One of the most frustrating and difficult things in life is to watch your child suffer. As mothers, we care for our children and worry over them, but sometimes we have to advocate for them too. In the following article, I’ll discuss a real client (names changed for privacy) who brought her three year old son to see me for nutrition help after multiple dermatologist appointments and treatments had failed to provide measurable change to his severe eczema.
When “Vanessa” came to see me, her son “Jack” was three years old and in constant, severe discomfort from eczema which covered him head to toe. He had itchy patches of red, inflamed skin everywhere visible including his arms, hands, and face, as well as bleeding areas from scratching, and scarring. The skin was also extremely dry and peeling in many places.
Jack was fussy and uncomfortable a large majority of the day and would struggle with scratching himself at almost all times. His parents would have to hold his arms down and watch him constantly to avoid him scratching himself to the point of bleeding.
When I met Jack, it was clear he was agitated and confused. He was also clearly frustrated with the situation in his little boy way. He was the most severe case of eczema I had seen.
I listened as Vanessa described the many conventional protocols she had already tried. She had switched to natural skincare, lotions, and creams. She had seen multiple doctors and dermatologists and had been prescribed and used several strong anti-inflammatory creams. She had food allergy testing done and identified a couple of trigger foods. Only minor improvements were seen with these approaches and the condition was still very serious.
She felt she wasn’t heard by her doctors, they simply told her to keep applying the creams and make her next appointment. Meanwhile, her son was suffering every moment of the day.
She began to avidly research alternative methods of dealing with eczema and came across the idea of nutrition being helpful for the management of the condition, so she reached out and contacted me.
Immediately, bells rang in my head. This child clearly had food sensitivities as well as allergies. It is common knowledge in the functional nutrition community that foods can cause skin issues. Food sensitivities, excess sugar, rancid fats, all can cause various skin issues from acne to eczema. Cutting those foods out and switching to healthier choices is a major part of the reduction of these problems.
When Vanessa reached out to me, she told me that she had discussed the possibility of nutrition being an issue with her doctor and was discouraged from that line of thought. Instead, they wanted to try more cortisone cream. When I heard this, it made me both sad and angry. Functional medicine has made a real impact on how we look at skin issues, but there is still a lot of education that needs to be done before some professionals will acknowledge the importance of nutrition to health.
Many people wonder if food sensitivity testing is necessary once food allergy testing has already been done. There are various opinions about food sensitivity testing among professionals with some not finding much value in it and some, like me, using it regularly. The current gold standard is still an elimination diet because the belief is that food sensitivity testing can identify foods as problem foods that really aren’t an issue. This is partly true, and one of the reasons it is important to have this testing done with a professional. The goal is not to remove a laundry list of foods forever, but rather to identify what foods are triggers currently, and if the client perhaps has signs of intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”. A food sensitivity test helps discern this, because a person with many different foods listed as sensitivities, probably has a weak barrier. (See my article When Your Food Sensitivity Test Results Show TONS of Sensitivities)
I brought Jack in to the office for a finger prick food sensitivity test to see what foods might potentially be contributing to the eczema and three weeks later we had results. Jack had severe food sensitivities to ALL of the main trigger foods. In my practice, I typically see sensitivities to dairy or eggs, or one of numerous other foods including grains. Occasionally, I’ll see two severe sensitivities. It is extremely unusual to see so many severe sensitivities. Immediately I knew that Jack’s body was completely inflamed and his way of dealing with that inflammation was expressing through the skin.
We worked on an elimination diet to remove these foods as step #1. We also took into account skincare products that might potentially be problematic and took it down to the bare basics. We added several supplements (Nordic Naturals kid’s Omega 3 gummies, and Orthomollecular Multivitamin as well as Megasporebiotic and IGG (two supplements you can only buy through a professional) to help the skin healing process and provide a bridge for any potential nutrient deficiencies that might occur while Jack was cutting out so many food groups. It was an incredibly difficult process for Vanessa. It’s already hard to feed a picky three year old, let alone a picky three year old with sensitivities to grains, eggs, dairy, and more. But to her credit, she was completely resolved to do it and got to work immediately.
After a month we were already seeing some improvement. The new itchiness was decreasing and we were starting to see some healing/scarring.
After several months the skin was mostly in the healing process. The leatheriness that the skin had before was started to ease and the itching was almost completely gone.
After a year, Vanessa sent me an update. The skin is almost completely healed. Jack no longer itches and his skin is smooth again with the scarring fading.
I’m so happy I was able to be a part of this transformation, this is the kind of work I got into nutrition to do. I want to give so much credit to Vanessa as well. She knew there was a solution for her baby and worked hard to advocate for him, even when she was discouraged. As a nutritionist, I give the direction but it’s the client’s responsibility to follow that direction and she did amazingly well!
If you’re interested to see if nutrition can help your eczema or skin issues, find out more about me here.