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Posts tagged ‘baby eczema’

Could The Eczema Company Win The Cribsie Awards?

Why not?!!! But we can’t do it without your help!


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IF, and only IF,  you love The Eczema Company, then show us and nominate us!

Until December 20th you can nominate The Eczema Company for the Cribsie Awards. The Cribsie Awards recognize the best products, services, and websites for babies and tots. These are the ultimate open choice awards. You can nominate any product, brand, website or service! It’s your choice. Speak up and tell the Cribsies who or what you love.

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Soap Nuts: A Soothing, Natural Laundry Detergent & Soap for Eczema (Guest Post)

I met today’s guest blogger online a few years ago when I was just starting the blog. I was reaching out to online support groups and found Heidi at her eczema FB support page and immediately loved her natural approach. We’d been using soap nuts for a while at that point, so when I saw she loved them as I did, we started chattering away about them. Eventually I asked her if she’d honor us with a story about why she started using soap nuts and she went a few steps further – including tips, facts, and even a recipe for making soap nut liquid!

And I’m happy to announce that The Eczema Company now sells soaps nuts here, wild crafted, Nepalese Sapindus Mokorossi to be specific. Although they are a different brand from what Heidi is able to find locally in the UK, they are of the Sapindus Mokorossi variety, which she refers to as the best.

Again, a big thanks to Heidi for her post!

- Jennifer

Soap Nuts: The Soothing Soap for Eczema 

By Heidi Carolan (see bio below)

Jayden's EczemaI want to share with you how great Soap Nuts have been for our son Jayden’s Eczema/Dermographism-Urticaria !!!  We’ve had extreme trouble with our son’s eczema since he was only three months old and he’s now almost four years old.  He seemed to react/flare up with most eczema creams/treatments, upon first application, prescribed or recommended by our GP/Dermatologist for moisturizing his skin and bathing.

I suspected he may have had a sensitivity to something in the creams and I tried to narrow things down, but as you know, it can be very difficult. But I strongly suspected paraffin. It seemed like months of seeing his skin weeping, peeling, scabbing over and getting infected, going back to the GP week after week to be given yet another cream to try and then the whole process started all over again! He was in so much distress and suffered countless sleepless nights with the itching, etc.

I found a solution: Soap Nuts!

I searched the internet for something 100% pure, no parabens, no SLS  etc  and I came across organic virgin coconut oil and soap nuts.  I began to use the coconut oil for moisturizing his skin and the soap nuts for our laundry and baths.  Around the same time, I also started up an Eczema Facebook Group  as I was new to eczema and I felt like talking/sharing information/experiences with others in the same situation would be really helpful. It’s been lovely ever since. The change in skin care was wondrous and the online support is great!!  I’ve met such great people online, other parents experiencing the same who have been of great support. Eventually, we discovered our son (through an allergy skin patch test) does actually have a sensitivity to all forms of paraffin as I suspected.

baby bathFor the past three years I have been using soap nuts for my son’s bathing, shampooing and laundry. They have been great for his skin and I can’t imagine our life without them!!!!

Information about Soap Nuts:  

Soap nuts are a dried fruit/husk (not actually a nut!!!) from the soap berry tree.  The soap nuts release saponin (soap) when they come into contact with water.

Soap nuts are:

  • 100% natural and biodegradable
  • Paraben and SLS free
  • Perfume free
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Naturally anti-fungal & anti-microbial
  • Good for people with allergies and skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
  • A good value as they can be reused multiple times and last ages!!
  • Great for multiple uses:  soap, shampoo, laundry, jewellery cleaner, fruit & veggie cleaner, pet shampoo, repellant for head lice, etc.

For more details on soap nuts, take a look at these FAQs.

Tips for buying soap nuts:

  • Make sure the inner seed/pit is removed (deseeded) or you will pay more as soap nuts are charged by weight.
  • Nuts should be a nice caramel color and not very dark or black in color.
  • New, unused nuts should also feel dry and not sticky to the touch.
  • Mukorossi soap nuts tend to be higher in saponin, and offer better cleaning abilities.
  • Here is an in depth article on buying soap nuts, although very long !!

