Living with tons of allergies and sensitivities can get real old real fast, particularly during a “random flare”—a strong reaction to some unknown irritant. Not only do you have to tamp down symptoms, you need to identify what set off the autoimmune response.
My latest flare was odd. It felt like just my lips spent the day swimming in the ocean then becoming sunburned on the beach. Think: swollen, dry, and irritated. Most puzzling was that it happened at all. If you’re like me, you don’t try new things on a whim. You live in a carefully controlled bubble amidst your few proven-non-reactionary foods, cleansers, bath products, etc.
Although, having just written that, you can suddenly react to a product you’ve used safely for years. When that happens, it’s one of two things: 1) the formula’s changed (yet packaging lacks a splashy “better than ever before!” shout-out, which for people like me translates to “Code Red! Re-check ingredients!” And yes, I’m talking to you, Go Veggie!, for recently adding coconut oil and potato starch, making your rice “cheese” now off limits for me), or 2) you’ve developed an over-use intolerance, which happens more than you think. Likely because it’s one of five items you actually can eat, so you eat it each meal, every day…
Lip balm is one of my few regular-use products. But, I hadn’t switched brands, “flavors” or even tubes lately, so I didn’t think it was the culprit. Instead, I targeted black pepper—not the finely powdered stuff that sits on store shelf exposed to light endlessly and thus has no kick, but the fresh, whole-seed kind from a spice store. Testing was simple—stop adding freshly cracked to my food. Sure enough, within 24 hours, my lips were no longer irritated.
A minor blip easily solved, and the cycle also sparked a chemical-exposure audit. I react a lot to chemicals (think: dyes, scents, additives and more), so reducing my reaction loop equals better health. Unfortunately, today’s world is rife with chemicals—pool chlorine levels, people who bathe in perfume/aftershave, detergents (e.g. the cleaning aisle in the store, on clothes/towels of others, when the neighbors do laundry) and much, much more.
That’s why I try to limit my chemical exposure in realms I can control a bit by going “all natural” as much as possible—making food from scratch using organic ingredients as mush as possible, emphasizing whole foods over processed, making my own lotion, cleaning with vinegar, I don’t wear makeup, when I get a hair trim I ask that they don’t use any products, etc. After the most recent chemicals audit I stopped using a hair curl enhancer (the scent never really agreed with me, and already feel a bit less congested 24/7) and am contemplating no longer polishing my nails. I don’t do them often, and I love the look, but it’s just so much chemical-y layers sitting on your nails for weeks…
Next week: Kombucha