Our Eczema Story, Part 2: How We Healed Our Eczema
If you haven’t already, you can read Part 1 of Our Eczema Story here.
Otherwise, pour yourself a cup of tea and join me right here in the middle of
So, where were we?
Oh yes, I remember.
Three tiny kids absolutely covered in itchy, painful, hideous eczema.
Bloody sheets and pajamas every night.
Just ditched the steroid cream (which caused the eczema to flare absolutely out of control – Source).
And another baby soon on the way.
I believe that’s right where we left off, no?
These were dark days for our family. Even our parents and grandparents were becoming rightfully concerned for our kids.
What do you mean you’re not going to use the medicine the doctor prescribed for that poor, hurting child???
I was constantly battling anxiety over the well-being of my children, anxiety over how those I loved viewed my parenting, anxiety over the fact that I really had no idea what I was doing and could see no way out.
Anyway, I was suffering a great deal of anxiety. Have you been in a place like that yourself? Exhausting.
So I did the only thing I could do. I prayed for mercy from heaven and threw myself into research. And the more I read, the more certain I became that the severe eczema we were dealing with was caused by food.
I was absolutely sure.
I was pretty sure.
Okay, I was like 89% sure.
It just HAD to be the food!
Yet, I had no proof. I had tried several elimination diets, but they always ended in total frustration.
Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS)
Then one day, I happened across something called the GAPS diet.
GAPS is a healing protocol that has been used to successfully treat children and adults suffering from neurological and psychiatric conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD/ADD, OCD, schizophrenia, dyslexia, and depression, as well as, gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS, Crohn’s, leaky-gut, and even food sensitivities.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride suggests in her book Gut & Psychology Syndrome that these seemingly unrelated conditions overlap in a most unnerving way.
“Why are all these conditions related? What underlying problem are we missing in our children which makes them susceptible to asthma, eczema, allergies, dyspraxia, dyslexia, behavioural problems, ADHD, and autism in different combinations? Why, when they become teenagers, do many of these children fall prey to substance abuse? Why do many of these children grow up to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder and other psychological and psychiatric problems?
To answer these questions we have to look at one factor, which unites all these patients… This factor is the state of the digestive system. I have yet to meet a child with autism, ADHD/ADD, asthma, eczema, allergies, dyspraxia or dyslexia, who has not got digestive abnormalities… In fact, it appears that the child’s digestive system holds the key to the child’s mental development. The underlying disorder, which manifests itself in different children with different combinations of symptoms, resides in the gut!”
Now, at this point I didn’t know whether to despair over the fact that I was already beginning to observe many of these symptoms in my child – or sing for joy that I had happened upon this information while there was still time to turn it around.
McBride goes on throughout her book to describe in detail how the gut is designed to function, how it can become damaged and leaky (causing any number of the above disorders) and finally how it can be restored through an intensive diet, supplement, and detox protocol (GAPS).
I absolutely ABSORBED this book!
– while snuggled up on temporary bed rest for my 4th little, who was insisting on being born seven weeks early- (because when it rains, it pours you see)
Fyi, this book is not light reading. It’s a bit of a textbook, but is also completely worth the effort… and its weight in gold. MacBride does a spectacular job of explaining some very complex processes in a way even I could understand. I marked up the entire thing from beginning to end and finished it feeling like I could finally make sense of my child.
So… newly educated and determined, I set out to do this thing called “GAPS”, hoping with all my heart that we’d find healing as so many others had.
This diet is not for the faint at heart.
We purged the house of any and everything we had ever called “food” so that we could fill our refrigerator with bone broth and our pantry with squash.
I wiped out the entire selection of winter squashes at our local grocery store. You should have seen the look on the cashier’s face. She said, “Wow, are you planning to do some canning then, hun?”
We took a deep breath and with many hopes and prayers, we jumped into the GAPS Intro Diet.
Translation: we ate nothing but broth, squash, cabbage, boiled meat, eggs, and nuts for an entire month. A MONTH!
Want to know how it turned out?
It was a complete and total failure.
Not even joking. I could cry just thinking about it.
It should have worked!!!
But it didn’t even help. Not one, tiny bit. (I now know why and in about 2 paragraphs I’ll fill you in.)
The Crazy Cycle of Failed Elimination Diets and Home Remedies
For months we continued to try eliminating different foods.
I’m telling you what. We were gluten-free. We were dairy-free. We were gluten and dairy-free. We tried eliminating eggs. We tried everything!
All the while, we were exhausting ourselves with the most ridiculous nightly routine:
First, baths –
Oatmeal baths or baking soda baths, vinegar baths or salt baths, nettle or chamomile baths. Absolutely any and every kind of bath.
Followed by – okay this part was rather amusing but oh so tiring –
We’d put down some towels on the floor in front of the TV, then slather eight poor little legs with honey, or aloe, or olive oil, or green salve, or witch hazel, or lard. (I’m not even kidding, we smeared our children with lard!) while they watched Curious George and complained that it was too cold, too sticky, or made their legs sting. We’d let it sit until we couldn’t stand the complaining a second longer, then wash it all off before bed.
