Last week we jump-started our health by getting toxins and triggers off of our skin and out of our homes.
How did you do?
Did you find any surprises in your body care or housekeeping products? Did you dig in and make some changes?
The changes we’ll make throughout this series will help rid your life of toxins and irritants. And that’s good for more than just eczema, so keep at it.
And if you haven’t started yet, no problem. No one is judging you. Just jump in when you feel ready. The changes you see and feel will inspire you to keep at it for the long haul.
This week’s step is a big one. “Big” because of the positive impact you will experience when you commit to it, and “big” becasue of the mindful choice you must make to change your diet.
It’s worth acknowledging that for most of us changing what we eat is far more challenging than changing what we clean with. I applaud you for even considering this next important step!
Know that if you do embark on Step 2, you can expect results.
The disappearance of my daughters eczema above happened by following the protocol outlined below. (We had already done all of Step 1 and most of Steps 3, 4, and 5.) The photo on the left was taken in fall, the one on the right this spring. (Yes, she is missing a different front tooth in each picture!)
Just by changing what we eat her visible symptoms of eczema disappeared. Completely.
If you only take on piece of this protocol seriously, let this be the one.
While every step will yield positive results, this – in my opinion – is the one that yields the greatest impact in the short term. And seeing that impact might just inspire you to jump in on the other (important) steps as well.
Are you ready? Let’s get to it.
Please Note: the information provide here is not intended to replace professional medical advice and care. It is simply my perspective for you to consider as you go about making good choices for your family’s health. Seek the support and care of a naturopathic or western physician, and listen to your own wisdom. Be well!
Step 2. Remove eczema triggers from your diet.
Food is one of the biggest triggers of eczema. Often our choice of food is a leading cause of our skin issues. Many of you will be amazed by the results you see from simply removing your trigger foods.
But how do you know what your trigger foods are?
There are three common ways to determine what foods your body is reacting to.
1. Allergy Test
With a visit to an allergist, you could be tested for triggers through allergy skin tests.
Benefits: Usually accurate. Learn what triggers you have in one visit.
Drawbacks: Can occasionally be inaccurate (may miss triggers that you have not been exposed to for several days or weeks). Uncomfortable. Expensive if not covered by insurance.
2. Applied Kinesiology
By visiting a naturopathic physician or other doctor trained in applied kinesiology (also called “muscle testing”) you can also test for triggers. If you are curious about this method you can learn more here.
Benefits: Painless, fast, and usually accurate.
Drawbacks: Can occasionally be inaccurate (may miss triggers that you have not been exposed to for several days or weeks). Expensive if not covered by insurance.
3. Elimination Diet
By avoiding likely trigger foods for 3 – 4 weeks, you can determine if they are causing a reaction in your body. You can read more about the what and why of elimination diets here.
Benefits: Painless. Accurate. Free.
Drawbacks: Requires commitment to avoid trigger foods for one month. Requires you to stop eating foods that you may enjoy until you determine what your trigger is. Might miss a trigger food if you do not eliminate it.
As for what we have done, our family has never been tested by a western allergy doctor. Instead we have chosen both applied kinesiology and elimination diets to determine trigger foods for a variety of struggles ranging from neurological and behavioral issues to childhood tooth decay and eczema.
The results to these two strategies for us have been nothing short of amazing. Plus we love that these techniques are painless, non-invasive, and – in the case of the elimination diet – free.
I am going to focus on the elimination diet here as it is a simple, free way for anyone to determine what foods are causing them trouble. Of course if you prefer you could use the other choices above as well.
Eczema Elimination Diet
What foods should I eliminate?
The most common eczema trigger foods are wheat (gluten), dairy, and eggs.
For the sake of simplicity we’ll start there.
Corn, soy, peanuts, shellfish, and tree nuts are also possible triggers, along with any foods you find yourself craving like crazy, or anything you feel funky after eating. Edited to add: citrus can also be a trigger for some. But for now let’s just focus on the big three.
Note: If you are breastfeeding your baby or child with eczema, you will do the elimination diet for or with them. What you eat ends up in your breastmilk, so be diligent with your own diet during an elimination diet for your child.
Elimination Diet How-to:
1. Remove the common trigger foods from your diet for 4 weeks.
You could do as little as two weeks and as many as eight, but I find four is a good place to start.
I suggest you begin with eliminating just wheat/gluten, dairy, and eggs. Don’t cheat. If you do, consider adding more time to your elimination as our goal is to clear the effect of that food completely from your system. If you do cheat, don’t beat yourself up. It happens. You are human.
If you buy any packaged foods you need to read those labels again! Dairy, eggs, and wheat are hiding in all sorts of packaged foods. Including some that you wouldn’t suspect.
