Until my first son was born, I had only heard of eczema, I hadn’t had any experience with it. But a few months into his little life, and some rough patches developed over the smooth baby skin on his abdomen, back, and thighs. A young mom, thinking that maybe it was just dry skin, I used baby lotion, and then coconut oil on the patches, only to watch them spread.
When lotions and oils didn’t work to clear up the dry patches, I started some research on eczema. And sure enough, some internet research confirmed that yes, this most likely was eczema on my baby.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition that affects 10-20% of infants, and declines with age, affecting about 3% of adults (source). It is an itchy scaly rash on the skin that is correlated with allergies and asthma.
The rash is very itchy, and the itch is often so intense that infants, children, and adults all have trouble sleeping because of the eczema, and they may scratch the skin until it bleeds as an attempt to alleviate the itch.
What are the conventional treatments for eczema?
If you or your child has eczema, and you go to a conventional (regular) doctor or pediatrician, it’s likely that you will be advised to use:
- Topical steroid cream
- Bleach baths
- Bandages or dressings to cover open sores
- UV Light
- Cyclosporin (an immune suppressant)
None of these treatments are thought to cure eczema, but rather to just manage the discomfort.
What are holistic treatments for eczema?
Holistic medicine is medicine that treats the whole body as being out of balance, rather than just the symptoms that are presenting. You can read more about what holistic healthcare is all about here – it’s *not* just using a natural treatment instead of a man-made one. It’s more about getting to the underlying cause of symptoms rather than covering them up.
Holistically, eczema is treated in three parts.
First, we remove anything that can be aggravating the condition, this can include switching to natural laundry detergent, putting a shower filter on our shower to filter out chlorine, using gentle soap, creams and ointments (this tallow balm is the best that I’ve seen for temporary immediate relief), and other symptom-soothing methods.
Next, we try an elimination diet. It’s so common that food allergies present in ways that are not typical. Removing dairy and/or eggs and gluten will most often relieve symptoms. This is done in a breastfeeding mother if the infant has eczema as well.
And lastly, and most importantly, we clean up the gut. When the gut is functioning as it should, we’re able to detoxify, our body doesn’t have an immune response to food like eggs and dairy, and our immune system attacks offending germs, not our own tissue.
How could the gut be connected to the skin?
Our gut, where we digest food, keep most of our immune system, and even have brain tissue, is much more important than most people realize. The gut normally is populated with a hefty balance of good gut flora (microorganisms – yeasts, fungi, and bacteria). It normally is healthy tissue with intestinal villi that work with the gut flora to extract nutrients needed from food, and pass them through the gut wall into the blood stream.
These villi move food along the digestive tract, break it into smaller pieces so that nutrients can be extracted, and secrete enzymes needed to break down food (source).
The bacteria in our gut line the gut walls, and actually pre-digest our food for us. They line our guts to prevent food from being passed through the gut walls without first being broken down sufficiently. This gut flora is also a large part of our immune system.
When our gut is unhealthy, the flora in our gut is not protecting food from being passed through, vitamins and minerals are not able to be extracted properly from food, the body is unable to detoxify normally, and the immune system is not functioning as it should. All of this results in an immune response in the body.
An eczema rash is from the body attacking it’s own cells, in an immune response. (source, though I don’t agree with their recommended treatment, but rather believe in cleaning up the gut instead).
As children grow, their gut seals up naturally. This is why so many children outgrow eczema, food allergies, and other ‘leaky gut’ problems. But the rising rates suggest that waiting for them to be outgrown is not going to be enough. We need to take action.
Gut flora and gut health is connected to eczema in children. (source)
What can help heal the gut?
When we’re working to heal our gut we need a multi-step process:
- Remove inflammatory foods that are difficult to digest: Gluten, other grains, sugars, and chemicals in non-food items (food dyes, preservatives, etc)
- Provide foods that supply easy-to-digest nutrients to the gut to facilitate in repair and healing: Chicken stock, gelatin, fresh juice, healthy fats.
- Provide probiotics that re-populate the gut with healthy flora. (this is the commercial probiotic that we use)
- This whole process is in the Gut and Psychology Introduction Diet – see more about that here
- Depending on your symptoms, you may be able to modify this protocol and still see great results; possibly just removing gluten, any known allergens (often eggs or dairy), and increasing probiotics for a time.
- Get started making these changes with the help of this free checklist
How did this work for us?
My two youngest had eczema as infants, and both have ‘outgrown’ it with the help of an allergy elimination diet in me while breastfeeding, the addition of probiotics, and lots of gut-healing stock. I notice that my middle child’s skin is particularly sensitive to junk food sneaking into his diet, but the dairy-caused eczema never did return after we did the GAPS intro when he was 11 months.
You can see the progression from my youngest’s ‘trouble spot’ of eczema as I healed his gut. It started improving the first 3 days we eliminated allergens. (it turns out a 5-month old’s elbow is difficult to photograph, but look at his super clear skin in the last picture!).
In the second picture he is good, in the 3rd I tried eating off the gut-healing protocol (he was exclusively breastfed at the time), and in the last picture I went back on and it healed right up!
For myself, though I’ve never had eczema, I do notice that the better I eat, the more clear my skin looks. This mom at Keeper of the Home notices this as well, and I hear it over and over again from moms who are using my meal plans or intro e-book. Everyone’s skin becomes beautiful and healthy once health is resorted in the body.
In fact, skin is one of the biggest indicators that something is ‘off’ in the body. It’s our largest organ, and often one of the first places that can give us indication that we need healing.
Don’t feel that you are chained to ‘bad genetics’ if your family is plagued by skin conditions. It most likely is rooted in your gut.
More posts in this series: