When I initially considered writing about my boob rash, I thought I might be able to put a comical spin on it. Opening with something like “I gotta get this off my chest” because honestly, I thought it would be gone relatively soon after it developed and I am pretty confident in my ability to make a joke out of just about anything. I was even thinking it would be gone by the time I was able to sit down and write about it, and I’d be writing, comfortably itch-free, from memory. But nope, it’s much worse now and here I am, committing myself to not ingest anything but bone broth, herbal tea, and probiotocs for as long as it takes for this to subside, because I cannot take this anymore.
The first and only other time this happened, after about a month of turture, I was able to take care of it once I had what I thought was the answer, and it was completely gone in three days. I will explain how below, but despite employing the same method this time, this boob rash is not gone after over two weeks, and it is not funny. At all. However, because I love to entertain, please continue reading, there are more awkward sideboob photos to follow. So I’m just going to put this little note in a bottle and hope it washes up on the shore of some other poor soul with a seething, skin crawling rash on her boobs, desperately googling “boob rash” and finding out that she’s either pregnant or has breast cancer, because there is no other information available. My sisters in boob rash hell, I want you to know you are not alone. I am out here scratching and bitching and applying oils and creams and ice packs, just waiting to commiserate with you. My hope is that in addition to knowing you’re not the only one to whom this has ever happened, you might find some information useful for your own healing.
Almost six years ago now, I was in my mid-thirties, taking relatively good care of myself I thought, eating well enough, and had not used synthetic creams or body care products for years. I had switched to primarily organic, minimally processed foods years before as well, but still felt free to indulge in junk when I felt like it. Was I living with chronic heartburn and other digestive problems? You bet. But I had been for my entire life, so it was my normal. Then I went through a particularly stressful period when I accepted a position as an attorney on a small island, thirty miles out to sea, where I would move in the dead of winter, leaving behind a six-figure salary at a “good law firm” in the city and all of my friends. I was also leaving behind a very codependent mother on the mainland, who did not take the news well and could not see past her own righteous indignation. I was looking for a way out of a lifestyle that was slowly killing my soul and a career I loathed to try to improve my life and general will to live, and all she could think about was how I was abandoning her and suddenly we were all going to die alone. I won’t get into the details of the horrible things that were said, but it made for an incredibly difficult literal and figurative transition that included high stress levels and convenience eating crappy food.
I am not exactly sure when, but soon after arriving and settling in on the island, the itching started. At first you don’t think anything of it. It’s like the itch you feel after you remove your bra after a long day. It feels so good to scratch it. Then you start noticing it’s happening a lot, even with your bra still on. It creeps. It crawls against your skin. You think, “gee, I guess I need to wash my bras more often.” So, you do. But it doesn’t matter. Even after you switch to a mild, unscented, detergent, It still itches, but it’s not itching constantly, so you still just write it off as dry skin or something. Then you start to notice a subtle change in the color of your breast skin where it has been itching. It’s not bright red, but just a tad pinker than the rest of your breasts. You start to see it for what it is – a patch, maybe you have a patch on each side. For me the rash runs from about an inch from where my breasts join the side of my body, below my armpits, and runs underneath, but only on the actual breasts, and not extending much down below, and it includes the nipples, but there is no rash in between the breasts. It is on both sides, and, as with last time, it is worse on the right side. If you were looking at me straight on and drew a line underneath my breasts and then bisected each breast with a vertical line that ran just along the inside edge of each nipple you would have it mapped to just the outer portions, from the inside of the nipples out. I think I tried to describe the location like that before it occurred to me to take photos. But just in case the photos don’t show, I’ve given you turn by turn directions to locate it. You’re welcome.
If you have had something like this, or this thing exactly, then you understand. The itching is unbearable at times, and you scratch and scratch with all ten fingers, and you start to notice spots where the skin has broken from all the desperate scratching. But it comes and goes, and sometimes you feel total relief and you think it’s finally clearing up. And then it comes back. One night it appears to be subsiding, only you wake up the next morning to even worse itching, a deeper shade of pink, skin texture that is rougher, and nipples that appear to be drying out.
When I had it the first time, I tried the usual creams and ointments. Nothing worked. I googled and googled and found nothing helpful. I went to a doctor at one point, who mocked me when I suggested perhaps it had something to do with diet, and told me he’d prescribe me a gluten-free cream, which only infuriated me and probably angered the rash as well. I‘ll be sure to write more on this blog about my white hot rage towards dismissive health practitioners at some point, but that is why I refuse to see a regular doctor until I have exhausted all efforts to clear this on my own. Don’t just sit there and agree that I have a rash, tell me why the fuck it’s there.
On the island, after complaining to anyone who would listen, a coworker suggested I read “It Starts with Food”, the book about the Whole 30 plan. The Whole 30 is an elimination diet wherein, you cut out all grains. legumes, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, processed food, sugar (fruit allowed), and vegetable oils from from your diet for at least thirty days. The idea is that by eliminating these foods, you are not only healing your body by not eating foods that cause damage, but you are also healing emotional wounds and behavioral patterns because it helps to identify emotionally triggered eating habits, and those foods to which you have unhealthy attachments. I won’t delve into the myriad ways in which the aforementioned foods do their damage, just google the Whole 30 or any paleo diet blog and you will learn, but some (gluten in particular) can result in leaky gut, and based on my experience and my research since that first episode, that is what is behind the insidious boob rash.
