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I Listen to My Intuition and I Don’t Give up on My Child: I am My Son’s Health Advocate

Athena inspired me on the Itchy Skin Support Forum where she shared the countless natural therapies she’s tried to help heal her son’s eczema. I was impressed with her fighting for her child and not giving up until she finally healed his skin. We know it’s all about trial and error to find what works for your child, but this momma has been through it all. I hope her story will inspire you too!

-Jennifer

Athena with Andrew today – beautiful, healthy skin.

Bio:  My name is Athena Goodman and I’m 33 years old.  I’ve been a cardiac nurse for 10 years and I’m a reiki practitioner.  I love to read, cook, and do yoga and meditation.  Now that I’m a new mother, my new hobbies are cooking full-time, and chasing after my son.

Diagnosis

My battle with eczema started when my first child was born.   Even though he was born a month early his Apgar score was 9 out of 10, so he was deemed healthy.  His skin was perfectly fine at the time.  Then I noticed when he was about two weeks old he developed a pretty severe case of cradle cap and his face would get red and blotchy.  The skin on his arms, chest and legs started to get dry and flaky.  Over the weeks it got progressively worse and when he was examined by my family doctor he was diagnosed as having atopic dermatitis.  As any parent with a child who has eczema I read everything I could about this condition.  I knew the use of steroids would only cover-up the symptom and not address the root cause of the eczema.  I was also appalled that the side effects of the steroids were no better than the condition it was trying to prevent.

Are Food Allergies to Blame?

I started to suspect a food connection when I ate a huge plate of pasta with tomato sauce for my birthday and within two days, Andrew’s face flared up so bad, in some places it started to ooze and in other areas there were scabs.   Since I hadn’t had pasta in over a month, I suspected it was actually the tomatoes.  I removed tomatoes from my diet for three weeks.  I then told my husband if our son’s face flares up again after eating some pasta with tomato sauce, we’ll know tomatoes are the culprit.  I intentionally ate a modest amount of tomatoes to test my theory because I was afraid his reaction would be severe again.  After the second test, two days later, his face flared up and I knew without a doubt that various foods were triggering my son’s eczema and I started thinking about any other foods Andrew could have been reacting to.  At the time I was consuming foods with tomatoes frequently, but never in large quantities, which is probably why his skin flared up, improved in a few days and then would suddenly flare up again.   He was two months old at the time and even despite taking out tomatoes, his condition never resolved. I took Andrew to see a naturopath in December when he was about 5 months old. He recommended supplementing with probiotics and essential fatty acids.  The next day after Andrew’s first does of  primrose oil (for EFAs) I could see the redness spread across one cheek and the following day both his cheeks started to ooze. When I read the full supplement ingredient list I found there was citrus flavoring. Since citrus is very acidic like tomatoes, I knew it was causing his reaction.

Constant Itching & Rubbing

He was so itchy during the night he would constantly move his head back and forth rubbing his cheeks against the

Andrew during a flare up.

bed sheet.  It got so bad it looked like he had second degree burns to his face and we feared that he would have an infection.  In the middle of the night we took him to the ER and the physician recommended we continue what we were previously doing, cleansing the site with normal saline and trying to apply gauze to protect the area.  I learned to improvise quickly.  To stop Andrew from using his hands to scratch his face we had to swaddle him before putting him in a sleep sack.  It didn’t stop him from turning his head side to side to relieve the itch and it only aggravated his skin more.  I don’t know how the idea came to me but I used two silk pillow cases to prevent his skin from breaking down and to give it time to heal.  I cut a hole in one pillow case and put it over his sleep sack and put the other pillow case beneath his head.  No matter how he moved his face it would always touch the silk.  The plan worked and it took a few weeks to really see the improvement.

Green Tea, A Family Remedy

At that time I was also using the steroids sparingly to expedite the healing process.   I went through so many trials and errors to treat Andrew.  I bought skin care products and other supplements to try, but they only made things worse since his skin reacts to citric acid, which I later found out is an ingredient in almost all skin care products can be disguised as “essential oil.”  At this point both his legs started to turn red and ooze. I knew I had made things worse.  It was so hard for his legs to heal because he was constantly scratching them. We ended up applying steroid cream, gauze and then pressure bandages to both legs for several weeks.  Both his cheeks started oozing again and instead of using steroids I used organic green tea bags, a family remedy suggested by my mother, and applied it to his face while breast-feeding him during the night.  I didn’t saturate the tea bag, just added enough water so that the tea bag was wet.  This remedy definitely worked because I used it several times during the night and by morning his cheeks had stopped oozing.  My mother and I also performed reiki on Andrew and I could see that it helped calmed him down when he was having a bad night.  I can’t tell you how many times I must have cried.  Bathing Andrew was a nightmare, I always had to be in the tub with him to prevent him from scratching his body.   Dermatology was no help, not only did they try to prescribe stronger steroids, they completely dismissed the idea that eczema could be a reaction caused by food.

Bone Broth & Chicken Liver as Baby Formula?

The new year arrived and there was no significant changes in his skin, it was beyond frustrating.  The whole thing was mentally, physically and emotionally draining.  I had to be by his side constantly to stop him from scratching.  I didn’t take him out much and if I did, there had to be two people in the car, one to drive and the other to sit in the back and monitor him. The turning point was when I started doing my own research found two resources talking about a hypoallergenic formula made with bone broth and chicken liver if dairy could not be tolerated. When I started giving Andrew the new formula I notice his whole face did not turn bright red like it use to and then I realize dairy was probably another food contributing to his eczema.  Eight weeks later, his eczema and cradle cap still persisted.

Elimination Diet

Then someone loaned me the book called “The Core Diet for Kids” by Dr. Stephen J. Gislason. I started the elimination diet: no dairy, eggs, soy, corn, wheat, or gluten.  The diet was extremely basic, rice, chicken, turkey and a handful of vegetables.  I did this diet for about six weeks and while I found little improvement, I did clearly see certain foods exacerbated his eczema, such as; peas, sugar, fish, etc .  Dr. Gislason stressed that if no improvement was seen within a few weeks, all grains and chicken should also be removed from the diet. I was in denial and it didn’t occur to me Andrew could be allergic to rice but when I  finally took it out of my diet, his scalp cleared up in four days.  I was astounded and elated. When I brought this up to dermatology she actually acted annoyed and again stated food had no connection to eczema.  I just told her what I observed and what worked for Andrew.  I think she was just miffed that her regiment didn’t resolve his skin issues.  When Andrew was finally tested for possible food allergies at 10 months he tested positive for dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, peas, (peas and peanuts are in the same family so I was told to avoid all nuts for now).  I asked the allergist to test for citrus and other nuts but she stated his skin was too sensitive to do the test.  All the foods I suspected he was allergic to were verified by the allergy test. It was unfortunate that it took a test to validate what I already knew.

What I want to stress is that your intuition is rarely ever wrong and following my gut instinct was what saved me and my son.  All I had to do was look at my son’s face to know what food his body could tolerate and what it couldn’t.  Having to deal with family members that didn’t take it seriously just added to my stress.

Leaky Gut & Candida

I knew I found the answer to Andrew’s eczema when I came across an article on Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Campbell-McBride via the Dr. Mercola website.  The premise of her book was that the majority of your immune system resides in your gut and when your gut is compromised it can affect your body in many different ways.  When I read the chapter on leaky gut, candida yeast, eczema, and factors that contribute to the condition, for the first moment in a long time I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders.  Usage of different antibiotics over the years, long-term use of birth control, consuming too much sugar and processed foods, and using medication such as ibuprofen, can lead to a leaky gut and candida overgrowth.  I can relate to doing all of those things.  Andrew was born a month early so he probably wasn’t fully developed when I was given several doses of penicillin during my labor and I had taken ibuprofen for several weeks after the delivery.  I truly believe the antibiotics and pain medication pushed his system over the edge.

