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A woman who claims she cured her chronic skincare problems with a bespoke diet claims she could save the NHS millions with her meal plan.
Hanna Sillitoe, 38, from Manchester suffered with psoriasis, acne and eczema for 20 years before developing her own anti-inflammatory diet rich – swapping caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy and wheat for leafy green vegetables, cold pressed juices and coconut oil.
After penning a book of her favourite healthy recipes, the author has shared images of the dozens of readers from around the world who say her diet has helped them with their own skincare woes.
Before she discovered her ‘cure’, Hanna was constantly in pain and felt so self-conscious she became ‘lazy, fat and was covered up all the time’.
Transformation: Hanna Sillitoe, 38, from Manchester suffered with psoriasis, acne and eczema for 20 years before developing her own anti-inflammatory diet
At one point Hanna’s discomfort was so unbearable she covered her body in coconut oil and wrapped herself in cling film in a desperate attempt to stop the itching.
Turning point: Hanna finds her own ‘cure’
After trying an exhausting list of prescription drugs, it was only when Hanna’s doctor offered her chemotherapy that she took matters into her own hands, researching and creating her own bespoke diet.
Four years later, she boasts a glowing complexion and has even written her own recipe book and launched a successful blog.
Is £2bn spending a ‘waste’ of money?
Hanna is speaking out in the wake of a recent study showing that the NHS spends an astonishing £2bn on treating skin problems each year.
And the author believes her diet could drastically reduce that spend and offer hope to thousands of sufferers.
One reader, known only as Norba (@norbagaygay) sharing her amazing diet results on Instagram) after just two months. She said her skin previously felt ‘scaly like a lizard’
Sarah Davies from Pembrokeshire; Sarah’s before pics are from February. She’s a beautician and continued working even whilst her skin was at its worst
Alice, from Malaysia, featured in Hanna’s book Radiant after her psoriasis cleared up dramatically on her back thanks to the diet
She told MailOnline FEMAIL: ‘The statistics on NHS spending are saddening and more than anything, incredibly frustrating.
‘Time after time people come to me with the same story – their GP is not really sure what the skin condition is, but is fairly convinced switching to a healthy, plant based diet will not play a part in clearing it.
‘I am here to tell them that very often they are wrong. I struggled with skin conditions including acne, eczema and psoriasis for over 20 years.
‘I spent many months throughout those two decades moving around the UK for work and saw various GPs and dermatologists.
‘Some were most definitely more sympathetic than others, but when it came to diet and lifestyle not once was I asked what I ate and never was it suggested that I might want to look at changing it.
Success: Hanna has turned her expertise into a book, Radiant , featuring 100 of her favourite recipes, which is currently available on Amazon
Fighting fit: But before she discovered her ‘cure’, Hanna was constantly in pain and felt so self-conscious she became ‘lazy, fat and was covered up all the time’
Hannah’s new diet is consists of swapping caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy and wheat for leafy green vegetables, cold pressed juices and coconut oil
‘I remember specifically asking my dermatologist about going gluten free as I’d read an article on wheat being potentially problematic for psoriasis, she just smiled and said there’s no evidence to show diet will make the slightest bit of difference.’
Hanna’s secret recipe for better skin
Hanna added: ‘The problem with that is, for someone like me who was eating too much processed food, refined carbohydrates and sugars and who may also drink and smoke, there’s absolutely no incentive to make changes to our diet.
‘Making these changes can be tough. We look to a GP for guidance, and if the doctor is not recommending dietary change, that’s all the excuse we need not to bother.’
Skincare woes began when she was just 16
Hanna, whose skin problems began when she was a teenager, previously told FEMAIL: ‘I was always the spotty one among my friends and struggled with severe acne throughout my school years. My psoriasis started when I was 16.’
She believes her first flare-up was caused by her poor diet, the stress of GCSE exams and her parents splitting up.
Hanna began posting pictures of her skin on Twitter and, after people started asking her what foods she ate, Hanna launched a blog (MyGoodnessRecipes.com) and Instagram (@mygoodnessrecipes) with her favourite recipes which led to a free guide
After penning a book of her favourite healthy recipes, the author has shared images of the dozens of readers from around the world who say her diet has helped them with their own skincare woes
Hanna admits that she isn’t a trained nutritionist, but wants to share what’s worked for her after carrying out lots of research
‘It began as a lot of little red dots on my tummy,’ she said. ‘I still remember the doctor telling me ‘There is no cure”. The thought of being stuck with it forever was horrific.’