Using soap nuts for doing your laundry: 

  • You can use your ready-made soap nut liquid (see below) and pour directly into washing machine,
  • OR place approx six whole soap nut shells into a small cloth wash bag (usually provided by soap nut retailer). Make sure the bag is tied up securely, I double knot.
  • For washes of 30C (86F) or colder, place the bag of Soap Nuts in a little hot water for a few minutes then add the liquid and bag to your wash.  This helps to release the saponins.
  • Optional:  Essential Oils. I use essential oils of lavender as its good for the skin. Add a few drops onto the wash bag and toss it into the washing machine.
  • After the laundry is done, dry your cloth wash bag and soap nuts and re-use.
  • Soap Nuts can be re-used approx 4 -6 times depending on what water temperature you use and the size of your wash. The hotter the temperature, the quicker the soap nuts will need to be changed.
  • After the nuts are all used up, toss them into your compost or distribute them around your plants to decompose.

Making Soap Nut Liquid for the Laundry:   (Heidi’s Method) 

Soap nut bubbles

Soap nut bubbles

  • Pour 6 cups of water into a saucepan.
  • Add 12-15 soap nut halves.
  • Boil these up in the saucepan for approx 20 – 25 minutes.
  • Add 1-2 cups of water to the saucepan after boiling.
  • Let the liquid cool.
  • Cover a colander with a muslin or cheese cloth and place over a bowl.
  • Drain your soap nut liquid through the cloth. You can reuse your boiled soap nuts – either re-boil, blend up or add to soap nut liquid to soak for heavier concentration.)
  • Pour the liquid into glass jars.
  • Optional – add a few drops of tea tree oil for more anti-bacterial power and for an essential oil scent that is beneficial for the skin.
  • Keep in fridge for 7 – 10 days or room temperature if using immediately. Lasts longer in the freezer. (A note from Jennifer: I like to freeze the liquid in ice cube trays. I then take out 1-2 cubes to use per load of laundry. I also add four drops of tea tree oil to each laundry load.)

How to Use Soap Nut Liquid:

  • Pour directly in the bath.
  • Pour into a soap dispenser and use as a liquid hand soap.
  • Whisk it up in a blender or hand mixer to make a foamy body soap and shampoo.
  • Use as a laundry detergent and pour directly into your washer.

I hope this is helpful for anyone having the same problems we had with our son and I hope you enjoy using soap nuts as much as we do!

Heidi Carolan & Jayden

soap nuts

Bio: A British full-time mom to six lovely children. Her youngest son, Jayden, suffers from atopic eczema and dermographism/urticaria, an allergy to parabens and paraffin, receptive/expressive language delay and hypermobility syndrome. She moderates a FB support group, please stop by and say hello! Eczema, Dermographia, & Liking Soap Nuts & Organic Virgin Coconut Oil.

A Note from Jennifer: Thank you Heidi! Can you tell she’s a big fan of soap nuts AND coconut oil? Yay for natural treatments that help eczema! Definitely check out Heidi’s support group on FB as mentioned above. It’s full of interesting information and it’s a great place to share your worries and concerns with others on the same emotional roller coaster as you.

If you’re looking for soap nuts, check out ours! They are wild crafted and are of the Nepalese Sapindus Mokorossi variety – only the very best!

Careful What you Apply to Your Skin, Study Proves Food Can Be Absorbed Through Weakened Skin Barrier

A new study from King’s College London and the University of Dundee has demonstrated that “food allergies may develop via immune cells in the skin” when the skin barrier is weakened in babies with eczema. According to the article in US News & World Report, “It’s believed that the breakdown of the skin barrier in infants with eczema leaves active immune cells found in skin exposed to environmental allergens — in this case food proteins — which then triggers an allergic immune response, the researchers explained.”

The study was conducted on infants, but it seems possible that adults with a weakened skin barrier and a weakened immune system could also develop sensitivities or allergies to foods via the skin. Now, I’m certainly not a scientist, but it seems to me this would mean so much else could be absorbed through the skin and into our blood stream. I’ve always heard mixed comments from physicians about what can be absorbed through the skin. Many claim that commercial and pharmaceutical skincare products are formulated so they cannot be absorbed through the skin, but I’ve personally always questioned this as I’ve heard of many people developing allergies to ingredients like propylene glycol (also see this post)and to treatments like cortisone or developing red skin syndrome aka Topical Steroid Addiction.

Let’s just say it’s possible that anything can be absorbed into your skin, if your skin is broken and irritated, as is the case with those suffering from eczema. And since we can become allergic to just about anything, what are we to do?

