How Going Vegan Helped Me Treat Chronic Skin Disease
While there is no cure for Hidradenitis Suppurativa, changing the way I eat helped me heal after years of suffering and misdiagnoses
Imagine being a sixth-grader with the world ahead of you: new school, new friends, new curriculum. Even your developing body feels new.
As you delve into this complex new world, quietly growing underneath your skin is a condition that will change the course of your life forever.
It started when I was in middle school. After a long day of school, I was ready to park in front of the television. My mother had just finished preparing chicken strips, mashed potatoes, and an iceberg lettuce salad. I grabbed a plate and sat down when pain shot through my left armpit. My body jerked as if I were possessed, for a split second, by a demon.
I brushed it off as nerves, my body doing its biological thing. After a night of tossing and turning, I woke up to prepare for the day. As I sat up, the pain that had coursed through my arm the night before reappeared and intensified. I sat on the edge of the bed. Then, I took my right hand and placed it under my left armpit to feel around. My fingers brushed against a tender red lump the size of a golf ball.
After that day, what began as a boil took root and sprouted like a wild disease all over my body. By the time I was in high school, there were boils in almost every crevice of my body: armpit, groin, buttocks, breasts.
I lived for six years without proper diagnosis from doctors. Some told me it was a staph infection that could be treated. Another said I had a life-threatening blood disorder, and another said it was an autoimmune disease. No one had an answer, and I was quietly suffering.
It wasn’t until the beginning of 12th grade that I was correctly diagnosed with Hidradenitis Suppurativa. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, it’s a chronic inflammatory follicular skin disease. There’s also no cure. Approximately 200,000 patients suffer from this rare skin condition. Because the condition often goes undiagnosed, further research is still being conducted to compile a more accurate account of those affected by it.
By the time I started receiving treatment for HS, it had gotten out of control. There were nights the pain was so great I couldn’t shut my eyes, days I would have to miss school, and moments my clothes were soaked in blood and pus.
Despite my health challenges, I was able to find strength because I discovered hope and support. My mother, through her job at an insurance agency, found a clinical trial that changed my life for the better. Once I was told about the trial, I knew this was it. This would be the day I would taste sweet freedom.
I began receiving treatment from Henry Ford Dermatology’s Hidradenitis Suppurativa clinic under the direction of Dr. Iltefat Hamzavi in 2010.
While there is no cure for HS, there are various treatment options that range from antibiotics to surgery in the most serious conditions.
My grandmother passing from a rare disease influenced me to make a dietary change that could possibly help my HS. After I began teaching myself what and how to eat and started to exercise, I began seeing less inflammation in my skin.
It took about two years for me to notice the results. My vegan diet suppressed the disease enough so I could then get surgery to remove the diseased tissue without any chance of reoccurrence. My doctor hinted that diet might be affecting my condition, but after I made my change, I knew for a fact my diet was linked to HS persisting in my system.
Today, I have no recurring issues from HS and I credit adopting a vegan diet for the improvement. With a vegan diet, there are no hormones, dairy, processed sugars, additives — all things that I’ve found to irritate my condition. The lifestyle works because I’m feeding my body the nutrients it needs to heal itself and not attack itself, which is basically what HS does.
At the peak of the disease I was 350 pounds and suffering.
Now I am 230 pounds, healthy, happy, and healing.
Vegan on a Budget
Thinking about going vegan, or are you a vegan who wants to save some cash? Below are some tips and tricks for how to stretch your dollar — and time — while leading a power-packed, nutrient-dense lifestyle.
When preparing an important presentation, you must put in a lot of time and effort beforehand to make sure your work is solid, fluid, and comprehensible. The same idea applies to veganism; preparation is key. Set aside a day — for example Sunday — for meal prep.
Shop in Season
Have you ever tried to buy strawberries out of season? You can save beaucoup bucks just by knowing when fruits and vegetables are growing locally. It’s best for your body, nutrition wise, and your pockets. Go to foodsystems.msu.edu for a chart on seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Two important staples in the vegan diet are grains and nuts, which are essential in providing nutrients. But while they may make up a big part of your diet, they don’t have to eat up your budget. Buying quinoa at the local grocery store compared to a big-box store such as Costco can be costly. Quinoa is one of those grains that, if not bought in bulk, can cost you a lot of extra dollars in the long run.
Choose the Right Market
Not everyone can afford to shop at Whole Foods, and that’s OK. One of my all-time favorite spots to shop is Randazzo Fresh Market. It’s a mecca for affordable exotic and local fruits and vegetables. Western Market in Ferndale is another go-to spot for relatively cheap fruits and organic and commercially grown veggies.