A woman whose 20-year battle with psoriasis and eczema was so severe she was told her only treatment option was chemotherapy has found a ‘cure’ through diet.
Hanna Sillitoe was in such agony she even had to resort to going out with her red-raw skin wrapped in clingfilm to stop her clothes rubbing against it.
Having tried ‘every cream under the sun’ and at her wits end, the 38-year-old, from Manchester, began researching about anti-inflammatory foods and devised her own diet. She cut out caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy and wheat.
The interior designer then found her heavily scaly and crusted skin cleared up completely and as a ‘bonus’ lost five stone (31kg). She also says her ‘whole health has been boosted’.
It inspired her to start a blog, and then publish a book, which has sold more than 5,000 copies since it went on sale in January.
Since then, Hanna has heard from hundreds of people around the world who have reported similar success after embarking on her diet plan, allowing them to avoid or reduce their use of skin-thinning steroid creams.
They include a mother in the US whose toddler’s psoriasis was so bad strangers accused her of letting her daughter get ‘severely sunburnt’. She now says after following Hanna’s diet she ‘has her life back’.
‘I cleared my psoriasis’
Hanna said when she was 35, her skin problems and general health has reached a low point.
She said: ‘As well as skin problems, I suffered recurring urinary tract infections, my blood pressure was dangerously high, I was overweight and permanently exhausted.
‘At its worst, eczema covered my eyelids and plaque and guttate psoriasis [a type that appears as small, salmon-pink bumps on the skin] spread across my arms, legs, boobs, tummy and scalp.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of the disease with red raised patches covered in silvery scales affecting my knees, elbows and forearms.’
After educating herself on nutrition, she then cut out caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy and wheat.
‘I cleared my psoriasis, eczema and acne, and lost five stone in weight without trying.
‘My recurring kidney infections disappeared, my bleeding gums healed and my energy levels bounced through the roof.’
‘Charlie has her life back’
Hanna read a MailOnline story in August in which Ashley Nagy in Arizona had spoken about her 22-month-old daughter Charlie’s psoriasis and she sent her her book.
The mother-of-two, 29, had shared photos of Charlie to raise awareness of the skin condition after revealing parents drag their children away from her in case they catch something.
Ashley immediately altered her daughter’s diet, starting with the removal of gluten and dairy, and saw dramatic results.
She says the two-hour bath routine they had to carry out every day to keep Charlie’s condition under control was been reduced to just 20 minutes.
‘She’s been clear for a whole month now and I am ecstatic,’ she said. ‘She isn’t 100 per cent clear but pretty darn close.
‘Charlie has always been a easy going and loving little girl but wow, she now has her life back. She is not on any topical or oral medications.
‘The closest thing we will get to a flair would be a few tiny red bumps on her neck or back, which we relate those to when we gave her a piece of pizza or she had ice cream one day.
‘I would say that it took a good month for her to get all of the bad food out of her system.
‘I am a firm believer that Hanna’s Radiant book is the answer.’
She admitted it is ‘very hard’ to get her young child to follow the diet consistently because she wants what she sees other people eating.
‘I’d be lying if I said we were perfect and didn’t stray from Hannah’s book. There are moments of indulgence.
‘When we do give her something off her diet she will start getting a few spots almost right away.’
‘Feedback was amazing’
Hanna said she has been amazed by the feedback she’s received about her blog and book.
‘The amount of people who have messaged me to say it’s helped them would be in the high hundreds by now.
‘I must get at least 20 plus messages a week via various social networks with stories, pictures and lovely messages from people who have been inspired and helped.
‘The book is being published in France, Spain and Hungary next year too.’
THE FOODS TO AVOID TO TACKLE THE PROBLEM
Hanna admits that she isn’t a trained nutritionist, but wants to share what’s worked for her after carrying out lots of research.
Here is a selection of food and drinks Radiant: Recipes to Heal Your Skin From Within recommends sufferers of psoriasis and eczema to avoid:
Caffein stimulates the nervous system, causing our adrenals to pump out cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone which helps the body respond to stress. Those same stress hormones that prepare us for a ‘fight or flight’ response also have the potential to trigger skin conditions such as acne.
Cortisol depresses the immune system, making it much more difficult for our skin to fight off bacteria, which multiply inside clogged pores.
Cortisol also encourages the body to pump out insulin. Not only can insulin trigger over-production of new skin cells, it also increases the body’s inflammation levels, which can exacerbate an existing skin condition, causing skin to appear redder and more swollen.
Alcohol is a natural diuretic, which means that the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become. It literally saps the moisture from every part of your body, skin included.
Drinking too much deprives the skin of vital vitamins and nutrients. Vitamin A, for example, is essential for cell renewal and a lack of it can cause the skin to look dull and grey.
Check labels, because alcohol as a major ingredient in any skin-care product is most definitely a problem.
Sugary carbohydrates cause our insulin levels to spike and this can lead to an inflammation flare-up throughout the body, potentially causing stress, redness and visible swelling on the skin’s surface.
Autoimmune illnesses such as psoriasis are activated by an over-responsive immune system.
Foods such as sugar, sweets, ice cream, white pasta, ketchup, pre-packaged snacks and fizzy drinks are some of the worst culprits.
Digested sugar permanently attaches to the proteins in our skin through a process known as glycation. Over time, the end products accumulate and destroy our collagen and elastin, the proteins responsible for keeping skin firm and supple.
Processed and junk food
Processed foods contain chemicals, plus cheap fats and refined vegetable oils that are often hydrogenated.
Also known as trans fats, these oils increase bad cholesterol and can block the production of chemicals that combat inflammation.
A good rule of thumb to improve the health of your skin, is to eat foods that keep your blood sugar levels steady. Almost all processed and junk foods are full of ingredients that will cause blood sugar to quickly soar.
This rapid spike triggers the metabolism to boost insulin in response, which in turn creates a flare of inflammation. Over time high insulin levels can make skin drier, thicker and flaky, often blocking the pores and resulting in acne.
Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, aubergine and peppers)
Edible plants of the Solanaceae family, known as the nightshades, are not advisable for anyone struggling with autoimmune skin conditions such as psoriasis.
The alkaloids in nightshade vegetables are believed to provoke gut irritation – the condition known as leaky gut.
There is however, a great deal of anecdotal evidence and blog posts from people who have found that nightshades aggravate their autoimmune illness.
Everyone is different, so as always, it’s important to establish whether these foods are posing a real problem for you.
Dairy is very, very hard to digest, even in those of us that don’t have a diagnosed allergy. It’s one of the most acidic, inflammatory foods we can eat.
To take care of our skin, we want to eat as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible. All animal protein is inflammatory to some degree but it is specifically dairy proteins that have been linked to skin problems.
For many people, identifying a wheat or gluten allergy can be the missing link to clearing skin and resolving a whole host of underlying health problems.
The reason wheat is thought to be such an issue for those of us with skin problems is primarily because it’s high on the glycaemic index. High GI foods prompt raised blood sugar, in turn triggering insulin. Not only are elevated insulin levels linked to increased sebum production that can clog pores and lead to acne breakouts, more worryingly they promote chronic inflammation throughout the body.
The book, published by Kyle Books, is priced at £10.77 and is available here.
Hanna’s blog can be found here.