GAPS Diet and Soap Alternatives

I was also glad that I never vaccinated Andrew.  If your immune system resides in the gut I knew the vaccines would further stress it and do damage.  The GAPS diet finally made a dent in Andrew’s condition, feeding him only protein, carbohydrates from vegetables and healthy fats cleared up his face.  Grains, starches such as potatoes, and certain squashes were not allowed on the GAPS diet.  I also noticed starchy foods caused Andrew to have a reaction.   It was the essential fatty acid (cod liver oil rather than primrose) that brought his skin back to normal.  We stopped using soap during bathing, since soap stripped Andrew’s skin of natural oils.  Adding organic coconut oil to the bath water helped keep the moisture in.  His skin was better, but the eczema remained in spots.

Naturopath, Holistic Nutrition & Parasites

We went to see a different Naturopath who had Andrew do a Vega food allergy test (electro-acupuncture method). They also tested him for candida yeast overgrowth. His score was too high, 23/30, as I was told his score should be below 10.  I came across a website called Healing Naturally by Bee, the entire website is dedicated to healing and riding the body of candida.  Her recommendations for diet are similar to the GAPS diet, but more limited.  We started the diet and I saw greater improvement with Andrew’s eczema following Bee’s diet advice. The only dairy that was allowed was ghee and even Andrew couldn’t tolerated that. Giving him healthy fats such as coconut oil, animal fats and olive oil was essential for his development and better health.   Having Andrew treated by a holistic nutritionist also sped his recovery.  Putting him on probiotics geared towards infants and digestive enzymes (TriEnza) significantly reduced his itchy symptoms.  She also brought up the possibility that Andrew could have parasites.  I read the book “Guess What Came to Dinner” by Ann Louise Gittleman, and it opened my eyes that parasites could be the root cause of so many different diseases.  I did not put Andrew on the anti-parasite cleanse because he was too young, but I have learned that mothers can pass parasites to their baby in the womb.

Where We Are Today: Improvement

At present, I have not used steroids for Andrew’s face in over three months.  He’s no longer swaddled, but wears silk pajamas and sleeps freely in a special sleep sack for infants with eczema, called Bamboo Bubby. Unfortunately the material does not keep Andrew cool enough, so during this summer heat, he developed a bad case of heat rash.  Buying an air conditioner definitely helped.  The only moisturizer I use for his skin is plain organic shea butter and we use a chickweed ointment for the eczema and the itchy areas.  I no longer have to sit in the bath with him.  He doesn’t scratch himself even once when bathing.  I still do not use soap, only water and his skin hasn’t suffered due to lack of soap.  I can drive him in the car by myself, but he has to wear long sleeve shirts and pants.  Because the summer heat aggravates Andrew’s eczema, I dress him in a short sleeve top with a tubular stockinette bandage around each arm so he can stay cool, but if he scratches the inside of his elbows at least the area is covered.  I’ve been told that the areas that heal last are the inside of the elbows, behind the knees and top of the feet.  I realize it will take more time for those areas to heal.

Advocating for My Son

Looking back I can say there was definite personal growth from this experience.  It’s still not easy, I do the bone broth every week for his formula and I have to prep his meals in advance.  When I go out with him I have to bring food from home, I have never taken Andrew to a restaurant.  Other than the milk formula I used to feed him, he has never eaten any processed foods.  I’m glad I did not blindly accept the doctor’s recommendations and give him stronger steroids, instead I became Andrew’s advocate.  I did my own research and became instrumental in his healing process.  I ignored those in the family that questioned the alternative choices I made.  The fact that his improvement has been gradual and steady with no setbacks, unless he eats something he is allergic to, is all the proof I need.  Everyone who has met Andrew has told me he looks healthy and is advanced for someone his age. He has never been sick.  No colds, no ear infections, nothing.  I believe this was largely due to the diet I’ve been feeding him.  The most important thing is the well-being of my child and I can say I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished and the knowledge I have gained during this challenging experience. I am still physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, but when I look at my son and think of all the progress that has been made I can’t help but smile more often now.

Below are some of the websites that have assisted me in healing Andrew.

