A lot of this parenting thing involves running to catch up. Physically yes, but also trying to catch up with development, ensuring we’re knowledgeable about what’s going on at any given time.
When b woke up at 3 months old with red patches of eczema, I googled the symptoms and started on what would be a very long journey to discover the cause and solution - which was not at all as easy as I thought it would be. If only I knew then what I know now. I could have ended it fairly quickly- and prevented a very scary prospect which still looms over us everyday; 50-70 percent of eczema cases in babies escalate to become Asthma. (https://www.nhs.uk/news/medical-practice/how-eczema-might-lead-to-asthma/)
After changing all our soaps, detergents, and crib sheets; after putting a humidifier in her room, and giving her nightly baths with a variety of different potions with no change, we knew it wasn’t external but something happening internally. We started to examine my diet. She was exclusively breastfed at 3 months old.
Eczema is an allergic response, so you’d think an allergy test would be the solution. Not so. We went for one at 4 months, but it showed no allergies. The allergy doctor (Dr. Doctor was his name) told me to go home and eat whatever i wanted, even the things I thought might be triggering it. So I did. And in three days b’s red scaly patches turned her entire body fiery red and itchy. I was horrified, upset and even more confused.
It turns out there are so many different theories about this eczema thing, and even the medical community is conflicted.
Everyday while B napped I furiously searched for the reason behind this, and eventually found it in a baby food book my sister lent me called Sprout Right:
“Doctors are not so quick to accept that the IgG reactions millions suffer with are real.”
There it is.
“Allergy involves IgE antibody production while intolerance or sensitivity most commonly involves IgG antibody production. The term sensitivity is often used as a catch-all for both.
Food intolerance doesn’t show up in medical testing and therefore isn’t recognized as a problem. Intolerance reactions are not life threatening but can reduce quality of life. Symptoms are generally delayed in showing, unlike with allergies, sometimes taking up to 72 hours to present.”
Okay, so she has a food sensitivity or an IgG antibody response.
Now to find out what causes it.
I had a theory that it was milk related (most cases of eczema are milk and citrus related). So I’d stopped drinking milk/cream, eating cheese or storebought pastries/ muffins/breads with modified milk ingredients. Every once in awhile though, it would come back with a vengeance without any of these foods in my diet.
(If you’re reading this because you’re going through the same thing, here are my favourite substitutions.
Coffee cream - Silk soy cream
Ice cream - coconut ice cream
Yogurt - Silk coconut yogurt
Cereal milk - almond milk
Milk for cooking/baking - soy or almond milk
Cheese - nothing :( (Vegan cheese uses the same milk protein as milk, causing the same symptoms.))
In order to catch this mystery food, I looked into a food sensitivity test I’d heard of from my sister. It was called the Rocky Mountain Food Sensitivity/Intolerance test and could be done at any Naturopath, for $250-$400 (it varies depending on the amount of food tested).
Because B was mostly just nursing (at this point experimenting with solids) I would be the one to do the simple blood test. The naturopath said that we share antibodies, so the test would reveal sensitivities both her and I share. Until she’s eating solids exclusively, there’s no point in her doing the test.
The test revealed foods unique to me, about a dozen, that I should cut out, like potatoes, mushrooms, wheat, onions, peas, peanuts, almonds, cashews, egg whites, dairy and citrus.
Basically I could only eat meat, veggies, oatmeal and corn tortillas.
The test didn’t reveal foods I had already decided caused problems for her like strawberries.
She explained to me that yes, the medical community doesn’t necessarily believe in the test and the reason for that is because it can sometimes show false positives (maybe not mushrooms?) or false negatives (the strawberries not showing up). However, the test combined with an elimination diet (we’d already been doing) will succeed in pinpointing triggers and eliminate the symptoms better then any suggestions the medical field may have.
In other words, it can’t hurt. It can only help.
At this point, B is nearing 6 months and the only suggestion the dr has is to apply steroid cream on her eczema. This cream can only be applied for two weeks maximum, as side effects may occur if used for too long.
Two weeks came and went on the cream, and her eczema went and came back.
Back to square one.
So B is 7 months old now, and I’ve begun to eliminate the dozen foods from my diet that showed up on this test. Within a week, her skin has started clearing up on its own - without any cream.
She started solids around this time, which complicated matters a little bit.
Every 3 or 4 days her eczema would come back a little bit and then go away again.
Unsure whether these symptoms were related to what I was eating or what she was eating - I really wished I’d charted her solids more meticulously, like the baby books said to.
On the days it would flare up I’d feel especially helpless, on the strictest diet ever, for what?
One of the final pieces of the puzzle came when she got all red after eating a prepared food tube of apples and mangos. She had eaten both, separately, and been fine. What was the difference? Turns out, there’s lemon juice in 90 percent of those tubes. While I was avoiding citrus fruits, I was feeding them directly to her without knowing. So beware, those damn fruit tubes. Citrus is one of the top 3 causes of eczema in babies and adults alike. Why they don’t make it clearer on the packaging - I don’t know.
When we stopped feeding her those, it finally went away entirely. She’s been clear skinned and happy for a couple of months now :)
The next problem came when my diet was limited so much that my milk production went down. Such a delicate balance it is..
I wound up taking fenugreek to help increase my supply and we eventually got her weight up to approved doctor/chart levels. It took a lot of fruit, veggies, meat, oatmeal and coconut oil.
It’s been 6 months since we took the test and she hasn’t had a flare-up in ages.
The doctor suggested we try to introduce the sensitive foods again just to see. She has to be exposed to peanuts and other allergens in the first year, maybe we need to “build” her immunity up.
So we did. We gave her wheat, peanuts, and corn. I tried milk, and egg whites.
She didn’t get eczema again, so we thought maybe we were in the clear. Instead, her nose started to run, which is another common sign of intolerance.
We didn’t think much of it. She was teething and she had a cold for awhile, both could be the cause of a runny nose.
And then it hit me that maybe her skin no longer shows symptoms, that maybe the symptoms have moved inside.The runny nose may be one step closer to a potential case of asthma and I’m once again worried. Back to the strict diet, and the investigating while she naps.
While some days I feel like we’re taking one step forward and two steps back, I really feel like we got it under control more then we could have if we’d listened to doctors alone.
Here’s hoping this will all be a distant memory in a years time, for b and all the other babies suffering from this elusive condition.
Here’s a photo of her today, approaching her first birthday.