Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Soy Allergy and Dimethicone Allergy: A Makeup-Artist's Dilemma

Food allergies and eczema affect every aspect of one's life. For people with an allergy to something like soy, you not only have to look out for things you eat or drink, but anything you touch.

I became a makeup-artist soon after high school and continued to work in the cosmetics industry for about thirteen years. During those last few years, the trend of companies using soy as a filler and turning it into everything from crayons to foam carried over into the cosmetics world and soon, soy was turned into many various chemicals used to do practically every conceivable thing under the sun, including binding, preserving, texturizing, thickening and of course as a filler so companies could get more bang for their buck. The list of soy derivatives used for cosmetics and beauty products is literally exhausting and new 'ingredients' are developed and will continue to be for as long as the soy crop continues to be planted and sold for dirt cheap.

Is there silicone in your face products?

Add to this the fact that I am severely allergic to dimethicone and silicone derivatives; a discovery which started back in the late 90s when I first applied the new and exciting Colorstay lipsticks and makeup by Revlon. Having oily skin, I was their target demographic of a teenager who just didn't want her makeup coming off after 3rd period, but little did I know which ingredient was actually causing the reaction until years later. Over the years, allergic reactions to makeup were hit or miss and my biggest wake-up call to this allergy was when face primers were first introduced to the public.
For those of you who don't know, a primer is a base used before the foundation makeup. The silicone microspheres have a silky, slippery-smooth feel which also softens the look of very fine lines and pores. It is this immediate visual gratification that caused many skincare companies to jump on the silicone bandwagon.The first really well-known silicone-based primer was introduced by Smashbox and many other companies soon followed suit. In hair products, it 'smoothes' down the frayed cuticle giving it a smooth outer surface under a microscope like we used to see in those old Infusium and Pantene ads. People think nothing of using all these products on a daily basis, but are they really safe?

What Is Dimethicone?

We know that dimethicone is a silicone derivative. It is used as an emollient, skin protectant (since it forms a clear barrier, (basically suffocating the skin) and keeping any moisture bound underneath. But of course, I figured I'd entertain myself and ask another question. Is this same silicone ingredient going on people's faces, in their hair and in their skin the same exact material that makes up silicone gel breast implants?

The answer is YES. Dimethicone's scientific term is polydimethylsiloxane also known as PDMS. This is the same filler used in silicone gel breast implants and a few minutes of reading about its toxic effects on the body makes one wonder, what is this stuff doing when I apply it all over my body every day? Or worse, to open/broken skin?

Right now, it has a slightly low rating (3) on Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website for toxicity, but this is not taking into consideration the vast amount of people with severe skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema who are putting it on broken, open skin.

I started realizing that whenever I applied this primer, my face would start to itch. Then as the day would progress, the itching would become much more intense and even after washing my face the itch would continue for days! Silicone does not easily wash off; since the particles are so fine, it hangs on to cracks, crevices and dry areas. Having to use these products on clients, my hand eczema would act up and although I would try to avoid using the likely culprit, there were just so many products and ingredients popping up all the time, allergens became hard to avoid.
Fresh organic salads do more for your complexion than any primer can!

Now dimethicone derivatives and soy are used in higher concentrations in practically everything; foundations, lipsticks, eyeliners, hair products and even powder eyeshadows! It is revered in powder eyeshadows, because it lends an almost airbrushed look to the application and also makes the color adhere better to the skin.

The unpredictability of contact dermatitis in such a risky setting made me realize I needed a career change. So I left the industry and decided to pursue a career as a portrait artist and writer.

But as I'm sure you know, building any business and becoming independent will take time. But for now, there are plenty of resources for those of you in similar situations who have some free time to learn a new trade. I'm currently taking French and having a great time doing it, in between writing and working on portraits!

  • Learn a new language with interactive prompts and mini tests that drill the words into your brain for FREE at Duolingo. Although Duolingo won't make you fluent, it gives you the basics and a good foundation to move on to harder learning programs and continuing on to free programs like Memrise or buying a full course like Rosetta Stone.

