While it has been well over 2 years since my son’s recovery from eczema, the emotional turmoil and angst that I experienced as a mother witnessing my child suffer, is still quite raw. While I rarely think of this experience in our current day to day lives, every once in a while noticing him scratch an itch near the area that he used to have eczema. I find myself catching my breath and asking him with great trepidation, “is that just a normal itch”?
Now if you’ve never had a child with eczema or some other itchy skin disorder, you might question this to be an extreme inner response to an itch, but if you or someone close to you, has ever been afflicted with this condition, well then you most likely know what I am talking about, especially when it comes to our precious babies! There were so many nights of endless scratching while I prayed to god that I could please “bare this cup” for him. I felt helpless to offer relief, and on edge with anxiety, fearing that it might become worse.
Let me give you some back round. Being a nutritionist, I understood the etiology of this allergic condition and the path to healing it, at least the one that I was trained in. Yet, even with my knowledge, profound trust in nature and through my own personal experience of self-healing, I found it very difficult to think clearly or take any action at all. Something about him being a child, and myself being his mother, intertwined us so deeply that every action that I knew I needed to take, seemed depriving and daunting. Though I could clearly see that he was becoming intolerant to more and more foods, I was reluctant to start a food diary, to see which ones were currently, the culprits. The task seemed futile, because I knew that if the root cause was not addressed, we would unfortunately have to keep adding new items to the list of quarantined foods….until there were no more “safe” foods left to eat.
So in getting that, I wasn’t in the place where I could help “us”, I finally sought the services of some other practitioners in the natural health field and together, we got as far as taking “the edge off” through probiotic pills, EFA’s and digestive enzymes, plus avoiding the foods that he was intolerant to (we used the biomeridian stress assessment test, to determine and very accurately I might add, which foods were aggravating the condition). The fact that we were moving towards improvement, also took the edge off my anxiety long enough to realize that while these results were good, at least 60% improvement, I knew that this was not true healing, it was just avoiding the current allergic triggers. If he was really healed, then he should be able to eat like everyone else again, right?
Inside I knew this to be the truth and ignored the naturopath’s suspicion that my son had celiac’s disease (which by the way, was a suggestion that made me cry for hours, envisioning a future where my son would feel deprived watching others eat what he could not, and longed for). Even though we were working with alternative healing practitioners, more often than not, I admit that I didn’t feel like we were held as whole beings, but rather as fragmented parts of a story called eczema. There was, for my taste anyway, too much professionalism which translated into distance and efficiency. From my end, it felt like we were being shuffled through a “natural health conveyor belt”, even though I’m sure these practitioners had the best of intentions. This is why I agree with Susun Weed that compassion and authentic relating from a place of equality, on the part of the so-called healer, is such an essential part of the healing process. I longed for a wise woman, someone to hold my hand, look me squarely in the eyes, mother to mother, and say “trust yourself”. I never went back after that last appointment, and resolved to do what I knew we needed to do in my heart all along.
Since we were about to be moving to another province, we had a week long road trip ahead of us that would involve a lot of “eating out”, and therefore a lot of wheat and many other irritating foods such as tomatoes and dairy. It became “do it now” or find another path all together. So this is what we did. For three weeks, my son and I went off all disaccharides (double sugar molecules). Meaning we could eat nothing but fruits and vegetables (but no root vegetables), a predigested fiber/protein/carbohydrate mix, plus 1 tbsp of olive oil a day and water (no spices). No supplements, no grains, no dairy etc. This is commonly referred to as the “leaky gut diet” and is the most common method to heal eczema and food intolerances… plus many other health challenges that few understand actually have their roots in a “leaky gut”.
This is the simplest way I know to define “leaky gut”: An overgrowth of Candida yeast in the intestinal tract which can lead to the yeast “burrowing” into the intestines and thereby creating holes that allow undigested food particles to enter the blood stream. Since these food particles are not meant to be in the bloodstream, the body launches an allergic response causing inflammation in the area that these foreign particles settle. Usually this happens where that person may have a constitutional propensity toward weakness. For example, if my son had been constitutionally weaker in the lung area, he may have gotten asthma instead of eczema. In some cases, both areas and other parts of the body are affected with inflammation too.
So we ate like this for 2 and half weeks (I stopped it earlier than I had intended, because he was so greatly improved, but had lost considerable weight which caused me concern). At that point, he was 90% better, and continued after that, to improve until he was completely free of eczema a month later (even though we ate very poorly for the week of our road trip, lots of grilled cheese sandwiches, ketchup and French fries)! The leaky gut diet had taken the load off his intestinal tract and his vital healing forces had kicked into high gear- since they were no longer being assaulted (it only takes three days for healthy intestinal lining to regenerate and heal, so I wasn’t surprised that he healed so fast, especially being a child).
When we finally arrived in Vancouver, our destination, we put our son on a month of colloidal silver hydrosol, grapefruit seed extract, a living whole foods brand of probiotics and digestive enzymes to address the underlying condition of Candida. And that was it, he has been free of eczema ever since, and he can now eat all the foods that once caused his skin to inflame and drove his mother to tears!
So why does the son of a holistic nutritionist have Candida in the first place. That is a soft spot for me and probably one of the contributing factors to my inability to take action in the beginning. In a sense, I felt a sense of futility. I wondered how I could so-called be doing “everything right”, yet still face such a considerable health challenge in my own family?
I knew why my son was struggling with intestinal flora imbalance (allowing Candida to proliferate) since at four months of age he had been on antibiotics for 1 week, due to an infection caused by an inguinal hernia surgery. So while I got that it was due to circumstances beyond my conscious control, that he did not get the best start on balanced intestinal flora-on some level though, I still felt that I should have done more earlier, to compensate for the assault on his inner ecosystem (micro flora balance).
