It happened when my daughter was around 5 months old. I remember very specifically, as it popped up the day after the fourth of July. We had been outside a lot, and I thought for sure it was heat rash. It was only a small section of her shoulder, about the size of a dime, so I wasn’t worried. But, as time went on, it didn’t go away. It only grew larger, redder, and far worse.
Seeing your baby with inflamed, itchy, red skin that you can do nothing about is pretty miserable, and it soon became an obsession of time, as it is for many a mom. Nothing calmed it, and nothing made it go away. I tried coconut oil, breast milk, shea butter, lavender, frankincense, and finally I broke down and did apply some hydrocortisone cream. I didn’t want to do that, as I knew it was only masking the problem and not dealing with the root cause, but I was desperate for some relief for my baby. It helped, for a short time, but the day after I stopped application it reared up just as bad as before.
When I took my concerns to her pediatrician, I was met with answers like “that’s very common in babies, especially with a family history allergies, it probably isn’t related to food, and it’ll go away on its own someday.” I was always told to use hydrocortisone cream, take short, lukewarm baths, and moisturize often. I couldn’t stand to take it for what it was and just wait. I knew something was causing inflammation in her body and that we needed to uncover the culprit to find true healing.
As I researched and tested theories, I tested and found that German chamomile was very successful in calming her inflamed skin. German chamomile is a natural anti-inflammatory (READ THIS POST) and I used it in some form daily to help calm her skin and relieve the itching. I always followed up with a thick skin sealant afterwards, starting with aquaphor and moving on to a more natural version later on. During baths, I would always protect her skin, and I continually made sure it was moisturized.
I had dabbled with changing my diet in the past, as she was breastfed, but I never understood how crucial this was until later on. Perhaps I would’ve focused harder on that earlier had I known what I know now, but it took a substantial change in my own diet to really give me the proof I needed to understand what was truly going on in her body. Around her first birthday, I was dealing with my own physical health problems that had led me to consume a diet without any grains and very high in healthy fats, protein, fruits, and vegetables. I jumped into that diet quickly without much prep (not a good idea if you’ve been eating a lot of grains), and as a result began consuming higher levels of nuts to satiate my hunger. Because she generally eats what I eat, her diet mirrored mine. I’ll admit, I went a little crazy with the almond flour!
Within a few days, her rash had spread from her shoulder across her chest and up the other side. It was red, raised, inflamed, itchy, and horrible. I can’t believe I didn’t put two and two together, but I could not figure out what was happening in her body. I only knew that something in our diet change was triggering her eczema, and it was the first time I knew anything for sure! After some trial and error, detox baths, and cutting out other food groups, I finally landed on almonds. Within 24 hours of removing almonds, her rash had substantially decreased in irritation. I also discovered later cow dairy was triggering a reaction.
We took her to an allergist, to check if she had any IgE allergies. IgE allergies are the allergies you hear about to peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs quite often. These are the kind that cause anaphylaxis, throat swelling, hives, and other severe symptoms. Thankfully, she was negative for anything like that, which means the best thing we could do for her was help heal her gut and hopefully deal with the IgG mediated food sensitivities once and for all. We are currently following the advice of a holistic nutritionist, naturopath, and pediatric holistic health practitioner. I am confident that one day she won’t have to suffer from eczema, asthma, or allergies.
Later on I discovered gluten was also a culprit, which wasn’t surprising at all. I monitor her diet well now, more on that HERE, and after the dietary changes plus proper supplements I am happy to say her skin looks wonderful. No bumps, no redness, and no itching.
The eczema has come back with improper diet, stress, heat such as fever, and environmental irritants. We have to be careful, and sometimes it rears its ugly head especially when we aren’t at home and are less in control of our environment. But, it is nothing like it was, and her body is healing. For the most part, however, it is completely under control, her skin is perfectly smooth, and as I build up her gut health I am confident she won’t have to deal with this for the rest of her life. To the left is a current photo of her perfect skin!
So, how exactly did we beat it? I’m just a mom, not a doctor. This is our experience and not intended as medical advice.
What is eczema?
Eczema is the skin manifestation of an overactive immune system that is responding to some stimuli. It could be an external irritant, or an internal one. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, eczema occurs when the “immune system is working too hard.” (1)
What can cause activation or overactivation of the immune system?
