When my son Evan was born he had the typical issues such as a bit of reflux and cradle cap – not terribly uncommon for infants to have this.
As the weeks passed it became evident that he had some more serious issues since he would throw up my breast milk (the little milk I was producing – see my post about breastfeeding here). Because I was having such a hard time breastfeeding I had to supplement with formula a lot. You can imagine as a nutritionist the thoughts that were going through my head about this…but he had to eat, and since my milk wasn’t enough I had to do what was available to me.
Months passed and Evan’s skin and digestion got worse and worse. He had started to develop pretty serious eczema rashes all over his body and would cry and writhe in pain because of his digestion. It was so hard to watch. I took him to his medical doctor who just kept saying for me to continue with formula but to switch to the even worse Nutramigen – which is basically GMO’s in a bottle. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. (Plus it tasted like shit so he wouldn’t drink it anyway).
So I started to make my own formula using powdered organic goat’s milk, maple syrup and coconut oil. After a few weeks on the homemade formula his skin still had not changed, and I got scared that what I was giving him wasn’t enough nutrients, that commercial formula was scientifically studied for its nutritional balance for babies and so was the better choice…(brainwashed much???).
At this point I was waiting for an appointment with a dermatologist at the hospital and had decided to see a naturopathic doctor about what was going on. It was obvious it was his gut and immune system, but at that point it was beyond my scope and since I’m mom I was way too close to the situation.
Evan’s ND took a good look and agreed it was digestion and immune system and so we started him on some fish oil, and I continued with the probiotics he had been on since birth, just a different brand to make sure he was getting efficient strains of bacteria. We also tried topical things such as calendula infused olive oil for his bath (I made this at home). And I started making my own tallow balm after a friend of mine dropped off some of hers to me.
So there I was, in my kitchen, rendering tallow, making it into a balm for my baby, infusing calendula into olive oil and creating a bunch of other stuff to help this little guy along. By this point he was eating solids and it became super evident he had some allergies. He would immediately throw up upon eating eggs, citrus made him break out like crazy and so on.
So for the next several months we plugged along, trying different supplements to modulate his immune system and tested him for food intolerances. After he turned 1 I took him off the formula immediately and switched him to goats milk. He was still reacting. So I switched him to almond milk. He was still reacting…the allergy tests came back and whoah – he was OFF THE CHARTS for almonds. Like 10 out of 5. Crazy. So immediately I took him off almond milk.
I had no fucking clue what to do at this point…then I started making pumpkin seed milk. Pumpkins are high in zinc so I thought that would help his skin. He started to flare up less and less now that the allergen had been removed, but his skin was still crazy inflamed. Once my ND saw all the allergies he had the first thing she said to me was: we have to heal his gut.
DUH. Like OF COURSE. Why didn’t I think of that? I felt so terrible for letting him go for so long and not doing the very thing that I knew and had been trained would work for him. Like I said before – I’m mom so was way too close to the situation.
A gut protocol for a little baby looks a little different than for adults, not heavy on the anti-fungals except for coconut oil. Once again switched up his probiotics, added in L-Glutamine, and quercetin. Avoided the foods that we knew would trigger him to allow his system to calm down and hope for the best.
At this point I had my appointment with the dermatologist in the hospital. She took a quick look at his skin and wanted to test him for bacteria on the surface of the skin and put him on an antibiotic (to which I silently thought um. no.). We walked out with a diagnosis of nummular eczema and a filaggrin deficiency. When I researched nummular it turns out it’s common in males aged 55-75. Huh. Weird. So I walked out with a diagnosis and a prescription for corticosteroid cream.
To help calm his skin down and promote healing I did use the steroid cream only on the patches. I did a combined approach of holistic and medical care. The steroid definitely helped reduce the inflammation…but of course did not get rid of the ROOT CAUSE of eczema.
And this is where most people who aren’t exposed or aware of natural cures stop. In fact, I know that if I followed the medical model my son would have been on a GERD medication (stomach acid blocker), antibiotics and rigorous application of steroid creams. All of that would just make things worse. Send the dis-ease deeper inside instead of helping fix it. Thankfully I knew better.
After a couple weeks the massive flaring had gone down drastically. His back was no longer resembling a cat scratch post, his face had calmed down, and overall his demeanor had settled down. The inflammation was getting under control.
He was still flaring up. His skin would clear, then flame, clear then flame. I knew something was still not working for this child. I added in bone broth/collagen to his gut health regime and had tried nearly every eczema cream on the market to give him some relief. At this point his hands were in bad shape and he still had an aggressive patch on his left ankle.
We had a second follow up appointment with the dermatologist at the hospital. 1.5 hours of waiting, to have the fucking doctor not even look at me in the eye or LOOK AT EVAN’S SKIN. Seriously. It’s a dermatologist and he didn’t look at his skin. So I bullied my way into his face and told him that Evan was improving and that I started a gut health protocol with him. It was at that point he looked at me and shocked me by saying “Yeah, there is a lot of reserach substantiating the valididty of working on gut health”. I was floored. But he still didn’t say anything else except – keep doing what you’re doing.
Buh bye. If I had paid out of pocket for that visit I would have been super fucking pissed.
At this point someone had referred me to an ND who specializes in dermatology so I thought I’d take Evan to see her and get a different view point on what else can be done for his skin.
She told me to continue the gut work, but now we are adding in Vitamin D – both internally and topically, changing his probiotic from a wide-spectrum to scaccromycies boulardii – apparently this particular strain has been shown to be effective for mixed children of asian/american descent (dad is Chinese, I am Canadian), and a few other new supplements in the mix. I took care of the nutrition side of things which included putting him back on foods like dairy and gluten so that he didn’t develop intolerances to those things down the road. Yes. You read that correctly.
Evan is now just over 2 years old and his eczema is nearly completely gone. I can see his hands now, the patch on his ankle is nearly gone, his flareups are far and few between and he is now able to fully tolerate eggs.
I am so grateful for my education in holistic health and for my naturopathic doctors. Without their help and the knowledge I have, and the extremely important gut work, we would have ended up in what I call the antibiotic rotation for years, never getting relief. I’ve seen this so many times with my friends’ kids, and with other holistic practitioners I know of, like my friend Abby, who had a similar start in life as Evan but whose mom followed the medical model. You can learn more about her story on her site – it’s quite remarkable.
It is from this experience that I really started to dig deep and learn as much as I can about gut health. I use it now on all my clients even if they seemingly have no complaints in that area. The results speak for themselves, and it is a health model I will continue to use forevermore in my practice.
I’d love to hear about your journey with skin issues – comment below, and if you’d like to speak to me about how I can help you please click here.
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