We began our journey to heal eczema by removing toxins from our environment and our body care.
Then we took things up a notch by removing the trigger foods that can contribute to eczema.
Both of those are important steps to reclaim our health. I commend you for everything you have done so far, however big or small those steps have been.
Learning a new way to eat (or to clean house or to care for our bodies) can be daunting. But as we stretch and grow we invite a new level of health into our lives. So keep at it! You are making progress on so many levels.
And now it is time to heal our gut.
Oh, yes. Now we’re getting to the core of the issue.
Because our bodies are only as healthy as the bacteria that live in our bellies.
Gut flora, the bacteria and yeast that live in our digestive systems, is vital to good health.
Healthy bacteria begins to populate our gut during and after birth, with bacteria from the mother’s body and from the environment – as well as the abundance found in breastmilk – taking up residence in our bodies. As we grow up we continue to take on healthy gut flora through the foods we eat and the environment in which we live.
However, the health of our gut flora is often compromised. Sometimes from the start.
Both cesarean birth (because the baby does not pass through the bacteria-rich birth canal) and formula feeding (because formula lacks the healthy bacteria found in mother’s milk) can delay a child’s acquisition of healthy gut flora. The same is true for overzealous use of sanitizers, antibacterial cleaners, and antibiotic medications.
Add to that the modern western diet, chlorinated drinking water, antibiotics in our food, and even birth control pills and we have a formula for compromised health at any age.
And when the gut is compromised you often see it in the skin. Eczema is a common sign.
But don’t despair! There are many ways to cultivate healthy gut flora and it’s simple to begin.
Step 3 is a delicious one, and it’s much easier than step two. (I promise.)
It all begins with taking the first step towards simple changes. Like serving saurkraut at every meal.
Really. Let’s take it slow. I’m talking about easy, small – even pleasant! – changes.
Are you ready? Then 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 3. Restore gut flora.
To nurture and restore healthy bacteria to our bodies we will take three steps:
- Stop killing your gut flora,
- Introduce good bacteria through the environment, and
- Eat probiotic foods daily.
1. Stop killing your gut flora
Eat real food
Our body contains hundreds of kinds of bacterial life. They are nourished by the foods that we eat, and we in turn are nourished by their work (digestion).
Processed foods, however, feed the undesirable species that live within us. To tip the scales in favor of greater overall health eat whole, real food. Skip the junk – especially processed sweets and carbohydrates -every chance you get.
While the goal of a “perfect diet” is unreasonable, set a goal instead to make one small change per week. For example, replace one soda per day with kombucha, replace a sugared treat with a piece of fruit. And when you do backslide be gentle with yourself.
Be judicious with antibiotics
Antibiotics are important, powerful medicine. But they should be used judiciously. If your doctor prescribes antibiotics for every ear infection or tummy bug, find a new physician. And if you are taking or have taken antibiotics, be tireless in restoring your gut flora, using the methods outlined below.
Ditch the sanitizer
Please. Stop using hand sanitizer. I beg you. It is compromising to your health in so many ways.
Good old fashioned soap is the best way to knock back the bacteria you don’t want without inviting trouble. Keep some natural wet wipes in your purse if you’re worried about dirty hands.
Consider alternatives to birth control pills
While the data regarding the effect of birth control pills on gut flora is spotty, I am repeatedly reading that these medications effect the health of gut flora. I can’t say enough good things about this book if you are looking for a new approach to managing fertility.
Filter your water
Don’t drink chlorinated water. Just don’t. Purchase an inexpensive water filter and get that stuff out before you drink! We were not designed to drink bleach. It’s bad for you and bad for the bugs in your gut. Enough said.
2. Introduce good bacteria through from the environment
When did our lives become so sanitary? Go outside for goodness sake. Get dirty. Dig in the soil. Play in the sandbox. Muck in the creek.
And encourage your kids to do the same. (Or at least get out of their way by removing the words, “Don’t do that – you’ll get dirty!” from your vocabulary.)
While I don’t recommend you seek out contagious disease, dig in the dirt and expose yourself to the natural world. Because there is bacteria out there. And your body needs this in every way.
Don’t wash your veggies
What?! No. She didn’t just say that.
Yes. I did.
Raw, fresh, local, organic veggies (from your garden is great!) are a good source of healthy bacteria. Just rub that carrot off on your pant leg and enjoy. (* See “Get dirty”, above.)
Bear in mind that conventional produce is often grown in soil that is – in essence – dead. Do make sure you are eating food from healty soil. Don’t eat conventional produce without washing it first as you will end up consuming more chemicals than probiotics.
