Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kale Surprise Smoothie

I like the vegan diet, but my face doesn't.

For several months now, I've been noticing that my face is redder than normal, and it has more 'bumps' on it.  These don't seem to be normal acne bumps - they're smaller and harder and don't pop.  They also persist for months.  I was getting more and more bumps.  I put it down to exercising more, cold weather and hormones - after all, isn't a plant based diet supposed to be good for your skin?

20 years ago a dermatologist said I had rosacea after I complained about a few similar bumps and redness around my nose. I've had redness and bumps on and off since then, and none of the topical treatments I've tried have made a difference.  Since this latest flare up was the worst I've experienced and it coincided with adopting a vegan diet, I finally realized that perhaps what I was eating was aggravating the rosacea.  I looked up common diet triggers for rosacea and sure enough, ALMOST EVERYTHING I ATE WAS ON THE LIST. Since being on the plant based diet, I had hugely increased the quantity and frequency in which I ate these foods.

The good news is, (I hope), that if diet can aggravate the rosacea, then perhaps it can also cure it.

For the past 5 days I have attempted to eliminate the common rosacea triggers such as high histamine foods, histamine release triggers and foods high in tannins.  The avoid list includes:
  • spinach
  • chocolate
  • tomatoes
  • eggplant
  • cherries
  • bananas
  • dates and other dried fruits
  • blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries and other berries
  • apples, peaches, plums
  • citrus fruits
  • fermented foods - like yogurts, pickles
  • soy - including tofu and soy sauce
  • red beans, black beans
  • cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg
  • vinegar - including condiments like ketchup and mustard
  • alcohol - especially red wine
  • tea
Other common triggers are aged/processed meats and aged cheese - but of course those had already been eliminated.

This restricted diet has been much harder than adopting the vegan diet. Is there nothing tasty left in this world?  All my favorites are on the list!  After recovering from a few moments panic, I realized I still had some good choices.  I've been living on: butternut squash, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, white beans, mangoes, cantaloupe, watermelon, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, lentils, artichokes, quinoa, oatmeal and pasta. oh, and peanuts, almonds and coconut milk. I've just added kale back in yesterday, and chickpeas should be fair game.

I am very pleased to be getting positive results.  My skin has definitely improved, although I am worried there is a placebo effect involved, and skin redness is very hard to judge objectively.  I believe the red spots have shrunk and overall, my face is less red.  My itchy eyes, which I thought was allergies to dust or mold, are no longer itchy.  Also, I hadn't realized that my skin was itchy until I stopped absentmindedly scratching my neck.

It's been interesting to look for recipes that can meet this criteria.  All my 'go-to' recipes have to be modified or set aside for a while.  My plan is to stay on this restricted diet for about 2 weeks, then start to slowly add foods from the list and see if any of them trigger a rosacea flare up.  It's been a fun exercise to think about which food to add back in first.  Do I add the one I miss the most? or the one I suspect might be a trigger? or ones that I don't expect to be triggers? or the most nutritious?

I'm using an iphone app to track what I eat and correlate it to symptoms.  I'm hoping to identify a few triggers which I  can put on my permanent avoid list (please, don't let it be chocolate!).  Another possibility is that if it is a histamine tolerance issue, then I'll be able to eat all the foods on the list, but I'll just have to watch my overall daily intake of histamine containing foods.

So, that leads me to the 'Kale Surprise Smoothie'.  I've included kale in previous smoothie concoctions, but those have always contained fruit.  Since all my favorite smoothie ingredients are on the avoid list, I also avoided smoothies.  I've never made a vegetable-only (no fruit) smoothie, and I was expecting to really dislike it.  However, this one was not bad.  Surprise!

  • 1/2 c. frozen kale (I used Trader Joe's)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 c. unsweetened coconut milk (I used Trader Joe's)
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 1 T flax seed, ground
  • 1 T raw honey
  • 1 T almond butter, raw, unsalted (I used Trader Joe's)
  • a shake of salt
I usually don't add sweetener to my smoothies, but I tasted it without the honey and almond butter and it tasted 'grassy'.  The honey, almonds and the shake of salt really improved it.  It's good enough to make it again.

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