Our beginning was rough. I was on a round of antibiotics around 14 weeks gestation because my obstetrician found Strep B in my urine and two rounds of antibiotics at birth. The gut bacteria and the vaginal flora were sterilized and my child was deprived of critical bacteria that should have colonized his skin and his gut. During the first week of life my sweet child had terrible diarrhea and around four months of age the eczema saga has begun.
I grew up with conventional medicine and that was the only way I knew so that is where I turned. I saw the head of pediatric allergy department for a world-renowned major hospital; one of four licensed pediatric dermatologists in my state and two pediatricians. Doctors said the eczema was genetic and there was nothing that can be done. Genetic, even though there was zero history of eczema on either side of our families.
I was given topical steroid creams and was instructed to apply to affected areas. At one point of time, I would have applied that steroid cream from hairline to the toes. It was unacceptable. So I found other answers and ways. Turns out I even cheated and unknowingly have taken a short cut.
Extensive allergy testing revealed no apparent ‘allergies.’ It turned out that my son was not actually allergic to any of the foods but was merely ‘sensitive.’
Sensitive enough to be covered in patches of eczema all over his body with varying degrees of severity with each outbreak. With months and years of testing and diet changes, I determined what food items my son was sensitive to through my breast milk and later through solid foods. Upon elimination, all eczema symptoms improved. No more rashes, no more itching, no more sleepless nights.
Eczema IS dietary.
The Correct Protocol
The proper protocol is to go on an elimination diet. Ideally all organic and at least GMO-free. You, as a breastfeeding mother, or the child would go on a limited diet journaling every single thing eaten. It sounds like a lot of work but it is not.
A great, basic explanation is here. Depending on what the suspected food is; you will need at least 2-4 weeks to notice symptoms. In my experience, two weeks sounds just about right. There is visible eczema improvement within two weeks of eliminating the correct food or foods. Once you see an improvement, re-introduce one food item every three days. If you notice a flare up, it was probably that food. A quick note that it may get slightly worse before it gets better. A severe worsening of symptoms warrants a doctor’s visit but a slight change is normal; the body may be detoxing.
Most common allergens are dairy, soy, egg and wheat. Eliminate all processed foods – anything in the box should go. However, if you must eat boxed or processed foods, see these lists of foods that contain your allergen and its hidden names it may be hiding under. My son for example was sensitive to wheat but was reacting to a hidden ingredient.
Here is a basic chart I used for guidance:
Modify as you go along. I drank nursing tea and chamomile tea with no problems. Potato, a nightshade vegetable on the other hand, was and still is one of the triggers for my son. I was baffled as I considered it as benign as rice…
My diet consisted of a gut healing, pasture raised organic chicken soup, vegetables, mixed greens and basic fruits. Here is that super easy Chicken Soup recipe.
Try to use all organic ingredients. Search for local farms to get meat products. Grass fed beef (if not an issue) is available year round, while pastured or at least organic chicken and lamb may be harder to find. Write down everything you or your child eats. After two weeks or visible improvement in symptoms, begin introducing eliminated foods, one at a time. No more than one new food every three days. Write down everything.
Let’s talk about a short cut
In the very beginning, when my son had diarrhea, we were referred to a NAET practitioner. I was desperate so without much thought I scheduled an appointment.
When I tell people about my experience, they look at me with great suspicion – “is she for real”. …Those same people usually call me to thank me for the referral several weeks later.
Our NAET practitioner helped determine the culprit for my son’s diarrhea and later was very precise and surprisingly accurate at naming the offending foods that caused eczema. How do I know, because upon elimination of those foods, we saw noticeable improvements within just two weeks.
NAET or applied kinesiology, or sometimes “muscle testing” is very bizarre. But is completely harmless and non-invasive. For a small child, in my case a two week old, I was acting as a ‘surrogate’. The doctor gave me small vials containing proteins to be put against mine and my son’s skin; had me extend my arm and resist his pressure with that arm. For most vials I was able to resist the pressure of his hand but for some I could not. I cannot explain the feeling – it was almost like I had no muscle strength in that arm. The vials with those proteins were the ‘sensitivities’ my son had. At first it was wheat and later the list included apple, tomato, mango, nightshade vegetables, citrus, chocolate, blackberry, figs. Later milk and eggs.