When eating out, let your server know that you are dairy-, gluten-, and egg-free. They can probably guide you to appropriate selections.
2. Observe your body for a change in symptoms.
When my daughter had eczema her symptoms began to clear up after less than a week without eggs. For other people it takes longer. Be patient, and let your body reveal what is troubling you.
If your symptoms are reduced or disappear during your elimination diet, you’ll know you found a trigger food. (Some people see a small spike in their symptoms as their body detoxes from their trigger food. A small spike is okay. A massive spike is a good time to reconnect with your naturopath or physician.)
3. After four weeks you can begin reintroducing the foods you have eliminated.
Choose just one food to bring back first. Have a small serving of the foods, and watch for a return in symptoms. Continue to add this food to your diet over the coming days.
If you see no return in symptoms in the first two weeks of reintroducing that food, it is unlikely that that food was an issue.
4. Repeat the process with each eliminated food.
Remember, introduce them one-by-one over a minimum of two weeks per food so that you can monitor how your body responds.
5. At any point of your eczema returns, stop eating the food you were reintroducing.
If when removing the trigger food again your eczema stops, then you have found a trigger. This food should be avoided in your diet.
What about school?
To make this easier with school children, communicate with their teacher or with a school administrator. Tell them you suspect a food sensitivity and need to insure they are not given any snacks that contain dairy, wheat, or eggs.
What if nothing comes up?
If you diligently eliminate eggs, wheat, and dairy from your diet for a month and see no changes, then there is likely another food contributing to your issues. Do another elimination diet cutting soy, corn, peanuts, shellfish, and tree nuts. (Or a smaller collection of these foods.)
And listen to your body.
There are plenty of people in the world who are sensitive to pork or coconut or nightshades or fill-in-the-blank-here. Is there something you or your child really craves? That might be a food to consider eliminating.
If you are trying the elimination diet and are striking out on all counts, consider applied kenisiology or an allergy test.
Take it to the next level for good health.
Before or after your elimination diet, clean up what you eat. Cut the following toxins for all-around better health. (And yes, probably less eczema, among other woes.)
Artificial colors and flavors
Go natural! If you don’t know what an ingredient it, please don’t eat it.
Technicolor treats and foods flavored with synthetics should be replaced with their natural counter-parts. You don’t need a perfect, healthful diet to eliminate artificial flavors and colors.
Read. Every. Label.
Some families find that challenging behaviors lessen when they remove these unnatural ingredients from their child’s diet. Our bodies crave real food – not synthetics.
When you are ready for the next phase of healing, begin to remove processed foods. If it doesn’t look like what grew in the garden, it might be processed. Get as close to the source as you can.
Most meals at our house consist of meat and a few vegetable options. Dinner last night was local chicken, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed cauliflower, and sauteed kale. Yum. And healthy.
And when children are offered real and healthy food at every meal, their tastes will adjust. They will grow to love the healthy food you offer.
As I said last week, this process isn’t going to happen in a day. Take your time and forgive yourself when you slip.
Learning a new way to eat can be tricky. I’ve put together a Pinterest board just for you of dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, wheat-free, corn-free, soy-free treats. That page is here. And it’s awesome.
Feel free to leave a comment here if you have a favorite recipe to share. I’ll add it to Pinterest if you link to the source.
You can also search for recipes or cookbooks that are paleo, grain-free, or gluten-free vegan. (You’ll need to choose egg-free recipes from the paleo and grain-free sites, but they are out there.)
Another outstanding resource is Practical Paleo, the cookbook I keep raving about. The 30-day Autoimmune meal plan is a brilliant start for your elimination diet.
Other recipe-heavy favorites on the web include:
Last week I encouraged you to make your changes as slowly or as quickly as you wish. This is your journey. Change doesn’t need to be painful, so relax. You’re going to feel great.
There will be days that you are craving a food that you’ve eliminated, but you’ll get through it.
And when you come out on the other side, feeling fantastic, you’ll be so glad you did.
Find the whole series through the links below.
Step 1 – Remove environmental triggers
25 thoughts on “Heal eczema naturally. Step 2.”
Thank you so much for these posts, my daughters eczema flared up again recently and after some investigating we found that she was using a pretty nasty concoction of chemicals posing as bubble bath at the grandparents house.