The Weston A. Price Foundation

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride on GAPS Nutritional Program

GAPS Diet

Houston Enzymes – TriEnza Digestive Enzymes

Custom Probiotics – Highest Potency Probiotic Supplements

Bamboo Bubby Toddler Sleep Sack with Sleeves

24 Comments Post a comment
  1. Yarna prentice #

    I enjoyed reading everything you had to say. Sharing your story in depth.
    I googled parasites and excema that is how i found it.
    My now 27mth old has had bad excema since 18mths. (Day after her 12mth immunization ) she never (or her triplet sibblings) had exzema before 18mth. The immunization triggered it. But at that exact time we were going through a financial change and had to cut out our fresh fish including salmon 3 times per week to never and we were eating cheap chicken. 4 months later she had her 18mth immunization and it triggered it even worse within hrs. But we are on track financially again, eating fish, avocados, healthy fats always and she is very good. Not perfect , but hardly ever itches. At the worst time 1 good dose of nurofen and steroid cream cleared all the red and pain away.
    When she was 12mths and had diarea for over 2 weeks (this was before the exzema days) i had her tested and she had a parasite. The doctor said it may never go. I will test again and look into it being the cause of the exzema.
    She was born 6 weeks early so her gut and immune may be compromised.

    Like

    December 14, 2016
  2. Lindsay #

    Thank you for your blog! I heard you on Wendi Combes podcast and we are now working with her to help my 6 month old. We tried to start bone broth last week, but it made his urine output decrease. To me, it’s just further confirmation that his gut needs healing!

    I just bought some of the creams you sell and we have purchased the no scratch sleeves that are life savers. We haven’t been able to pin point any triggers yet. But I am hopeful we will be able to identify something! We are about to switch up our laundry and home cleaning supplies to better products (I am learning how many “natural” products are still loaded with chemicals).

    Thank you!

    Like

    February 18, 2016
    • Hi Lindsay – Good luck! Fingers are crossed for you guys. I hope you see some results! Jennifer

      Like

      March 10, 2016
  3. Eulix #

    Thank you so very much for sharing your story. I actually got emotional reading it because I went through something similar. My son has eczema and it has greatly improved; he is now 20 months old.

    Like

    July 16, 2013
    • Eulix – that’s great your son’s eczema has improved. What changes did you make? What worked for you? – Jennifer

      Like

      July 17, 2013
  4. Vicky #

    Hi Jennifer, my 4 months old is suffering from eczema, I am on a very limited diet of rice pork and a hand ful of basic greens. Can u share with me what u ate to replace rice? I am having a hard time to cut that out of my diet as rice has been the stable food all my life.

    Thank you!

    Like

    June 25, 2013
    • Hi Vicky – You can chop up cauliflower very small and it’s similar to rice – you can saute it with any spices you may like with rice usually. Google cauliflower rice for some recipes. Also, look into quinoa, millet, amaranth, teff, for some interesting grain alternatives. I hope this helps! Jennifer

      Like

      July 2, 2013
  5. Erika #

    Please try a homeopathic remedy: Florasone cream. It is homeopathic cardiospermum. It cleared my baby’s eczema in 2 applications and it NEVER came back! We are now using it for my 5 yr. old daughter who has just developed eczema (a really horrible case – all over her body) and the cream combined with GAPS (she’s been on Stage 1 for a week now) is totally working…slower than with my son, but still working for sure. I know how awful it is to have a baby with terrible eczema, my son was covered head to toe and every time I put cortisone cream on it in one area, it would go away for that moment, but pop up somewhere else on his body by the next morning. And the scratching and bleeding, etc…so sad…..I have high hopes for GAPS with my daughter, along with this homeopathic remedy. I already see such a dramatic difference!

    Like

    December 21, 2012
    • That’s wonderful you’re having luck with GAPS and this cream! It’s always such a breakthrough moment when we find something that works so well.

