I’ve had eczema, atopic dermatitis, my whole life. Constant (meaning always present) eczema took a brief sabbatical in my teens and early twenties but came back about two years ago. I’ve never been rash free because I get flares in the heat and when I get sweaty.
This year I learnt the term ‘normalise’, which is used when you treat things that are not normal as normal. Like getting ugly rashes on your arms, behind your armpits and knees, ankles, tops of feet and chin line. I thought, oh it’s hot, time to break out the hydrocortisone cream and hang out in the AC. Those techniques of coping are what I would define as not normal. I was pushed to the edge when chronic eczema on my right hand came back and hasn’t left in nearly two years. Things had to change.
I could no longer normalise my eczema because it was stopping me from doing things. It hurt to wash my hands; it hurt to shampoo my hair, it hurt to stretch out my fingers. I would wake up with blood on my pillows from cracked skin. The worst came when all of a sudden I no longer wanted to do things like rock climb because I associated it with pain, not the good kind, but the stinging, burning pain I would have on my right for a few days after. This was no way to live.
Diet Change: Dairy-free & Gluten-free
*If you decide to do an elimination diet speak to a professional and get medical advice on how to do this safely. Do not go at this alone!
Normalise is a term that is helping me take ownership of my eczema (and asthma). After hearing so many success stories of people changing their diets to help with their skin, I finally gave in. I ditched dairy and gluten at the start of June and I can’t believe it is working. I was a huge sceptic because I went through Whole30 for my eczema with no changes. This time going dairy and gluten-free is working. I think stress has a lot to do with the difference between now and Whole30 and my intention is coming from a healthier mindset.
How do I know cutting dairy and wheat is helping? Especially since I still have eczema on my right hand and I still get a small flare on my left arm. To start this summer has been so good compared to others.
The lightbulb moment came at the weekend as I wore a pair of shoes I usually can’t wear when the temperature is over 25°C because the tops of my feet would be covered in little blisters. We were on a long walk, and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be wearing those shoes! It may sound mundane, but I have to buy summer shoes that won’t rub in certain places because of my eczema.
I also know that my diet change has helped because I intentionally ate dairy two weeks ago and my right arm flared four days later. It is now getting better, but it goes to show that something is happening for the better.
Getting rid of chemicals
Taking better and conscious care of my skin is also part of managing my eczema. Getting rid of chemicals in my soaps and creams was the first step. I use natural coconut shampoo, shea butter cream, manuka honey skin soothing cream on my hand, and pure rosehip oil on my face. I also use scrubs from No Nuts Beauty and clay instead of body and face wash. This has helped heal my skin, and it feels less tingly when showering.
In terms of the household chemicals, I have been using vinegar and baking soda to clean the house and will be switching laundry detergents, still on the hunt for a good one.
On top of diet, there have also been other things I have used to calm flares when they do happen. I met the lovely Jennifer, the lady behind the blog Itchy Little World, who was the final push I needed to try eliminating dairy and gluten. She recently launched a line of clothes for eczema called Remedywear and by George are they freaking amazing! The moment you put the Remedywear shirt* or sleeve on you immediately feel cooled.
I throw on the long sleeve shirt if I am itchy and use the sleeves and glove for sleeping. Both prevent me from scratching and feeling super hot in the flared areas. I never thought that clothes would be a solution to calming the skin, but I really can’t tell you how good it feels to find something that soothes. I wear it when it’s hot out and don’t feel overheated. I know that they will be coming with me everywhere. I plan on wearing the long sleeve the next time I fly.
Besides those big three I have been working on becoming more mindful and less stressed, which can further exacerbate inflammation.
Do you do anything to manage your eczema? I’d love to know what works for you.
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**Disclaimer: This blog post is about my journey and not intended as medical advice. I will do my best to give accurate information about what works for me. Please talk to your doctor to learn more about the right path for you.
Kortney is your typical atopic triad! She manages asthma, eczema, environmental and food allergies. Kortney is a co-creator of the online community Allergy Travels and co-host of The Itch Podcast. She wants to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of life with atopic disease and believes that you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!