Eczema and Food Allergies – Our Story of Despair and Hope – Part Two

Eczema Face
Yesterday I shared with you the trials that we went through regarding eczema and our son not sleeping in Eczema and Food Allergies–Our Story of Despair and Healing – Part One.

That post was filled mostly with despair–

Today comes the healing.

At the time of our appointment with Dr. Paller of Chicago Children’s Hospital, our son was basically covered with eczema from head to foot–baby eczema at its worst.  Literally, it was so bad that his cheeks were oozing and stuck to my arm when he nursed.

Oh the pain in this mother’s heart.

Desperate and bleary-eyed, I trudged to downtown Chicago with my sweet son in tow, hoping beyond hope for some relief.

For him and for me.

Recommended Treatment for Baby Eczema

During the appointment, Dr. Paller graciously told me about what eczema is and how doctor’s don’t really know what causes it, but that it appears to be an allergic reaction of the skin.  She told me that her preferred course of treatment was:

1.  Topical hydrocortizone using the strongest over the counter strength, twice per day, or as needed, using the lowest prescription strength only when needed.  (I don’t even want to think now of the strength of the cream that we first put on my vulnerable son’s body.)  I found the ointment preferable to the cream as it was easier to cover a small area with the ointment.  But it does help the medicine to penetrate the skin more readily so consult with your doctor as to which is better for you.

2.  Warm baths daily for only 3-5 minutes (any longer and she said that the skin would become susceptible to even more eczema), followed by a layer of the steroid cream and a moisturizing lotion.  She recommended Cetaphil.  These days, I would use a more natural cream, but this worked great for us.

3.  For times when intense relief is needed, a warm damp cloth wrap, followed by more hydrocortisone cream.

I was concerned about the hydrocortisone use, especially for baby eczema, but Dr. Paller said something to the effect of “We’ve been using these creams for over 40 years.  Yes, there is a slim chance of a negative effect on your son, but not getting sleep is for sure going to damage him and this is much less risky.”

Balanced and sage advice.

As a side note, allergies were definitely a problem genetically for my son.  A little history:

I had been almost debilitated by seasonal allergies in my high school and college years.

In high school I stayed home for 6 weeks out of the year, having school assignments brought to my home so that I could complete the work and stay on course.  (I did go in for biology since that class was so demanding.)

Could Baby Eczema Be Caused by Breastfeeding?

As Dr. Paller and I were talking, I asked her about food allergies and whether his eczema could be related to food.

Her answer was that about 30% of eczema seemed to be food related.

That begged the next question – how does one figure out if foods are the cause?  I had a suspicion that maybe we were dealing with a food issue from flares I’d seen my son have after certain foods I’d eaten.

Dr. Paller said that basically there were IgE blood tests, but my son was too young to have those.

We’d have to do an elimination test where I would remove probable allergens out of my diet to see how he responded.

She then told me that there were 6 top food allergies that should be considered NOTE:  Food allergies have progressed over the years and now there are 8 top food allergens.  They are:  milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.).

She said I could remove each potential allergen for 3 weeks to see how my son’s eczema responded and then add it back in and try the next one.

The next question that I had is what changed our life and brought us real hope.

“What if he’s allergic to more than one food?”  I asked.

She said that was possible, of course.

I needed relief and I needed it fast.   What I couldn’t afford was 18 more weeks of itching, and 30 minute stretches of sleep.  What if he was allergic to 2 or 3 things and just removing them individually out of his diet didn’t heal him and we ended up after 18 weeks just where we started?

So I asked her if it would be alright to remove all 6 potential allergens out of my diet for the recommended 3 weeks to see what happened.

She said that nutritionally that would be fine.

So that’s what I did.

Tough work.

But my son’s skin cleared up gradually as my elimination diet progressed.

We continued with the treatments of hydrocortisone and baths.  They were tiring, but at least I was getting a little more sleep as my son felt some relief.

Basically I eliminated all the obvious sources of the Top 6 allergens out of my diet, but noticed slight to fairly bad flares even from me just eating milk chocolate. So out everything went from my diet.  I was scouring labels and making sure I ingested nothing that my son was allergic to.

And then his skin was almost perfect.

The next test was to add the foods back, one at a time.

Well, it became pretty obvious that we were dealing with allergies to dairy and peanut.  And egg.

And at 5 months of age (the earliest age at which IgE blood tests are typically performed), my son ended up in the hospital with rotavirus (that’s another story as well) and since they were drawing blood anyway, we decided to try an IgE blood test.

The verdict?

Allergic to dairy, egg white and peanut.

After all of these elimination tests and IgE test results, the question became:

Should I restrict my own diet and continue to breastfeed my son?

Or should I just go the “easy route” and put my son on a soy-based formula.

My son’s wise pediatrician warned against the formula route.  Given my son’s sensitive constitution, he cautioned that it was quite possible that he would develop an allergy to soy and then we would be forced to either make our own homemade formula or go on a “pre-digested protein formula” that, if I remember correctly was running $80 per week.

Again, wise advice.

I decided to go the “hard route”:

  • eliminating everything containing anything on the allergen list
  • reading tons of labels
  • learning all the derivatives of dairy, egg, and peanuts.  There are a LOT.
This was so hard for me.  I really like eating (who doesn’t?) and I like having what I want when I want it.

But I really wanted to breastfeed my child and my mother’s sense told me that while the nutritional aspect of nursing was important, the bonding aspect of nursing was crucial as well.

Later, true to our pediatrician’s advice, my son was also diagnosed with tree nut and sesame allergies and even soy.

He has outgrown the soy allergy, but not the others, though he now tolerates almonds and macadamias.

And later, as my son grew, we found out more about him that made us glad I nursed him as long as I did.

It would turn out that he had much more going on than just the food allergies and itchy skin.

Beneath the surface lay a hidden condition, called autism.

Asperger’s Syndrome.

A condition that I (along with many experts) am convinced originates in the mind and gut.

I truly think that my choosing to breastfeed my son may have kept him from either worsened Asperger’s or even full blown autism.

I will never know, this side of heaven, but I am glad that I made the sacrifice to give up my food in order to nourish my son’s body and soul.

Now, let me make this clear.  This is not meant to be a criticism of mother’s who have chosen to opt for formulas instead of a restricted diet.

But it is meant to encourage those who are dealing with eczema to look at diet as a possible cause.  And to consider how important breastfeeding is to your child.

For more of our family’s health struggles and victories, you may want to read:

I have been so touched hearing from readers about their eczema and food allergy experiences.  Please share so we can all learn from each other.
 This post contains affiliate links.  Please read my disclaimer here.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seaniz/2114708830/

These comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Whole New Mom, LLC.

Comments

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  1. Jennifer Lingerfelt says:

    Adrienne,
    Thank you so much for your site! My 6 month old has had eczema pop up this past month. After much research, from your site and others, I am going to eliminate all allergins from my diet to see if this helps. What I am wondering is if you have any homemade soap/lotion recipes that will help to ease his dry itchy skin while I get it under control. I bathed him tonight in cool water with ground up oatmeal. After his bath I used Aloa Vera gel ( 100% pure, no additives). I have only ever put 100% virgin coconut oil him, but now i wonder if this is really helping. Anyway, if you have any recipes to share that would be great!

  2. I went through heck with my oldest and formula so I vowed to breastfeed my youngest and boy am I glad I did. He’s not only allergic to dairy but he has Heiner Syndrome which is rare pulmonary hypersensitivity to dairy that usually goes away before 2 years old. He was fine until I stopped making his baby food. In fact he wasn’t sick even once until I he started eating table foods. He never actually drank cows milk but like you said milk proteins and such are in everything. After that he was sick back to back. I told his pediatrician I believed he was allergic to casein and she said he was too old. He had RSV 3 times and pneumonia 4 times but the thing that finally caught her attention was when he had blood in his pull up. Thank you for sharing your story, recipes and everything else!

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I’m going to follow this elimination diet to figure out what my son is allergic to. His eczema ebbs and flows and I think it’s because of what I eat.
    My question is: when you introduce a new food group, how long until you add the next one? 3 weeks to make sure there is not reaction? If there is a reaction, do you have to eliminate it and restart 3 weeks again? Thank you!

    • I am sure there are many different methods, but one I read about stated to try a new food and watch for 2 additional days for symptoms. Then add another food in. I think if there is a reaction you would hold off at least another 3 weeks – but I am not a medical doctor and can’t medically advise. I hope it works for you and I think I need to avoid a food or 2 based on some symptoms I had this week :(.

  4. Tamara Bingham says:

    Adrienne, thank you for your “Whole New Mom”.
       Your thoughtfulness to write your experiences, which I’m reading more and more of, is truly heaven sent for my life.
       I have endured allergies and asthma my entire life. Your oldest son having ecezma, food allergies, etc., and yourself aware of chemical additives; relate to my own well being.
       Lifestyle change, seasons of change, reality awareness! My husband and I joined a group in our church for “The Daniel Plan” lifestyle change. God is so good!
       I’ve always eaten healthy foods. To learn more of what is healthy verses hidden nasty things has enlightened and enriched our lives. Food is healing or toxic.
       Cooking from scratch is what I have always done. Your blogs of seasonings truly has spiced up my life! Thank you for sharing your wealth of information from practice trials and all your experiments.
       The joy you give in sharing is contagious. Happy tastebuds make happy people. Healthy food makes healthy people.
       You have a gift Adrienne, and I’m grateful you share it. God bless you!
       Sincerely, Tamara Bingham

    • Thank YOU, Tamara, for your oh so kind words. You are very blessed to have eaten clean your whole life. I’m sure you are healthier than so many people. I wish I had known better when I was younger. Hope to see you around again and God Bless you as well.

  5. I see someone renewed http://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/eczema-and-food-allergies-our-story-of-despair-and-hope-part-two/ for a decent period, is that for SEO?

    Added a share on my Facebook, hope thats okay

    • Hi there. I’m sorry but I am not sure what you mean by “someone renewed” for a decent period. I made a 2nd post b/c the first one was too long. Let me know if that doesn’t answer your question. Thanks.

      • Hi,

        I just started an elimination diet with my daughter 1 week ago. She is 10 months and has eczema all over her back. It seems to almost go away during the day but then around 4pm it progressively gets angrier and redder each night until I put her to bed and at that point she is scratching quite a bit, even though during the day she will have barely scratched at all.
        My question is after you started the elimination diet how long until you saw any improvement? How long was your child still scratching and the eczema getting red and flaring? Or did it just steadily improve without getting any worse as soon as you eliminated the allergen?

        Thank you,
        Sarah

        • Hmmm…I think it happened pretty quickly, but I have heard that it can take 3 weeks to get allergens out of the system. Is what you are seeing now better than it was before?

          I had to completely eliminate it. When I ate little bits on milk in foods he had flares until it was all out.

  6. I didn’t read through all the comments so this may have already been mentioned but have any of you breastfeeding mothers considered histamine intolerance as a cause of the eczema flares in your babies. I did read a comment stating that pork of any type caused a flare and pork is definitely high in histamines. Histamine intolerance is very tricky because symptoms only occur when your “bucket” is full so you can eat a high histamine food one day and have no symptoms but eventually when you are at the upper limit you may eat the same food and have a bad reaction. Many breastfeeding mothers begin eating a lot of fermented foods in an attempt to heal their nursing infant’s gut, however fermented foods are very high in histamines so if it’s a histamine issue the problem is further exacerbated. I’ve been struggling with a histamine intolerance since June that came on suddenly in my 50’s. My entire face and neck were covered in a severe rash that looked and felt like a burn. High doses of vitamin C and a low histamine diet seem to be helping. Also eating a lot of apples and onions as these are both high in quercetin which stabilizes mast cells and prevents the release of histamines. It’s also been very helpful to stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. And another important change I’ve had to make is absolutely no leftovers. That’s right, apparently after food sits for a few hours the level of histamines rapidly rises especially when it comes to meats and proteins. I am only able to tolerate leftovers if I immediately freeze them following a meal.

    Chris Kresser has many great articles on histamine intolerence including “Can quercetin help heal a leaky gut?” and “Headaches, Hives, and Heartburn, Could histamine be the cause?”

  7. Julie Neale says:

    My daughter had weeping eczema from about 4 months – 20 months. She had a lot of allergies as well. I still continued to breast feed. What I found to be her basic issue was too much yeast in her system. I don’t know why and without going into it a lot, I decided to use colloidal silver and a probiotic capsule. The colloidal silver is known to kill yeast and the probiotic provides good bacteria in the gut. It took about 3 months and she was definitley on the mend. She only improved and has never had any eczema to speak of since (she is now 19). Combating yeast also really helps a lot with allergies. She does still have some allergies and I do consider once in a while that she should maybe consider doing some more yeast killing in her system. I hope this helps!

    • Thank you! I do think there is a connection. I had that suspicion this week when I had a candida flare and my seasonal allergies got much worse. Thanks!

  8. Hello, Adrienne,

    I wanted to mention a technique that is not that widely known, the Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET) that can actually clear food allergies so that you can eat these foods without any problems. It’s a specialized form of acupuncture, and it’s had a great track record for over thirty years. The theory is that it retrains the brain to stop identifying substances (either foods or environmental substances such as pollen, dust, mold, etc) as allergens, so that the whole histamine reaction doesn’t take place. I was skeptical, I have to admit, but my asthma, eczema, and hay fever were getting to be unbearable so I tried it. That was thirteen years ago and I’ve experienced only one asthma episode in that time (probably to something I hadn’t been cleared for), my eczema is gone, and my hay fever is a pale imitation of what it used to be in the spring. I no longer treat for asthma or eczema. A number of food allergies were identified and cleared in my case – for example, gluten, sugar, alcohol, soy, strawberries and some others … I can eat these things now without any problems. And I cleared a number of common environmental allergens as well. These treatments have permanent results. Anyone interested can check out the NAET website for more information and to see if there is a practitioner in your area.

    • I am familiar with it and really appreciate this. I am trying another similar technique too (well, haven’t done enough with it. I keep forgetting). So thanks for the reminder! I don’t know if it would work on life threatening allergies but worth a try!

      • You’re welcome, Adrienne. I will say that my asthma had become life-threatening, and I have read testimonials from people who would suffer anaphylactic reactions to food allergies who had them cleared via this technique. It is a commitment and avoiding the allergen for 25 hrs can be a hassle, but a life-changer like this was worth it to me. It is important to find a good practitioner – I do think quality varies. One of the nice things about going through and clearing all these allergies is that I no longer have to worry when I am eating at a restaurant that might have used the same cutting board for shellfish that they used for regular fish (that was my most violent allergy), for example, or put some shellfish broth in with a dish not identified as having that in it. Also, I should probably clarify that it is really more of an acupressure technique than acupuncture. The points on a person’s back are stimulated with acupressure, not needles. With points on the front, a person can choose either acupuncture or electrical stimulation. So if a person has a problem with needles, they don’t need to go that route. Good luck with your journey! And thanks for all your posts.

  9. Adrienne, I have followed you for some time now and value your opinion on a lot of topics. What brand of probiotics would you give your infant if they show signs of eczema? I am noting it on my grand son and am beginning to think it is food related..preferably grains in my observation. He was given an antibiotic when he was about a month old. Thank you for your time.

  10. I’m SO glad to hear that removing allergens helped!! That’s what I did too – my eczema was terrible before but after doing the elimination diet, I saw such miraculous healing!

    If you’re ever interested in reading more natural remedies for eczema, I love blogging about it too! 🙂

    Take care! 🙂
    Abby

  11. Catharine says:

    Found your site while looking for essential oils for my own eczema. I know its been almost two years since you posted this, but I just want to tell you and the rest of the mom who is going through the same thing with their babies. Hand in there. The best thing you can do is to figure out what your babies allergies are and try your best to eliminate the allergens, trust your gut instinct, love them and thing will get better sooner or later.
    I went through bloody oozing eczema, sleepless nights and deadly nuts allergies with two out of three of my kids. They are now happy and healthy 17, 15 and 9 year old. The oldest was the hardest just because I was completely clueless and a lot less informations available way back then. Doctor ordered a skin test at six or nine months and he had reaction to 43 out of 45 food tested! The only food that did not cause a big bumps was barley and pork. So I did, only give barley and pork and on Similac Alimentum. His skin clear up almost completely by the third day! From then, we add in one food item one at a time every two weeks to figure out what causes less reaction, etc. I mean, how many ways can one cook with only barley and pork, right? One thing I noticed with my three, they are very good eaters compare to the one with no allergy at all. They did eventually outgrow all their food allergies by 5-8 years old, except the deadly nuts allergies. We carry multiple EPI pens and Benadryl at all time. Only occasional hand eczema during dry winter months now.
    Be careful with long term use of hydrocortisone cream, our doctors insisted it will not lighten the babies skin, but it did lighten the skin on his cheeks and forehead and i can still see the scars from a few really bad eczema spots now. We do have darker skin though(Malaysian Chinese in VA, now in CA), so may be its not as visible for light skin babies.
    Anyway, sorry for the long post. Good luck and take care.

  12. I have a son similar to yours. Took me much longer to figure out his milk allergy. He had chronic ear infections, colic and reflux. (he was also a preemie) I didn’t have the help that you did, and didn’t take dairy out of his diet until years later when he could verbalize that his stomach hurt or his ears hurt. I thank God for pointing that out to us, because his behavior problems and his health problems were out of control. He is a completely different child now at 12 years old, and I have no doubt, he will be be healthy enough to do great things in life. We are introducing more and more fermented foods to heal his gut from years of inflammation and abuse from the dairy. He still seems to have some nasal issues, but he is strapping, strong, and healthy. Thank you for sharing your story. It is good to know I am not alone!

  13. Great recap! And very empowering for mom’s going through the eczema battle. I went through it all with my son as well – starting out with cortisone and then moving to every natural therapy you can imagine. Food is the biggest trigger for him – both allergies and sensitivities. He’s doing much better now, but still flares from time to time. We’re about to start the GAPS diet, so I’m really hoping we find the rest of our answers there.