      Like

      December 27, 2012
  6. This story brought me to tears as I have a daughter who suffered from severe eczema for her first year. She would scratch her face against the netting in her playpen and come away bleeding. My husband was supportive, but wanted to use steroids, which I knew would not treat the underlying problem. I constantly tweaked my diet to try to eliminate the source, but could not narrow down the cause. I noticed dairy would bother her if I ate it, so I stopped it, but it seemed many foods were triggers. She is now almost 3 and doing better. I actually noticed the greatest improvement once she stopped breast-feeding! I know how you feel. It was so difficult to see her in such distress. We have another baby who doesn’t appear to have any allergies, so for that I’m grateful. I myself have suffered with eczema for almost 10 years now and still do not know all of what causes it to flare up. It is a tough battle, but in a way it helps to know I’m not alone. Thank you for sharing this story. I hope your son continues to improve and that he grows out of it all in the near future.

    Like

    August 28, 2012
    • Athena #

      It was another nurse who introduced to the book called core diet for kids and she said to me she believed eczema is 98% due to food allergies and the rest to environmental causes. I never had eczema until I was in my teens and I used steroids for it but as soon as I stopped eating crap and ate healthier it never came back. My own GP never told me about the side effects and here I was using it on my face and hands. Well, those areas have thinned out. I don’t believe eczema is due to genes, why did it suddenly show up in my teens. I do believe I have candida when I read the list of symptoms and I must have passed it on to Andrew through the birth canal. It can takes years to get rid of it. Just goggle candida and eczema or parasites and eczema and see if you have any symptoms that are mentioned. Take probiotics and fermented foods to to get back the good bacteria in your gut. Stop eating sugar for a few weeks and see what happens, that also includes fruit, the sugar in fruits also feeds candida. Good luck.

      Like

      October 18, 2012
  7. Wow. What a brave mom you are! Kudos for fighting the system and following your gut! Your son is a lucky boy…

    Like

    August 26, 2012
  8. Shelley #

    Thank you Athena for sharing your story, It is very inspirational and comforting to read that you have managed to find success. I too have a child who suffers from terrible eczema and has since a tiny baby. (He also suffers from Asthma, numerous allergies incl dust mites as well as a nut and dairy allergy AND MY HEART TELLS ME THAT HE HAS FOOD SENSITIVITIES ABOVE THE ALLERGIES THAT HE HAS.) I am a true believer that there is a link between foods and skin conditions. He is 11 years old and we still have a constant battle to keep his eczema under control. It is ALWAYS there, just in varying degrees. We have tried so many creams, lotions etc etc and have visited many natural practitioners to try and help him. It is frustrating, exhausting and emotionally draining to watch him suffer. I can only applaud your persistence through the elimination diets as I know how hard they are to follow. Looking back, I wish I could have done it when my son was as young as your little one as he has suffered for many years. It was recently suggested to me to bath him with Milton steraliser in the bath (approx 15ml in his bath). This has made a lot of difference to his skin, particular when it has been very red and aggressive. I was also told to use oil in his bath (which I have been told since he was a baby), but not wanting to use a product with too many chemicals, i have recently opted for plain rice oil which is working for him. All the best to you and all the eczema suffers and parents of eczema sufferers.

    Like

    August 18, 2012
    • Shelly – thank you for the comment on Athena’s story. We too believe our son has sensitivities in addition to allergies. We know the allergies, but are having a hard time nailing down the minor sensitivities. He too has eczema constantly, thankfully it’s mostly minor these days, but he does have the occasional severe flare-up still. Courage to your and your family. Jennifer

      Like

      August 20, 2012
    • Athena #

      Hi Shelley thank you for your story. I hope you had a chance to go through some of the websites I recommended at the end of my story. Maybe you’ll find something that will connect with you. I took this for a sign but at work, I had two lab techs tell me about eczema and salt from the dead sea. DO NOT USE table salt it has to come from the dead sea. She told me how her son had eczema and when they went to Greece everybody would bathe in the water and her son’s eczema cleared up significantly. I went out and bought some to try. Andrew is now 15 months so I figure it was fine and she did say, everyone young and old would bathe in it, it is natural so it should be fine. I was afraid the salt would irritate Andrew and but he doesn’t react to it at all and wow did it ever work. Those persist areas behind the knees, top of feet and inside of his elbows have greatly improved and reduces the itchiness. Goggle salt from the dead sea and eczema and read about the health benefits of it.

