Let me be real. I have struggled with eczema my whole life and spent hundreds of dollars on creams and salves without fully understanding the underlying process. If you haven't heard already...eczema is tricky. It's a mix of an immune system and histamine/allergy response that doctors are still trying to figure out.
Most nights growing up I would go to bed feeling like a slug. I would use moisturizing scent free soap, colloidal oatmeal lotion, hydrocortisone, and vaseline or Aquaphor on my skin several times daily. The extreme seasonal changes used to cause the worst flare ups for me… which is ironic given that I currently live in North Carolina which has all four beautiful seasons. However, I also noticed flares in stressful mental environments such as exam periods in college and stressful physical environments such as three nights in a row of poor sleep. Which leads me to a list of the important things you should know if you or a loved one has eczema:
The exact cause is unknown
The psychological challenge (to itch or not to itch) makes the condition worse
The lipid barrier of the skin for those with eczema is thinner. The lipid barrier helps prevent loss of moisture so a thin one causes the skin to become dry quicker
Although, it is incurable you CAN in fact reduce the duration and degree of the flare up
8 Tips to Help Reduce the Duration and Degree of Flare Ups:
Apply skin moisturizing creams immediately after showering to maintain an intact skin barrier. Also apply your cream several times a day
Wear cotton, bamboo, or silk clothing clothing
Avoid wool or synthetic fabrics, alcohol-containing skin care products, and cosmetics & fragrances
Use a hypoallergenic or natural laundry detergent
Wash new clothes before wearing them to rid of formaldehyde
Take a shower with a fragrance-free cleanser after sweating, using the pool, or hot tub.
Take room temperature or cold showers and avoid long hot baths
Avoid the following foods: dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, corn, sugar, citrus, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, peanuts, shellfish, chocolate, and refined grains (white flour and pasta)
There are several foods correlated with eczema flares but research shows that these triggers may be different for everyone.The best way to figure out what your food triggers may be is to do an elimination diet. If you’re going to do it, do it right. Give it your all so you don’t have to do it all over again. How do I do an elimination diet?
Plan: Make a list of the most common eczema triggers you are going to avoid: dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, corn, sugar, citrus, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, peanuts, chocolate
Avoid: Strictly avoid your chosen foods for 2 weeks. No cheating! Plan your meals during this time and minimize eating out to have full control of your elimination.
Challenge: If your symptoms have not improved during the elimination step, talk with your health practitioner about other options. If your symptoms have improved, start the challenge! Use the print outs below to track your reintroduction. You will add a new food group every 3 days. On the first day of challenging a new food group, start with a small amount of the food in the morning. If you don't notice any symptoms, eat two larger portions in the afternoon and evening. After day 1, remove it from your diet again and wait two days to see if you notice symptoms. If the food does not cause symptoms, you can add it back into your diet AFTER you have reintroduced all of the foods (utilize our attached PDF to track your symptoms).
Long Term Diet: Once all foods have been challenged, begin meal planning accordingly.
Here are some of our favorite recipes for the avoidance phase: Breakfast Options: 1) Stovetop heat 1/2 cup of rolled oatmeal with 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of non-dairy milk, 1/4 cup of blueberries, and 1/2 a banana. 2) 2 pieces of turkey bacon with 1 sweet potato and steamed kale (season with an array of spices) 3) Smoothie: Blend together 1 banana, 1/4 cup of blueberries, 1 handful of frozen kale, 1 cup of non-dairy milk, 1 cup of water, 1 TBSP of flaxseed 4) 2 Rice cakes with 1 TBSP of natural nut butters each, 1/2 a banana sliced on each, and sprinkled with whole flaxseeds and cinnamon
Lunch and Dinner Options: 1) 1 cup of quinoa with your choice of protein (1 fist-size full of grilled chicken, legumes, or fatty fish), one handful of steamed kale or broccoli 2) 1 bowl of lettuce with your choice of protein (1 fist-size full of grilled chicken, legumes, or fatty fish), 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil, 1tsp balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper 3) 1 sweet potato with your choice of protein (1 fist-size full of grilled chicken, legumes, or fatty fish), one handful of steamed kale or broccoli Until next time, Haley Haberman B.S. HSMT
References: 1. Hegde, P., Hemanth, D. T., Emmi, S. V., Shilpa, M. P., Shindhe, P. S., & Santosh, Y. M. (2010, October). A case discussion on eczema. International journal of Ayurveda research. Retrieved June 14, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3059451/ 2. Thomsen, S. F. (2014, April 2). Atopic dermatitis: Natural history, diagnosis, and treatment. ISRN Allergy. Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2014/354250/ Disclaimer: This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.