Good news: my hand eczema is back!
Why is that good news? Because I stopped taking the probiotic a week and a half ago. I did so for two reasons. The first is that I want to try out a single-strain probiotic with a different bacterial species to see if it has the same effect. To do that, I need to induce the eczema again. More on that soon.
The second reason is that I wanted to see how long it would take for the eczema to return, in order to establish a minimum effective dose. My guess has always been that once I achieve a certain concentration, I probably don’t need to take it every day (probiotic pill or sauerkraut/kimchi). Well, it looks like it took about three days for it to start appearing very, very mildly — I had to pay close attention to notice. This itself is extremely strange — my eczema never pops up “mildly.” If it’s there, it’s very obvious. It’s been a week and a half now, and I have to say, it’s still nowhere near the level I’m used to. In fact, the pattern I’m experiencing is unprecedented. I’m now getting extremely mild flare ups that disappear within a day or overnight. In other words, a very muted inflammatory response, which is what I’d expect as my concentration of L. plantarum lowers but is not completely diminished. If my immune system is slowly returning to its “overactive” state, then this is exactly how I would expect the eczema to return.
I never imagined I’d be broadcasting my daily hand eczema updates to the world, but there you have it. Science! Now for some reader updates.
In the last post, I noted that reader reports reflected a very clear pattern: slow but noticeable improvement. And if this was due to fermented food consumption, it was likely due to the fact that fermented foods have lower bacterial concentrations than the probiotic supplement I took. Sure enough, in a comment on that post, reader dojodelft reported similar results on what sounds like a classic, but pretty extreme, case of hand eczema:
I don’t care for sauerkraut much. So I was reluctant to join this experiment. However I suffer from hand eczema badly for 3 years now (I’m a desk worker). It appeared out of nowhere and it is controlling my life ever since. It’s got a (about) 4 week cycle, winter or summer. It flares up for about 3 to 4 nights in a row with extreme ichtiness. After I (of course) scratch the hell out, it resides. Leaving my hand intensely dry, red and very very calloused on the inside and outside. Even my fingertips are effected. Which is very inconvenient since I drop things out of my hands because of it. It feels like I have hardened melted candle wax on it. I always wonder if it could be something else, but my doctor insists it is hand eczema. Nothing seems to elevate the symptoms, accept antihistamine against the itch attack.
I now struggle every day to eat 4 forks of sauerkraut for 3 days. Conclusion: I really hate sauerkraut. But I’ve noticed that the skin on my fingertips is getting softer and sensation is somewhat returned. Still a long way to go, maybe even the full 50 days you mentioned, but I’m going for it. No prescription ever had the same effect for me.
Again, slow but noticeable improvement with fermented foods. There was also a second report from Wilbur noting continued improvement in one family member:
Patient 1 recovered from the asthma and cold, and likewise the (likely) new patch of eczema went away. This has never happened before! There is a confounding variable because I also increased the dose of radish kimchi by 50% or so.
Wilbur plans to try the probiotic pill in a second family member, who did not seem to get results from the foods. After one bag of sauerkraut, Jason H has yet to experience any significant effects:
As for the eczema, I don’t believe that there has been any significant improvement on my hand or my ankles. We did get hit by extreme cold this past week. My plan is to try the supplement after I finish bag #2.
Lastly, commenter libfree notes some dramatic changes:
Just a quick update. I’ve been taking the probiotic for just this week (twice a day plus some kimchi when I can + I started eating Kimchi at the beginning of last week) and I’ve seen some dramatic improvements. My feet have always had dry, itchy skin which has just disappeared. I have a cronic bunionette, a bunion on the outside edge of the foot, that has softened dramatically. My Rosacea hasn’t changed at all. Sinuses seem better but I’m still holding off on weather this intervention is helping. The most dramatic change has been in my lower respiratory area. My lungs are nearly free of mucus. I don’t remember a time that they were this clear.
If you remember, I speculated in my original post that, perhaps, this same intervention holds promise for other allergy-related conditions, such as asthma and other respiratory problems. So that’s a promising sign. But there’s more.
From a post on Seth Roberts’s blog, I came across a news report showing that a bacteria from Japanese fermented turnip called Suguki prevents flu in mice. The bacteria is Lactobacillus brevis, which is also a constituent of other fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. L. brevis appears in lower numbers than L. plantarum and begins to grow toward the end of the fermentation process. But here is the interesting part: a commenter (Peter) on Seth’s blog post notes almost the exact same respiratory improvement that commenter libfree did:
Lactobacillus brevis also is found in pickled turnips. I’ve used it for weeks and noticed a difference. It seems to clear my lungs.
The one thing we can’t be sure of is whether it really is L. brevis that’s causing the respiratory improvement, because pickled turnips will almost surely have L. plantarum as well. In fact, my guess is they will probably have more L. plantarum than L. brevis (yup). But it is also very possible that L. brevis and L. plantarum have very similar characteristics, given that they seem to thrive in identical environments.
Oh, and wouldn’t you know it, L. plantarum seems to protect against the flu as well.
That’s all for now.