      Like

      October 18, 2012
  9. Jen #

    This is an inspiring story and I applaud you mom! My mom had a terrible time with me as a baby and my severe eczema. I can’t imagine the heartache you must have gone through…

    Like

    August 13, 2012
    • Athena #

      Thank you for your kind words Jen, I appreciate it. During this horrible experience I can at least say what I got out of it was that I gained a lot of new knowledge that I can apply not only to Andrew’s situation, but also transform my lifestyle and eating habits as well.

      Like

      August 15, 2012
      • Jenn #

        Athena,
        Your story sounds so similar to mine. I have a four year old little boy who has suffered with eczema since birth. I also am in the health care field and am a nurse pracitioner. The first two years of my sons life we went the route recommended to us by our pediatrician and allergist of steroids and various creams and prescription medications, and this did tend to somewhat control it, but once we saw a natrupath and were give the diagnosis of leaky gut and adrenal fatigue and multiple food intolerances, I began to read more and more about this and also came across gaps. He is now on his fourth week of intro gaps. I know symptoms often worsen before they improve, and that has been the case for him. His eczema has worsened. We are doing daily detox baths and benadryl regularly. How long before you saw improvement on gaps? I’m just curious. From everything I’ve read, it can take months, but I was just wondering what it was like for you all.

        Like

        October 15, 2012
    • Athena #

      Hi Jen, it was a lot of trail and error but I did not follow GAPs instructions to the letter. Like anything treatment can differently on different people. Andrew couldn’t eat the eggs, he definitely couldn’t tolerate the starches like sweet potato or squashes. His eczema definitely got worse before it got better on the GAPs, just hang it there. What I found made a huge difference was adding the digestive enzymes and the probiotics geared towards babies, their gut ecology is different from adults. The juice from fermented cabbage gave him really bad gas so I knew his gut was weak and sensitive. I found the GAP diet helpful but
      when I restricted his diet to only carbs from certain vegetables, protein from free range meat and healthy fats from avocados, coconut oils and animals fats, the improvement was more rapid, within a month I saw a big change. Visit one of the websites at the end of my story, healing naturally with bee. Read more about the paleo diet that is essential what my son is on. No grains for him, taking rice out of my diet when I was breast feeding him cleared up his scalp and forehead in 4 days. Don’t believe the propaganda of the food pyramid, my son currently weighs 24 pounds at 15 months while his cousin eats everything and his weight was 24 pounds at 18 months. Andrew has never been sick before while his cousin was sick multiple times during his first year. You may have go the tough love route and get sugar out of your son’s diet. It’s scary sugar is in everything that is processed. Hope my answer helped.

      Like

      October 18, 2012
  10. Shari G. #

    I use these on my little girl while she is in the car and it works great! http://www.scratchsleeves.co.uk/

    Like

    August 13, 2012
    • Thanks Shari! There are ScratchMeNot mittens too…https://www.eczemacompany.com/brands/ScratchMeNot.html they are the ones I sell at The Eczema Company. We use these for our child as they are stretchy, so they don’t stretch out over time. Glad the Scratch Sleeves work well for you.

      Jennifer

      Like

      August 13, 2012
    • Athena #

      Hi Shari, I forgot to talk about the scratch me nots in my story, but I did use them for Andrew as well. They worked well on him during the colder months. He had them on for months while he was sleeping, playing, eating and in the car. Unfortunately when the weather got hot it gave him heat rash down both his arms. We stopped using them all together when he started to improve.

      Like

      August 15, 2012
  11. Wow Athena, this is a fantastic read and you have done an amazing job with all the various remedies you have tried! You are such a great example for others and I’m going to post this over on my page too in the hope your story helps someone else too.
    Also, we are hoping to have an ultra-lightweight Bamboo Bubby Bag available by the end of the year which should help a lot in those times of extreme heat temperatures or extreme climates etc.

    Like

    August 13, 2012
    • Athena #

      Thank you Kelly for sharing my story on your website as well. I look forward to the new ultra-lightweight bamboo bubby bag.

      Like

      August 15, 2012

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