Mineral Oil Sensitivity

Source: 123rf.com
Image ID : 33900955
Copyright : thodonal

 

Ever since I was a baby, I have had wicked reactions to mineral oil, and consequently have avoided it for the bulk of my life.  My poor mother was unable to apply Johnson’s Baby Oil on me, and had to find other options to moisturize my skin.

Whenever mineral oil is placed on any part of my skin, I experience intense itching within a couple of minutes which starts at the point of contact with the oil, then about a minute or so after that, I develop a fine, sandpaper-like, incredibly itchy rash over my entire body.  I must immediately wash off the oil, then take an antihistamine.  The rash takes hours to subside.

In case you think I am making this up, I have gone for massages and hadn’t paid attention to what oil or cream the therapist was using.  There have been numerous incidents in which I reacted to an oil in the manner I just described above, and upon querying the therapist, discovered without fail that they had applied baby oil, i.e. mineral oil, to my skin.

Strangely, I have never had a pronounced reaction to any other mineral oil based products such as petrolatum, paraffin oil, or paraffin wax, so I have kept items like Vaseline and Aquaphor on hand, and I have never concerned myself with small amounts of mineral oil in body lotions.  However, I have never been comfortable with the fact that mineral oil is ubiquitous, used in everything from lotions, to cold creams, ointments, cosmetics, and personal care products.  Mineral oil is very inexpensive, and helps to lock in moisture, making it desirable for use in skin products.

Source: 123rf.com
Image ID : 81118389
Copyright : Dmitry Pichugin

But let’s think about where mineral oil comes from.  When crude oil is refined to make gasoline and other petroleum products, such as diesel fuel, jet fuel, asphalt, lubricating oils, and biofuels, mineral oil is one of the by-products which is used in household and personal care products.  I know that there are purifying methods used to guarantee that the substances used in personal care products aren’t toxic, but I am a bit bothered by the usage of crude oil distillates and by-products in this way, and would prefer to avoid them.

The reason why I bring all this up is because I had the worst reaction ever to a post-laser treatment cream which I was instructed to use immediately following a fractional CO2 laser treatment which took place in mid-November of 2020.  I hadn’t used the cream much during the first 36 hours following the procedure, but began using it 5-6 times a day from the 36 hour point on.  Within a couple of hours, I began noticing an incredibly itchy, fine, sandpaper-like rash which appeared on both arms, my chest, belly, hips, neck, and shoulders.  I kept using the cream, and the rash became angrier, and completely robbed me of sleep for the next 2 nights before I decided that I had better check the ingredients on the post treatment cream.  Of course the second ingredient listed was mineral oil.

Hence began my quest to find a rich, emollient cream which would soothe my laser torched skin without exposing me to petroleum products.  I couldn’t use Aquaphor because it had petrolatum, so I turned to a shea butter cream I had…which also had mineral oil.  I broke out horribly.  My next idea was to use cocoa butter cream, but that also had mineral oil in it, so the rash persisted.  In desperation, I turned to raw mango butter, but I discovered that my skin wasn’t fond of that substance either.

It has been nearly impossible to find rich, emollient creams which are free of mineral oil.  I have been on the hunt since November, and have looked everywhere.  I know there are others who have sensitive, reactive skin, and I had even focused my search on treatments for eczema and psoriasis.  What shocks me is that the majority of products for those conditions have…mineral oil.  It’s enough to drive one mad.

It has now been over SEVEN weeks since I had the laser procedure, and since that time, I have been on oral antihistamines, gave myself two hydrocortisone injections, and used everything imaginable to try to get my skin not only to calm down, but to also offer hydration.  Incidentally, my skin is so leathery and parched, that I must apply emollient creams every hour to replenish moisture, and I am STILL battling a constant rash and hives all over my upper body.  The combination of the fractional CO2 laser and the mineral oil cream have essentially ruined my skin.

For anyone who even dares to argue that mineral oil sensitivity is not a thing, I challenge you.  Honestly, I’ve lived with this condition for my entire life, and I am extremely irritated by the fact that dermatologists foolishly avoid the subject, as if it was some forbidden topic.  An article by Lisa Mai Møller Jensen is particularly irksome, because she claims that “medicinal white oils have no sensitization potential in human skin, which means they do not trigger allergies.”  I’d like Ms. Jensen to explain why I have had horrible and immediate reactions to baby oil as a baby and as an adult, and why I developed the SAME rash last November after exposure to mineral oil. 

Hopefully there is a light at the end of this skin rash tunnel.  There are three emollient creams which I have ordered which are free of mineral oil and other petroleum substances, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that at least one of them will give me blessed relief.

My Experience With Food Intolerance

Before I began competing in 2009, I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted without any digestive or reactive consequence. All that changed by the time I earned my IFBB Pro Card in 2013, when I developed a number of food intolerances which forced me to change the way I ate and what I consumed. It was so bizarre for me to mount reactions to healthy foods which had never caused an issue in the past. During one particular contest prep regimen, I began to notice that every single time I ate broccoli, I would get severe abdominal cramps and a headache which persisted for an entire day (now they last for 3-5 days if I am stupid enough to eat even one small floret). I honestly believe that the extreme and repetitive meal plans which I consumed while competing were major factors in the development of my food intolerance issues.

