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Staph/Folliculitis cleared by stopping Zinc and taking Iron

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I've been suffering from folliculitis and/or staph infections for years in my scalp and beard. It has been on and off, but so has my zinc intake (more on that later).

Doctors had trouble diagnosing exactly what was going on but I can describe it. Painful, itchy, and/or burning. Bulging oozing whiteheads that I would scratch off (didn't have to pop like typical pimples, they were usually very soft and on the surface and ready to go). They would come back either white, or yellow or greenish. They were always at the base of a hair/in the follicle. They would often dry to an amber-y colour. They would eventually flake over and seem to go away, but then come back after a while. At the worst of it I was waking up to 5-10 new spots every day around my mouth. I couldn't count them on my scalp but they were basically everywhere. Super painful and gross. The scalp ones seemed to be more deeply embedded, almost like cysts.

 

Taking low dose Minocycline always cleared it up, but after quitting it would come back the same or worse within a couple weeks. I don't want to be on antibiotics forever so I quit taking them altogether.

I tried the following things on my scalp and/or face: Nizoral, Head and Shoulders, Hibiclens (also tried it in my nostrils - was extremely irritating), Selsun Blue, all-natural shampoo, Paula's Choice BHA, Mupirocin (also in my nostrils), Clindamycin topical solution, white vinegar and/or apple cider vinegar (topically), tea tree oil, various moisturizers and face washes, avoiding all moisturizers and/or face washes, avoiding shampoo, avoiding hair product (paste).

Internally/diet: gluten free, vegan, apple cider vinegar, garlic, lots of water, lots of fruit and vegetables, avoiding sugar and alcohol.

Of all these things I would say Nizoral and Mupirocin (in nostrils) were the most helpful, but definitely not sufficient on their own. Or maybe they didn't help and I was just imagining it. Nothing else seemed to make any difference at all.

 

So the doctors couldn't help, but I went to a dentist and apologized for my skin because she was working around my mouth for an hour. She said "there's gotta be something you're eating that's causing it." I told her about my clean diet and denied that diet could be the cause. But then I went home and thought - maybe it's one of the supplements I'm on. I was taking vitamin C, D3, omega-3, and zinc. 100 mg of chelated zinc per day. I have taken zinc for months at a time several times over the past few years, but not consistently. I've also had these skin problems on and off over the same time period, and obviously suspect that the timing lines up. I also stumbled across an old post of mine in which I was already considering a connection (but I forgot I'd ever posted this).

Zinc helps me a lot with digestion, and sort of helps with mood although the folliculitis/staph made too miserable to see that effect. It also seems to help with wound healing and improves my skin on the rest of my face (not follicle-related). So I was hesitant to think the zinc could be the cause.

But I decided to google "zinc and iron deficiency" and found a bunch of research linking the two. I was already low in iron because of my vegan diet. And I found things saying anemia weakens your immune system and can make you prone to skin/staph infections and folliculitis. So I quit the zinc and started taking an iron pill every day. IMMEDIATELY I stopped getting new staph/folliculitis spots. The existing ones cleared up within a week or less - they just dried up and disappeared. I can hardly believe it. I am now trying to restore the rest of my face, after the strong soaps and stuff I was using caused some texture damage. But I am SO relieved. I have been clear of staph/folliculitis for a few weeks now, and changed NOTHING else in my routine. I used to think it was caused by stress but I've actually been more stressed than usual - writing exams, etc.

 

I am considering re-introducing zinc carefully in a few weeks, but at a much lower dose and in a supplement that also includes copper (because zinc also causes copper deficiency). I forgot to mention that blood tests have always shown me as zinc deficient, so I think I do need it. But I was overdosing and throwing off my mineral balance way too much.

 

Hope this helps someone! Let me know if you have any questions. I swore I wouldn't make this post very long but I got carried away.

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Still completely clear 11 days after posting this. Making it about one month since I stopped zinc, started iron, and became clear. Haven't been washing with anything except Head and Shoulders on my scalp and a simple face wash from Neutrogena every 2 or 3 days.