Rotate Skin Care Products

We all know to be careful about what we apply to our eczema and now it seems we must be even more cautious if our weakened skin barrier is truly a direct portal to our blood stream.  This means the chemicals in our skincare could potentially be absorbed into our bodies – potentially leading to chemical allergies or sensitivities, or maybe even other health issues. This is why if you do opt to go with cortisone, which can be essential in some cases, or other pharmaceutical skincare products, share your concerns with your physician and try to limit exposure to them or rotate your skincare products (a good idea with natural products as well) so you’re not using the same products daily. Most dermatologists will tell you it’s not safe to use cortisone for long periods of time anyway.

Take Precautions When Feeding Baby

Its not just chemicals and toxic products we need to watch out for either – we certainly need to be cautious of rubbing any of the top 8 food allergens directly on our skin, either just the food itself (dairy products, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shell fish, fish, soy, and wheat) or via a natural skin care product. Now, babies are messy. When they start trying these highly allergenic foods, they will spill some on themselves. That’s unavoidable. As parents, freaking out as soon as some peanut butter touches an open eczema wound won’t help anyone. You’ll probably scare your baby into tears and we don’t want them to become scared of trying new foods.  If you’re worried about your baby dropping some food on their skin, try dressing them in long sleeves and pants or you could purchase a long sleeve bib to avoid food-skin contact.

Natural Ingredients to Avoid

It may be wise to watch out for skincare products containing soy oil or protein (or any “vegetable” ingredient), peanut oil,  dairy products (goat milk products are quite the rage), even almond oil and other tree nuts oils. Shea butter, cocoa butter, and coconut oil are popular and effective natural skincare options for eczema, but some believe they are considered tree nuts. For more on this topic, take a look at this post. While these tropical “nut” butters may be in the same family as tree nuts according to some sources and not according to others, there is a very small chance of developing an allergy to shea, cocoa butter or coconut oil. Although it’s important to remember anyone can develop an allergy to literally just about anything.

True, this is just one study, so it’s not the be all end all, but it should open our eyes to what we’re applying to our skin.

Battling Eczema: A Family Affair (Guest Post)

I think you’ll find today’s guest post interesting as it’s told from a sibling’s perspective. Rarely do we hear about how a sibling’s battles with eczema affect the other siblings….and even more rare is to hear about the experience first hand from one of the brothers or sisters. This story touches my heart as it’s clear how much these children cared for their brother as they would do anything to help relieve his suffering – even behind their parent’s backs!

- Jennifer

Battling Eczema: A Family Affair (Guest Post)

by Malvina Beker (see bio below)

“Wow, that looks terrible!” The doctor started to say, looking at my brother’s exposed stomach that was covered in red patches, scabs, and puss.  My older brother Eugene and I had decide to take matters into our own hands and take our younger eight-year-old brother, Milan, to the doctor our selves.  His rashes were just completely out of control and nothing that my parents were doing was helping him.

Mavina's brother with moderate eczema flare-up.His rashes began very early on, when he was about six months old.  My parents had no idea what the patchy rashes were or where they had come from.  He had struggled with them ever since.

What started off as little patches began to formulate to bigger patches.  It would appear seasonally around the folds of his skin and had gotten my parents attention from the beginning.  They went to the doctors who had confirmed that indeed these patches looked like eczema and prescribed cortisone cream.  Since they had never seen or heard of eczema before, my parents didn’t know how big of an ordeal it would be. My parents started using the prescribed cream with much caution, being very uncomfortable with it because it had steroids in it.  More so than treating the rashes, they wanted to prevent them from resurfacing.  My poor brother went through all sorts of preventative methods that my parents had tried, including homeopathic medicine, diets, hypnosis, even a trip to the dead-sea, but the patchy rashes continued to come back, and what was worse, the older he got, the less control they had over them, since my brother would scratch at them whenever they would appear. By the time he was eight-years-old my brother was being wrapped like a mummy for bed to prevent him from scratching.  His stomach especially was a problem.  My parents had no real direction or answers on how to battle eczema and had given up going to the doctors.

And so, my older brother and I had snuck him off to see a doctor hoping that we could find something to help control the eczema.  The doctor prescribed cortisone yet again.  “Unfortunately there is not much else that will help, especially because he has an infection in the area from all the scratching.”  The doctor then had a chat with him and told him to  be a bit more responsible about his eczema and encouraged him to try to control his scratching urges.  We were once again back to square one. To treat the really bad outbreaks we resorted to using the cortisone cream, but in the meanwhile I started to help my brother with some easy solutions to prevent the outbreaks in the first place.  These easy solutions included restricting any perfume based soaps from ever touching his skin and during a scratching urge, I insisted he bathe or shower or put ice around the itchy area.

