Do you suffer with eczema or have a loved one that does? I suffered with eczema for YEARS! So, I’m right there with you. It’s no fun at all. Read on to learn more about what eczema is, my experience with eczema, how I healed my eczema from the inside out, and how you can heal eczema naturally too! There is hope! You do not have to suffer with eczema forever!
What is eczema?
First of all, let’s define eczema. Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is inflammation of the skin. There are different types of eczema, and it can affect people differently and in different places on their skin. But it is usually red, dry patches of skin that ITCH a lot! Sometimes it can also cause fluid-filled blisters on your skin. And the itching can cause you to scratch and scratch and break the skin open just adding to the pain.
My Eczema Story
I started showing signs of eczema when I was a Junior in high school. All of the sudden, my eyelids turned red, dry, and scaly. I thought it was an allergic reaction to the eyeshadow I was using. So, I threw the eyeshadow away and used a different brand. I also started using hydrocortisone cream to help with the itchiness. However, the same thing happened again off and on throughout the next few years.
After I graduated from college and got married, eczema started showing up more often and in different places. It gradually showed up on my hands, along my bra-line, on my neck, and in my armpits (and probably some other places that I can’t remember- it has been 10 years!).
I went to the doctor about it when my hands were getting really bad. She diagnosed it as eczema and prescribed me some steroid cream. The steroid cream helped calm it down at first, but the eczema would keep coming back.
My doctor also referred me to a dermatologist. So, I went and had allergy testing done. The dermatologist put patches of about 30 different allergens on my back to see which ones I reacted to. When I got the results back, I found out I was allergic to bacitracin (an active ingredient in Neosporin), cigarette smoke, gold plating, and a type of grass. I made sure NOT to put Neosporin on my open sores from the eczema anymore, stay away from people who were smoking, and stop wearing most jewelry.
There was still no sign of my eczema clearing up…
Throughout the first five years of my marriage (2009-2014), I went to the doctor several times and tried several different creams, lotions, and foams. I was just told to keep it moisturized and use the steroid creams when I had flare-ups. (Spoiler alert – moisturizing does not cure eczema!!)
I was tired of being told the same things and prescribed medication after medication to just mask the symptoms. No one ever told me WHY I had eczema and if/how I could heal it for good.
Two years ago I realized that I needed to take charge of my health. It was up to me to research, experiment, and figure out for myself why I had eczema and how I could get rid of it for good.
Watch this video to hear more about my eczema healing journey.
How to Heal Eczema Naturally
So, here is what I have learned and tried that helped me to heal my eczema! Do I ever have flare ups anymore? Yes, sometimes. I am still on a journey to heal it 100% and keep from having flare ups anymore. But it is so much better than it was! And now I know what I need to do to keep from getting flare ups. Sometimes it’s just a matter of making the decision to either stick to these things and not get a flare up or splurge on something that I know will cause a flare up for a moment of enjoyment.
1. Stress Management
Stress has a big impact on eczema and other health conditions. When you are stressed, your body is much more likely to get sick or increase inflammation. Inflammation can show up in different places on and in the body and is the underlying cause of many diseases and conditions.
Inflammation of the skin = eczema
Your hormone cortisol goes up when you’re stressed. When we have lots of cortisol, it can cause leaky gut, which is the underlying cause of eczema and many other diseases. I’ll share more about that soon!
So, the first thing you need to get under control in order to start your road to eczema recovery is relaxing and relieving some stress. Set your body up to be able to heal. You can do all the other things I’ve listed here. But if you’re living in a constant state of stress, your eczema will probably stay inflamed. You’ve got to work on managing your stress first and foremost. For help with that, read my posts 7 Simple Steps to Relieve Stress and Manage Your Stress.
Working on your sleep goes right along with stress. When you are stressed, you have an increase in hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and epinephrine. These can make falling asleep and staying asleep VERY difficult.
Sleep is so important! Your body heals and resets while you are sleeping. When you don’t get enough sleep at night, you feel tired and possibly more stressed the next day. Being very tired can also weaken your judgment about your food choices. When I am tired and in a fog, I don’t want to spend time cooking a nutritious breakfast. I am tempted to eat a bowl of cereal, which will cause my eczema to get WAY WORSE (Which is why I don’t even keep cereal in my house anymore! I do meal prep on the weekends so that I always have something healthy on hand. Gotta set yourself up for success!)
It is important to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night. Everyone’s sleep requirements are a little different. But on average, shoot for getting 8 hours of sleep a night and no less than 7 hours.
Make sure you are sleeping in a dark room, without night lights or bright lights coming from your phone, alarm clock, oil diffuser, or humidifier. Sleeping with lights in the room can throw off your circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle), causing you to get less quality sleep. Read my post for more tips for getting Quality Sleep.
Eczema and the Gut
Eczema is actually not a problem of the skin. It is an outward sign of what is going on INSIDE your body. Most of the time, eczema (and other autoimmune diseases) is caused from a condition called “Leaky Gut.” Leaky gut is what it sounds like – a condition in which the lining of your intestines leak substances, like bacteria, toxins, and food particles into your bloodstream. The lining of your intestines have “Tight Junctions” that hold the lining together and separate your intestinal tube, which carries your food, from your blood stream, where your nutrients go and are carried to different parts of your body. In leaky gut, however, these Tight Junctions separate and bacteria, toxins, and food particles pass through to the blood stream.