Also, the link to the free from recipes on Pinterest doesn’t seem to be working x
Thanks for telling me about the link, Jo. Ive fixed it now. http://pinterest.com/lusamama/egg-free-dairy-free-wheat-free/
Thanks, Jo! I fixed that link. It should go here – http://pinterest.com/lusamama/egg-free-dairy-free-wheat-free/
Lots to think about Rachel! I have been reading about the paleo diet but as someone who was vegetarian / vegan for more than 20 years (not either anymore but low meat eater), the paleo diet scares me a bit. Also, we just couldn’t afford to eat meat at every meal (I only buy organic meat, when I do buy it). My son (who has eczema) loves meat though! Do you think it would be alright to start with one of the wheat / dairy / egg mix instead of all three? I realise it would take longer but my daughter is a picky eater but she will eat eggs and bread. And one last question – what about fermented dairy? Is that likely to trigger? I make my own yoghurt from organic milk and ferment it for at least 12 hours. Thanks again – I appreciate this topic so much!
I have most of a decade as a vegetarian in my history, so I understand your hesitation. Paleo has been wonderfully healing for us but it isn’t the only solution. You can certainly do one potential trigger at a time. Bear in mind that you’ll need six weeks at least for each food that way (4 weeks without it, then two weeks as you bring it back). A slow journey, but still workable. As for fermented dairy, if you cut dairy you have to cut it all. You can reintroduce fermented dairy (24 hour yogurt) first, wait two to four weeks, then add unfermented dairy. Fermented it much easier to digest, so it might work when other dairy doesn’t.
Thank you for taking the time to respond, Rachel. I’m fairly sure that food triggers are the last step in our eczema journey but it’s so daunting (probably why I haven’t addressed it yet!). Your gentle support is invaluable.
It was citrus for my son. His eczema isn’t terrible, he doesn’t scratch it and its usually on his legs only, but it bothered me. He had been eating a lot of citrus and when I cut it out, the eczema went away. Our doctor (dermatologist and pediatrician) said that citrus can be a large trigger in smaller kids because its so acidic.
Yes. We’ll talk about acidity in step four! Thanks for mentioning it. I’ve added it to the possible causes above, since it is a common one.
I enjoyed reading this post. I have pretty much removed all processed foods from our diet, and it has made a huge difference. My son is currently on an elimination diet to treat his candida imbalance. The two foods he craved, sugars and milk, are the ones he reacted the strongest to. You are so right that eating whole nutritious foods is essential for our bodies to stay healthy. All the synthetic ingredients in processed food are very harmful to us. Thanks for helping spread the word!
I’m really struggling with this. I’ve been fairly certain it’s food for me. It’s been flaring on my hands horribly off and on for probably a year. It would flare when I cut up vegetables (onions, peppers, etc). Then it seemed like it was tomatoes too (after pizza i noticed it was worse. tomatoes were a trigger when I was a baby, my mom couldn’t eat tomatoes or citrus). Then I thought maybe it was the dish soap (still used dawn). I was doing ok but then had milk and cereal a couple days in a row and thought well maybe it was milk? So I’ve been using almond milk when I need it – def not a big milk drinker. Now I haven’t had any dairy in the last couple days (or eggs) and my hands are itchier than ever and I’m almost depressed considering it may be gluten. Ugh! I suppose I need to commit and do as suggested above to figure it out for sure. I wish we had the money to see our naturopath and have him test me. I’m so frustrated but thankful you are discussing this subject!
So hard, Beth. I get it. We went down a similar path with Lupine years ago where it was raspberries, no it was citrus. It was tomatoes! No, it was milk… on and on. I suggest fully digging in to step one, then choosing three things you can live without (100%) for a month. Just pick something. And stick with it. In the later steps well be working on strengthening and healing the gut, and therein may lie some serious magic for you. One more thought: bless your food. Food is good. Food is nourishing. Bless it, appreciate it, love it. Try to let the fear go. (Its a hard but helpful step.) Hugs.
Thank you so much for the encouragement and feed back, Rachel. You constantly inspire me! I can do this.
This is something I’ve been meaning to do, thank you for the gentle urging! One question–what’s the logic behind eliminating something a child or yourself is craving? Just curious, as I hadn’t heard that before.
It is something that I have noticed in myself and my children extensively, and something Ive seen in others as well. Here is one possible explanation: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=faqdbid=30#why
Thanks for all the info Rachel. DD (2 yrs) has had very mild eczema for months now, it’s never been bad so I’ve kind of ignored it (bad mommy…). We finally tried gluten free this month. we went 3 weeks without it and I really didn’t notice any major changes (though I feel like it had been improving slightly prior to us starting). We reintroduced last Thursday, Sunday I actually commented about how good her skin looked, like it was almost gone, then Tuesday it started looking red and dry again. Could it possibly take the gluten that long to affect her (6 days?)? I’m really frustrated because she had been looking so good. Maybe it’s something else we’re eating? Thank you so much for any advice you might have.