I retired from competing in June of 2014, yet I developed even more food issues. I noticed that other foods were aggravating my gut, my skin, my head and my mood, so I decided to eliminate them. In January of 2015, I had an ALCAT food intolerance test, and discovered that broccoli on the list of offending foods for me. I also had SEVERE gluten intolerance, as well as intolerance to coconut, flaxseed, mangoes, casein, blueberries, and a number of other foods which are considered healthy. In an effort to allow my body to calm down, I eliminated every food which I had any intolerance to (there were about 30 foods) for close to a year. To this day, I am very careful about the foods which my body rejects, and keep my exposure to a minimum.

I will allow myself to have blueberries, coconut, mango, lobster, cashews, bison, and spinach on rare occasion, and have noticed no reactions. However, I mount strong reactions to other foods and food combinations. For example, within two consecutive days of eating flaxseed, I develop one or two deep, painful, cystic pimples on my face which will not resolve until I stop eating flaxseed. When I eat gluten, I become irritable and emotional, I get headaches, my belly aches, and I don’t sleep well. Of course I didn’t know that this was the case until I did an elimination diet and gradually began feeling better, then tried eating gluten after many months of avoiding it. Every time I ingest gluten containing foods, I notice symptoms which can be mild or severe depending on the food and the quantity eaten. Pizza is VERY dangerous for me now, so if I am faced with the prospect of eating the cheesy, gluten filled meal, I have to take a Glutagest (which breaks down gluten in the food eaten) if I want to avoid the ugly consequences of allowing gluten to enter my body. The combination of pizza and wine is even worse. I might as well forget about functioning like a normal person for a couple of days if I dare to consume this food and drink duo.

I agree that the whole gluten-free trend has gotten a little out of hand, but I also strongly believe that there are many people walking around with gluten intolerance and other food intolerances who have no idea that the foods they are consuming are affecting their health and well-being. I have personally benefitted from going gluten free and avoiding foods my body rejects, and have been rewarded with more luminous skin, thicker hair, better digestion, better overall mood and energy, and much better sleep.

If you suspect that you have food intolerance, try eliminating the suspect food to see if it makes a difference. Trust your body’s signals. And if you want to get a food intolerance test, check out ALCAT.com and Everlywell.com for the kits they offer.

Do You Have Food Intolerance?

What Is Food Intolerance?

Have you ever noticed that when you eat a certain food, such as tuna, blueberries, avocado, asparagus or broccoli, that you get extremely bloated to the point that you are extremely uncomfortable? Since the foods I mentioned are celebrated for their many nutritional benefits, it might not occur to you that you most likely have an intolerance to that food. Up to 80% of the U.S. population has some form of food intolerance.

Most people are aware of food allergies, but food intolerance is a different phenomenon which can have a tremendous effect on a person’s quality of life. Food allergies appear quite suddenly, from seconds to minutes after ingestion of the offending food, and can be life-threatening, whereas food intolerance is a more gradual process (taking hours to a couple of days for symptoms to emerge), not life-threatening, and may only occur after a large amount of the food is eaten. Food allergies and food intolerance can both cause similar symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea, but food intolerance is notorious for causing bloating, heartburn, irritability, headaches and general malaise. The most common food allergy triggers are peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy, wheat, milk and eggs, while the foods most commonly associated with food intolerance are dairy products, gluten-containing grains, eggs, citrus, beans, cabbage, and broccoli.

People who are allergic to certain foods know that even a small amount of the food can trigger an allergic response, and the response occurs every single time the person is exposed. The immune system reacts to the food by causing a release of IgE antibodies, which then cause a release of histamines and cytokines designed to attack the offending agent. Sometimes the entire body is affected by this response, and symptoms such as shortness of breath, hives, rash, or a sudden drop in blood pressure can occur. Food intolerance, in contrast, is more insidious, and may only occur if a large amount of the triggering food is eaten or if it is consumed frequently. Trigger foods will cause a rise in IgA, IgG, and IgM antibodies, causing the body to mount a delayed reaction which is characterized by mostly gastrointestinal symptoms, but which can cause other symptoms as well. Regardless of how the body reacts, the discomfort caused by poor digestion of the food can be enough to make the sufferer miserable.

Why does food intolerance occur? There are several explanations. One cause is enzyme deficiency. All enzymes are specific to one type of molecule, such as lipases which break down fats. Sometimes an individual can be deficient or completely lacking in a very specific enzyme which is required for digestion of a particular food. A common example is found in lactose intolerant individuals who do not have enough lactase to break down the milk sugars into their constituent parts for absorption in the intestine. The lactose cannot be broken down so it sits in the intestine, causing bloating, spasm and diarrhea when it sits in the digestive tract. Approximately 25% of the U.S. population suffers from lactose intolerance, which amounts to a lot of bloated bellies from the consumption of dairy products.

