What is Eczema and how are people affected by it?
Eczema also known as Dermatitis is a skin condition which affects millions of people, especially children. According to The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, over 30 million Americans, and nearly 1 billion people world wide suffer from eczema, and many of these people are babies and toddlers. Some children out grow eczema as they get older, while others cope with the uncomfortable symptoms for their entire lives.
According to the Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego,“emotional scarring on both patient, and family members may outlast eczema’s physical effects.” The extreme dryness produced by eczema causes painful itching, and redness on the skin. This can result in blistering, cracking of the skin, lesions and oozing which can lead to infection. Severe cases of eczema can even cause scarring produced from itching. Little children suffer the most because eczema can disrupt their sleep, and cause them to become very tired and irritable.
Although the exact cause of eczema is unknown, it is obvious that there are certain triggers such as diet, stress, environment, and other factors which can lead to more severe break-outs. In some cases eczema can be eliminated or controlled to a point depending on the level of severity.
Jacob’s Story: How we helped our Little Boy Heal
I have a child with eczema, and I have found there are many things you can do to heal eczema from the inside out by implementing certain dietary, and lifestyle changes. This has been an on going process full of struggles, and triumphs. When my son was only two months old I noticed several small red dry patches on his skin. The spots would mainly show up on his legs and upper torso. We put a mild lotion on him in order to combat those little dry spots, yet they seemed to continue to pop up.
We took him to the doctor and he was diagnosed with eczema. He was breastfeeding so his doctor recommended that I remove milk and other dairy products from my diet because the dairy products I consumed could be given to him through my breast milk. After removing dairy, I started to see an improvement in Jacob’s skin within two weeks so I didn’t really give it much thought because his eczema went away.
However, as my son got older, we began implementing more solid baby foods into his diet. Even though he was still nursing, solid food was the main thing that satisfied his hunger. I decided to continue nursing him into toddlerhood because he seemed to hold onto the emotional comfort that nursing brought him. I didn’t mind allowing him to nurse for longer than most babies because I could see that he truly needed it, and I grew up in a family where nursing for the first two years was the minimum length of time. My own mother breastfed me until I was 20 months old.
Jacob was 19 months old when I got pregnant again with our second son, and at that point my milk started to dry up. As he ate more and more of the solid foods that my husband and I ate, his eczema started to become a major problem.
He started to have difficulty sleeping at night because he would scratch his skin until it was raw. I remember holding him in my arms in the dark as he would sob. There was a look of confusion on his face because he didn’t understand what was happening. I tried nearly every kind of cream I could find, and most of these creams didn’t even work. The Aveeno overnight itch relief cream seemed to help, but only a little bit. Yet, this cream has parabens in it, and I am still seeking a natural alternative that works.
"Parabens are preservatives such as propyl, methyl, ethyl and butyl, which can be found in many personal care products." Wikepedia
My feelings of desperation caused me to do everything I could to help him feel better. The problem just continued to get worse. I felt so helpless and emotionally drained as I held him in my arms. I could see that this skin condition was draining the life out of him. His joy began to dry up, and he became very in-ward, and irritable for quite some time. He was very miserable, and confused about what was going on.
One Sunday afternoon I took Jacob with me to the grocery store. At the time he had such a horrible break-out that his eye lids were even red, and his cheeks were red and raw. People were looking at him as though he was a cancer victim, and he would lay down in the cart with his hands over his face. He was embarrassed because he knew that he was being stared at. I can see that even at the tender age of two years old, he noticed how people were affected by his appearance at the time. He cried himself to sleep in my arms on many nights due to constant itching. He had been unhappy for over a year, and I knew that I had to get to the root of the problem, and fix this once for all. The love I have for my son motivated me to investigate every option.
I began reading everything I could get my hands on about eczema. I would use lotions, and cortisone creams which seemed to help at the time, but as I continued to slather him with these creams, the flare ups would continue to get worse, and the information about these medications caused me to seek more natural options.