Hi Anna! Here is a good explanation regarding craving the foods we should not eat: http://allergyfreecookery.blogspot.com/2011/09/why-do-we-crave-foods-we-are-allergic.html
Thanks so much for the kick in the pants! Your post was shining away there in the top of my RSS feed and it was exactly what I needed to read right now. I have a baby with a patchy, itchy face and although we are already lacto-Paleo and I have therefore cut-out grains I have been so lazy about doing an elimination diet myself without dairy or eggs. I know it is what I need to do though, so time to get motivated! I read your post for a reason. The universe puts exactly what we need, square in the path. BAM. Thanks.
This is such an excellent article. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this was common knowledge that all pediatricians promoted? Maybe someday that will be the case. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.
PS: I would add (and maybe you do this in subsequent articles and/or are avoiding the topic) that vaccines can promote allergies and autoimmune problems, especially with eggs and peanuts. Uh oh, maybe I shouldn’t have gone there 😉 Sorry if there is backlash.
Job has developed weeping ezcema on his cheeks! I needed your words–a voice of calm, so I came looking for this post. I’ve been panicking over the overwhelming job of figuring out what is causing this. I feel better now. I am already gluten free, decided yesterday to eliminate dairy, and now I know I need to eliminate eggs as well. Just ordered laundry soap (instead of the “free” detergent I’ve been using), I already bathe him exclusively in your calendula baby soap. Considering eliminating wool from his wardrobe for awhile too 🙁 Thank you, Rachel!!
Oh, Ginny! So sorry to hear this. Its so hard to watch your little one suffer. Some thoughts: Dairy. Yes. Cut it today. Balm: you can try Booty Balm and see if it helps. I am making Da Balm next week for release as soon as late January. As soon as it is ready Ill get some off to you. Laundry: Great idea to change him to a better laundry detergent. I have a recipe here too, for making your own from bar soap. As for his bath, only use soap on him if hes truly dirty. Diaper dirty. And then spot-wash only. Otherwise just add a splash of Baby Bath and Massage oil to his bath (if you have any) or another neutral, unscented oil. Even a dab of coconut oil and a splash of olive oil would work wonders if that is all you have. Is he thrushy? Hugs, mama.
Thanks so much for mentioning corn sensitivity. I had problems for years with excema, digestive issues, and even seasonal allergies before I decided to keep a food journal and began to see that every time I ate something containing corn, I felt awful. I’ve been corn-free for four years, and while trying to be corn-free in college was really really hard, it has made my life so much better. Corn is the #12 allergy worldwide. I feel like in the fervor for gluten-free everything we’ve forgotten that corn is really hard for the body to digest, and in fact, if it isn’t processed in a certain way, our body can’t access most of it’s nutrients. There are so many great corn-free products out there, and if you really need a gluten-free substitute to cornstarch , consider potato starch. You can find it in the kosher foods section of most supermarkets. Of course, this on it’s own didn’t make all my problems go away. It turns out that I have skin allergies to petroleum products, glycerin (which is often made from corn) and coconut oil. I now make my own laundry soap and am very very careful with soaps.
Thank you for your post. When I went to the doctor originally they mentioned eggs. Though she hates them so she would only get them indirectly. She is 1 1/2 though and drinks a ton of homo milk everyday. And loves cheese!! How would you suggest I eliminate dairy for such a little one if she needs it for growing? Maybe I should start with just gluten free.
I too make my own balm and love how great Calendula, Lavender and Olive Oil are for the skin. I too use honey, as it has great healing properties.
Look forward to hear your suggestions
Hi Erin, These are wonderful questions for a naturopath or an allergy doc. Im just not qualified to answer specifics for little ones that arent my own. Sorry I cant be more helpful, and kudos to you for embarking on this journey!
My baby reacted to more foods than you mentioned. I have had to cut out seeds, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, any seafood, any sour fruits, and chicken in addition to all the other things possible that you mentioned. It’s torture for me, BUT it is noticably reducing inflammation of my joints. At this point, his skin is getting clearer and clearer. There is still the occasional randomly placed patch, but hus face is so much better. He unfortunately is reacting to any natural oils we have tried, particularly 100% shea butter to the point of screaming from the burning. Cocunut oil too causes a reaction. I am considering trying jojoba, avocado, or olive oil next.
Regarding allergy testing, that only tests for immediate reactions, so you have to go to a naturopath for the delayed type reaction testing.
Thank you so much! I’ve been struggling with symptoms for years, including what I now think is eczema on my feet. Once I figured out most of my symptoms were related through hashimotos I’ve been trying elimination diets and blood testing to figure out how to feel my best. This blog was so affirming. My blood test shows an allergy to eggs and dairy and my naturopath says to avoid gluten due to the hashimotos. It’s tough to find food for a gluten free, meat eating vegan. This Pinterest board is a lifesaver.