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!
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.
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.
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
Houston Enzymes – TriEnza Digestive Enzymes
Custom Probiotics – Highest Potency Probiotic Supplements
Bamboo Bubby Bag