Another common type of food intolerance is to gluten. Gluten is highly resistant to digestion as it is, and in some individuals, the gluten cannot be broken down at all. The problem with gluten is that it is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and kamut, so avoiding gluten can be challenging to say the least. Approximately 1% of the U.S. population has celiac disease, while about 15% have gluten intolerance. Regardless of whether someone has celiac disease or gluten intolerance, ALL gluten must be avoided. However, if there are occasions in which completely avoiding gluten is impossible, digestive enzymes, specifically DPP-IV, can help individuals to digest meals containing gluten.

The list of substances which people may have an intolerance to doesn’t stop there. Some individuals cannot break down phenols, including salicylates, due to insufficient amounts of xylanase, and suffer from behavioral and learning disorders, including ADHD and autism. Some individuals are unable to break down disaccharides, an intolerance which is closely linked to irritable bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Candida overgrowth and autism. As if all that wasn’t enough to worry about, there are chemical substances in foods which can spark intolerance, such as caffeine, aflatoxins in undercooked beans, amines in cheeses, artificial colorings and flavorings, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers, nitrates, MSG, sulfites and salicylates. Salicylate intolerance can cause a susceptible individual to react to large amounts of salicylate-containing foods, particularly citrus fruits, teas, mint flavoring, berries and processed foods with flavor additives.

The digestive tract regularly takes the brunt of foods, medications, hormones, and chemical additives which can interfere with repair of the gut lining, causing increased intestinal permeability which is more commonly known as leaky gut. Leaky gut is characterized by the loosening of tight junctions between the cells which line the gut, thus allowing food molecules to pass through. These free floating food molecules are viewed by the immune system as a threat and will mount an immune response which manifests as the signs and symptoms of food intolerance. Think of all that food sitting in the gut, undigested. Pretty unnerving, huh?

How To Diagnose Food Intolerance

Diagnosing food intolerance can be extremely difficult since the signs and symptoms often mimic those of food allergy. One method of ferreting out which foods are involved in a food intolerance is keeping a food diary in which all foods eaten are recorded, along with symptoms and their time of onset. After suspected trigger foods have been determined, an exclusion diet can be implemented, in which those foods are removed from the diet for weeks to months. If the symptoms disappear during the exclusion phase, potential trigger foods can be re-introduced after this phase is completed in order to determine which substances are problematic. If the food intolerance is mild, a small amount of the food will not trigger symptoms, and in many cases may still be consumed, especially if enzymes are taken to aid in digestion. Essentially, many people can return to foods which they were mildly or even moderately intolerant of after avoiding it for a period of time.

Blood testing is considered the most reliable and comprehensive form of testing for food intolerance, but there are only a few laboratories which specialize in this type of test. ALCAT, Pinnertest.com and HEMOCODE Food Intolerance System are laboratories which offer food intolerance testing via serum analysis, with ALCAT considered the largest food intolerance testing group in the U.S. We offer ALCAT testing at the facility where I work (Urban Med) because it is considered the gold standard method for laboratory identification of non-IgG-mediated reactions to foods, chemicals, and environmental triggers. Some insurance plans will cover part or all of the expense of the testing, so it is always worth inquiring about insurance coverage, especially since these panels run from $675 to $850. Here’s the thing: though the testing is pricey, it is very specific. In addition, you get a detailed rotation diet for reintroduction of the foods which you have intolerance to after you have eliminated them for the recommended period (3 months for moderate intolerant foods, 6 months for severe intolerant foods).

Some Foods Just Don’t Like Me

broccoli

As one who loves most types of foods and who isn’t particularly finicky, I look back fondly on the days when I could eat whatever I wanted without any digestive or reactive consequence. Sadly, the past three years have been defined by a number of food intolerances which have required me to monitor what I eat. I honestly believe that the extreme and repetitive meal plans which I consumed while competing were major factors in the development of my food intolerance issues. During one particular contest prep regimen, I began to notice that every single time I ate broccoli, I would get severe abdominal cramps and a headache which persisted for an entire day (now they last for 3-5 days if I am stupid enough to eat even one small floret).

After my last Pro contest in June of 2014, I noticed that other foods were aggravating my gut, my skin, my head and my mood, so I decided to eliminate them. In January of 2015, I had an ALCAT food intolerance test , and was pretty stunned by the results. Not only was broccoli on the list of offending foods for me, but I also apparently had SEVERE gluten intolerance, as well as intolerance to coconut, mangos, casein, blueberries, and a number of other foods considered healthy. In an effort to allow my body to calm down, I eliminated every food which I had any intolerance to (there were about 30 foods) for close to a year.

Because I am hoping and assuming that my body has reset from the elimination of offending foods, I currently allow myself to have blueberries, coconut, mango, lobster, cashews, bison, and spinach on occasion, and have noticed no reactions. However, every single time I eat broccoli or any food which has barley in it, I regret doing so within 30 minutes. This means that pizza (which I actually don’t consider a favorite food) is no longer a cheat meal option, not unless it is a gluten free version. Food combinations also wreak havoc on me. For example, if I have pizza and wine, I might as well forget about functioning like a normal person for a couple of days.

If you suspect that you have food intolerance, try eliminating the suspect food to see if it makes a difference. Trust your body’s signals. And if you want to get a food intolerance test, check out ALCAT.com and Everlywell.com for the kits they offer.