I will repeat – my son went through thousands and thousands of dollars in allergy testing with the head of pediatric allergy department at a world-renowned hospital and tested negative for all. That day we determined that even though he was not allergic, he had major food sensitivities. At first it was wheat (newborn diarrhea) and later the eczema was from apple, tomato, mango, nightshade vegetables, citrus, chocolate, blackberry, figs. Eventually milk and eggs. To confuse everyone even more these sensitivities changed with time. Just when I thought we had it under control, a new outbreak would happen; some rashes were dry and chappy, some oozing, some peeling and all were itchy and very uncomfortable. For almost three years we went back and the list changed with every outbreak. At some point I began a journal with every food my son ate and came to the appointment with every food neatly packed in a zip lock snack bag to be tested. My theory is that gut bacteria changed and my son was able to tolerate a specific food but was not able to tolerate another food. Gut microbiome is a very complex and fascinating subject. Everything; all health conditions originate in the gut.
I am forever thankful to the person that referred me to the NAET practitioner. Looking back at the elimination diet, I see several offending foods that I would never think would be an issue. It could be something as simple as the wax on the apple skin. One of my girlfriends had a daughter that was allergic to a vitamin. Another grains and another a particular food dye.
Full disclosure. While I think using NAET/applied kinesiology/muscle testing is an excellent, non-invasive and accurate way of determining food sensitivities and allergies, there are some cautions. Did the actual ‘treatments’ work – I don’t know and it is debatable. Maybe they did but maybe time, food elimination and gut maturity played an even a bigger role. Secondly, this works on an energetic level and if I could go back, I may have skipped the ‘treatment’ for some. I have not been able to find facts on any side effects but I always wondered, does it ‘numb’ the body reaction in some way… I do not know. If our reaction was asthma or to something environmental, I would certainly opt for treatment however simply eliminating the offending foods and focusing on gut healing is enough.
Lastly, I do not, DO NOT support using NAET/applied kinesiology/muscle testing to heal life threatening food allergies. Actual allergies are serious, I would not under any circumstance ‘treat’ and then ‘test’. Ever. An actual allergy, confirmed by an allergist or even a mother’s suspicion should be treated with severe caution. Sensitivities are one thing; an allergy is another.
We have to ask “Why.” Why do our children break out so severely… In my case I am very certain antibiotics (study and another study) during pregnancy and childbirth were the cause. Add a less than adequate prenatal diet, sub par supplements, terrible gut micriobiome state, toxic products and you have a child with eczema in the best case scenario.
Most, including myself and subsequently my child have leaky guts. In plain and oversimplified terms, the gut lining has become porous allowing undigested food particles to enter the blood stream. Eczema is a symptom. The key here is to heal the gut lining.
A must read, Gut and Psychology Syndrome is eye opening for every mother struggling with a child that is so sensitive. I highly recommend the book; it is a wealth of information. There is also an outline of GAPS diet available online, however I have looked at both and the book is invaluable. One quick note, if you are pregnant/breastfeeding, begin with a full GAPS diet so you do not trigger a detoxification (into your baby or breast milk).
The GAPS Protocol is broken into three parts specifically designed to heal and seal the gut lining, rebalance the immune system, and restore the optimal bacterial ecosystem within the gastrointestinal tract. – Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride
We did not do a full elimination diet; Stage III – full GAPS diet. Some foods are simply not allowed in our house but to me it was important to not be too restrictive. Setting realistic standards is essential for success. Integrating the NAET technique with the GAPS diet worked wonders – there was no guessing which foods we absolutely needed to avoid.
Gut healing is hard but is critical. Eczema is a symptom. A way of showing that a child’s body is struggling.
Gut and Psychology Syndrome book was critical to my son’s gut healing and eczema relief.
Eczema comes from the inside and cannot be helped without dietary changes. Creams and Lotions and others can provide some relief however.
I am a firm believer that if a cream or lotion or another product can “cure” your eczema, it was not eczema but simply dry skin.
I wish I would have saved my receipts. Or at least have written down just how many creams, lotions, salves and balms we have tried. I probably have spent hundreds. And we all know how expensive natural products are.
Natural eczema treatment routine:
NAET visits to determine food sensitivities.
Full GAPS diet (Stage III)
All organic diet free from processed foods.
- Probiotics – a good practitioner grade probiotic is critical for everyone. Leaky gut or not. You may experience a die-off with symptoms getting worse but they will get better. There are infant probiotic formulations that are designed for a child up to two years old.
