Coming to terms with my eczema was pretty emotional and frustrating. I realised that depending on my flare ups, this would influence how I felt about myself and how I interacted with the world around me. The worse my skin got, the more frustrated and irritable I would be.
The Elimination Game
A friend of mine recommended a functional medicine doctor who had a very different approach to how I should be treated. She looked at my entire medical history rather than just focusing on the eczema, and suspected there was something wrong with gut and immune system. She recommended the elimination diet, and to tell the truth, I do know a fair bit about nutrition as I’ve tried several to lose weight.
The elimination diet is self-explanatory – eliminate all foods known to cause allergies and food sensitivities. I gave up grains (including rice), dairy, all processed foods, all nightshade vegetables such as potatoes, eggplant and tomatoes. No eggs and of course, stay away from sugars including honey and dried fruit. I also had to reduce the amount of nuts I ate and those nuts had to be soaked and dried before consumption. I could eat green vegetables, organic meat, coconut and olive oil and starches like buckwheat, quinoa, pumpkin and sweet potato.
To be honest in the first two weeks I gave myself a cheat day/weekend. The second appointment with my doctor put me back on the correct path. I had not realised that certain irritants like gluten can stay in the body for up to a week. I managed to stay on the elimination diet for six weeks, even while traveling. It was probably the most disciplined I had ever been with a diet! I planned, prepped and cooked all my meals in advance. During this time I used the cortisone cream only when the itching was unbearable, and as time passed, I needed the cream less. After about three weeks my hands got better, my digestion improved and the cream became a monthly occurrence.
While on the elimination diet:
After six weeks of eliminating, I started reintroducing food one at a time with eggs and dark chocolate first on the list. . I had an egg, waited a day and watched for any reaction. On the second day I had another egg. If nothing happened by day three, I was in the clear for eggs. During this process, I discovered triggers were soy and gluten.
Which brings me to where I am today. I try to stay away from these triggers as much as I can. I do indulge occasionally, even though I know it’s not good for me! I’ll itch for a day, apply the cream twice, and return to my gluten and soy-free lifestyle. I discovered a lot through this process and the crucial lesson learnt was about making informed choices. That’s what life is about no matter what. It’s certainly not about being perfect.