Irritating soaps and lotions, heat, stress, sweat, pet dander, sickness, dust and mold (1), vaccines (2), and food allergies (3) may activate the immune system. Many, many things could potentially be the underlying cause of eczema, and sometimes it is very hard to pinpoint what it is. I was told repeatedly that it was normal and she would grow out of it, although I refused to believe such a thing could be normal. In order to understand how to heal the body, we first had to understand what was causing her immune response to go haywire.
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Find a way to manage without steroids
Find what works for you or your child. For us, it was German chamomile. I used the essential oil and hydrosol to manage the inflammation. More on that HERE. I also kept the area very moisturized with coconut oil, shea butter, and apricot kernel oil and used a thick balm to protect it from water and scratching. Some people have had success with other remedies, including breast milk, so it does take some trial and error. If you are desperate, steroid treatment or a new non steroid cream called Eucrisa are available for relief, and sometimes that is necessary to get through the worst. However, just remember this will only suppress the symptoms. They will likely come back possibly worse so it is crucial to get to the bottom of the problem.
As with any essential oil, educate yourself. Do your research on the company you have chosen; call them and ask questions, research their farms, distillation processes, GC/MS reports, organic practices, and other data. Essential oils are powerful and must be treated as such. Please, keep them in a locked cabinet far away from children. If you want to know what essential oils I use, please contact me. I’d love to chat about it!
Do a modified elimination diet
For our daughter, we eliminated possible trigger foods one at a time, because this is very hard to do with a toddler. You may have to wait a couple weeks to see any improvement, so be patient. In a proper elimination diet, you add the foods back in once symptoms have improved to confirm, but I never did that, as I couldn’t stand the thought of retriggering the rash. In the end, we found gluten, cow dairy, and almonds were the culprits.
Monitor the omega 6: omega 3 fatty acid ratio
This ratio should ideally be 1:1, however a standard American diet includes around a 15:1 ratio due to the excess amount of omega 6 in our food and meat and the low levels of omega 3 that is consumed regularly (5). This imbalance may lead to autoimmune disease and excess inflammation (5). In our case, when we started consuming high amounts of almond flour, it was quite possible that level of omega 6 fatty acids (almonds are high in them) was too much for her body to handle. I stopped with any almonds for about a year, and as I slowly introduce them again, I see no signs of an immune response. She is also taking cod liver oil daily (for omega 3 fatty acids).
Choose the proper supplements and get the advice of a natural health professional
I consulted numerous professionals about this issue, both regular doctors (including more than one pediatrician), an allergist, a naturopath, a holistic nutritionist, and a holistic health practitioner. Truthfully, I learned a great deal about it from everyone, but the advice given to me by the natural health professionals has been irreplaceable. Through their I now have my daughter taking probiotics, cod liver oil, vitamin D, and digestive enzymes as needed.
Know that even if the child does not have a true food allergy, a sensitivity could be causing the eczema
Allergies and sensitivities are very different things (4), and even if you test negative for an IgE mediated food allergy, that does not mean an IgG food sensitivity is not present. A food sensitivity could potentially be contributing to the problem, as it was in our case (4). We met with the allergist, and we were told to keep giving her foods that were triggering the rash. You will likely not get any confirmation that an IgG food sensitivity exists from a doctor, so you must go with your gut. It took 18 months before a pediatrician acknowledged her rash was coming from food. The best way to find out this truth is by a modified elimination diet, as stated earlier.
Read THIS POST for more information on the differences between allergies and sensitivities.
Focus on Gut Health
Remember that the immune system and the gut are intricately related, and one cannot be addressed without the other. In fact, up to 70% of the immune system is housed in the gut (6), so attention to a proper gut microbiome and diet is essential for healing of any kind of inflammation. Read more about this relationship IN THIS POST.
This is not the end for us. I will continue toward full body healing for all family members with a whole food diet, probiotics and probiotic rich food, healthy fats, and proper supplements. I am in no way perfect, our diet is not perfect, and there is still more to do. However, we have come a long way and learned so much in this process! I hope you can find yourself down the path of healing, and kick the eczema to the curb as well.
Have you been able to beat eczema?
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- The role of the gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity