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FlakeHQ Interviews:

Deirdre Earls, RD, LD

 author
Your Healing Diet
a quick guide to reversing psoriasis and chronic diseases with healing food

Interviewed by Ed Dewke  
in February-March, 2007

Dewke:  I've been a diagnosed psoriatic for 17 years and I can't remember ANY period during this time when dietary approaches to treating P weren't being proselytized.  Among the dozens of eating regimens (with or withOUT supplements) that have come and gone through the years, a few that linger must be taken seriously — not because they are FDA endorsed or have huge double-blind experiments supporting their claims, but because flakers have found them to work.  Success is never universal and rarely permanent, but this is true of virtually every method used to combat P including the entire armory of palliatives provided by conventional western medicine.  If I could have found one drug that worked well and always, I'd still be using it.  Fact is, I haven't.

Judging from the email I receive, interest in dietary approaches to treating P has never been higher.  I personally believe this to be fall-out from the high cost of biologic drugs.  In the big picture, biologics are still new but already we are beginning to hear stories about good results wearing thin over time.  In other words, for some the biologics perform like other systemic medication  — well for awhile, but not forever — and in the process they are expensive (typically $12,000-$15,000 per year).  Folks like me who believe in conventional western medicine are starting to wring our hands:  How expensive can it become to effectively treat P conventionally?  And oh by the way, anything new about dietary approaches?

Deirdre Earls tosses her diet into the milieu through her 2005 book, Your Healing Diet...  I think it IS new.  I like the fact that she's done some homework, is her own best case study and ... well ... she's not a chiropractor, she's a registered and licensed dietitian.  Your Healing Diet is short — 62 pages including reference pages.  But you WILL walk away knowing (1) what to eat, (2) how to prepare it, and (3) where to shop for food.

Ms. Earls has been featured in an episode of a new television series, "The Incurables."  Her episode illustrates her personal recovery from psoriasis and how her book and consultations are helping others to use nutrition to reverse diabetes, asthma, heart disease, arthritis, autoimmune and chronic skin disease, obesity and allergies.  "The Incurables" will air "soon" on a new cable television channel dedicated to educating the public about alternative medicine practices.  Watch for it.

Deirdre Earls is also the leader of the Austin Texas Psoriasis Support Group.  -Ed

*****

Dewke:  You mention your hands, in your book.  Could you describe in more detail the extent of your psoriasis at its worst?  How did you treat your psoriasis BEFORE you concentrated on a dietary approach?  Also, what were some of the drugs you DID NOT try, and why?
 
Earls: 
At the worst, the psoriasis didn’t allow my hands to open enough to unscrew a jar, or to shake hands, or to grab the steering wheel on my car, or to pick up a glass of water.  My knuckles were always swollen and hot.  Other people would see them and often ask if I’d punched someone.  My fingers looked like sausages and were becoming disfigured.  The skin on my palms was so red that it nearly looked purple and I often experienced deep cracks which would bleed.  Rather than ‘flaking.’ the skin on my palms was peeling in minisheets the size of  tea bags.   Before changing my diet, I had tried a plethora of topical steroid treatments and Dovonex.  I had also been hospitalized for two months for Goeckerman treatment with coal tar and light treatments.  My parents had built a full body UV light box in our garage.  I recall using steroid shots on occasion also.  When my condition was becoming disabling, I knew the next step in my treatment plan was a systemic drug and methotrexate was the option at that time.  I never used a systemic treatment like methotrexate or cyclosporine because I was terrified of their power and awful side effects.

 

Dewke:  You write that you read Dr. Pagano’s book but were uncomfortable with many of his recommendations.  He concurred in his interview at FlakeHQ that the diet was essential while everything else — chiropractic “adjustments,” colonics, ointments and bath supplements, etc. — were intended to speed healing.  How close did your initial diet come to Dr. Pagano’s? 
 
Earls: 
The primary differences between Pagano’s approach and mine are threefold:

1) I’m not convinced that nightshades are harmful because fresh tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant are anti-inflammatory and rich in minerals, fiber, nutrients and antioxidants.  I encourage people to do their own 3 month experiment to see if nightshades might be contributing to their condition.