Need I tell you that by this point our friends and family thought we had completely lost our minds?
And then one day we finally got our hands on a food sensitivity test. PRAISE THE LORD!
If I had only known that this was the missing piece of my puzzle! Oh, if I had only known!
Our blood test came back with 30+ food sensitivities per child! There was a lot of overlap between the kids, but not completely. I stood in my kitchen that afternoon staring at the lab report telling me that there were now approximately FIFTY foods we had to avoid from all food groups!
No grains, no dairy, no soy, no peas, no nuts, no fish, no honey, no garlic, no spices… You get the idea.
I’m just. I can’t even. I nearly had a panic attack. I decided we’d never, ever eat again. I cried.
We’d been on countless diets. Self-deprivation was becoming like an unwanted, yet familiar friend.
THIS was too much!
Fortunately, the Lord has blessed me with a kind, task-oriented, awesome-under-pressure husband. He reassured me that this actually wasn’t the complete and total end of the world. He gave me a hug and a spreadsheet mapping out exactly which foods all four kids could eat and talked me through how I could combine those foods to keep us all alive… for awhile. (ex: unseasoned ground pork + squash + kale = dinner) He even vowed to eat whatever I came up with!
And by the grace of God, we ate only these foods for a month.
And this time the eczema COMPLETELY DISAPPEARED! All of it. We hadn’t seen the skin on the back of our little girl’s legs in almost 5 years! Just under four weeks of avoiding the inflammatory foods and her skin was completely healed. Praise the Lord O my soul!
There was just one problem.
We were so, very hungry! Did I mention that we were avoiding approximately 50 foods!? While I was thrilled to have finally stopped the eczema, I was simultaneously terrified that we’d never be able to eat again.
But you see, even though the GAPS diet had been a complete failure for us I had learned from MacBride’s book that the root cause was leaky gut and that it COULD be healed. It was the sliver of hope that I needed to press on. I knew it could be done. So we ate our squash for several more months as I continued to search.
Why GAPS didn’t work for us
If you haven’t guessed already, let me tell you why our attempt at GAPS (and every other elimination diet) failed so miserably. Our food sensitivity testing revealed that we had an enormous amount of sensitivities, many of them were to foods that you would never think to eliminate, like honey and garlic. Some of the most severe (walnuts and eggs, for example) were central foods on the GAPS Intro diet.
Now, consider that our eczema took a full month to clear. The GAPS intro diet suggests that after a few days of mostly broth and cabbage, other foods should be added slowly, one at a time, so as to watch for any reactions. This makes good sense, but unfortunately for us, that wouldn’t have been enough time to show an improvement, let alone be able to recognize a reaction to the added food. With 30+ foods causing inflammation at the same time, we never would have figured this out without food sensitivity testing.
I believe that GAPS could have been very beneficial for us IF we had done some testing prior to starting the diet. I would (in hindsight) never recommend that anyone put in the time and energy required for such an extreme diet without knowing up front what their specific food sensitivities are.
How to Find Food Sensitivity Testing
I wish I had known then that testing can easily be purchased online (for approximately $350/test depending on which test you choose) and blood can be drawn by a local phlebotomist. (This sounds scary, but it really isn’t at all complicated. The friendly people at Direct Labs will walk you through the process over the phone so that you know exactly what to do – more info at the end of this post.)
However, this was something I learned long after the fact.
For our testing we spent 14 months on a waitlist to get in with an integrative medicine doctor. Once we were finally in the door she ordered so many various tests and associated supplements that we were out thousands of dollars after just our first two visits. And that doesn’t even include the multitude of other specialists we paid to see in the meantime. All of whom refused to even acknowledge the existence of food sensitivities, let alone test for them.
If I could do it all over again, I’d skip the doctors and get the test myself online. We could have saved so much money, and time, and … squash.
Wait. Did I say, “If I could do it all over again?!”
Please Almighty God, don’t ever let that happen. Amen.
Don’t worry, are you thinking that this is the end of our story? Oh no! We didn’t stay hungry forever.
In fact, today my life is just packed with delicious food! You’ll find crusty sourdough bread and butter on our table often… and NO ECZEMA!
Join me for
How We Completely Reversed Our 30+ Food Sensitivities
to hear about how we made it to our happy homestead ending. 🙂
Here are some resources you may find helpful…
- Dr. Natasha MacBride’s Book Gut and Psychology Syndrome
- Food Sensitivity Testing through Direct Labs
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And as always friends, please remember that I’ve got kids sledding down the stairs on Costco boxes as I write to you…
So, if you think I’ve forgotten something important, have any questions or comments, or simply a bit of encouragement to share, please use the comments below, send me an email, or find us on Facebook.
I’d love to hear from you.