- Kaire Labs. You do need a practitioner code to purchase – either ask your chiropractor to “apply” or google for a practitioner code. After a few non-working codes, many find one that works and are able to purchase direct. It ships with an ice pack and has to be refrigerated.
- Seeking Health is another good, practitioner grade brand.
- GutPro is a great brand and may fit an extra sensitive infant the best. It is free of lactic-acid producing bacteria. But it is on the pricier side.
- Fermented Foods – probably the easiest and most budget friendly way to get probiotics into our systems. My one-year-old daughter loves homemade sauerkraut. It is SO easy to make; you will wonder why you waited so long to begin. Check out this super easy sauerkraut recipe.
- Good fats – Animal fats: fats in fresh meats, fats rendered from meats, dairy fats (butter cream and ghee) and fats in egg yolks. Coconut oil and cold-pressed virgin olive oil.
- Cod liver oil – it contains naturally occurring Vitamin A and Vitamin D. After a scandal with Greener Pastures brand, we switched to Rosita Extra-Virgin Cod Liver Oil. We do regular fish oil daily and 2x a week we take Rosita. On those days we do not supplement additional Vitamin D.
- Digestive Enzymes – The GAPS book explains in detail who need digestive enzymes and appropriate ages. For us, with such a young baby we went the natural route – homemade meat stock, and sauerkraut juice (the liquid from fermented cabbage).
- The bone broth and meat stock are a regular in our kitchen. Full of minerals, vitamins, amino-acids in a bio-available form. Very easy to make and very versatile – we make it from beef, lamb, chicken, turkey. Any quality animal will work. Quality animal! Grass fed, organic and pasture raised is preferred. Proper bone broth is made with marrow bones and joints – parts that usually go for dirt cheap.
- Farmers markets are a great starting place. However, I live in a city and was able to find local, organic farms within an hour of my home. I visit once every month or two, stock up and we are able to eat local, organic and pasture raised meat. Local Harvest and Eat Wild are two of the directories I used to find local, organic, grass fed (for beef) farms.
- Vitamins and minerals – The GAPS diet recommends minimal supplementation. As our guy healing journey progressed, we opted for a multi-vitamin. I feel it does add to a sometimes not perfect nutrition. An excellent adult brand is Designs for Health and for a child we went with Metagenics Chewable. It was an only high quality supplement that was available for children under 4.
Vintage Traditions Tallow Balm – The unscented version worked very well for us. It is a very rich balm and was one of few that provided some relief. I loved the consistency and to this day use it all over my children’s bodies and mine. It makes an amazing facial moisturizer especially on harsh winter months. It is expensive so (going back to finding a local farm) we began making our own. I get beef suet a local farm and once every couple of months make enough for my family and my relatives. Here is a recipe.
Daily Epsom Salt Baths – 20 minute soaks before bed time. I use this brand and add about ½ cup to a regular sized tub. Some say adding ¼ cup baking soda to the bath helps neutralize chemicals in the water. We have a whole-house filtration system so we do not add the baking soda. As always, do supervise children in the bat at all times – drinking Epsom salt water can have a laxative effect. According to one of the doctors we have seen, there is no way to ‘overdose’ by taking an Epsom salt bath so even a 30 minute bath is OK.
- No bath, no problem! Dilute 1.5 tsp Sea Salt and a pinch of Epsom Salt into 1 cup water. Use a spray bottle to apply. My son’s eczema noticeably improved during our vacation near the ocean so we implemented this shortcut method to provide some relief.
No soap ever – the only area that may need gentle,unscented baby soap is the butt after a particularly bad diaper and hands. Otherwise water does just fine. Soap strips the skin of natural oils and washes off the skin micriobiome.
Pack your lunch – our outings are planned around a backpack cooler. I bring our own food everywhere. If we choose to go to a restaurant, I pick ‘better’ quality places and make sure there are no hidden ingredients.
Organic, clean, non-toxic personal care products, cleaning products, laundry products are critical. It is a myth that we need commercially available products for every task. Non-toxic way of living does not have to be complex and getting started is the most intimidating part.
Detoxify your home room by room
I have been on this journey for almost four years. I have met many moms in real life as well as online. The unanimous conclusion is that eczema is most certainly dietary. We are not scientists and we do not have studies to prove our findings but we do have many testimonials. Each case is different. Severity varies but ultimately, it is possible to naturally heal eczema.