2) Whereas Pagano allows for regular intake of low-fat dairy and lean meats and fish, I emphasize  a plant-based diet and make no frequent allowances for animal products.   I allow myself to eat animal products occasionally when I crave them but I don’t include them regularly in my diet as Dr Pagano allows.  I understand how hard it is to reduce consumption of animal products, but I believe that they contribute directly to the inflammatory process. 

3)  Pagano suggests eating some fruits (like melon) alone but I couldn’t understand the reasoning in this.  However, like Pagano’s diet, I eliminate alcohol, refined flours and refined sugars, and I attempt a diet that’s built upon 80% alkaline forming foods like fresh vegetables and fruits.  The primary key is a plant-based diet built upon whole, unprocessed foods from nature.  By definition this eliminates or minimizes animal products, alcohol, refined flours/sugars, processed and fried foods, all flavorings, colors, synthetic sweeteners and artificial ingredients.

 

Dewke:  The niche your book seems to fill in the short list of books promoting dietary approaches to treating psoriasis is summed up in your introduction:  “I wrote this book to help others experience the incredible healing power of food in a way that doesn’t require seismic shifts in every dimension of life.”  How’s feedback been?  Are people telling you your diet is easy to follow?

Earls:  I  spent fifteen years as a Registered Dietitian without experiencing what it feels like to help a single person (including myself).  Five years ago I began doing my own research to learn how food could be my own best medicine.  Now I get feedback almost daily from people who say that my book or classes or consultations have ‘changed their life.’  People have used my book to eliminate their need for chemotherapeutic drugs and medications for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, asthma, psoriasis, eczema and more.  They’re losing up to 80 pounds of unwanted weight and they’re keeping it off.  They’re experiencing their best athletic performances.  Fifteen years without professional productivity make me an efficiency nut now.  One goal in writing the book was to make this way of eating ‘fit’ into the busy American lifestyle to increase the odds that people would try it and experience better health.  So I’m absolutely thrilled when I hear from people who say they spent just $11.99 to buy my book at Amazon and subsequently eliminated need for expensive, powerful prescriptions for many types of chronic disease.   Readers often tell me that it’s the ‘fast food’ approach (meaning preparation doesn’t require a lot of time) that I teach, and that my book is a non-threatening 62 pages, that enables them to get started and to stick with it until they get results.

 

Dewke:  You advocate the theory of leaky gut as a cause for disease — including but not limited to psoriasis — and in your description the villain appears to be “toxins” that can’t be eliminated through urination or defecation, so are “shuttled” to the skin and the lungs, which you also call “elimination organs.”  Have you any insight as to what these toxins are?  For example, if they are proteins derived from the foods that we eat, can’t they be identified in the blood or in the skin and lungs? Wouldn’t they make the chemical composition of our sweat or our breath (or our blood) somehow different from people who were NOT so toxic?

Earls:  I don’t claim to know the cause of psoriasis.  Not everyone with the genetic markers for psoriasis will ultimately develop it and there are many triggers.  I agree with the conclusions to the published study on diet and psoriasis from the British Journal of Dermatology that states "the diet is one factor in the aetiology and pathogenesis of psoriasis" (available online through Medscape.com as "Diet and Psoriasis: Experimental Data and Clinical Evidence").  Toxins can be anything that has a toxic effect on one’s body and that can be different things for different people.  More common toxins could include parasites, fungi, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals like mercury, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and genetic modifications in food.  Methotrexate is an example of a psoriasis drug that has toxic side effects to the liver.  According to the said published study and some others, people with psoriasis experience a higher incidence of gluten intolerance.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat, oats, rye, spelt, kamut, cous cous, semolina, barley.  Gluten intolerance can range from mild to severe, but anyone with gluten intolerance will more likely experience an inflamed, damaged, malabsorptive gut.  Gluten intolerance can be tested both as an allergy and as an insensitivity via blood testing.  Other toxicities can be tested via saliva, urine or biopsy.  Extreme gluten intolerance can yield celiac disease.  One means of diagnosing celiac disease is  by taking photographs that illuminate visible ulcerations within the gut.