I found out that the steroids in these creams only suppressed his symptoms, and didn’t really fix the problem. The potential side effects such as thinning of the skin, and future fertility problems also scared me. There had to be a natural way to combat this problem so I kept trying new things. We started to take a closer look at his diet to see what foods could be contributing to his eczema.
Diet Changes and the Importance of Keeping a Food Diary
For years my husband and I made it a priority to buy organic meat, and vegetables in addition to avoiding fast foods even before Jacob was even born. However, we still had a problem with eating too many high-carb snacks and sugary teas all the time. Even though we had wholesome dinners with chicken, vegetables and other greens, we were still not as healthy as we could be in all areas of our life because our sweet tooth compelled us to reach for our favorite sugar-laden snacks, which we also shared with our son. We were actually part of the problem.
Sushma Shah, is a Naturopathic doctor who recommends keeping a food diary to spot foods that trigger eczema. Based on the current recommendations we decided to start writing everything down. We charted what he ate and eliminated foods that seemed to cause flare ups. Over time we were able to control his eczema to a certain extent by monitoring his diet. Every child is different when it comes to what particular foods may cause break outs so it is vital to keep a food diary in order to find out which foods are triggering the eczema flare ups.
Testing for food allergies is also an option, but in some cases the offending foods will not be identified from the test. Some of the top offending foods are nuts, eggs, soy, milk, gluten and even sugar. Sugar and milk products seemed to be two of the major contributing factors involved with my son’s skin condition. Cutting these foods out made a major difference in his skin. He was nearly in the clear. Sugar in excess can cause a number of metabolic consequences within the body such as increasing levels of glucose, and interfering with mineral absorption. By keeping a food diary, and monitoring everything about how your child is affected you can quickly figure out which food is affecting your child.
Our good friend Kecia told us that we should try giving Jacob fish or cod liver oil on a daily basis. She had success with her own children, and she wanted to pass along this knowledge to us. She even gave me a small sample to take home so that I could start him on it right away. I was astounded to see that Jacob’s skin started to improve within a week of taking the fish oil. His skin became much softer, and the redness in his skin was nearly gone.
Fish oil benefits the skin in so many ways because it contains essential omega 3 fatty acids which cannot be manufactured by the body. You can get it by eating nuts, eggs, fish or taking supplements. According to Dr. Willian Sears, the fatty acids known as DHA and EPA can help the nervous system, immune system and improve the overall health of the skin. Fish oil also has anti-inflammatory properties which may be why it helps reduce the severity of eczema.
The Chlorine Factor
Chlorine is also a major instigator when it comes to eczema. Water all by itself dries out the skin, but chlorinated water dries out the skin even further. People who suffer from eczema can’t retain the proper moisture balance in their skin, so bathing in chlorine only makes the problem worse. In the United States city water is heavily chlorinated to kill parasites. Although chlorine does serve a purpose, it can also be harmful to our health in many ways especially to those people who suffer with eczema.
Just giving my son a bath was a major ordeal because the water would burn his skin. We started bathing him only once a week and we also invested in a chlorine filter for the shower and bath tub. When he does take a bath I also put colloidal oatmeal in the tub because of its soothing anti- itch properties.
Healthy Digestion = Healthy Immune system
Dr. William Nelson (our family Natuorpathic doctor) said eczema is an allergic immune response with many triggers. The health of the immune system is an important factor when it comes to eczema. Immune boosting super foods like raw carrot juice, and strawberries have made a huge impact on my sons health overall.
The natural sugar found in fruit doesn’t seem to affect him so he can have fruit as a treat. He takes a whole food multi-vitamin, and mineral supplement along with extra vitamin C, probiotics, and calcium. At least 70 % of our immune system is located within our digestive tract so the health of your digestion is important for the treatment of eczema.
My son is not completely free of his skin condition. Jacob still has break-outs when his immune system is stressed due to a cold or when the weather rapidly changes. We are able to keep his break outs to a minimum by controlling his diet, and using natural therapies. His health and his skin have been completely transformed through our efforts to implement natural therapies into his treatment plan. Diet and lifestyle changes are vitally important in order to combat eczema.
I hope our story reaches many people. My heart goes out to those who suffer from this distressing skin condition.