means something is going on with my liver, we’re just trying to figure out what. I also strangely enough have high cholesterol and haven’t gotten my period in over two years. While there are quick pharmaceutical fixes for these issues, I know that inflammation is most likely the root cause and can only be truly resolved by healing the gut. For someone like me, the repercussions of taking medication would far outweigh my current health issues. These past two years, I took a hiatus from my nutritionist to see a GI, but now I’m ready to go back to my nutritionist for a second opinion about what my GI is saying. It’s been four years since I’ve started my healing process and I feel much improved, but I still have a long way to go.

If you made it through this entire post, you’re amazing. If you suffer from a digestive and/or skin issue too, know that you are not alone. I’m by no means a doctor or nutritionist, but I can sure speak from experience and this is what has helped me so far. Everyone is different, so what has helped me may not help you. Feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me via email——if you want to share your thoughts or have any questions!

Leave a Comment

  • Hi, Michaela, I am wondering what probiotic you were given by your GI doc?

    • Hi Sarah, I was given VSL #3. Although I think it helped a bit, I’m actually not taking it anymore. It had a corn additive in it that my nutritionist said was not good for me. I’m planning on doing a full update soon, but will be doing mini updates on Instagram until then!

      • 1.1.1

        Hi!! Ah interesting, that is the one I am on! It seems to help quite a bit. I don’t think I have any issues with corn but…who knows at this point. It really shouldn’t be this hard, right?! Good luck with the Ayurvedic approach this month. I’ll be following. 🙂

  • Hi! I just came across your site as I was searching for accounts/stories of people who experience(d) erythema nodosum. Like you, I just woke up with the mysterious bruises and swelling a few weeks ago and now the inflammation in my leg has made it so difficult to walk. While my doctors are still trying to figure out the root cause, I’m also wondering if there are more natural and alternative ways that I can cope and heal, as I don’t want to be dependent on antibiotics or meds. It was good to read your article and know that it can indeed go away, naturally. Hope you’re all good and healthy now!

    • Hi Maria! So sorry to hear you had to deal with erythema nodosum, but happy to connect with a fellow (former) sufferer. I’m still trying to figure out the root cause, but a GI did mention to me it was a rheumatology issue, so I do have an appointment with a rheumatologist in May. My erythema nodosum hasn’t come back since.

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