If those don't pique your interest, maybe something on this list will. The point is, if you have free time, there are tons of productive ways to utilize that time...maybe even into a new future vocation! Don't let circumstances get you down, because most of the time, those circumstances are only temporary. Don't focus on what you can't do anymore; focus on what you can and do what you are most passionate about. Because in the end, its those things you are most passionate about which will garner you the most success because they are something you actually enjoy doing. These things are the 'Vein of Gold' Julia Cameron talks about in an amazing book I read a long time ago called The Artist's Way. Hopefully if you haven't found your 'vein of gold' you will try to. It is never too late to be the person you were meant to be.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Endoscopy Nightmare Part II: Weaning Off Gabapentin

Continued from 'My Endoscopy Nightmare - Part I'

So last month, I went to my neurologist after an emergency ER visit from severe withdrawals after trying to wean off of the Gabapentin too quickly. I was on Gabapentin (aka Neurontin) for a seizure I had during an endoscopy in December. The Gabapentin was literally making my thoughts different and my anger so severe I wasn't myself. Since I am so extremely sensitive to foods, it seems I am extremely sensitive to chemicals and medicines and the Gabapentin was causing severe hostility/anger and depression. None of this happened until I was about 3 months on the medication and being that my doc put me on Prozac around the same time, I had thought all of the anger/aggression/extreme moods was from Prozac, so I weaned off of that. But some of the same symptoms didn't go away, including dark thoughts that I had never experienced before.

Some medications can cause extreme personality changes.

They were so bad they scared me and although I told my doctors, nobody would trace it back to the Gabapentin. But I did. So I went from 900mg to 600 in two days then to 300mg in two days. Very bad idea. I ended up in the ER because of withdrawal symptoms so bad, the nurse who was working with me literally threw the urine cup at me because she thought I was withdrawing from street drugs or alcohol. I'm talking shaking, sweating, severe diarrhea, severe nausea, severe confusion and a feeling of jumping out of your own skin, severe body aches and just couldn't stop crying. They ended up simply giving me an extra pill of Gabapentin and sending me home after they saw all the tests were negative for drugs and alcohol.

The next day, I went to my primary who immediately called my neuro and explained the symptoms.

Natural Supplements and Treatments For Allergies and Eczema

Growing up with eczema and allergies makes you pretty desperate to figure out a way to combat the dreaded itch and skin inflammation. Over the years, I heard suggestions ranging from specific odd-sounding herbs to eating honey or even pieces of honeycomb from a local beekeeper. We all have different physiologies, so the truth is, these remedies may work for some, but not others. I also found some studies associated with some of the more popular ones, so that you can print them out and show them to your doctor.

1. Stinging Nettle

A while ago, I bought Organic Nettle Leaf tea, an herb that someone had once told me they had read helped calm allergic reactions. Stinging Nettle is a prickly herb that is used to treat hay fever, allergies and eczema, along with a host of other ailments. It also helps aid pain from excess uric acid in the joints, so it is very good for arthritis. It will also help aid muscle recovery after a workout, but is also a diuretic so it is important to replenish fluids after drinking. There is also a study I found which confirms it reduces cytokines, the hormone-like protein substances released during an allergic reaction. Cytokines are also responsible for blocking the release of serotonin in the brain (which plays a pivotal role in causing allergy-related depression). Now I'm not a medical professional, but if that's the case, couldn't that mean that taking stinging nettle could not only help aid inflammation, but also improve the mood of those of us having an allergic reaction? Hmm...

Stinging nettle for allergies...does it work?

I had severe eczema on my hands a while back and drank this tea after steeping covered for a few minutes. Within ten minutes after drinking, my itching/hives had calmed down. I also applied the teabag to my rashes although that doesn't seem to work as much as drinking it.