Stop sanitizing your house
Good health does not come from a sterile environment. If someone in your home has the flu, by all means wipe the counters and door knobs down with vinegar. But for daily housekeeping, keep it simple. Let’s live in harmony with a little bacteria.
3. Eat probiotic foods daily
The photo above was taken today at my kitchen counter. This week I am making (from left to right) live-fermented pineapple vinegar, mixed veggie ferment, saurkraut, and a green chili kimchi.
These foods are cheap, nourishing, and absolutely bubbling (literally!) with healthy bacteria.
I can share plenty of recipes if you are interested.
Tips for Kids
To encourage my kids to eat their probiotics we serve appropriately sized portions. Once they fall in love with a new flavor they will beg for seconds (or thirds), but until then go slow.
In our home we use “three bites to taste” as our version of requiring a “no thank you bite”. Because it takes three bits to truly taste a new flavor, and dozens of tries until your body falls in love with something new.
I never force my children to eat anything. Instead I remind them that eating healthy, nourishing foods is good medicine for their bodies.
(And those three little bites of kraut at ever meal really adds up.)
Lacto-fermented sauerkraut or other vegetables
Lacto-fermented vegetables are simple to make at home.
Seriously. You can do it with two ingredients: cabbage and salt. How hard could it be?
And they are delicious.
We make a jar or two every couple of weeks. Kimchi, lacto-fermented pickles, sauerkraut, ginger carrots, and the rest are all an affordable and easy way to add good bacteria to your diet.
You can also purchase live-fermented sauerkraut. You will find it in the refrigerator section of your grocery or coop in glass jars – not in the isles in cans.
Get started with this recipe, or pick up a copy of the book Wild Fermentation. You won’t regret it!
If you have determined that dairy is not an eczema trigger for you, probiotic yogurt is a great source of healthy bacteria. (If you can’t do dairy, culture homemade coconut-almond milk).
Making yogurt is cheap and easy. Begin with a purchased culture or with a high-quality active yogurt from the store. My tutorial to make your own is here.
Kefir is Russian version of yogurt, though the flavor is more yeasty in my opinion than yogurt. Kefir is made by placing kefir “grains” (a bacterial colony) into fresh milk and allowing it to sit at room temperature for a day.
Soon the milk is thick and tangy and ready to be strained (to remove the grains for the next batch) and enjoyed. Try with a little liquid stevia if it’s too tangy for your palate.
You can purchase grains through the yogurt culture link above.
Water kefir is a great dairy-free kefir option and is as simple to make as dairy kefir. I’m getting water kefir grains next week, so I’ll report back as to how we like it!
Grains available from the source listed for yogurt cultures, above.
Kombucha is cheap and easy to make. Like many things, you can also buy it but to drink enough might break your budget and fill your recycling bin in a hurry. To make kombucha you’ll need a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), or “Mother”.
Then follow my instructions to make your own.
We’re a little obsessed with it around here.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Even the humble vinegar bottle can be a source of good bacteria! I add a splash of live apple cider vinegar to a tall glass of room temperature water and drink throughout the day. You can add a drop of honey or liquid stevia if you aren’t a fan of sour. I think of it as lemon aid. Sort of.
Just be sure your vinegar is labeled “live” or “with the ‘Mother'” – this is how you know it is probiotic.
Yes, you can also supplement with probiotics. Personally I use them when we run out of the foods listed above as a shortcut to supplementing our flora. They work, but don’t let them be your only source of bacteria.
Some high quality, proven brands are Florajen, Bio-Kult, and Three-Lac.
Let’s make these changes one small step at a time. There is no schedule, so move at your own pace.
Set a goal for this weekend or next week that feels reasonable. Like buying an affordable water filter. Or digging in the dirt. Making or buying a single jar or kraut.
And one small change at a time, you will transform your health.
Find the whole series through the links below.
Step 1 – Remove environmental triggers
21 thoughts on “Heal eczema naturally. Step 3.”
Wow! Thank you! I am working on this step as I write, and I’ve noticed a difference in my skin. It’s clearer and some of my dry spots are gone. I need to try sauerkraut again. I tried it a few times as a kid and hated it. I think it came out of a can, though. I also cried whenever my mom made me eat. But now I am willing to try it again — maybe make it myself. Thanks again for all the great, self-improvement information you put out there.
One more thing. I am a wildlife biologist and my field season is coming up soon — butterfly surveys [Karner blue & lupine;-) and another endangered butterfly]. With field season, I eat out in the field. Do you have any suggestions other than fruits or salads that can go out in the field with me, without going bad? Most of my colleagues take sandwiches and granola bars, but those are now out of my diet. Again, thanks!!!
I am only in the beginning stages of research and preparation, and my interest has been sparked by your experience and this series. My son and I both have skin issues. I have used various creams, shampoos, and steroids(which work great but are terribly expensive and don’t solve anything). My son is also autistic, and he has been plagued by gut issues from birth. I know our progress through the steps will be slow, but I am so encouraged to see the results.
This is such a great post Rachel and brings to light things that I wasn’t considering for my family for it’s general health. I need to get a water filter. Do you have a suggestion on that? Also, water kefir is my new favorite. So good, mine has turned out tasting just like soda water and the grains almost double with each batch, so you can share it with everyone.
Great post, as always. We love water kefir 🙂 Enjoy!
This is absolutely wonderful! Thank you!
I tried Kombucha years ago, but my mum didn’t like it. Haven’t thought of it since moving out!
I won’t follow all of it, not for now, but yes, some small changes now and then, great!
Rachel, there is so much good information here! Thank you!
I’m all for trying foods again that we hated as kids. So often it comes to how it was prepared. Just have a tiny bit every day (that three-bites business works for adults, too!).
As for your lunch, I would pick up a small cooler and an ice pack to keep your lunch in (soft-side). When the kids and I go out and about we often bring a can of tuna or sardines along with fruit, veggies, and homemade or purchased crackers. Jerky is great, too. Hope that helps!
It’s funny Becky. As I was writing this series I kept thinking of how helpful it would be for more than just eczema. I’d love to hear how you and your son respond to a change in diet and an influx of probiotics. I hope it’s so helpful for you!
Kate, We did much reserch several years ago (when we moved from the country to town) for the best filter and went with a Kenmore under sink unit. However my parents just installed an inexpensive Pur that screws to the faucet. She also researched and it was supposed to be the most affordable currently – and very effective. Hope that helps you. Can’t wait to make my water kefir!
Thank you Kim! We can’t wait to try our own.
I kept meaning to email you about probiotics, Ginny. Here it all is!
I would love a recipe or two! Ginger carrots sounds wonderful, but my research time these days is really limited. Any help would be gratefully accepted! I’ll see if I can find Wild Fermentation at the library. Thanks Rachel for sharing these.
I’ll see about putting some together. It’s so darn simple – you’ll be amazed!
Will you be finishing this series? Im loving the info and would love to know what’s next.
Please, can we at least rinse our garden veggies? I saw the cat spray the brussels sprouts this fall. I was *almost* tempted to bleach those puppies! It just makes me wonder what other parts of the garden have been “claimed” as his territory.
Can children drink the Kombucha? I have a 4yo and 7 yo. I was concerned about the caffeine…
Thank you for this series.
I rarely comment on blogs but I just want to thank you for this. So many blogs I hestitate to share with friends or family becuase of how “preachy” they can be .. Not to mention the fearmongering and insisting that you will surely die if you don’t start drinking kefir/taking this vitamin/drinking this herbal tea.. etc. I don’t want to scare them off from healthy stuff by making it seem impossible. So much good information in this post but best of all … “Let’s make these changes one small step at a time. There is no schedule, so move at your own pace.” That’s how we all get to where we are!
What are your feelings on alcohol? Can it be beneficial, or is it always harmful?
Thank you so much for this article! Really. Thank you. I started making kefir from raw milk 3 weeks ago cause of this article and another I read a few months ago which also mentioned using it to cure eczema along with Fermented vegetables and bone broths.
From the first day I started drinking it I noticed a difference. My insides felt more relaxed. Probably do to decreased inflammation. The next few days I was coughing and sneezing out unheard of ammount of mucus. That part was aweful.
Now I’m starting to feel so much better and an eye infection I had for years has begun to clear up as well. I always suspected it was more of a yeast thing. Simply amazing.
After shopping at your online store and loving the products, I am now diving into the rabbit hole of your blog posts. I am learning so much! I really wanted to say thank you for mentioning natural ‘birth control’ via Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I cannot count how many people give me startled looks of “whaaaaat?” when I mention using Natural Family Planning. NFP was the first crunchy thing I dove into and doing so lead me into the crunchier lifestyle that my family leads (and continues to improve) now. I wish more people realized that NFP is a beautiful alternative to artificial birth control. Although, I’ll be the first to admit, it can be frustrating at times. Worth it in my book!