Guest Post by Faye Weickert: Healing the Skin from Within – Paleo, Gut Health, and Eczema

February 5, 2013 in Categories: , by

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Faye Weickert

Faye is a blogger at www.GreenOrganicMama.com, from the islands of the Florida Keys, where she writes about the challenges of raising an eco-conscious family and integrating a Paleo lifestyle.  She is also an independent skin care/beauty consultant for Neal’s Yard Remedies/NYR Organic; a carbon-neutral, family-owned company, specializing in all-natural products that free of GMO’s, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, and artificial fragrances.  You can read more by Faye at her blog, connect with her on Facebook, and shop her online store.

 First of all, I have to extend a huge thank you to Sarah, for putting together this amazing resource here at www.ThePaleoMom.com and with The Paleo View Podcast; both of which have helped so many people, like me, with navigating our health issues, together with following a Paleo lifestyle.  I will be forever grateful for Sarah’s friendship, her advice, and her insight!

 Much like Sarah, I’ve suffered through various autoimmune issues throughout my childhood and adult life, from asthma, allergies, and eczema.  Like most of us, I was seen by countless conventional doctors and specialists, put through various medical tests, and prescribed many, many medications.  The problem was that none of these recommendations ever did any more than serve as a Band-Aid solution.  Not one of them addressed the root cause.  Nobody stopped once to ask the all important question: Why?  Why was I having asthmatic symptoms?  Why was I breaking out in rashes, when I never had before.  I just kept using my inhalers, applying cortisone creams, and taking oral steroids, which just masked the symptoms.  Not to mention that each of these prescriptions carried their own side effects, too, but that’s a story for another day.  Fast forward to the birth of my own daughter, and I then took on the helplessness and frustration that my own mother felt, when my little girl broke out in a horrible diaper rash, and later, a mysterious, persistent bleeding rash on her scalp.  We ended up in the same vicious cycle.  After much trial and error, more doctors’ visits, more testing, and trying all sorts of prescription and non-prescription creams, lotions, oils, and balms, we were very blessed to finally come across Paleo.

“There is no magic cream that is going to fix eczema.”

 Before getting into what we did to heal and manage our symptoms, it’s important to understand that there is no magic cream that is going to fix eczema.  None.  And that’s coming from me, a compulsive, label-dissecting, green mom blogger, and also as an independent skin care consultant for Neal’s Yard Remedies/NYR Organic.  There are products that I’ll discuss later that can provide much-needed relief when the flare-up symptoms occur, and that can also help with the healing process, but eczema and other autoimmune rashes will continue to rear their ugly heads, if the root causes are not addressed.  Sometimes it can be an allergy, and as discussed in Episode 10 of The Paleo View Podcast, there may be a chemical sensitivity involved.  However, in the case of many autoimmune issues, the problem lies within the gut.

“All diseases begin in the gut.” – Hippocrates

 I’m a firm believer in the message that Sarah sends with this blog and in her autoimmune protocol: that many diseases begin in the gut.  For our family, we had already been living green and organic, since before my daughter was born.   We thought we were already very healthy eaters.  We had weeded out all the chemicals in the home, and made a conscious effort to use the most basic ingredients possible, both in the food we ate, and in the products we put on our bodies.  Despite all this, my daughter still developed eczema, and I continued to battle with mine.  It’s because of that reason that I’m thankful for finally stumbling upon Paleo.  It was a revelation when we found out that the grain-laden Standard American Diet, the one advocated by our health care professionals to help us be healthy, was in fact what was making us sick.  I still remember thinking what a crazy notion that was at the time (“What?!  Give up bread?!”).  It wasn’t until the second time that I heard about Paleo, before I realized that we had already tried everything else, nothing else was working, and we finally decided to take the plunge.  A year and a half later, I look back, and wish we had done this sooner!

 Paleo is all about keeping inflammation at bay, and repairing a leaky gut.  Sarah does a much better job explaining these concepts, and I highly recommend reading her very well-researched posts on these topics (start here), and pre-ordering her upcoming book on this very subject, The Paleo Approach:Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body.  In a nutshell, once our family got away from processed foods (especially gut-irritating grain products), we introduced probiotics to restore our gut flora, and focused on food as medicine, we miraculously began to heal.  My daughter’s head rash went away, and years later, it has never returned.  I also finally lost those stubborn twenty pounds of baby weight, and I’m also rash-free, as long as I’m diligent with Paleo, manage my stress, and take care of my body.  (After a year into Paleo, I learned the hard way what happens when a series of events caused me to stray for too long).

Caring for the Skin

 As I mentioned above, despite all the claims, there are no magic creams to make eczema go away, but there are things you can do to help relieve the symptoms and help the skin heal, in conjunction with proper eating, to reduce inflammation, and simultaneously heal the gut and the body from within.

 Anytime we’re dealing with damaged skin, it’s important to treat it gently.  As a green mom blogger, I’ve kept my family away from products containing parabens, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, artificial colors, and petroleum.  As mentioned in Episode 10 of The Paleo View, coconut oil is also one of my favorites for simple and thorough cleansing of the skin.  I’m a huge fan of Tropical Traditions, and the same five-gallon drum of coconut oil that we buy for cooking is the same stuff we use for cleansing our skin, too.

 While coconut oil is a really effective and gentle cleanser, I’ve personally found I need something more emollient afterwards, to help protect and heal the damaged skin.  After trying so many other brands of creams, my favorite products are Neal’s Yard Remedies Frankincense Hydrating Cream and on my really rough, red spots, a small dab of the more highly-concentrated Rejuvenating Frankincense Facial Serum.  Highly prized since ancient times, frankincense is an intensely-healing tree resin from the wild-growing Boswellia carterii trees found in Africa.  Neal’s Yard Remedies has stores around the globe, and is available online in Canada and the US.  If you live outside these areas, you still can find frankincense readily available as an essential oil from Amazon.

 Another great healing plant-based remedy is rosehip oil, which is used in many parts of the world to treat burn victims.[1] As with the frankincense, you can find recipes on the web to make your own rosehip oil home remedies.  Personally, I carry around little pots of Neal’s Yard Remedies Wild Rose Beauty Balm, which is a very soothing and nourishing blend of organic rosehip, jojoba, beeswax, shea butter, hemp, borage, and frankincense, too.  My daughter and I will often catch ourselves unconsciously scratching away at an irritated spot.  I’m always amazed at how quickly one little swipe of this balm calms the itch and the redness, and keeps them from coming back.  These natural remedies pair well with all of our healing efforts; inside and out.

 The important takeaways here are these points:

  1. Your skin truly serves as a picture of your own internal health.  An imbalance in the body will manifest itself in the skin.
  2.  Eczema does not manifest itself because the body is short on corticosteroid creams or oral steroids.
  3. Traditional medicine typically does not address the root cause of eczema and other autoimmune issues; functional medicine practitioners, like chiropractors, do.
  4. Healing from eczema and minimizing flare-ups requires identifying irritants and taking care of the gut first.
  5. You did not get sick overnight, and it’s going to take longer than overnight to heal.  There are no shortcuts.
  6. Our skin absorbs around 60% of what’s put on it.[2]  Choose your skin care and household products wisely.
  7. Our bodies are complex, and we are all different.  What works for one person, may not work for you, and vice versa.  Learn to listen to your body.

 With a little diligence and know-how, it’s possible to keep eczema at bay, the natural way.


[1] http://www.healingcancernaturally.com/chelating-ionizing-radiation.html

[2] http://blog.naturalhealthyconcepts.com/2012/07/16/what-toxic-chemicals-is-your-body-absorbing-infographic/

Comments

Thank you so much for sharing your story! Since my daughter was a year old, she suffered from eczema, dandruff (which was probably eczema too), asthma, and often broke out in rashes for no apparent reason if she was sick. Doctors kept prescribing cortisone creams which frankly I was never comfortable applying to my child due to side effects. They were always a “band-aid” — the eczema would get better with cream use but would return when we stopped using them — vicious cycle. Doctors told us to change our laundry detergent, take oatmeal baths, use the creams, stop scratching, wear gloves to bed, wear only cotton, etc. NOTHING made the eczema go away. When I stumbled upon the paleo diet and started doing it myself, I talked with my then-12-year-old daughter and suggested that it might help with her eczema. Seeing her suffer with scratching and open sores was torture for all of us, and at that point, she was willing to try anything. And guess what happened — after 2 weeks on a mostly-paleo-diet, her eczema got better. After a month it was almost entirely gone and the scratching-induced sores healed up. She doesn’t even have scars now. If I had known this 11 years earlier, I could have helped prevent more than a decade of suffering for this poor girl! At least we know now. Fortunately, when my daughter is at a party or out with her friends and someone comments on what she is eating, she is confident in saying, “I don’t eat X because I’m allergic to it.” And the asthma is better too — she used to have to take her inhaler everywhere, and we’d have to pack the nebulizer and medication for every trip. Every time she got a cold would mean nebulizer use several times a day. Fall and spring would also mean nebulizer use several times a day. When I mentioned to my daughter’s doctor that her eczema and asthma were better because we gave up grains, I got a lecture about how growing children need fiber and nutrients from grains. Whatever! Now I know not to mention it to doctors anymore.

I have severe eczema on my body that developed over 5 years ago. I have spent thousands of dollars, taken tons of supplements, was off a ton of foods (dairy, gluten, soy, peanuts, and much more) and nothing made it better. I was still eating almonds, ghee, seeds and most nightshades. I was close to the paleo AIP but not there. I have taken tons of supplements to heal my gut too but nothing has worked except for actually the sun (comes back after no sun exposure for a month)! I’m going to try this diet and am praying it will work. I plan to start it in a few weeks once I’m done traveling to the beach (since I heard its impossible to eat out). For someone with severe eczema, could this diet cure it? Could this be what I’ve been needing all along?!! (Please tell me YES!!) How quick could I see results?

Yes! Skin is the lowest priority organ for healing, so your body will heal internally before you notice much externally… give it at least a month, maybe two or three–the better you sleep, manage stress, and focus on nutrient density, the faster healing will be.

My 16 year daughter is suffering from SEVERE eczema. Painfully covering 60% of her body including on her face. This didn’t come about until 4 years ago. It came on as little patches here and there, no biggie. However as we have become more paleo (I started the charge because I have hashimotos) she has gotten worse. She is trying the AIP and we are desperate. She is not sleeping and is missing school and she is an elite cross country runner and is now finding it difficult to run. Needless to say it is taking a toll on her emotionally, physically and wrecking her self esteem.

We know she reacts to gluten, corn and dairy. We started the AIP 5 days ago and she only ate beef, broccoli, spinach and coconut oil and sweet potatoes for 3 days and started to not hurt as much. However, on saturday we decided to include other AIP foods. Today is monday and she in agony and flared even more.

She uses tea tree oil, shea butter, castor oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil on her skin to try to soothe to no avail at the moment. She uses Dr. Bronners soap only on the necessary parts then moisturizes immediately.

Do you, or anyone, have any advice or words of wisdom or similar situations that ended successfully? Please help.

What were the other AIP foods that caused the flare? I think that variety is a huge aspect of the AIP, so I think adding in new foods is important, but if you can tell me which ones you added, I can see if I see a pattern.

Also, skin care products isn’t my area of expertise but I do know that tea tree can be very irritating. I use a homemade moisturizer made with grass-fed tallow, olive oil and tamanu oil and it’s awesome (you can buy tallow and olive oil balm from a few different places…)

Thank you so much for getting back to us so quickly. You have been a wealth of knowledge for us. We added chicken, coconut (coconut flakes, homemade coconut butter, homemade coconut milk.), plantains, acorn squash, fruits like apples, bananas, dates, pineapple, lemons and limes, olive oil, kale, fermented cabbage, apple cider vinegar, and cinnamon. We weren’t sure if it was too much fruit that caused another flare up, because yesterday and the day before she had around 5 servings of fruit. She is hungry :)
This is frustrating because we saw a slight improvement after two days and WHAM. We were thinking of trying to incorporate some of the GAPS protocol, thankfully she likes to drink broth.
We will definitely be cutting the tea tree oil as well.

Margaret- I wonder how your daughters eczema journey has been since your last comment in November. I have an almost 13 year old son who deals with it intensely. Have you had any success or victories to share?

Hi Laran.

We have made improvements! We ended up with a naturopath who set us on the GAPS path. We are still followoing GAPS with fermented clo, l-glutamine, probiotics, homemade sauerkraut and a B supplement for methylation. We started that after Thanksgiving. Improvements were quick. But we’ve been stuck with the last little bits of eczema on the insides of the elbow crease. About a week ago she was completely clear following a small flare which we attribute to stress. It was finals week and she puts sooooo much pressure on herself. We slightly celebrated the clear skin. But it was back just a bit on her leg and arms yesterday. She woke this am with it, it went away during her run – she is a cross country runner – and came back a few hours later. It is so annoying to not be able to completely clear it.

I wish you much luck. GAPS is a bit trying especially when you are dealing with a teen. They want to eat….alot…. and have such social pressures on them. However, she was so desperate, that she dove head first into the diet. She actually loves it most of the time. She really enjoys the mental clarity and how wonderful her body feels. It is hard to watch your child deal with issues and not have a way to help them.

Please feel free to ask any questions!!!!

Sarah- We have done AIP for 3 months with my almost 13 year old son. He has had severe eczema his entire life. I have followed the journey of traditional medicine with no lasting results and have been doing alternative/functional for several years now. Much of what you say is familiar and many of these supplements and ways have been incorporated into our daily regiment ie; L’glutamine supp., fermented cod liver oil, bone broth, homemade gelatin from Green Pastures, etc. He is also very sensitive to salicylates. I know this is a slow heal, slow process but his skin simply cannot hold moisture. We are down to using Emu oil only. I have tried every other thing out there. I used to bathe him in coconut oil, make him drink it, cook with it. The same with Olive oil. We also juiced daily with Kale and lots of dark green veggies. I probably gave him the Salicylate issues (smile). Along with skin like sand paper—literally, he is eating me out of house and home and he is skin and bones thin. We have previously tested for parasites but come up with nothing. When you eat AIP and you take all but low salicylates, and you have a true egg allergy… you dont have much left. We have also spent years doing NAET. It has brought us much success but our backs are against the wall again and I need help. Do you have any thoughts that might help us?
.

Questions: are you doing organ meat? seafood? digestive support supplements (you’d need to check with your doctor on what would be appropriate for a 13-year old). Does your son have digestive distress with green smoothies versus juices (if not, smoothies would be better)? Those are the things that jump out at me. Other options would be to do some GI analysis and micronutrient testing through a functional medicine specialist. I don’t know if it’s affordable for you, but I think you’d benefit from working with Anne at http://www.ThePaleoMomConsulting.com

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