Welcome to Part Two of Our Eczema Story, The Total Elimination Diet. (Read Part One: The Failsafe Diet)
I’ve been spending some time writing about the story of my son and myself, and our battle with food sensitivities, eczema, reflux, and breastfeeding through it all. After drastically reducing my diet and still not seeing permanent results, I was desperate for relief for my baby. In that, I embarked on one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done: a total elimination diet.
Coined by Dr. Sears, a total elimination diet is basically removing literally everything from the diet except a hypoallergenic few foods, and eating that and only that until symptoms subside. From then on, foods are added back in slowly, one at a time, and reactions are monitored. This requires the removal of everything ingested, including oils, additives, seasonings, flavorings, beverages, and supplements, as well as avoiding any new external triggers.
My total elimination diet
I changed my total elimination diet, or TED, as many moms call it, a few times around searching for something that worked for both of us. I settled on an autoimmune protocol compliant TED, and stuck with about 7-10 foods for almost four months. At my lowest variety moments, I was eating only lamb, white sweet potato, plantain, leeks, coffee, uncured bacon, and honey. Yes, thank goodness for coffee. Other foods included chicken, bok choy, rutabaga, brussel sprouts, maple syrup, and tigernuts. His symptoms nearly disappeared on my TED, although they never fully went away.
As I desperately tried to find foods to add back into my diet, I found myself hitting roadblock after roadblock. Each time I tried to add a new food or supplement in, it seemed that he was reacting to it. So, I panicked, and went back to my limited diet. We failed salmon, numerous probiotics, prenatal vitamins, bananas, Vitamin D, cassava, cabbage, carrots, chickpeas, lemon, and many more unrelated foods.
This was a very hard time in my life, as you can imagine an extreme diet like this is not healthy, nor sustainable, nor is it good for mental health. I struggled with a great deal of anxiety, and felt very defeated most of the time. Food seemed like the enemy, I no longer enjoyed the prospect of cooking, and found myself either hungry or binge eating my “safe” foods.
sometimes God gives you a potato
I continued searching in vain for a perfectly symptom free baby before I would let myself eat anything else. And, if I did break and eat something he might react to, I would beat myself up about it and stress for 48 hours. My mental health suffered during this period, and I found myself walking a line very close to an eating disorder because of my anxiety over any and all food.
Twenty-four hour self-denial is extremely challenging, and I can say the only thing that got me through was strength from God, keeping my son healthy, and my wonderful husband’s encouragement. Thankfully, through all of this, my son remained a very happy baby, gaining weight and thriving, which was such a blessing on this crazy journey.
I remember being so down and so discouraged one day that I just fell apart and ate a bag of potato chips. And, to my great surprise, there wasn’t a bad reaction. I told my husband that day, “Sometimes, when you feel like you can’t go on, God gives you a potato.” And He did, He really did.
The TED was extreme, far too extreme for most people to embark on. I would not recommend this for just anyone dealing with a reflux/eczema baby. A regular elimination diet, absolutely, but a TED, not so much. Attempting a diet such as this one takes about as much willpower and stone cold determination as one can muster, and it’s hard. It’s very hard.
Also, it’s not healthy. The only situation where this could be indicated is when a baby is failure to thrive, experiencing severe allergy symptoms, and there is a family history of food allergies or FPIES. And, by all means, it needs to be done under the supervision of a licensed professional.
Of course, our TED had it’s place. In our case, it served to finally get him to a baseline to which I could build a new diet and it gave me a very good idea as to what was actually going on with his body in time. I also discovered lard, because he couldn’t tolerate plant based oils, and that was pretty cool.
The only positive that came from me doing a TED was finally figuring out exactly what was going on with my little guy. And, if you’re reading this and you are in a similar place as I was, I’m hoping our story can save you months of food elimination and you can get on the path to healing much faster.
time for a change
After almost four months on my TED, we hit a plateau. He was doing very well, but we were stuck. Through the TED and homeopathy, his face seemed to be beginning to heal, but unfortunately, he began to have eczema patches in new places that wouldn’t go away, occasionally his cheeks would become very flushed and his eyes red and puffy, and the congestion and reflux would come back.
Although I had a much clearer picture of what his reactions were and what was causing them, it seemed like everything I tried to add back in to my diet was causing a reaction, my health was declining rapidly, and I was becoming high risk for nutrient deficiencies. At this point he was 7 months old.
Too much of anything can become harmful, and I soon was finding out that my diet of lamb, white sweet potatoes, plantains, and leeks was beginning to cause more issues than it was curing. Sometimes God gives you a big “aha” moment that sets you up for a breakthrough, and ultimately the path to healing. For me, it was swiss chard. I finally added more pieces to the puzzle, and this set us up for a new mindset and some big changes…