How I Learn To Eat Differently Living With Eczema
My Personal Journey with Eczema
Here’s my story! I did not have eczema until I was an adult and when it happened, it was just minor spots here and there on my fingers. Basically, whenever I cleaned too much the skin on my fingers would get really dried and cracked.
Five years later, my eczema went haywire to a point that I could not imagine. For those who have experienced oozing, weeping eczema all over the body, that was what I went through. I had initially gone to my family doctor for some topical steroid which did not work and then was referred to countless dermatologists, where stronger steroids were prescribed. It came to the point that even those were not working.
I didn’t waste any time to seek out alternative medicine. I saw two naturopathic doctors. The first one told me I needed to eat more chicken, turkey, lamb, kefir and omit pork, and sold me many bottles of supplements. The second naturopathic doctor, Jon Matsen, shifted a lot of things for me. Since he incorporated Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in his practise, he taught me to detox the liver. Dr. Matsen said when the liver is too burdened by toxins, it simply gets clogged up. Think of it as the filter in your fish tank; cloudy water equals dirty blood.
Since Dr. Matsen was all the way in North Vancouver, I visited less and less frequently once I got better and instead started acupuncture at TCM clinics closer to my home in the Vancouver area. The very interesting thing is, Chinese medicine believes in foods that are inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Chicken turkey and lamb are inflammatory foods (AKA hot food) and are not recommended when there is skin disease. No wonder, the moment I incorporated more chicken and turkey as per my first naturopath, my skin got so angry.
Soon after, a good friend of mine had a baby. He was unfortunately covered with crusted eczema from head to toe. She confided in me and said she had tried everything and nothing was working. I said, “If you are willing to give this a try, simply alter your diet and see how he responds to your milk.” In 3 days, she called me up and said his eczema had gone down by 70%. I was over the moon. It was SO satisfying to see how one little tweak was already doing so much for him.
When I had my little one, he also suffered from eczema. I definitely avoided chicken right off the bat but didn’t realize it was chicken eggs that did it this time. According to Chinese medicine, chicken eggs introduce ‘wind’ to the body. It is what makes the skin itch, especially when there is already an onset of skin issues. As a new mom, it was very stressful to try to figure out what else might be causing his skin to be this way. Self blame, guilt, all those emotions certainly came up and guess what, it just led to more stress which is not great for our eczema.
We went another step further and that was to determine what his constitution is. You see, in Western diets, food is either good or bad from a nutritional level. In Chinese medicine, the food that affects you has to do with your constitution and, even with that, you can have it in moderation. To simplify, let’s view this as a scale. If your body tends ‘hot,’ then eating a lot of hot energy food will tip the scale too much on one side. In order to balance the scale, you would need to eat more cooling food. Geez, I thought that was simple and such a straightforward concept to grasp.
Now that we have hot food (energetically speaking) vs. cold food concept out of the way, I want to introduce another term called ‘dampness’. The easiest example for me when learning this term is to think of an overwatered plant. What will happen to it? Fungus, rot, etc...It simply needs better drainage.
In eczema patients, the more ‘damp-forming’ food you introduce before you drain the body, the more rotting, which translates to crusty eczema and if it gets worse weeping, oozing eczema would take place. To give you an idea of what I used to eat when I had weeping, oozing eczema, it was a lot of frozen smoothies first thing in the morning (to extinguish my digestive fire), which was not a smart move, and then I ate a lot of raw organic vegetables or very spicy food. I was practically living a very damp and hot lifestyle in food terms. Do you see why even when I was eating the best quality foods, it didn’t matter?
I have shared this story with many friends who are new parents and as soon as they eliminate these damp-forming foods, their kids' skin recovers quite rapidly. I feel if I could only spread this personal experience of mine, perhaps it could also help you. Here are some of the damp-forming foods that can affect you.
- Peanut butter (I would avoid other forms of nut butter for a while as they are simply too heavy to have on a daily basis)
- Wheat / Gluten (you can try Barley bread from European Bakery if you are from Vancouver). Also, if possible eat your bread fresh and not toasted as toasting bread adds inflammation to the body.
- Chicken eggs (instead try Farmed Duck Eggs because this is cooling and will not cause itchiness)
- Dairy products
- Sugar (too much maple syrup or honey will also contribute to dampness)
- Fried food
- Overconsumption of sweet potatoes and avocadoes
- Mangoes, dates, nuts
Some remedies to balance out dampness are to try these:
- Dandelion tea
- Licorice tea
- Peppermint tea
- Have some seaweed
- Adzuki beans
- Daikon and radishes
- Watercress and bok choy
- Mung beans and lentils
Of course, alternative bath products and skincare are important. The one I have used successfully on myself as well as on my little one is this Seaweed Body Wash, in the unscented version, for his body and hair. Seaweed is a very simple ingredient that cools and soothes the body plus drains any excess dampness. I went with an unscented option because I wanted to narrow down the possibility of further skin reactions. My baby and I couldn’t even use lavender when our skin was reactive. It being topical is important, just like you have to water your plant; if the soil is not healthy, in this case your gut, it comes out on the skin for those who are predisposed with skin disorders. That said, please be mindful in selecting your body products because the last thing you need to do is to further burden your skin and organs.
I found most baby products that are almond oil based were giving him cradle cap. Care to guess why? Too greasy/heavy = dampness.
You might wonder, how do you live during the worst stage of your eczema? Let me tell you, I was super disciplined. I started cooking one pot meals, eliminated my raw diet lifestyle, and used cooling spices like turmeric, coriander, cardamom and salt to flavour my food. I ate lots of rice and alkalizing veggies. I added fish and pork back in my diet and, by the way, in TCM pork is moisturizing and cooling so that’s a winner for me.
I can tell you, it was the only time I was making time for myself. It was then that I started doing a lot of inner work and looking within. I asked, Why is this happening? It is literally erupting out of my skin. Was it pent up emotion? Stress? Was I overworked?
Tested Makeup for Eczema
Then, the ultimate test came...you know that my principle is if I won’t use it, I won’t make it or recommend it? I dared myself to try my own makeup brand during my most eczematous stage. This was also the most immunocompromised stage of my life. I needed to know if my eyeliner, brow liner, or mascara would be okay or would I flare out even more? I was in awe when I tried my own products because there was no burning or itching. Literally, everything stung, burned or created further inflammation.
Natural Makeup to Help Keep You Healthier
I remember thanking the universe for this and I recalled the time when I was 12 andI said to my grandmother, “It is so important for me to create something good for my future customers because it is not right for companies to just make whatever and not care how it affects other people.” This was my intention all along.
During the product conception stage, I asked myself what would I absolutely not put into my makeup and why am I making these products? Why is it important that it will not affect someone’s hormones or further suppress their immune system?
I want to thank you for supporting my cause since 2008.
Remember, as much as our first instinct is to seek out the next miracle topical product when the skin is acting up, I find that it is so much more effective to alter the diet during. I hope my story and personal experiences will be able to help those who have been struggling to find a solution for their eczema.
Take good care!
I have to add a disclosure that I am not a medical doctor nor was I trained or licensed to give any medical advice. This is what I have personally learned from my own mistakes and hopefully it can also help you. This is by no means to replace the advice of your medical doctors or practitioners.