My brother’s eczema was something that everyone in my family had suffered from and lived with right along with him.  It was a real ordeal for him in his daily life.  He had to be wrapped to go to bed, he even wore wraps around his body during the day sometimes.  He didn’t feel comfortable going swimming and exposing his stomach to anyone, and did not like discussing his eczema either.

With time however, eventually, the eczema sort of stopped coming on as strongly.  He was lucky that there were no scars left behind from all the scratching that he had done, and with age, had gained control over his rashes whenever they would come back.

As my brother grew into his teenage years, his eczema was like a forgotten dream for me.

And then I gave birth to my child, Alyssa.  A few months later, I almost had a melt down when I noticed the very same patches of red rashes forming on her skin.  I made an appointment to see the doctor right away, there was no way I wanted to go through this again.  The doctor didn’t seem concerned at all.  She prescribed yet again, more cortisone cream.  Was there no other solution?

My husband found a more natural cream, that had no steroids in it, which I started to apply at once.  I didn’t bother with the cortisone and stuck with applying the cream every time I felt the eczema patches forming on her skin.   Our battle to control eczema continued as I noticed my one-year-old daughter, Emma’s, skin began to break out too, but by then I knew what I was in for.   I have now incorporated a daily routine with my kids to always check their skin after they’ve had their baths, to look for any potential patches forming, and to put cream around those patches so that they don’t spread or continue to form.  Neither one of my girls have ever experienced anything remotely close to what my brother had, and I hope that we can keep their eczema as much under control as possible so that they never do.

Dealing with severe eczema outbreaks is a very tough battle that sometimes can affect the whole entire family, as was in our case.  In some cases, it can be a difficult fight, as it was for my brother, but for the most part it can be kept under control.  For our family, monitoring our children’s skin daily and using natural based creams has been very helpful in preventing major outbreaks and keeping the eczema under control.  Good luck to everyone else battling!

Malvina Beker - Start with MomBio: Malvina Beker is a teacher, an author, a sociologist and a mom. She has a Masters degree in Sociology, a Bachelor of Education, and a background in child psychology and development. She has taught high school Family Studies, Parenting and Music courses, and has research experience through interviewing as well as surveys. She is a mother of two little girls that inspire her the most, and is always excited to share and exchange opinions and experiences with others.  She is also the founder of Start With Mom www.startwithmom.com, an online resource/directory for moms seeking solutions to healthy living. You can follow Start With Mom on FaceBook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Announcing a Breakthrough in Eczema Treatment: Chicago Integrative Eczema Center

Honestly, I am quite beside myself over the launch of this new clinic, the Chicago Integrative Eczema Center. I met the co-founder, the amazing Dr. Peter Lio, at the National Eczema Association Patient Conference last summer, and he mentioned this clinic was in the works. So, I waited patiently for the launch and now that the clinic is open for business, I just want to shout about it from the rooftops!

Just what makes this clinic so special?

It combines the best of western medicine and natural therapies to treat eczema. Can it possibly get any better than that?! I am a firm believer in holistic medicine, but I also understand that western medicine can be essential at times. So, this clinic’s approach is spot on in my opinion. Not to mention the involvement of Dr. Lio, who is a highly qualified and respected dermatologist and happens to be incredibly kind and forward thinking. I have not had the fortune of meeting his partner, Dr. Ryan Lombardo, but if he’s collaborating with Dr. Lio, he must be just as wonderful.

Without further ado, please welcome Dr. Peter Lio for a Q&A about the new Chicago Integrative Eczema Center!

Chicago Integrative Eczema Center

Q: Dr. Lio, please give us a brief background on yourself and why you chose to go into Dermatology, particularly why you chose to specialize in atopic dermatitis.