 

Dewke:  How is the diversity of human diets and individual responses to those diets explained in leaky gut theory?  Like people who eat far “too much” heavy fats but do not suffer typical consequences (high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, obesity)?  Babies who manifest psoriasis before they’re weaned?  People who don’t have to avoid anything in particular to maintain lesion-free-skin?  Do you believe the differences are genetic?

Earls:  While I believe that genes influence everything from the shape of our nose and toes to incidence of particular diseases, I think relying on genetics alone is over-simplification.  For instance, instead of just considering the total fat in one culture’s diet, it’s important to also consider their total diet and lifestyle.  In France their diet includes proportionately high amounts of saturated fat.  But they refuse our addition of antibodies, hormones and genetic modifications to their food supply.  They also eat more fresh vegetables and fruits, much less processed and ‘fast’ foods, they walk more and depend much less on cars, and they’re less likely to be overweight or obese.  For many reasons, their daily stress levels are lower, too. 

Regarding babies who manifest psoriasis before they’re weaned, I have to wonder if the mother (and maybe grandmother and the great grandmother) had a leaky gut or a gluten intolerance that ultimately taxed their own immune system and subsequently compromised the child’s immune system during development and breast feeding.  Plus, we're now into three generations who have consumed vast, lifelong quantities of processed foodstuffs developed by food companies with a profit motive (versus simple, whole food from nature, which never had a profit motive).  Unprocessed food from nature was used exclusively as food for life for eons.  Our knowledge of the consequences of processed food consumption only extends back 50 years or so.  I believe that consumption of processed foods is still risky business for all of us and that worldwide epidemic obesity and diabetes are the byproducts.  Because psoriasis is uncommon, it may seem that most people can eat whatever they like and maintain lesion-free skin.  Yet hundreds of millions are developing obesity, diabetes, heart disease or autoimmune disease … and these diseases have connections to diet.  Sooner or later, we reap the benefits or pay the consequences of our daily choices in one way or another.

 

Dewke:  You have designed your diet for people who are likely to have trouble with diets that require significant lifestyle changes.  To quote from the blurb on your book’s back cover:  “Ms. Earls designed this short guidebook with an emphasis on user-friendliness and practicality for those with busy lifestyles.  In essence the book distills common threads of success across many natural healing diets....”  May we have some examples of why your regimen is easier to live with than, say, the Pagano diet, or some of the others from which you’ve borrowed?

Earls:  In all due respect and gratitude to Dr. Pagano, his first book is nearly 300 pages long.  My book is 62 pages long and is intended to simply explain within two hours how to access good nutrition anytime, anywhere.  Dr. Pagano’s second book, a cookbook, is almost 600 pages long.  Within my singular book there are six pages dedicated to helping people understand how to make and reinvent recipe-FREE meals and snacks.  When I embarked upon my own diet change, I was personally overwhelmed by the amount of time required to learn the shortcuts of this way of eating in the midst of a busy lifestyle.   I’ve always avoided cookbooks or anything that couldn’t teach me how to think and operate independently.  Hence, I found it important to illustrate what’s common amongst many healing diets (i.e. a plant-based, whole foods diet) and how to easily build this principle into anyone’s daily routine …  instead of delivering hundreds of pages of minute, potentially confusing details.  Twenty years of professional dietetics work taught me that too many dietary details and striving for perfection often sets people up for binging, frustration, failure and abandonment of their goals.  Hence, I try to communicate and emphasize the importance of guilt-free eating, and the simple commonalities that can be applied easily and frequently anywhere.

 

Dewke:  Probably the most frequent complaint I hear about dietary therapies has to do with time and what I call “results uncertainties.”   You take the time in your book to explain that natural healing is a slow process and the diet you recommend, especially for psoriatics, will typically cause lesions to get worse before they get better.  The good news is — to quote you, (page 11) — “to the extent that you demonstrate respect and gratitude for your body by making choices that nurture instead of damage it, you experience a long series of positive responses.”  Please introduce us to some of those positive responses that might uplift us along the way.

Earls:  The first changes I noticed were marked improvements in how I felt, sustained energy levels, mental clarity and the ability to stay calm.  Next I noticed that my food costs were lower when I no longer purchased meats, alcohol or processed foods.  Then I noticed drastic improvements to my allergies.  I no longer needed allergy prescriptions nor to spend money on these drugs and allergy doctors, and I could live with a pet.  I never focused on weight but slowly my new habits helped me to lose 30 pounds of unwanted weight permanently.  Then I no longer had the swollen, unmovable joints that had made my hands painful and stiff.   And after five years, I’ve had a total of two visits to doctors and taken only one prescription for a minor ear infection.  A better diet has not ‘cured’ my psoriasis.  But none of these ongoing improvements would have happened if I’d not made a commitment to nurture my health, instead of to compromise it, via my food choices.  I never ‘blamed’ myself or anyone else for disabling psoriasis, allergies, medical expenses and obesity.  Rather, I took direct responsibility for those things I obviously can control, like my food choices and educating myself on how food choices affect my health.  It’s no secret that a good diet, regular exercise, effective stress management and a positive outlook can offer myriad predictable health benefits.

 

Dewke:  I was intrigued when you mentioned “a lifetime of allergy problems are now virtually gone” (page 13).  Could you give us a closer look at your experience and theory about this?

Earls:  During college I noticed that cigarette smoke and pets sparked terrible allergies that resulted in fevers, bronchitis and asthma.  For the next twenty years, I regularly visited allergy doctors, took prescriptions and completed skin tests in preparation for years of allergy shot treatments.  I learned to pet animals with my feet to avoid watery eyes, wheezing, congestion and sneezing.  And I certainly couldn’t live with an indoor pet.  After changing my diet, I first noticed that I could be in an environment with animals without sneezing.  Slowly I found that I could pet them with my hands and even roll my face in their hair without sneezing.  And finally I could adopt a large, shedding, indoor dog without any allergic reactions.   I believe these improvements are due to a diet that boosts, rather than weakens, my immune system.  In other words, my immune system used to be incessantly hit with an onslaught of toxic food.  Now my immune system is fed by food that supports its intended function (which is to effectively process and eliminate allergens without distress).   A plant-based, whole foods diet boosts our immune system, delays the internal and visible effects of aging, promotes a healthy weight, reduces inflammation, stabilizes blood sugar and moods and hormones, and is better for the planet.  This is another example of how one good choice (i.e. taking personal responsibility for my choices) renders an ever growing list of benefits.

 

Dewke:  The book, Your Healing Diet, is available at Amazon.com.  Are you available to help folks on an advisory or consultative basis?

Earls:   Yes, my book is available for online purchase at Amazon.com.  You can also visit my website at www.YourHealingDiet.com to find many other distribution points for my book.

And yes, I offer consultations.  The purpose of a consultation is to develop a personalized diet plan which is tailored to suit a client's unique needs and lifestyle preferences, thereby enhancing the likelihood of long-term compliance and success.  The value of a consultation comes from my two decades of work in nutrition education and more importantly, from my five years of practicing this way of eating in my own busy life to achieve psoriatic remission.  Consultations are performed in person or over the phone.  My website includes testimonials from many psoriatics around the USA who have achieved significant  improvements in their psoriasis, arthritis, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.  Some have lost up to 80 pounds of unwanted weight, too.  People with psoriasis have higher incidences of other chronic inflammatory diseases like diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, arthritis and obesity.  And there's a mountain of research connecting diet to inflammation.  So it has been very encouraging to observe that in some of my clients, a very healthy diet appears to be a safe and affordable means of treating multiple inflammatory diseases simultaneously.  For more information, please visit my website, www.YourHealingDiet.com, or call me at (512) 453-8784.

 

Dewke:  Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions.  I enjoyed reading your book.  Its concision and its directness do reduce my personal anxieties about the prospects of changing diet to combat my psoriasis.

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