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.