You can also buy stinging nettle in tincture (alcohol drop base) form, in capsule form or dried herb form. Its a good idea if you are particularly sensitive like me, to try the tea first or go for tincture form, which allows you to control the amounts and which usually contains the purest and least amount of ingredients. Dosing instructions are usually included on tincture bottle. Stinging Nettle Blend Extract Liquid, 1 oz, Herb Pharm

Friday, June 27, 2014

5 Rules To Make Gluten-Free Pasta Taste BETTER Than The Real Deal.

As I scan through Pinterest and look at all these amazing recipes, I ponder whether people know some of the tricks I have up my sleeve whenever I cook my gluten-free pasta. Many of you might already know these tricks, but I promise you, after reading this, you and your family won't believe how delicious gluten-free can be.

You will never cook gluten-free pasta the same again.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Be Careful Where You Sit If You Have Severe Food Allergies

This post applies mostly to those who are anaphylactic to anything; never in a million years would I have thought where I sat in a public place would be an issue.

A few months ago, I had an experience that terrified me. Since I could not drive due to a health incident that happened in December, I had family who would drive me to places like the bookstore, Starbucks or Whole Foods, which all have an internet connection which allows me to write.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Spring Allergies and Environmental Allergy Survival

Spring allergies have been kicking me back into bed for the past two months. Every time I spend more than fifteen minutes outside, I have to shower as soon as I get home or else I will face hives, sneezing and itchy eczema on my face later on from my hair which basically becomes a dry Swiffer to the outdoor environment, holding on to grass and tree pollens, then bringing them back into my home and onto whatever furniture I sit or lay on.
With pretty flowers and greenery comes lots of pollen spores!

If I'm already dealing with even a delayed reaction such as to dairy or a soy derivative from a day or two prior, I notice my spring pollen and dust mite allergies are much more sensitive than usual. The reason for this is that allergic reactions are cumulative....meaning that if you add on another allergen for your body to react to while its already flooding histamines into your system, it is much harder for your body to fight, resulting in a much worse reaction than you normally have.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How Vitamin D Affects Your Immune System

Two months ago, I was told after a visit to my primary care doctor that I was low on vitamin D and needed to take at least 2,000 i.u. of vitamin D.

So I did. Every day.

Yet, I was experiencing bad body aches, extreme fatigue (to the point that I was taking 2-3 hour naps 1-2 times per day), struggling with depression (even on an antidepressant) and drinking coffee like it was my saving grace. The excess caffeine was not only making my skin paper dry; it was giving me extra anxiety and even strange chest pains from time to time which made me go for an EKG and other heart tests which turned up negative.

How much caffeine does it take for you to function each day?

So again to the doctor I went, this time, to run a plethora of tests to try to figure out why I was so sleepy all the time and why these flu-like body aches continued even when I was so careful about not eating gluten.

This time, my doctor ran a slew of tests and cautioned that we might not get an answer for awhile, especially if it was something like Fibromyalgia. But two weeks later I get a call with my results. All bloodwork was normal and I was still vitamin D deficient. How?

The nurse at my doctor's office now advised me to take 5,000 i.u. of Vitamin D per day.

Then something occurred to me. Can vitamin D deficiency cause the body aches that had been plaguing me for months? Could vitamin D deficiency cause depression? And why was I not absorbing the vitamin D I had been taking?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gluten-Free Diets, Milk Allergy and Arsenic: Should You Be Concerned?

Today, I face the unknown with excitement, because it can only go up from here. Within the past two years I've discovered I have to be completely gluten-free or else suffer with severe fibromyalgia symptoms and stomach problems. I also discovered by accident that I have seizures on a regular basis without even knowing it. And in the past two weeks, I cut out dairy and tested myself for a suspected allergy and lo and behold, ding ding ding! Guess who's allergic to milk, now, too?!

Of course, this is just after perfecting my cheesecake recipe. After teaching myself what lemon zest was, utilizing it and using Enjoy Life Vanilla Graham cookies for the ultimate crust. Go figure.

