So, turns out I don't have h. pylori, just a bad case of acid reflux. But still, I was wondering why the grapefruit seed extract was working out well for me some days and not others.
At the same time, I happened to be perusing wgb's old messages about her cheilitis being caused by an allergy. I remember thinking to myself "Oh geez... allergy? Is she serious? She never had cheilitis!" I live in Canada and I work part-time at a school that teaches English to adults, and most of these adults are (obviously) immigrants.
There is a doctor from Argentina in the school at the moment, and we got to talking in the hall one day. I showed him my lips and he kept insisting "it's allergy, it's allergy, I am sure." I really thought he was nuts, but still, I got to thinking: What food/product have I been using consistently for a whole year (since my lips got crappy)? I don't stick with a particular product for long, so it wasn't hard to pinpoint the culprits: my economy-sized bottle of Tresemme shampoo, and my St. Ives facial cleanser/makeup remover, which I had been using since my high school days. The common ingredient in these two products, of course, is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
Just for the hell of it, I decided to go out and buy sulfate-free shampoo (I bought Organix in cherry blossom -- smells delish!) and facial cleanser (I got Spectrojel eczema care cleanser for kids, but I put a few drops of tea tree oil and olive oil so that it can serve as an antibacterial makeup remover). Lo and behold, lips were doing great. I was shocked. All this time, all this suffering, all this money spent on a myriad of supplements and creams, and all I had was a fkn allergy?!?!
Still, I was noticing that in the morning my lips were peeling a bit, so one day I decided to stop using my regular Crest toothpaste, which I suspected had SLS as well, and started brushing with baking soda (which my research had led me to believe is perfectly fine for teeth and doesn't remove enamel). The next morning I woke up with my lips still a bit puffy and peel-y, but MUCH better than they were before. Incomparably so.
So, there you have it. I wasted a year of my life thinking everything that could have been wrong with me WAS wrong with me, when all I needed was some deductive reasoning and some product-brand changing. I'm an idiot, but at least my lips are doing better. I suspect that it'll still take a few months for my lips to heal completely, but they are doing better each and every day.
Here is my routine: In the morning, I brush my teeth with baking soda. Then, I wash my lips with my Spectrojel eczema crap - rub for about 20-30 seconds, then let sit for another 20-30 seconds. I put a thin layer of glycerin on them, let that soak in, then put lipstick if I want to (glycerin helped me tremendously when my lips were at their worst. I don't really need it anymore but I'd rather not risk anything and wean my lips off it rather than stop the glycerin cold-turkey).
After each and every meal and whenever my lips feel like they need refreshing (maybe once or twice a day (yes I carry some of the eczema crap with me everywhere I go (yes I like parentheses))), I wash my lips with the eczema stuff and put glycerin on them. I no longer use shampoo with SLS. I am not sure if my soap (I use Ivory) has SLS, but I think it's alright as long as it doesn't make contact with my lips. Once my supply finishes though, I'm going to go out and get SLS-free soap. My new Argentinian doctor friend/saviour of my life was telling me the strange ways in which allergies work: a substance doesn't have to come into contact with a particular part of the body, but it can still cause an allergic reaction there.
Oh and by the way: the same day I suspected I might have an allergy and went out to buy those SLS-free products, I also gave my whole house a THOROUGH cleaning (just in case I was allergic to dust), such as scrubbing all the dust from under my bed and couches with a towel drenched in a vinegar and water solution (this is how my grandmother used to clean in the old country (Armenia) -- no commercial products, just vinegar and water for floors, baking soda and water for sinks and tubs). I also covered my bed with plastic in case I had a dustmite allergy, but I don't think that was what was causing my lip problems.
Don't EVER give up, you guys. There is a solution for everyone. Even if it turns out you don't have an allergy, the eczema soap and glycerin combo is great because it seals in moisture. Give it a try. I don't really need to do it anymore, but like I said above, I want to wean myself off it slowly.
I check the forum for a few weeks in case anyone has questions!