By now many of you are familiar with my personal journey through eczema and Topical Steroid Withdrawal (TSW). For those of you unfamiliar with TSW, it’s the process one must go through in order to break the addiction that their body has developed toward topical steroid creams. Eczema sufferers and dermatologists are just beginning to become enlightened with the knowledge that many cases of worsening eczema are actually an addiction to topical steroid creams. Visit the International Topical Steroid Addiction Network more information on this.
Diet played a tremendous role in speeding my body’s recovery from the effects of 25+ years of applying topical steroid creams. Turning to a non-inflammatory diet during the withdrawal period was critical in order to reduce the amount of inflammation in my body as my body was healing.
Why Eating an Anti-Inflammatory Diet is Critical During TSW
During Topical Steroid Withdrawal, your immune system is “waking up” after being suppressed by steroids and it is “mis-firing” as it regulates itself to be a working immune system again. The immune system creates inflammation as a natural response to deal with threats, so during this period of restarting the immune system, the TSW sufferer will experience extreme inflammation (swelling, skin inflammation (rashes), joint pain, etc.). The last thing you want at this time is to add additional inflammation to the equation by eating inflammatory foods.
What are Anti-Inflammatory Foods?
Here are recommended foods to eat because they bring anti-inflammatory effects to your body:
- Fruits and Vegetables. Fruits and vegetables offer incredible levels of antioxidants and flavonoids that reduce inflammation. Eat the rainbow!!
- Fish. Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fats. Be careful and buy only wild-caught fish and not farmed fish, so that you avoid eating fish raised in constrained environments that are fed a diet of GMO-laden corn and soy.
- Grass-fed beef. If you eat red meat, choose only grass-fed beef that comes from cattle raised in grass pastures who eat their natural diet. Grass fed beef contains more omega-3 fats than grain fed animals which are fed an unnatural diet of genetically modified corn and soy and are often given antibiotics to ward off the many bacteria present in the overcrowded confined animal feeding operations (CAFO).
- Organic free range poultry. If poultry isn’t organic then it may have been raised with antibiotics and GMO (genetically modified) feed, both of which will be introduced into your body if you consume them. Buy free range poultry when possible because they are free to forage for their food and are not confined to overcrowded confined animal feeding operations (CAFO) that are a breeding ground for bacteria.
- Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds, especially almonds, walnuts and flax seeds, contain healthy fiber and omega-3 fats.
- Herbs and spices. Spices such as ginger, oregano, rosemary, garlic, turmeric, sage, thyme, cloves, and cinnamon all have anti-inflammatory effects. Use them with cooking and you can also make herbal teas which bring great healing benefits to the body.
- Top 15 anti-inflammatory foods. Here is a good article from Dr. Josh Axe on the top 15 anti-inflammatory foods.
What are Inflammatory Foods?
Here are the types of food to avoid because they increase the inflammatory response in your body:
- Sugar. Added sugar is inflammatory, but the awesome and naturally occurring sugar in fruit is very healthy! Don’t cut out fruit. But do cut out cakes, donuts, and even the sugar-laden yogurts that “appear” to be healthy.
- Processed Foods. These are foods that have been altered from their natural state for reasons of safety or convenience. These foods often contain loads of sodium, sugar, and trans fats. Examples of processed foods include chips, packaged cookies, crackers, and processed meats like hot dogs and packaged lunch meats.
- Refined Grains / Breads. Refined flours have had their slow-digesting fiber and nutrients removed and therefore the body is able to digest them very quickly. The quick absorption of these glucose- containing carbs spikes your blood sugar level, which in turns spikes your insulin levels and causes a pro-inflammatory response. Examples of foods with refined flours include pizza, white bread, pasta, breakfast cereal, and crackers.
- Dairy. Casein is a protein found in cow’s milk and some people are not able to digest it. Dairy is an inflammatory food for some people and it is best to eliminate it from your diet until you are no longer in a state of inflammation. Once healed, you can reintroduce dairy and see how your healthy-state body reacts to it. Examples of foods with dairy include milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter.
- Gluten. Gluten is a protein molecule in wheat. In the 1960’s, wheat (and gluten) were re- engineered to increase their yield for mass production in foods. This changed the structure of the gluten molecule. One of the current leading beliefs is that this genetic modification is why it is hard for so many people to digest the gluten of today, whereas our ancestors didn’t have a problem with it. Regardless of your belief about gluten, it’s a good idea to remove gluten from your diet until your inflammation is under control. At that point, reintroduce it and see if you have any issues. Examples of foods with gluten include wheat, rye, barley, brewer’s yeast, wheat starch, and any derivatives of these ingredients. Check ingredient lists carefully because “gluten” can exist under many different names. It is often found in processed foods, breads, cereals, pastas, sauces, gravies, crackers, beer, and baked goods.
- Vegetable Oils. Vegetable oils such as soy, corn, and canola oil are high in the inflammatory fat (omega-6) and low in the anti-inflammatory fat (omega-3). Cook with olive oil, grapeseed oil, and coconut oil instead.
- Corn. Corn is in almost everything! It’s cheap and it’s one of the largest crops in America. Most of the corn we eat is genetically modified (like almost 90%!!!) and it has been linked with inflammation. Try to avoid corn during this time of inflammation in your body. Once you are healed, you can reintroduce organic corn to see if your new healthy body agrees with it.
How to Realistically Change Your Diet
Changing your diet overnight is incredibly hard if not near impossible. Most of us have decades of experience eating a certain way, and the idea of going “gluten free” or “dairy free” is as intimidating as learning a new language. That’s why so many people “know” they should be eating differently but they choose not to.
If it were easy to switch to an anti-inflammatory diet then everyone would do it because of the awesome benefits realized. But there is a manageable way to approach this and find success without completely disrupting your life. Read more about the how of changing your diet. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but small steps should be taken each day/week until you get to where you want to be.
As a rule of thumb, eat whole foods and you’ll be eating an anti-inflammatory diet full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that will provide important support to your body during its intense healing efforts from TSW (or from any condition for that matter!). Whole foods are foods that still look like they did when they grew in nature. In other words, we have not altered them to make them cheaper to produce or to make them more savory with additives, sugars, and “natural flavorings” (which is typically MSG in disguise). Mother nature knows best when it comes to food. The fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts gifted to us were all perfectly designed and don’t need our “help”! 🙂
Have you experienced greater healing by changing to an anti-inflammatory diet?
Please leave a comment below and share your experience!