I already had my eulogy on Twitter for all dairy food last week. Its probably the food group I will miss the most. I practically lived on yogurt, pudding and recipes I discovered on Pinterest. I used it in almost all of my best recipes and the past week has been filled with trying to find edible alternatives for certain dairy products that can replace the actual items almost without noticing.

Goodbye, you beautiful producers of perfection.

My first try was a soy-free dairy-free mozzarella cheese which I used on my homemade pizza which was an epic fail. I don't like to give bad reviews, so if you ever decide to see if an alternative mozzarella is out there that tastes good...just step away from the dairy aisle. You've been warned.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Can Food Allergies Be Cured?

We all know there is no cure for food allergies...if there were, the whole food allergy community would be on a long line to get it and this blog wouldn't exist.

However, we all did a silent double-take when not too long ago, we heard on the news about a boy with leukemia had a bone marrow transplant which not only got rid of his cancer, but also his anaphylactic peanut allergy as well. I was in the gym at the time and felt like I had won the lottery, calling everyone close to me already weighing the risks of a bone marrow transplant....only to discover later that day that this was not something that doctors were going to carry out as a treatment plan--it was only for cancer patients.

I'm not going to lie, a part of me wished I could get leukemia just so I could get the bone marrow transplant and have an entirely new immune system. To me, that seemed like a sure cure...a tangible treatment. Then I felt really guilty because I know cancer patients need transplants, not me.

Then about two weeks ago, I got my food allergy blood tests back and compared it to my old food allergy test from 2009.

I was shocked, to say the least.

My Endoscopy Nightmare

So December 2, 2013 was a crazy ride to say the least...

I went into the hospital for an upper endoscopy...and no, not for a gluten challenge but to get checked for H. Pylori, ulcers or anything else that might causing the years of stomach problems I've experienced that are controlled by daily stomach medicines.

I didn't do the gluten challenge because I cannot handle the symptoms....

Yet, I had a feeling something was going to happen. The procedure was Monday and I even called endoscopy on Sunday evening to cancel the procedure but nobody picked up.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

My Book, 'Invisible Disability'

I know I have been M.I.A. for a number of reasons. I've been writing my baby. It's 3/4 of the way finished but I'm on a platform which allows me to publish before its done, so that I can make changes based on your feedback.

I thought I bared my soul on my blog quite a few times...apparently not. There is nothing quite like writing words that you know someone somewhere is going to hold in their hands and quietly hear in the pit of their soul.

I know when I'm holding a book, I immerse myself into it like it is my life....and for those blissful, tormenting and sometimes terrifying hours, it is. And when its over, a part of me feels like it dies right along with that last page.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bread Pudding That Tastes Even Better Than The 'Bad' Version!

I've had this tremendous craving for bread pudding recently and since I consider myself a bit of a foodie (hence the gym membership) I had to find a bread pudding recipe I could alter and build upon.

So here it is. Its a classic Betty Crocker recipe that I altered to be gluten-free soy-free and nut-free. If you don't tell people its gluten-free and somewhat healthier, they will never notice. Shhhh ;)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Best Soy-Free Gluten-Free Chopped Salad Ever!!!

So as some of you know, I was a huge fan of Cheesecake Factory food...that is, until I couldn't eat it.

Even if I tell them all my allergies and severe sensitivity to gluten, I get a severe gluten reaction for the entire week, which is probably due to the dairy or meat in the food that is not grass-fed. Sometimes I still get a small allergic reaction depending on what I order. As you can imagine, this is more trouble than its worth, so I decided to take it upon myself and go Pinterest recipe-hunting for copycats that I could do at home.

Yesterday, I made a copycat of the Cheesecake Factory Chopped Salad, with a few alterations
for my gluten sensitivity and severe soy allergy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Serious News: AAFA Study Sheds Light on 'Anaphylaxis In America'

I will get to the base of this study in a moment, but first I would like to ask--how many people realistically know what anaphylaxis is? Does the average American know the symptoms or just shrug off food allergies like a myth or old wives' tale? Peanut allergy and nut allergies are about as common as the name 'John' in schools nowadays....but what about anaphylaxis to corn or steak? Yes, the same deadly reaction can and does occur with rarer foods and even environmental triggers such as cat dander or dust mites. Some anaphylaxis reactions can and do occur without any known exposure or warning, such as during exercise or strenuous activity.