A: I have been interested in becoming a doctor since I was little, but once I got to medical school, I realized that it wasn’t so simple–there were lots of fascinating specialties to consider! Initially, I thought I was going to be a neurologist.  My research during college was all about learning and memory and I found the study of the brain to be extremely compelling.  However, during the second year of medical school we were exposed to a one-week lecture series on dermatology.  About 15 minutes into the first lecture (given by the great teacher and mentor Dr. Charles Taylor), I was hooked!  Interesting words (where else do you get to use terms like “ostraceous” and “serpiginous”?!), fascinating diseases, and lots of unanswered questions!  While in other areas of medicine there were pathways, cycles and genes that seemed to explain almost everything, dermatology was wide open… there was a lot of mystery!  That drew me to it and still does.  Atopic Dermatitis is perhaps the ultimate dermatologic disease: on one hand, we know so much about it and can do some things to help, but we still don’t fully get it and–try as we might–we can’t seem to get to the root of it to cure it.  YET, hopefully…  I found lots of patients and families struggling with eczema, and I decided to dive in to learn everything I could and try to help out as much as possible.  It’s been an incredible adventure so far: difficult, but deeply satisfying.

Q: How do you feel about alternative and integrative medicine as it relates to eczema? (Do you have any good recent research on treatments you can quote here?)

A: Part of what was frustrating for me was coming to terms with our fairly limited armamentarium of treatments for eczema.  After I finished my Dermatology residency, I decided to study acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine to see if I could gain a new perspective and open the door for new treatments.  I spent a year with Kiiko Matsumoto and David Euler in Boston and completed the wonderful course called Structural Acupuncture for Physicians.  It opened my eyes to many things, most importantly the reality of “energy medicine”, which is what acupuncture is on the most fundamental level.  To that end, a few colleagues and I published a paper last year that was able to show some benefit for the itch of eczema–arguably the root of the disease–by using acupressure.  The study can be viewed here.  This led to looking into other forms of alternative medicine, and I am particularly interested in botanicals that can heal.  Lately, I’ve been very excited about the anti-inflammatory effect and skin-barrier-rebuilding powers of topical sunflower seed oil.  I’ve been recommending this combined with coconut oil, which is known to have some anti-bacterial properties which is also very useful in atopic dermatitis.  I’ve written a few updates on some of these alternative treatments, you can view them here – part one and part two.

Q: From what I understand, you are a pioneer in the world of eczema, founding the first integrative medical clinic specifically for eczema sufferers. What was the inspiration behind this amazing idea? Was it a difficult task to achieve?

A: At the end of the day, my goal is to help patients.  My thinking is that I want to take the best of every tradition to get people better.  In my time of intense focus on acupuncture, I found that the acupuncture approach did some things better than the “pure” Western approach; but for other things, not so much.  There was a part of me that was disappointed when a patient returned to my very talented teacher and was only a little bit better.  I had secretly hoped that this was “the cure”, and that I’d find a powerful technique to zap the eczema and make it go away for everyone… It didn’t quite work out that way.  But, I did see some things that were important and were being overlooked by many Western physicians.  That was almost a decade ago, but the idea was planted then for me: to use some form of integrative care to help eczema patients and families.  The Chicago Integrative Eczema Center is the realization of that dream.  It’s been a lot of work getting things organized.  I was lucky when I met Ryan Lombardo, who is a DAOM (Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine) and also very interested in skin disease.  We shared a number of patients and began to meet to discuss treatment approaches. Before long, we realized that we should probably pool our resources and collaborate… and the Chicago Integrative Eczema Center was born. 

Q: What do you hope to achieve with your clinic? What is the general approach?

A: The Chicago Integrative Eczema Center has 4 main goals: First, to be a trusted source of information and education about eczema that is inclusive of alternative and complementary medicine.  Second, to be a place for holistic care of eczema, offering a range of treatments from a Traditional Chinese Medicine approach to the standard Western approach, and everything in-between.  Third, to be a place for patient support and connections.  We are closely allied with the National Eczema Association and their official Chicago Eczema Support Group, run by Erika Czopkiewicz and Nathan Jetter, two amazingly dedicated individuals. Fourth, to be a place to push the boundaries forward and learn more about eczema through research studies like the acupressure study mentioned above.  To meet these goals, in addition to collaborating on patients that we see in our individual clinics, we will have combined sessions where Ryan and I will see patients simultaneously and have guest speakers with questions and answers, and I will be the medical adviser of the Chicago Eczema Support Group as well.

Q: What services will you offer?

