Make yourself healthy: Searching for the cause of acne

Martha Rotter, a software engineer, grew up near St. Louis. She did not have skin problems in high school or college. After college, she spent six years in Seattle. Her skin got a little worse. In 2007, she moved to Dublin to work for an Irish branch of Microsoft. Six months after the move, she noticed her skin was worse than it had been in Seattle. In Seattle she would get a little acne or blemishes for a week or so and then they would go away. In Dublin, they weren't going away.

Her skin got worse. A year after moving to Dublin, it was always bad. The spots and sores were always uncomfortable -- "a headache on my face," she says. They were painful to touch. At one point Martha got a massage. Forgetting her warning, the masseuse rubbed oil on Martha's face. She screamed. "One of the most painful things ever," she says.

Is my job making my skin bad? she wondered. She was working a lot, taking clients out, losing sleep. She started to go out less so that she could get more sleep. She stopped working on weekends. This didn't help.

She tried many skin creams and face washes. "Neutrogena and Clearasil make a lot of products," she says. "On a bad day I could easily drop $50 on two or three things." For several months, she spent $100/month on creams, astringents, and soaps trying to find something that worked. Nothing did.

She tried fitness. She went to the gym four or five times per week. Read the rest

Make Yourself Healthy: Daughter Knows Best about Kidney Disease and Gluten Intolerance

(I'm very interested in the Quantified Self movement, which involves self-experimentation and self-tracking to gain self-knowledge. Seth Roberts, a professor of psychology at Tsinghua University in Beijing and emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, is one of the pioneers of the modern Quantified Self movement. From time-to-time, he's going to contribute a "Make Yourself Healthy" essay for Boing Boing. -- Mark)

Gail, who is now 70, grew up near Toronto. As early as she can remember, she had digestive problems -- pain after meals and troublesome bowel movements (diarrhea and constipation). Her father, a doctor, sent her to specialists. They couldn’t find anything wrong and implied it was all in her head. She had the impression her parents agreed. (Her mother had headaches for years. Her husband -- Gail’s father, the doctor -- said it was all in her head. It turned out her mother had a brain tumor.)

Gail's digestive trouble got worse in her teens. She remembers eating a hot dog on the beach and doubling over in pain. Since then she had at least some discomfort all the time.

When she was in her thirties, an annual checkup found a tiny amount of blood in her urine, a condition called microscopic hematuria. It had none of the well-known causes (e.g., tumor). Her doctors shrugged.  That's interesting, they said. No one said she should be alarmed. "Microscopic hematuria is an incidental finding, and whether physicians should test for hematuria in asymptomatic patients remains at issue," said a 2001 policy statement from the American Urological Association. Read the rest

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Seth Roberts: Grandmother knows best about Crohn's Disease

Seth Roberts is the author of The Shangri-La Diet and posts at Seth's Blog about personal science, self-experimentation, and the scientific method.

[Video Link] Crohn's Disease is a type of inflammation of the digestive tract. In most cases, it causes unremitting diarrhea, several times per day. In America, about 1 person in 1000 has it.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website, the usual treatments for Crohn's are "drugs, nutrition supplements, [and] surgery." The drugs include anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, immune-system suppressors, and antibiotics. Surgery is common. According to the NIH website, "two-thirds to three-quarters of patients with Crohn’s disease will require surgery." Require surgery? Those are strong words. It's a digestive problem, what about diet? No, says the NIH website. "No special diet has been proven effective for preventing or treating Crohn’s disease. . . . There are no consistent dietary rules to follow that will improve a person’s symptoms." Other authorities agree. "There's no firm evidence that what you eat actually causes inflammatory bowel disease," says the Mayo Clinic. According to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, "there is no evidence that any particular foods cause or contribute to Crohn's disease."

Reid Kimball disagrees. Reid, who lives in Oregon, designs video games. He grew up in Massachusetts. During his junior year of high school, he came down with Crohn's. It was embarrassing. One day in class, he raised his hand to go to the bathroom. By the time the teacher called on him, it was too late. Read the rest