 

I am 100% convinced that stopping zinc and/or taking iron was the solution for me. I plan on reintroducing zinc soon to see if I can stay clear while taking both zinc and iron.

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Guest

Hey mate. 

 

Its 1am right now, in my neck of the woods, so I only glanced over your post; I’ll re read it tomorrow and update as necessary, however there are some key things that stood out/I wanted to respond to. If I say something that was covered in your post I apologise but I need to get to sleep.

 

First, zinc supplementation for you seems to be a good thing, HOWEVER, 100mg/day for an extended period of time would likely build to toxic levels. Remember balance is key, too much is just as bad, if not worse than too little. 30-50mg a day should have been plenty for you. 

 

Secondly, iron is a cornerstone/building block to blood cells and their ability to carry oxygen. Further, blood is a carried of nutrients so once you have a blood problem, many things can suffer. If you were anaemic then iron will help you a lot, particularly with energy (respiratory related, vs nutrition). Things to keep in mind, maybe not such as issue with you, is that iron supplements can cause constipation, and iron is MUCH more efficiently absorbed when consumed with vitamin C. Supplementation is good if you can’t get enough dietary iron but it is always best to get it from your food, and that doesn’t mean animal products, although they are the easiest for the body to extract iron from (heme iron is much easier to absorb than plant based iron, plus much more abundant). Anyway, not telling you to eat more steak, just to go easy with supplements, combine with vitamin C and try the zinc at a lower dose. Many people over do supplements because it’s so easy to do. 

 

Finally, whilst supplements are essentially the same thing as natural, a lot of vitamin and mineral supplements are synthetic, any the body does absorb/use it differently. A lot of people will argue no difference but there have been some pretty convincing research into it in recent years... so, fresh is best. 

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On 5/1/2019 at 8:18 AM, Guest said:

Hey mate. 

 

Its 1am right now, in my neck of the woods, so I only glanced over your post; I’ll re read it tomorrow and update as necessary, however there are some key things that stood out/I wanted to respond to. If I say something that was covered in your post I apologise but I need to get to sleep.

 

First, zinc supplementation for you seems to be a good thing, HOWEVER, 100mg/day for an extended period of time would likely build to toxic levels. Remember balance is key, too much is just as bad, if not worse than too little. 30-50mg a day should have been plenty for you. 

 

Secondly, iron is a cornerstone/building block to blood cells and their ability to carry oxygen. Further, blood is a carried of nutrients so once you have a blood problem, many things can suffer. If you were anaemic then iron will help you a lot, particularly with energy (respiratory related, vs nutrition). Things to keep in mind, maybe not such as issue with you, is that iron supplements can cause constipation, and iron is MUCH more efficiently absorbed when consumed with vitamin C. Supplementation is good if you can’t get enough dietary iron but it is always best to get it from your food, and that doesn’t mean animal products, although they are the easiest for the body to extract iron from (heme iron is much easier to absorb than plant based iron, plus much more abundant). Anyway, not telling you to eat more steak, just to go easy with supplements, combine with vitamin C and try the zinc at a lower dose. Many people over do supplements because it’s so easy to do. 

 

Finally, whilst supplements are essentially the same thing as natural, a lot of vitamin and mineral supplements are synthetic, any the body does absorb/use it differently. A lot of people will argue no difference but there have been some pretty convincing research into it in recent years... so, fresh is best. 

Thanks! This is very helpful. I do take Vitamin C, but I'll start taking it at the same time as iron now.

I'm not going to start eating any animal products, so I have to stick with the iron supplements. How much iron do you think I should be taking? Currently on 35 mg of Elemental Iron (from 300 mg of ferrous gluconate USP), once per day with lunch.

I also take 2x1000 IU of Vitamin D twice per day (4000 IU per day total), 500 mg of Vitamin C per day, and one Omega-3 (600 mg EPA, 300 mg DHA) per day.

Considering reintroducing 50 mg of zinc gluconate per day, but I'm worried about breaking out again. And copper deficiency. Maybe 50 mg every 3 days? I do have a zinc deficiency, according to 3 blood tests I've taken over the years (2 of which were taken while taking zinc and I was still deficient).

Thoughts on any/all of this? Thank you :)

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