My nutshell explanation is this: certain foods cause damage to the intestinal lining resulting in intestinal permeability, i.e. tiny holes perforating the intestinal wall, thereby allowing food and waste particles from your digestive tract to enter your bloodstream. The immune system interprets these rogue particles to be harmful and launches an immune response to try to fight the threats. This is what causes systemic inflammation, where your body is always devoting its defenses to fighting perceived threats and not taking care of all of its other functions as well as it should. The immune system becomes run down and the damage starts manifesting itself in various ways, like digestive and gastrointestinal problems, moodiness, anxiety and/or depression, joint aches, skin problems, hormonal imbalances, headaches… You get it. Ultimately, the body can start attacking healthy cells too, leading to autoimmune disorders. I don’t know if breast rashimus maximus is an autoimmune disease or response, but eczema and psoriatic arthritis/psoriasis have been deemed so, so I am going to go ahead and put two and two together here. It’s just like the pharmaceutical commercials say, “Psoriatic Arthritis is caused by an overactive immune system.” They just leave out the part about it most likely being caused by your diet, and therefore likely managed by diet.
But here is what I do know for sure; I read that book, changed my diet, and within three days the rash was gone. And I am not even sure I cut everything out immediately. I think I just cut out the grains at first and that is what a huge impact it made. The rash I struggled with for the better part of a month, just disappeared. And that’s where my gluten-free, mostly paleo dieting for the last almost six years began. I am not here to go into all the ways the paleo diet transformed my health, but it’s not hard to maintain that way of eating when it changed your life. I occasionally get other rashes when I am not careful and eat more than a little gluten, or gluten and other crap together, but nothing compares to the agony of Scratchy LaRue, a/k/a Rashy St. Clair, a/k/a Itchy McBoob.
Naturally, when the boob rash rolled in this time, I knew what I had to do. I immediately stopped eating all grains. It was a piece of cake. I added in bone broth. A week goes by and it’s still there. So, it occurs to me I need to cut out some more inflammatory foods and add in some other supplements to help my gut heal. Bye dairy, bye alcohol, bye chips, bye sugar. Hi L-Glutamate, digestive enzymes, and coconut oil. Still there. I am told by a friend that mold can also contribute to leaky gut, so syaonara my beloved nutritional yeast. Then, in my never-ending quest for answers, I stumbled upon the fact that a candida overgrowth can also cause intestinal permeability. I found that interesting considering the week before the boob rash I experienced outrageous, “I will stick my finger in there to scratch it”, itching in my rectum, damned near killed em, which is also a symptom of a candida overgrowth. The candida diet says no to fermented foods, so bye to my favorite almond milk yogurt, and it also says no starchy vegetables. *Sigh* bye potatoes. It has been about a week since all of that was removed and in addition to the diet, I tried other methods to help this along; laying in the sun topless, mixing up essential oils to rub on, combining them in a spray with apple cider vinegar, ice packs, rubbing on CBD oil, smoking a lot of weed regular and CBD. The only thing that brings immediate relief is ice, and also, for the record, if you take many hits of CBD weed in rapid succession, it will get you high.
Rashinista was improving, or so I thought. I was even feeling optimistic and happy that I had lost a few pounds as a result. But yesterday and today it has been the worst it has been in the last two weeks. So, today, I had my last caffeinated tea (I had already cut the coffee) and my last bit of dark chocolate for a while. And actually, this evening I decided to make it my last bit of solid food for a while, or as long as I can handle it. I have yet to try fasting. So, bye solid food, hello bone broth and herbal teas, and hello to the high potency probiotic I started taking today. It has been six hours. I am already hungry, but my new mantra is “my hunger means my body is healing” and I am also just going to keep repeating to myself that my body is a miraculous healing machine.
I’m frustrated and feel betrayed by my body. I already live a life without real bread, and real pasta, and real pizza, not to mention Guinness and god damn croissants! But here is this fucking rash again after almost six years, lingering, ignoring all or my efforts to clear it, while I suffer through an extreme version of the Whole 30. I did have an incredibly stressful five months prior to its development, in the midst of a major period of transition, and all the while I had been eating tons of corn, and diary, and sugar, and um, tequila, due to the stress and a very busy schedule. But through all of it I only had gluten one time, and this is how my body repays me. That fateful lunch date sent my gut health off a cliff. I regretted eating that frito pie as soon as I realized they put flour in their chile, and since then, it has been a cascade of issues. I am trying to look at it in as positive a light as I can. The universe is forcing me to clean up my act and take some much needed rest and to actually devote some time to writing, although I am taking that time to write about a rash on my boobs… But I do agree that it’s time to detox my body, mind, and spirit. It’s my time to heal up for the next phase of my life.
I hope if you’ve read this far and you have a boob rash, you will appreciate this post. AT the very least I want those who have had this to find something relevant on the internet when they search. But also maybe try adjusting your diet, despite my current challenges, to see if you can find relief. I am going to fast the next few days and I expect this thing to go away. But to answer the question one everyone’s lips, I am not a total psycho and I am going to see a doctor at an integrative health practice next week, and I have been working with another healer as well during this time, though I started seeing her before the rash showed up. She’s technically a chiropractor who specializes in Neuro-Emotional Technique to work out emotional trauma and blocks in my physical body that are holding me back in manifesting the life I want. Anyways, she’s kind of a one stop shop for alternative healing modalities and she suspects this could be representative of some long held mommy issues working their way out of my system and she finds it of particular interest that it’s only on my breasts. Did I mention I now live in Santa Fe? She has also ordered a stool test. So, yes, last week, on three consecutive days, I shit into a tupperware and then scooped my own poo into a small vials with a little plastic spork attached the lid of each one and then I packed it on ice and sent via UPS to California. I am anxious to get the results. Is it candida? Do I have a parasite? Is it something else? Maybe I’ll never know and it’s just a case of “overactive immune system”. Whatever I Iearn over the next week, I will share at some point. If you have experienced the boob rash, I hope you feel better knowing you’re not the only one and I hope you are able to heal. If you have any advice or anecdotes you wish to share, please do.