Tuesday, April 24, 2012

our fight with eczema...and then some!

two weeks ago our bud was diagnosed with eczema.  it took his doctor a total of 3 seconds of looking at him to confirm what i had suspected for a few days.

it started with his cheeks, which have been really red and dry for a few weeks now.  the red cheeks coincided with the start of his drooling, so i assumed the two were related.  but then over the last few weeks i noticed red, scaly patches starting to appear and getting more pronounced on his legs, arms and even neck area, especially  in the joint areas such as the back of the knees, inside of the elbows, inside of the wrists, etc.  at first i attributed the rashy areas on his legs to the costco (kirkland) brand diapers i had switched to (and hate by the way - they leak like crazy and he had 2-3 blowouts in them daily!) and the chemicals in them.  but when switching back to pampers swaddlers did nothing to lessen the flaky, scaly areas, i knew there was more to it.

his doctor confirmed it was eczema, and i've since learned A LOT about eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis).

  • it's a long-term (chronic) skin disorder that involves scaly and itchy rashes
  • it's due to a hypersensitivity reaction in the skin, which leads to long-term swelling and inflammation of the skin
  • people with eczema may lack certain proteins in the skin
  • it's most common in infants and may start as early as 2-6 months of age
  • many people outgrow it by early adulthood (according to our doctor about 20% of people go on to suffer from eczema the rest of their life)
  • people with eczema often have asthma or seasonal allergies and there's often a family history of allergic conditions such as asthma, hay fever, or eczema.  people with eczema often test positive to allergy skin tests
  • eczema isn't caused by allergies.  the condition tends to get worse when the person is exposed to certain triggers such as:
    • allergies to pollen, mold, dust, mites or animals
    • contact with irritants and chemicals
    • fragrances or dyes added to lotions, soaps, detergents, etc.
    • dry, cold weather
    • excessive baths
    • and so many others...

the doctor asked if either the hubs or i suffer from asthma because there's almost always a correlation between eczema sufferers and asthma, and was surprised to find that neither of us have asthma.  i told him i had begun reintroducing dairy into my diet in the last few weeks, so my best guess was that it was related to my dairy consumption, and bud's possible sensitivity to dairy.  i told him i would start eliminating it again to see if it makes a difference.  he said that if dairy was the trigger, i would begin to see improvements in a couple of weeks.

in addition to eliminating dairy again, i went to cotton babies and purchased the mountain green baby detergent (which i was told was the most gentle detergent i could buy -it's all natural and free of all dyes, fragrances and optical brighteners).

the doctor prescribed a low-dose steroid cream for his cheeks (which was the worse affected area) and suggested i used cetaphil lotion to moisturize his skin.  i knew i didn't want to start off using a steroid cream; for me, that would be the last resort.  and after looking at ingredients in cetaphil (as well as other typically prescribed moisturizers such as aquaphor and eucerin), i wanted to find a more natural alternative. one of the things i had read much about was coconut oil and its many benefits, including help with eczema.  the hubs picked some up from new seasons and i started applying that.

but even with the research i had done and speaking with bud's doctor,  i still didn't really feel like we understood the root cause of the issue, and how to tackle the problem.  i also knew that figuring out all the potential triggers could take months.  so i scheduled an appointment with the naturopathic physician we saw while i was pregnant.

what we learned from our naturopathic physician - 

  • 99% of eczema is caused by food issues
  • a food sensitivity or intolerance is not the same thing as a food allergy 
    • a food allergy is an immune system response where the body mistakes an ingredient in food - usually a protein - as harmful and creates a defense system (antibodies) to fight it
    • a food intolerance is a digestive system response.  it occurs when something in food irritates a person's digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest or breakdown food.
  • the liver's main job is to digest, absorb and process food, but it can become overloaded by the food(s) that the digestive system is not properly breaking down or digesting, and treats them as toxins.    the liver also detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs
  • essentially, the liver of eczema patients is working overtime, so when other toxins/triggers are introduced (such as fragrances/dyes) to a person with eczema, the liver is already overloaded and doesn't have the capacity to fight them, so they are expelled thru the skin, hence the eczema.  
  • the way to treat eczema is to determine which foods both bud and i have a food intolerance/sensitivity to and eliminate those foods from my diet, thereby treating the root cause of the issue and enabling my bud's liver to get back to normal
  • the reason that eczema sufferers almost always also suffer from asthma is related to the steroid creams prescribed by doctors.  steroid creams don't cure anything; they just get rid of the itchiness and irritation for a while, but once you stop using them, the irritation returns.  there are also side effects related to steroid creams, such as thinning of the skin and and the suppression of the adrenal glands.  
  • but what i found the most shocking...steroid creams push the eczema back down into the body, and the next organ affected by the toxins (after the liver) is the lungs...hence the asthma.  this makes perfect sense and it baffles me that we would not have known this if we hadn't seen a naturopathic physician.  it makes me sick to think of all the parents applying steroid creams to their children every day hoping to cure their eczema when all they're doing is creating another problem.

so he tested both bud and i for food intolerances by taking blood (pricked my ear and his heel) and sending it off to a lab.  we received our results the next day, and i was SHOCKED to find out what my food intolerance is...


and bud and i actually share the same food intolerance, which is really the only silver lining in this whole thing.  because if his was dairy, i would have to eliminate both fruit AND dairy from my diet.  as it turns out, i'm not even mildly intolerant of dairy...there was never a need for me to eliminate it from my diet.  as soon as i'm done writing this, i'm going to buy myself a big hunk of cheese!

i eat a LOT of fruit, so i knew eliminating fruit would be challenging, especially bananas, apples, oranges and avocados (which i LOVE and eat daily).

but what i didn't realize is that i have to eliminate any product derived from fruit, such as:
  • oils (like olive oil, which we use almost exclusively)
  • vinegar (so since i can't have oils or vinegars, and every salad dressing contains a fruit product, i'm not sure how i'm supposed to eat salads...which all of a sudden, now that i CAN'T eat the, i'm CRAVING them big-time!!)
  • wine (not a big deal yet since i haven't started drinking it again yet - my milk supply is too low and too precious for me to 'pump & dump')
  • honey
  • white flour (which contains citric acid, a fruit product)
  • most vitamins (including the prenatal multi-vitamin i've been taking every day)
  • and so many others...

the fruits i'm still allowed to have - 
  • all melons, such as honeydew & cantaloupe (both of which i have always despised) and watermelon (which i like but probably eat once a year, if that)
  • rhubarb - oh yipee!
  • and tomatoes...but not tomato sauces, because most of them contain citric acid.  my options are raw tomatoes or make my own sauce.


i haven't gotten to the second food intolerance.  both bud and i have been instructed to avoid the combination of  POTATO & GRAIN. 

initially i thought, 'no big deal', but it's easier said than done because - 
  • most soups, stews and other prepared foods contain potato in some form
  • dextrose is usually potato
  • iodized salt contains dextrose  (luckily, we only use sea salt)
  • all baking powder contains potato, although it's not listed on the label 
  • and recently a potato derivative has been added to commercial flour; therefore, most bread and pastry products now contain potato.  CRAZY!
  • most yeast contains potato (except red star)
  • most beers contain potato (not a biggie since i don't drink it, but still crazy!)
  • and the list goes on...

and there were other strong suggestions by the doctor such as - 
  • avoiding foods with a high oil/fat content
  • avoiding foods with artificial/synthetic ingredients, preservatives, chemical additives, etc.
  • not eating heavy proteins or fats later in the day as these foods require much liver activity and if eaten late don't allow the liver to clear the toxins from the blood efficiently during the night, as it should.

SO, the next 9 months or so (that's how much longer i plan on breastfeeding bud) are going to be VERY INTERESTING to say the least.  i've already thrown myself a little pity-party, and every day as i'm reminded of the foods i can't have, my pity-party begins all over again.  

but then i remind myself...
  •  it's not the end of the world
  • there are people out there with much bigger problems than these
  • i'm doing this for bud, and his health is more important to me than anything i may be giving up
  • eliminating the sugar, chemicals and processed crap from my diet will not only benefit bud, it'll benefit me as well

and because i simply must...a picture of my sweet, sweet bud in his sunday best.  :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

my bud is 3 months old

actually, he's 3 1/2 months old, and i've been trying to finish this blog post for a couple of weeks...

how we're at the end of april is beyond me!  i feel as though time is going by so very quickly and the changes in my bud are happening at a much more rapid pace now.  almost every day he's doing something new, hitting a new developmental milestone, and while it's so fun to observe, i can't help but feel that i want time to stop, if even for just a couple of months.

there have been times when the cold & rainy winter and spring weather made me stir crazy and long for sunny days when i can finally be out and about with my bud.  yet i've also begin to realize that in many ways the weather has been a blessing because my favorite moments with my bud have been those snuggled up inside our home.

it's on those days when i most feel how precious each minute with him is, and how quickly the days are passing.  i find myself literally wanting to savor every second before it's gone.  before i was a mom, i didn't understand how women could spend hours playing and talking with their babies...but i get it now.  sometimes i can't wait for him to wake from a nap so we can start hanging out again, and i know the reason i feel this more strongly now than before is because of how fun he's becoming.  i remember when i was pregnant a new mom telling me the first couple of months are the most difficult because your baby will take, take take, but not really give you much.  but once they hit 3 months, they start giving back in their interaction with you, and things really start to be different and in many ways, easier.  she was definitely right.  he is so much fun right now, my little sidekick, and there is no one else i'd rather be spending time with.  :)

not only is he awake longer during the days now, but when he is awake, we spend LOTS of time each day talking, singing, reading and cuddling.  as a result, my blogging and photography has been put on the back-burner as has a lot of the housework...all things that are are difficult for my type-a personality to let go of, but  in the end, it's not really a difficult decision.  i'm very aware that i will never get these moments with my bud back and i don't ever want to have any regrets.

my bud at 3 months - 
  • he sleeps 7-9 hours/night consistently
  • at a doctor's appt on 4/11, he weighed13 lbs, 6 oz and was 24 inches long
  • he's completely outgrown his 3 month clothes and is mostly in 6 month onesies & sleepers and 3-6 months for everything else, although it totally depends on the brand.
  • just when we had his schedule/routine figured out, it began to change.  i'm pretty sure he was going through a growth spurt the last couple of weeks, and he's also needing less sleep during the day.  he usually wakes about 7am, eats, is up for a bit, and then needs another nap in the next hour or so.  but after that, it varies from day to day.  some days he won't want to nap again until the afternoon and evening and will take longer 2 hour naps; other days, he takes multiple cat naps, 30-45 min long, throughout the day.  i'd like to get a more set schedule down, but i can see that's going to be difficult, especially now that the weather is starting to turn for the better, and i've been taking him out a bit more.  the car lulls him to sleep every time, and that probably messes with when he would be taking a nap if we were at home.  at this point, i've realized it's somewhat pointless to try and figure out his schedule since there doesn't really seem to be one.  when i notice cues that he's tired (fussy, turns his head to the side, or just starts closing his eyes), i put him down for a nap.
  • i'm still breast-feeding exclusively, and he's still eating every 2 -3 hours.  most of the time i feel as though i'm barely keeping up with demand though, and that's very frustrating.  i have a bit of a supply built up for those times when we leave him home with grandma or it's easier to bottle-feed rather than nurse out in public, but in order for me to have even a few ounces of supply built up, it requires me to daily set my alarm for 2am to pump.  if i dare attempt to pump during the day, that throws off my supply the rest of the day and i have a very unhappy and hungry baby the rest of the day.  i've learned this the hard way, and haven't been able to come up with a better solution for keeping my supply up and building up a supply.  would love suggestions if anyone has them!
  • he no longer wakes screaming for food in the mornings - instead, he usually hangs out in his crib for a while, and then he starts talking in a sing-songy voice that continues until i get him for his feeding.  this has been one of the biggest changes in recent weeks, and i absolutely adore hearing his sing-songy voice.  he also uses it in the evenings as he starts getting tired or when he's put down for his morning nap that he fights for a while.
  • he LOVES being read to.  this has always been the case, but it seems the older and more alert he is, the more excited he is when we read.  we're usually on our backs on the bed, book above us, and his arms and legs are kicking fast as his face scans the pages.  often, his mouth is moving furiously and he tries talking to the items on the pages.  most days we read dr. seuss, colorful for him and fun for me to read also.  his response to the colors and shapes on the pages continues to amaze me.
  • he also loves being sung to.  he gets a huge grin on his face, and then moments later will start 'singing' along.  sometimes i'm laughing so hard when he does this that i can't continue singing.  this is a newer development, but he does it almost every time now.
  • he's discovered his tongue and seems to really enjoy sticking it out.  it's fun to see him rolling it around as he tries to make sounds and talk
  • he's a drool monkey and loves putting his hands in his mouth.  i'm still convinced he must be teething, especially since we've realized he's not really sucking on his hands, he's trying to chomp down on them, and if we rub his paci on his bottom gums, he 'bites' down on it hard, and it really settles him down.
  • hands down my favorite thing to observe is his trying to talk.  he's most responsive when he's on his back and i'm above him, i think because he doesn't get distracted by anything else this way.  he locks eyes with me, and usually has a serious face until he sees me smile.  as soon as i begin smiling and talking with him, his face lights up and he starts making gurgling sounds, cooing sounds, whirring sounds, half-choked sounding laugh sounds...all kinds of sounds.  he especially seems to love it when i count as i move his legs.  for some reason, that seems to get him almost laughing.  overall, this is the biggest change in the last few weeks, and he gets more and more animated when we talk each day.  
  • i'm pretty sure he's ticklish, especially under his arm.  there have been a couple of times when he let out what almost sounded like a laugh when i've tickled him there.
  • he LOVES having his feet and toes kissed, and i must admit, i'm absolutely OBSESSED with them.  i'm not sure there's anything cuter than baby feet.
  • he also loves having his neck kissed, and will give me a big goofy grin when i do this.  he's started to anticipate me swooping in for a kiss, and will open his mouth really big and close his eyes as i kiss his neck.  melts.my.heart.
  • he's discovered his hands and will often intertwine them in front of his face and just stare at them.
  • he has started reaching for things placed in front of him.  i've also seen him swat at toys on his activity mat.
  • he still doesn't enjoy tummy time, and while he can't yet keep his head steady, his neck has become much stronger, so i'm not longer worried about his lack of daily tummy time.

i'm sure there's more, but that's all mama has time for right now...

Monday, April 9, 2012

easter 2012

easter sunday was special for a number of reasons - 

bud turned 3 months old!

it was the first time we took bud to church - we've been fortunate to have my mother-in-law watch him the last few sunday mornings, so we hadn't yet had to figure out the logistics of it all.  well, easter sunday was the perfect day to break him in, and he did great!  i ended up spending some time in the nursing moms' room, and there met a little guy who turned 9 months old, and another little guy who turned one year old.  3 birthday boys in one room - the cuteness was too much.  :)

it was GORGEOUS outside - 71 degrees and sunny.  yes, please!

i was so excited to have bud wear his easter tie & suspender onesie (purchased off this etsy shop) - so cute!

we hosted easter brunch at our place and had FILET MIGNON instead of the traditional honey ham - YUM.

bud got lots of lovin from grandma who had been out of town for the last week and couldn't wait to see her little bud!

he also got to see great-gram again, and calmed right down when she held him.

and to top it all off...in the evening, the hubs surprised me with tickets to see wicked on its last night playing in town.  it was SO GOOD, definitely as good as the hype i've been hearing for years.  it was a great way to end a wonderful day.