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...

FRUIT!!!

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.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL!

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.  :)

1 comment:

Bobi said...

wow tabs… so sorry to hear of this new turn of events, and FRUIT of all things, who would have thunk it. Good job on really doing your homework and taking such good care of both you and your little man. It's too bad that your regular pediatrician didn't do more than just offer steroids, I know most parents would just stop at the recommendation of their child's physician and in turn do more harm then good.
When I get back I'm gonna ask for your naturalpathic physician's number. I have been battling some horrible allergies lately and although they are gone here in Maui I'm afraid of coming back to Portland and having to take steroids again just to be able to breath. :(