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A plant-based whole-food diet can relieve the painful blistering and scarring of the skin in a confusing blood vessel disease for which there is still no widely accepted cure or cause, suggest doctors in BMJ Case Reports.
The primary symptoms of livedoid vasculopathy are extremely painful ulcers of various sizes on the feet and lower legs that leave visible scars as they heal.
The condition affects 1 in 100,000 people, mostly women in their 30s. Symptoms can last for months to years and recur.
Poor blood circulation is often linked to the condition, but the exact cause remains a mystery and there is still no widely accepted cure, the authors note.
They report the case of a woman in her early 60s whose symptoms first started in 2006. In 2013 she was diagnosed with livedoid vasculopathy after a skin biopsy.
Three years later, she was prescribed antibiotics for an infected ulcer on her left lower leg. She described swollen feet and sporadic itchy red patches on her lower legs and feet that would develop into painful, oozing ulcers, varying in size from 1-6 mm to more than 10 mm.
She said that since 2008 she has had ulcer outbreaks every few weeks to months, from rubbing clothes to minor injuries. The symptoms were significantly worse in the summer.
Compression stockings helped reduce ulcer formation and swelling, but were not a cheap option as just one day that they were not worn would result in more ulcers.
The unsightly wounds forced her to wear only long skirts and pants, she said, and she felt a bit helpless as symptoms did not improve despite wearing compression stockings and avoiding aspirin as directed.
She had reached the point where she was "ready to try anything," and her GP suggested eating whole foods, plant-based foods because they were good for blood vessel health and had no harmful side effects.
The diet included all vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, herbs, and spices, but limited intake of high-fat plant foods like avocado and coconut, and no meat, dairy products, eggs, fried or highly processed foods, or refined oils.
After a month, she said that her ulcers were healing and that her symptoms were less bothersome than "in years".
A year later, her symptoms had completely improved. This was the first time in about 8 years that she had no symptoms and she was able to stop wearing the compression stockings.
Since then, the ulcers have only come back when she deviated from the diet. Minor errors have been linked to the appearance of ulcers, although they were less painful and irritating than before.
In 2018 she was completely symptom-free for 18 months and felt like she had "a new life". But in 2019 she fell off the food cart and immediately developed painful wounds that required antibiotic treatment.
This is only a single case, and symptoms of livedoid vasculopathy may improve on their own, the authors warn.
The instant and repeated recurrence of severe symptoms when plant nutrition is not followed in this case suggests that the condition may be related to food intake, it said.
More research is certainly needed, the authors point out, suggesting some possible explanations for the results.
Certain foods, including foods high in fat, salt, and sugar, can damage the cells in the arteries (endothelial cells). Vegetarians have significantly better arterial flexibility than people who follow a standard Western diet, they say.
Early treatment of leg ulcers leads to better results for patients
Case report: Remission of a long-standing living vasculopathy using a whole-food plant-based diet with symptoms that recur after repeated exposure to the western standard diet, BMJ case reports (2021). DOI: 10.1136 / bcr-2020-237895
British Medical Journal
A plant-based diet can relieve painful skin ulcers in confusing blood vessel disorders (2021, February 23).
accessed on February 23, 2021
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