Hanna went to extreme lengths to get rid of her psoriasis and even tried coal tar shampoo which her boyfriend joked made her smell of ‘tarmac’, but to no avail – it got so bad she began dreading holidays and summer weddings where her skin would be on show.
‘I used foundation and concealer on my arms, I wore long sleeves and trousers in summer, I did everything I could to cover up and hide,’ Hanna said. ‘I absolutely hated my skin.’
On one occasion, she was waiting to board a flight to Egypt when the girl behind the check-in desk started pointing and called for her colleague.
Lara @iaraharvey. ‘Her smile says it all!’ says Hanna. ‘Sharing her before and after pics on instagram These are taken just a few weeks apart’
Warda, from Sweden, featured in Hanna’s book Radiant after her psoriasis on her legs dramatically reduced
Jessie says the diet has ‘changed her life’, with these two pictures taken just one month apart. Hanna said: ‘Amazing before and after pics’
‘In front of a long queue of people they began a huge discussion over whether my skin was contagious,’ Hanna recalled. ‘I was absolutely distraught.’
Desperate measures to stem the pain
During her worst flares, the pain and itching was ‘unbearable’ and Hanna would wake up to 10 times in the night to slather on moisturiser to try and soothe it.
Once, travelling to London for a meeting, she covered her body in coconut oil and wrapped herself in clingfilm to stop the clothes from rubbing against her skin.
Over the years she tried ‘countless prescription creams, shampoos and emollients’, many containing coal tar and steroids, to little avail.
Finally, four years ago, she went to her doctor ‘in despair’ and he suggested Methotrexate, an immune system suppressant.
Grace @skinhealinggrace shows her incredible progress after taking up Hanna’s diet
This reader, known only as Mr Leong, said his wife read Hanna’s story on a Hong Kong website after they picked it up from the MailOnline last year
Glenda from Surrey is a mum of two and came to Hanna’s Croatia retreat last year. She continued to follow everything she learned about skin friendly foods and her results are 98% clear with no medication
‘I was shocked,’ said Hanna. ‘This was chemotherapy medication and I didn’t have cancer, just a skin problem.
‘I went home to read and research a little more. The list of side effects – which include organ failure – made the decision an easy one. I was petrified, there was absolutely no way I was going down that route.’
Finding her own solution to the problem
Hanna began trawling the internet for alternative solutions and read about men who had healed their autoimmune skin conditions by juicing – extracting the juice from fresh fruit and vegetables to give their bodies a ‘break from digestion’.
‘I absolutely love food and knew I couldn’t live on juice for the rest of my life,’ said Hanna, who began developing her own anti-inflammatory recipes despite having ‘n catering experience whatsoever.
This woman, known only as Aci, followed Hanna on Instagram. A 35-year-old mother of two, her skin went crazy after her second baby. Her tummy is now clear after five weeks
Beautician Sarah Davies, from Pembrokeshire, read Hanna’s story in the MailOnline after a friend sent it to her. She was stressed out, with lots of emotional worries and a poor diet
Emma, from the UK; Steroid creams had had absolutely no effect and Emma was ready to give up. Following Hanna’s book she saw results in just weeks, the author says
‘I’d lived on pasta and tomato sauce out of jars forever,’ Hanna admitted. ‘The process really was very much trial and error but I loved the challenge.’
Despite an initial flare-up, her skin began to clear up just two weeks into her new ‘alkaline-focused’ diet full of nuts, greens and seeds.
‘From that day onward my skin got better and better,’ Hanna said. ‘Each day there was a little change.
‘By day 30 I went out in short sleeves for the first time in years – that moment made it all worthwhile.’
New lease of life for the skincare guru
The confidence that came from her newfound glow gave Hanna the boost needed to start exercising, whereas before she would ‘happily spend my evenings sat around eating pizza and drinking wine’.
She began posting pictures of her skin on Twitter and, after people started asking her what foods she ate, Hanna launched a blog (MyGoodnessRecipes.com) and Instagram (@mygoodnessrecipes) with her favourite recipes which led to a free guide.
One of Hanna’s happy readers. Hanna now describes herself as an ‘author, dietician and chef’ and travels the country attending food festivals
The diet consists of swapping caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy and wheat for leafy green vegetables, cold pressed juices and coconut oil
Hanna eventually turned her expertise into a book, Radiant, featuring 100 of her favourite recipes, which is currently available on Amazon.
These days, hundreds of women suffering from psoriasis and eczema confide in her and send in pictures showing the difference her diet has made.
Hanna now describes herself as an ‘author, dietician and chef’ and travels the country attending food festivals.
Her favourite recipe from her book is a lasagne with no pasta, tomato or cheese as well as a millionaire’s shortbread because ‘it’s amazing to show people that a lifestyle change such as this one really doesn’t mean living on green sludge and celery sticks forever!’
What are the worst foods for people with skin problems?
Hanna’s book includes research and recipes to heal psoriasis and eczema
Author Hanna Sillitoe admits that she isn’t a trained nutritionist, but wants to share what’s worked for her after carrying out lots of research.
Here is a selection of food and drinks Radiant: Recipes to Heal Your Skin From Within recommends sufferers of psoriasis and eczema to avoid:
Caffein stimulates the nervous system, causing our adrenals to pump out cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone which helps the body respond to stress. Those same stress hormones that prepare us for a ‘fight or flight’ response also have the potential to trigger skin conditions such as acne.
Cortisol depresses the immune system, making it much more difficult for our skin to fight off bacteria, which multiply inside clogged pores.
Cortisol also encourages the body to pump out insulin. Not only can insulin trigger over-production of new skin cells, it also increases the body’s inflammation levels, which can exacerbate an existing skin condition, causing skin to appear redder and more swollen.
Alcohol is a natural diuretic, which means that the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become. It literally saps the moisture from every part of your body, skin included.
Drinking too much deprives the skin of vital vitamins and nutrients. Vitamin A, for example, is essential for cell renewal and a lack of it can cause the skin to look dull and grey.
Check labels, because alcohol as a major ingredient in any skin-care product is most definitely a problem.
Sugary carbohydrates cause our insulin levels to spike and this can lead to an inflammation flare-up throughout the body, potentially causing stress, redness and visible swelling on the skin’s surface.
Autoimmune illnesses such as psoriasis are activated by an over-responsive immune system.
Hanna found that removing sugar from her diet provided great relief
Foods such as sugar, sweets, ice cream, white pasta, ketchup, pre-packaged snacks and fizzy drinks are some of the worst culprits.
Digested sugar permanently attaches to the proteins in our skin through a process known as glycation. Over time, the end products accumulate and destroy our collagen and elastin, the proteins responsible for keeping skin firm and supple.
Processed and junk food
Processed foods contain chemicals, plus cheap fats and refined vegetable oils that are often hydrogenated.
Also known as trans fats, these oils increase bad cholesterol and can block the production of chemicals that combat inflammation.
A good rule of thumb to improve the health of your skin, is to eat foods that keep your blood sugar levels steady. Almost all processed and junk foods are full of ingredients that will cause blood sugar to quickly soar.
This rapid spike triggers the metabolism to boost insulin in response, which in turn creates a flare of inflammation. Over time high insulin levels can make skin drier, thicker and flaky, often blocking the pores and resulting in acne.
Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, aubergine and peppers)
Edible plants of the Solanaceae family, known as the nightshades, are not advisable for anyone struggling with autoimmune skin conditions such as psoriasis.
The alkaloids in nightshade vegetables are believed to provoke gut irritation – the condition known as leaky gut.
There is however, a great deal of anecdotal evidence and blog posts from people who have found that nightshades aggravate their autoimmune illness.
Everyone is different, so as always, it’s important to establish whether these foods are posing a real problem for you.
Hanna advises people see if cutting out dairy will help
Dairy is very, very hard to digest, even in those of us that don’t have a diagnosed allergy. It’s one of the most acidic, inflammatory foods we can eat.
To take care of our skin, we want to eat as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible. All animal protein is inflammatory to some degree but it is specifically dairy proteins that have been linked to skin problems.
For many people, identifying a wheat or gluten allergy can be the missing link to clearing skin and resolving a whole host of underlying health problems.
The reason wheat is thought to be such an issue for those of us with skin problems is primarily because it’s high on the glycaemic index. High GI foods prompt raised blood sugar, in turn triggering insulin. Not only are elevated insulin levels linked to increased sebum production that can clog pores and lead to acne breakouts, more worryingly they promote chronic inflammation throughout the body.
The book, published by Kyle Books, is priced at £10.77 and is available here.
Hanna’s blog can be found here.