Yet in my heart I know that I did the best that I could, with the knowledge that I had at the time. For example, I chose to exclusively breastfeed until he was one year of age, which gave his digestive tract much more time than most babies, to mature before being introduced to solid food. Then again, I don’t think I made the best choice of not slowly introducing solid foods.
When I did finally start feeding him solids, I just gave him what ever I myself was eating (which at the time was a grain heavy vegetarian diet).In hindsight, this choice may have reduced the benefits of longer term exclusive breastfeeding, in regards to his digestion.
I should have also had him on probiotics for at least 6 months after the bout of antibiotics, but at the time, I didn’t know that it took that long to re-establish microbial balance.
Along the way, I had also been fortunate to study with a teacher who is very knowledgeable in nutrition from the Chinese medical perspective. Not only did she emphasize the benefit of traditional diets and traditional food prep methods for digestive capacity, but she also turned me onto the wisdom of the “energy of foods”. This knowledge helped me to understand why, when we first started my son on the leaky gut diet, certain foods that were permissible such as the seemingly benign mango, would in fact trigger inflammation, when it had otherwise been calming and receding. I didn’t have the resources at the time to determine why this was so, but in my further training I found that it wasn’t such a mystery, but that certain foods have a heating quality which further exacerbates heated or inflammatory conditions such as eczema.
Through continuing study, I discovered that a lot of the foods that are typically promoted as being healthy and recommended for everyone, are not necessarily beneficial for young children whose digestive systems are still developing and adjusting. Nor are they helpful for people with weak digestion due to illness or those who have a weaker digestive constitution. I also became enlightened to the fact that sometimes the harsh cleansing and sometimes irritating nature of these so called health foods, had properties that could be neutralized by preparing them the way that our ancestors once did; there by increasing not only their digestibility, but also our ability to obtain nourishment from them.
And then there are probiotic foods, something I didn’t even discover for our family until many years after my son overcame eczema.
It makes such perfect sense to me now, why my organic, whole foods vegetarian diet was not the perfect one for my child, even though it brought me into a greater state of health. It also explains why many very health conscious people, who eat the most seemingly wholesome diets can still be deficient in nutrients and suffer from deficiencies and other health imbalances. We are not what we eat, but rather what we can digest and assimilate.
So if I could do it all over again, this is how I would feed young children to encourage optimum health. I would exclusively breastfeed for one year and then gradually introduce foods as is commonly done, one food at a time. I would prepare simple foods made with traditional food prep methods to neutralize anti-nutrients. I would avoid wheat, not because it is inherently allergy promoting, but because these days, not only is it hybridized, not traditional prepared (soaked), but also because it usually contains baker’s yeast (common allergen). Many question (myself included) whether we can evolve fast enough to tolerate these new forms of wheat and bread making. It seems that people with poor immune function are especially prone to food intolerances and gluten is high on the list of allergenic foods. I don’t want my own children to be part of the experiment of an industry barely 100 years old, and for this reason our family has chosen to forgo wheat and baker’s yeast.
Instead, in our home we use good simple, affordable and accessible wild yeast fermentation to culture our spelt flour and make easy and delicious sourdough bread at home. When we want convenience, we use organic sprouted flour- free bread.
While we are particular in our food choices, I don’t make an issue of it outside the home. We rarely limit ourselves when we are guests at someone else’s table, or at a restaurant. I do my best to not let our conscious food choices get between enjoying the good company of others while sharing a meal together.
Finally, I want to also acknowledge that while this path of healing worked in my son’s case, that there are many other modalities such as homeopathy and Traditional Chinese Medicine which have very valid and effective approaches to eczema. So if you or anyone you know is struggling with eczema, please understand that eczema is a symptom of an underlying imbalance that can be addressed through natural means and that true healing is done from the inside out. While anti inflammatory creams are tempting, one must take caution, as they are also a suppressive therapy (which can cause the disease to be repressed and settle deeper, thus making the healing process more challenging and causing further degeneration). This is true whether the therapy is natural (made with natural ingredients) or conventional. It is best to nourish health, not repress symptoms.
To clarify, I am not saying that we should never use a topical therapy. I know that sometimes we just need to get our head above water; but if you do resort to anti inflammatory creams, just use them to take the edge off in the short term, while you are looking for ways to nourish true healing. We did try some herbal topical ointments, but most resulted in a lot of screaming and running to the bath!
Eczema can also be the symptom of a much deeper issue (as all health challenges are) and we must also consider it’s emotional counterpart (lack of confidence or inner balance, anxiety and uncertainty). How can we nurture our child into greater wholeness through our unconditional love and support?
For deep healing and transformation in health, we must seek the assistance of a practitioner who can truly hold, and witness our journey, so that we can let go and trust our process and inner wisdom. Find someone who you resonate with at the soul level to guide you, as you embrace the gift of greater wholeness- your gift for journeying the sacred healing path.
Want to learn more about healing food sensitivities and the leaky gut diet that I used to heal my son? Sign up for my COMPLIMENTARY recorded teleseminar where I share more about our story and tell you exactly how we did it.
Wise Women Herbal-Healing Wise by Susun Weed
“Beyond Breast milk -Starting Solids, Delaying Solids, What Does Breast milk Lack”? By Dr. Linda Palmer http://www.babyreference.com/BEYONDBREASTMILK.html
Allergies-Disease in Disguise- How to Heal Your Allergic Condition permanently and naturally, by Carolee Bateson-Koch DC ND
One’s Food Is Another’s Poison, by David W. Rowland
Your Body’s Telling You: Love Yourself! by Lise Bourbeau