A: We will be seeing patients and, through Ryan, offering acupuncture, acupressure, herbs, nutritional supplements and other botanical topical treatments.  We also work with nutritionists, allergists, a hypnotherapist, and several other practitioners closely for when our patients need other types of expertise.  Part of what we are building is a network of providers who can work together and meet the need for holistic and integrative care, which is very exciting to me.  

 Stay in touch with the Center:

Website: http://www.chicagoeczema.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChiEczema 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChicagoEczema

About the co-founders of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Center:

Dr. Peter LioPeter Lio is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Dermatology & Pediatrics at Northwestern University, Feinberg  School of Medicine. Dr. Lio received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, completed his internship at Boston Children’s Hospital and his dermatology training at Harvard. He has had formal training in acupuncture under Kiiko Matsumoto and David Euler, and has held a long interest in alternative medicines. He currently serves on the Scientific Advisory Board for the National Eczema Association. His clinical office is located at Dermatology & Aesthetics of Wicker Park.

Dr. Ryan LombardoRyan Lombardo received his Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago, IL. The Doctor of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (DAOM) is the highest formal educational credential available in the field of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in the United States. Dr. Lombardo is one of 6 doctors practicing as a DAOM recognized by the State of Illinois and has been practicing acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in the Chicagoland area as a Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.) and Master of Science in Oriental Medicine (MSOM) since 2003. Dr. Lombardo is a faculty member of Midwest College’s doctoral program, leading the Nutraceutical Science and Chinese Medicine Energetics curriculum.  His clinical practice is located at AcuHealth of Wicker Park.

How Quickly They Forget or Choose to Forget the Hard Times

One of things I worry most about with Tristan’s eczema is, will he look back on his toddler years (when his eczema was the worst) with fear in his eyes?

  • Will he remember the countless nights he spent writhing in itchy agony in his bed as my husband and I took turns holding him and trying to calm his irritated skin and restless mind?
  • Will he remember his hysterical pleas to skip just one bath or how it felt when the cool bath water burned his broken skin as he screamed and lashed out?
  • Will he remember my husband and I holding him down as we slathered on cream multiple times a day, every day, each time the stinging and his tears were relentless?
  • Will he remember seeing mommy cry all those times?

At 4.5 years old, I’m very relieved to say that Tristan doesn’t remember how itchy he used to be or how severe his head-to-toe eczema actually was.

Happy Eczema Free Days

A happy Tristan and a tear-less mom enjoying these eczema managed days.

Just a few months after he turned 3 we FINALLY got a handle on his eczema. (You can read about our family’s battle with eczema here. Or you can view our various Eczema Trials for all the details.) That was just a little over one year ago.  He has memories from around that time, just nothing to do with his eczema. For that I am grateful. I’m guessing this is an example of selective memory at it’s finest.

If you’re dealing with the emotional and physical stresses of eczema today, hang in there. Things will improve. Just stick with your intuition and be an advocate for your child, like this mom.

If all this talk about the challenges of dealing with severe eczema has got you down, take a minute to enjoy a laugh at our eczema spoof “Stuff Eczema Mamas Say.” I’m sure you can relate….and please try to look past my horrible acting skills.

Our Eczema Trials: Elimination Diet (How You Can Do It Too!)

our eczema trials: elimination diet

Try an elimination diet and stop eating the foods harming your body.

An elimination diet really isn’t that hard and for many it provides a great sense of relief when food allergies or intolerances are discovered. In truth, it’s deciding to do the diet and embracing your decision by fully planning and preparing for it, that’s the hardest.

Why an Elimination Diet?

After years of worsening eczema and unsuccessful attempts with multiple doctors to identify the triggers, I finally realized I could no longer put off an elimination diet for my son. It was time to figure out which foods were aggravating his eczema when allergy testing all came back negative. The best way to do that, according to many health professionals, in fact it’s considered the “gold standard” for food allergy diagnosis by many pediatricians, is by conducting a food challenge. A food challenge is when certain foods are consumed in small doses and then the individual is monitored very closely, in a physicians office is best, to determine if the food causes any reaction in the body.

Food challenges are the only 100% accurate way to prove a food allergy exists, other than a history of reactions with specific foods. Allergy testing is not usually reliable as false positives and false negatives, like was the case with my son, can frequently occur. In order to successfully conduct the food challenge, it’s best to remove the foods in question from the diet completely for a given amount of time in the form of an elimination diet.

Overwhelmed? Embrace the Diet and Plan, Plan, Plan.

