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. 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:
- Your skin truly serves as a picture of your own internal health. An imbalance in the body will manifest itself in the skin.
- Eczema does not manifest itself because the body is short on corticosteroid creams or oral steroids.
- Traditional medicine typically does not address the root cause of eczema and other autoimmune issues; functional medicine practitioners, like chiropractors, do.
- Healing from eczema and minimizing flare-ups requires identifying irritants and taking care of the gut first.
- You did not get sick overnight, and it’s going to take longer than overnight to heal. There are no shortcuts.
- Our skin absorbs around 60% of what’s put on it. Choose your skin care and household products wisely.
- 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.