Now as seemingly rare as nut allergies are, we rarely hear about other deadly food allergies in the real world, do we? Unless we are active among the food allergy community or working at an educational institution, hearing about deadly soy allergy or milk allergy is akin to seeing a ghost.

That being said, the facts show that anaphylaxis is much more common than you think.

Peanuts Follow Me...

Unfortunately, not all vending machines are only filled with drinks.
...I swear they do. Everywhere I go, it is like I'm destined to come face to face with that traumatic waft of peanut wreaking anxiety I can't seem to get away from.

I started taking a pastel portrait class with an amazing professor three weeks ago. At the second class, I SWEAR I smelled peanuts, but thought it was my OCD-level anxiety getting the better of me. I looked around after coming back from the break but could not find the culprit. I had mild hives that day but attributed it to my environmental ragweed allergy.

The third week, everything went smoothly until I was at the vending machine outside the classroom and saw a bag of peanut-filled trail mix in the machine. I think I had a mild heart attack and had to take a few deep breaths because I now knew what I smelled was not my imagination.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

QUICKIE Pesto Brown Rice Spaghetti

Sometimes, you need something quick and comforting to get your taste buds excited--which in turn ups your immune system because you're happy and helps you heal, right?

Tonight I decided to make an easy peasy Pesto Brown Rice Spaghetti using ONLY gluten-free soy-free and grass-fed items. Here is what I used:

Friday, October 4, 2013

Soy and Gluten in USDA Organic Milk?

I haven't talked much about my gluten issues, mainly because I've only gone gluten-free with all of my food in the past year, but I haven't gone strict with my toothpaste, makeup, shampoo and conditioner.

The past few days I've had horrendous body aches and sharp, piercing pains in lower back by my hip (could that be my liver or kidneys?) which I attributed about 5 days ago to the Organic Oat milk I stupidly consumed, completely forgetting that oat anything for Celiacs is bad.

Whenever I have the severe pain I also get tired and depressed and my allergies definitely add to that. I've been on Allegra during the day and (Target brand since its soy-free and gluten-free) Zyrtec at night. I've been taking Tylenol for the pain (still have to check if it has soy) and it has occurred to me that if there is gluten in Tylenol, it could also be causing my severe body aches. *sigh* UPDATE: I cannot take Tylenol because I do get a soy reaction after a few doses.

Its all so exhausting. And expensive.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Enlightening Personal Story For Soy and Peanut Allergy Sufferers

My dear mama cared for me so carefully and was one of the first food allergy moms who had no labeling or support back in the 80s when I was covered head to toe in eczema from anything and everything. Since I was allergic to pretty much everything when I was baby, she was always so careful with anything she fed me and anything she put on my skin.

This past Tuesday she was so excited to tell me about a new shampoo and conditioner my dad bought from Trader Joe's.

If you have severe allergies, ALWAYS read the ingredients!

"Maya, its woooonderful! Look at my hair! No frizzies! I don't even have to put anything else, I just dry it and its sooo soft! You have to try it!"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Are Adults With Food Allergies or People With Gluten Intolerance Disabled?

People ask me if I work and I say yes, all the time. I'm working on my blog, my writing, my artwork or my social networks for at least eight hours per day, usually ten.

I'll admit it. I still live at home. If you have multiple food allergies or health issues and are older than the social standard, you owe no one an apology for this. I'm going to tell you why.

People with extreme food sensitivities develop keen observation skills kind of like a telescope.
Every moment of every day, you are on high alert. Your senses are attuned and over the years your observation skills become so acute, others will see you as either a prime candidate for the CIA or an OCD support group.