When I finally decided to move forward with my son’s diet, the planning seemed very overwhelming. It’s best to work with a physician or nutritionist when planning the elimination diet to ensure all the proper foods are eliminated correctly AND to guarantee you’re not putting your or your child’s health in jeopardy. Removing nutritious foods from the diet means they need to be substituted with equally nutritious alternatives and this can be tricky if you’re not very well versed in a healthy eating and nutrition.

Not only is balancing nutrition hard, but it’s VERY difficult to remove staple foods from your diet. Many of the foods that should be eliminated have been in your or child’s diet since not long after you took your first bites of food as a baby. Perhaps, your body has been used to these foods for so long, that slowly over time a reaction has been building up (in the way of eczema or asthma. You don’t always consciously think about these foods because they’re part of you. You’ve never had to think about it before. So eliminating these foods is like learning a whole new language. You must become a thorough label reader, understand the confusing and misleading world of “may contain traces of,” recognize alternative names for foods (and there are many), and learn to cook with substitute ingredients.

Find the Right Resources

My mother-in-law is a super health food fanatic, so I relied much on her expertise. I also referenced “Dealing with Food Allergies in Babies and Children,” by Janice Vickerstaff Joneja, PhD, RDN. This is an EXCELLENT book that discusses food allergies in-depth and then offers detailed steps on how to conduct elimination diets for various ailments – one of which is eczema! Using Dr. Vickerstaff Joneja’s plan, made things much easier. Her book told me exactly what to eliminate and for how long.  We followed her eczema elimination diet to the letter and it improved my son’s skin tremendously, within a matter of days. When it was time to add the eliminated foods back into his diet, by way of a food challenge, we immediately were able to identify which foods were triggering his eczema as he became very itchy after eating most of them, occasionally with hives. In some cases it took a few days of consuming the foods to see a reaction. In the end we identified the following as eczema triggers for my son: dairy, gluten, soy, and corn. We later also identified through trial and error that many tree nuts cause similar reactions for him.

I’m happy to say that through an elimination diet, we saw major improvements in my son’s skin! This was one of the biggest wins in his battle against eczema. I cannot recommend elimination diets enough.

Yes, it’s hard, but you CAN do it. Here’s how:

1)    Embrace the decision 100%.

2)    Arm yourself with the right resources: physician, nutritionist, books, friends for moral support, etc.

3)    Identify the foods to avoid and ALL the alternative names for these foods.

4)    Have recipes ready to go and your pantry stocked.  Plan on spending a few hours at the grocery store carefully reading labels and finding new food substitutes.

5)    Go for it! If you feel the need to cheat, think about why you want to cheat. Is it because you’re craving one of your favorite boxed/processed chocolate chip cookies that are no longer ok to eat? Then make some using alternative ingredients. Trust me, the alternatives are actually really good!

Here are some great bloggers featuring amazing, healthy recipes that are allergy free, some are top-8 allergy free. Prepare some of their recipes in advance and prevent the desperate need to cheat by having your favorite foods with alternative ingredients on hand and ready to go.

Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen – super healthy recipes from a nutritionist.

Gluten Free Goddess – most recipes are free of more than just gluten.

Tessa the Domestic Diva & Real Food Allergy Free – check out their Allergy Free Wednesday Recipe Hop!

Grateful Foodie – practical recipes for the family.

Allergy Free Alaska – gluten and dairy-free.

Allergy Free Yumminess – check out my Pinterest board full of amazing allergy free recipe finds from around the blogosphere.

Looking for more info and tips on how to complete an elimination diet? Check out my guest post for ScratchMeNot “What’s an Elimination Diet Really Like?”

Have you tried an elimination diet? Did you see results?

Our Eczema Trials: Dry Wrapping

With severe eczema, nothing can provide immediate relief like wet wrapping. See the step-by-step instructions on how to wet wrap in my post here. Wet wrapping isn’t a long-term solution and isn’t necessary for mild to moderate eczema, but dry wrapping is!

Dry wrapping is VERY easy to do and you may have tried it without even knowing there was a term for it.

What is Dry Wrapping?

It’s simply heavily moisturizing the skin and covering it with a dry layer, such as mittens or gloves for hands, for an extended period of time.

Why does it work?

The dry layer helps hold the moisture next to the skin and is more effective than just applying moisturizer to the skin alone. Wet wrapping is even more effective as the wet layer will maintain the moisture for extended periods of time.

What are dry wraps?

WrapESoothe wet wrapping and dry wrapping suit

AD Rescuewear suits, great for wet wrapping or dry wrapping for eczema relief.

Dry wraps are clothes or bandages used to wrap and protect eczema skin. You can use clothing made specifically for dry or wet wrapping, but items you already have at home can work too (pajamas, tube socks for hands and feet, etc). Clothing should be form-fitting and made of natural fibers like cotton or bamboo.

What do you need to get started?

  • Cream or balm/salve
  • (1) Set of clothing or bandages/dressings. Exact garments will depend on areas you want to treat, but can include:
    • (1) one-piece pajamas or top & bottom, form-fitting
    • (1) turtleneck for wrapping the neck, or scarf
    • (2) pairs of long white cotton tube socks to cover hands and feet or cotton or bamboo gloves and stay-on booties like these.
    • (1) sets of gauze bandages for wrapping the face and head/scalp or an stay-on infant hat like this one.

How to dry wrap step-by-step

You can dry wrap your entire body, but if the eczema is that extreme you may want to consider wet wrapping instead. Usually dry wrapping is done on specific parts of the body with chronic eczema or an irritating flare up. I like to lather my hands up with cream and slip on a pair of white cotton socks before I go to bed as it really helps the mild eczema I get between my fingers and on the backs of my hands.

  1. Moisturize the skin with a cream or balm/salve of your choice, making sure to liberally apply on the areas of the body that need treating. The skin should be very moist when finished. You may need to go back and apply another layer in some areas before moving to the next step.
  2. Cover the areas to treat with a dry layer of clothing or bandages.
  3. Leave the dry layer on for a minimum of two hours, overnight is great.
  4. If you’re able, remove the dry layer every few hours, re-moisturize, and cover with the dry layer again.

Tips for dry wrapping and your eczema child

  • Try wet wrapping at night for minimal objection from your child. An added bonus, keep the hands covered to prevent night-time scratching.
  • Virgin coconut oil and raw shea butter work great for dry wrapping. We also love Manuka Honey Skin Cream. Take a look at some other great natural moisturizers here.
  • Use caution with long wrapping bandages that could become unwrapped, potentially creating a suffocation hazard. This would be of particular concern if the child wears the wraps to sleep.
  • Children’s eczema clothing is made specifically for those with sensitive skin and is great for dry wrapping. The Eczema Company also offers a few clothing items for adults and teens as well.

Have you tried dry wrapping? Did it work well for you?

Guess Who’s Featured in Green Child Magazine’s Holiday 2012 Issue

Have you heard about Green Child Magazine? It’s a wonderful digital magazine for eco-conscious parents. Their Holiday 2012 issue is particularly special for two reasons.

1. They praise Guava Mitts in their Green Gift Guide. We love these functional stay-on mitts and proudly feature them at The Eczema Company. You can find Guava Mitts mentioned on pg. 38.

2. I am a guest contributor! Don’t miss my article “Avoid the Eczema-Winter Blues with these Natural Cold Weather Tips.” (found on pg. 56)

Those are my top two reasons why you should check out Green Child Magazine’s Holiday 2012 Issue, but the issue is packed with lots of great information on learning to raise a greener family. And I bet you didn’t know that Louise from An Apple a Day Nutrition, one of our guest bloggers, is a featured contributor in every issue. She writes about healthy eating and offers easy, but nutritional recipes to try.

Hope you enjoy the issue!

Green Child Magazine Holiday 2012

Surprise Sale – Day 21

To celebrate eczema awareness month in the US, The Eczema Company is offering a daily SURPRISE SALE item.  Each day a new sale item will be announced, but the sale will only be valid until 11:59pm the same day.

No more secrets! The coupon code for each daily sale item will be announced here first, but then we’ll share the love elsewhere too. After all, everyone loves a good sale. Make sure you’re subscribed to this blog, so you’re in the know as soon as a new sale is announced!

Today’s daily surprise sale is…

Guava Mitts – Save 50% off these adorable scratch mittens for babies (up to 22lbs.) with reversible modern prints. A velcro strap keeps these mittens on your little Houdinis. Sleep in peace knowing your little one’s hands are secure from scratching.

Use the following coupon code at checkout to take advantage of this one day surprise sale.

SURPRISE21GM

And remember to feel good about your purchase, $1 from every sale in October will be donated to the National Eczema Association!

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