Around eight years ago I wasn’t terribly well. For as long as I could remember I had suffered from eczema. From a small child I had used steroid creams, emollients, medicated bath oils, cotton gloves, short nails to minimise the damage from scratching and distraction techniques to break the itch/scratch cycle – I even considered hypnosis. I’d regularly get streptococcus infections and had resigned myself to this chronic condition. I also suffered from asthma and terrible mouth ulcers; however it was my allergies that were really becoming a problem. I’d have reactions to fruit, vegetables, nuts, dust, cleaning products, pollen, animal fur, shampoos/shower gels and soaps, pretty much anything – and it would change, one day a product or food stuff would be fine, the next I’d break out it rashes, get itchy swollen eyes, my throat would narrow, my gums become inflamed and my lips swell (cheaper than fillers but not so pretty!).
Consequently I would take antihistamines daily, and when it got really bad, oral steroids in additional to the topical ones. I’d take nytol to sleep (also an antihistamine), caffeine to stay awake, carried an epipen, and on occasions required strong steroid injections – in short I was a bit of a scabby, itchy, wheezy mess – oh – and spotty, I had adult acne! I was tired all the time, often negotiating life through a foggy haze and had resigned myself to the various conditions, this was my ‘normal’ and I couldn’t imagine it ever getting better.
Things came to a head when I had a particularly bad period of reactions; everything I’d eat was making the roof of my mouth blister and it was patchy, raw and painful, so I went to the doctor and was prescribed steroid mouth wash – a new one even on me! 3 days later and it was even worse, so I went back and this time saw a different doctor, who listened and casually said; ‘Oh, of course, you have a hyper-sensitive immune system’, I had never heard this term in my life; basically my body could not differentiate between friend and foe, so would produce an immune response unnecessarily, often to a humble walnut! Armed with this information, and another prescription for steroid tablets, I went home, with the knowledge of why I felt rotten, but not how to improve things, the advice was… ‘Keep taking the tablets’. To clarify, at this point in my life a solid lunch was a sausage roll, packet of McCoys (flamed grilled steak or Mexican chilli) and a KitKat!
Around that time, I, being vain despite the acne and the itching, read an article about Kim Cattrall (I’d loved her since Mannequin) and learnt that one of the secrets of her apparent agelessness, was the Perricone Diet, an anti-inflammatory programme, aimed to improve the condition of the skin and reduce sign of aging, developed by an American dermatologist. So, on a whim, I bought a cheap second hand copy of the book: