Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Eczema as a drive to self-discipline

Normally I use this blog mainly to post thoughts and links to parenting ideas as well as spiritual discipline ideas, but today I want to share an experience our family has been going through.

Pookaloo recently (6-8 weeks ago) developed eczema and we have been battling it unsuccessfully and watching it just get worse and worse despite globbing on lots and lots of lotions.

Then, she developed hives one day after trying ranch dressing, and again a different day after having some garlic cheese sauce. Her face turned red after one bite of eggplant a week or so later. I already knew that eating tomatoes gave her a red bottom.

She's also been having lots of sneezes, sniffles and an almost constant clear runny nose.

Clearly she was reacting to something and I read that eczema can be related to food sensitivities.

Based on all the evidence, two weeks ago, I decided to cut out the top two common ingredients in the ranch and cheese sauce, dairy & soy, out of our diets. I also decided to eliminate the nightshade family (which includes tomatoes & eggplants, but also potatoes and peppers belong) too.

It seemed to be stable, maybe getting a little better. Then 8 days in to our new diet, she accidentally had a bit of her cousin's yogurt.

Things went from bad to worse. She broke out in a new rash all across her torso. One of the biggest & oldest spots on her arm cracked open and started weeping fluid, and the back of her knees were bright red and angry looking. Whereas it never seemed to bother her before, Pookaloo was rubbing at the spots and saying something approximating the word "itches."

Then, suddenly, yesterday and today we've seen a dramatic improvement. It could be the new Aveeno Intense Repair Cream. Or the oatmeal bath or baking soda baths she's had the past two nights. Those definitely helped. But I'm pretty sure that Pookaloo is sensitive to dairy.

Did this just suddenly happen? Probably not. She was a fussy baby, but it was never quite severe enough to be categorized as colic. She has never been a great sleeper, and excessive night wakings can be a sign of food sensitivity too. I don't eat all that many dairy products because of my lactose intolerance, but I do indulge every once in a while. I never noticed a consistent obvious pattern of her fussiness or wakefulness related to the times I would indulge in a bowl of lactose-free ice cream or take probiotics so I could enjoy a slice of pizza with light cheese and extra sauce. That the eczema showed up only recently makes sense because she has been eating yogurt and cheese directly more and more since she's turned one. In fact, I thought she loved it; she was always asking for cheese. I learned recently that an obsession with a food can actually reflect a sensitivity to it.

Not only is her eczema better but her nightwakings have become much easier to handle too. I don't know if it was a fluke or not, but last night she woke only at 2:30 and 6:50 and we got up at 7:30. Twice in one night might be considered a lot for some 18 month olds, but for her it was like a miracle. Nights where she wakes up 5 or more times are not uncommon around here.

I'm feeling happy to know what is going on, but feeling a little sad too that I didn't catch on sooner. When she was tiny I sometimes wondered if something I ate bothered her but I didn't think her symptoms rose to the level described by those with clear-cut cases of food sensitivity/allergy and like I said, if there was a pattern to her symptoms, I missed it.

Too, I was lazy and selfish. I didn't think it was worth it to go to the trouble and discomfort of an elimination diet for what seemed to me like a remote possibility. I thought I just had a high-needs, spirited baby who needed a little extra TLC. How much frustration and discomfort and pain could I have spared both of us if I had been more willing to submit to a more disciplined way of eating? Praise God for his mercy. I can be thankful for the eczema because it was God's design for Charlotte's body to put up a red flag and get my attention.

I do think God spoke to me about fasting in order to prepare me to go on this elimination diet for both our sakes. It hasn't been easy. The first week I craved ice cream like nobody's business. But now I find myself thinking of it less and less. I'd rather have a banana or a fruit popsicle. And I definitely feel better without dealing with the slightly mild lactose intolerance symptoms that used to follow me everyday (because dairy is in so many things!)

I'm pretty certain of the dairy being a problem, although I will probably challenge it again in a few weeks just to be sure. Her reaction to tomatoes and eggplant was really obvious so I'm definite about needing to avoid those too. I'm less certain about the soy being an issue, but I'm content to keep avoiding it for now.

A blessing to be found in all this is that I am now much more aware of what we put into our bodies and seeking to support our health. It's opened my eyes to ways of approaching wellness that I never would have sought out or considered without this.

1 comment:

  1. Lots of hugs to you! Food allergies are horrible. All three of our have them, and our youngest has recently had a bad outbreak of eczema, and I am trying to pinpoint what she is reacting to. I hope that you get the answers you need and that the allergies go away eventually. We may have to try the Aveeno cream you mentioned, too!

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