When the gut leaks, your immune system starts to fight it. It senses the “foreign invaders” in your blood and launches an attack on the them. This causes inflammation somewhere in the body. For eczema, the inflammation manifests on the skin.
Inflammation can be a good thing. Inflammation is what causes wounds to scab over and heal. However, it is not a good thing when your body continues to release immune cells and cause chronic inflammation due to a gut that is leaky. Therefore, in order to heal eczema, we’ve got to heal the gut.
Here’s an article from The Paleo Mom, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. you can read to learn a lot more about Leaky Gut. Also, watch this video for more information about how the gut affects eczema and what causes leaky gut.
So the next few steps to healing your eczema are focused on healing the gut. Heal the gut = heal eczema!
3. Cut out Common Food Triggers
Foods can have a HUGE impact on leaky gut and eczema. These foods are known to contribute to leaky gut and increase inflammation on/in the body:
- Processed Food
- Sugar Substitutes
- Omega 6 Fats (vegetable, corn, safflower, sunflower, grape seed, poppy seed, walnut, cottonseed, sesame, and soy oils)
- Trans Fats
4. Figure Out and Eliminate Your Food Sensitivities
I did an elimination diet called The Autoimmune Paleo Diet, where I cut out all of the inflammatory foods listed above PLUS MORE. It was the Paleo Diet in addition to cutting out nightshades (tomatoes, white potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tomatillos), eggs, nuts, and seeds. I cut those foods out for 30 days, and then slowly added some back into my diet, one at a time.
I used a journal to keep track of the different foods I was adding back in and any reactions I noticed. Through the diet, I was able to figure out that nightshades, gluten, and dairy were my biggest offenders. I can handle dark chocolate and coffee (thank goodness). And nuts I can handle, but only in small quantities.
I would recommend trying the Autoimmune Paleo Diet yourself and keeping track in a journal any reactions you have as you add back in foods. It’s amazing what you can learn about your body and what food sensitivities you have when you really take the time to notice and record your findings.
Watch the video below to learn more about how to figure out and eliminate your food sensitivities and other inflammatory foods.
5. Food Sensitivity Testing
After I did the Autoimmune Paleo Diet, my skin was so much better than it was! However, I still would have some flare-ups. I figured I may have a food sensitivity that I didn’t eliminate on the AIP diet. You could even be sensitive to some healthy foods – like broccoli or onions.
To figure out any other food sensitivities I had, I took the Food Sensitivity Test from EverlyWell.com. When I got the results back, it came as no surprise that I was sensitive to gluten, dairy, and nightshades. However, some of it was surprising to me. It said I was sensitive to coconut, bananas, mushrooms, yeast, and green beans. These are healthy foods that I had been eating a lot of. I was using coconut oil to cook everything and was using coconut flour in place of regular wheat flour.
So it was very helpful to know the other foods that were contributing to my eczema. I cut these foods out and it made a huge difference! I highly recommend this testing. Use the link above to get 20% off your first order. It’s amazing the difference it makes when you cut out inflammatory foods and other foods your body is sensitive to!
6. Foods and Supplements to Heal the Gut
Once you’ve figured out what foods are contributing to your leaky gut and eliminate them, it’s important to work on healing the gut lining and joining those Tight Junctions back together through nutritious foods and supplements.
Bone broth, which is full of collagen and amino acids, is great for gut-healing. You can drink bone broth by itself (try to drink 1 cup a day while you are healing) or eat soups made with bone broth.
You can also add collagen into your routine. I like to add a scoop of collagen into my oatmeal, coffee, or smoothies. Choose one that is a multi-collagen, meaning it has all 5 main types of collagen to see the maximum benefits. This is a great brand!
L-Glutamine, an amino acid that is actually in bone broth and collagen, is a GREAT supplement to take to heal the gut. It helps to repair the tight junctions and allow your intestines to function like they’re supposed to. This one is in powder form, instead of capsule form, making it easier to digest and easier for your body to absorb and reap all the great benefits.
It is important to eat plenty of foods with Omega 3 healthy fat. Like I write about in my Paleo Diet post, many people are eating a diet high in Omega 6 fats, which causes inflammation. Try to replace some of those fats with Omega 3 fats to create a balanced Omega 3: Omega 6 ratio.
Foods like wild-caught salmon, sardines, and grass-fed beef are rich in Omega-3 fat.
A great Omega 3 supplement you can take is Green Pasture Blue Ice Royal Butter Oil/Fermented Cod Liver Oil Blend. I take this supplement daily. It has a combination of butter from grass-fed cows and fermented cod liver oil from wild-caught fish that work synergistically to help your body get the most nutrients out of it. Besides the good Omega 3’s, it is also a great source of Vitamin K, E, antioxidants, and CoQ enzymes.
7. Support Digestion
It is also important to make sure you are digesting your food thoroughly, to prevent non-digested food from irritating your gut more.
To do this, start your day by drinking a cup of hot water with lemon. This will help energize you, get things moving, and support your digestion.
You can also drink a little apple cider vinegar mixed with water 15-30 minutes before eating your meals. The acid and enzymes in ACV help your stomach digest your food. It can also help when you have indigestion and heartburn. Many people take Tums (acid blockers) when they have heartburn. But your stomach actually needs more acid to digest your food when you are experiencing those problems. Many people are deficient in stomach acid.
When you are eating, it is important to make sure you are relaxed and chewing your food all the way. Rushing and swallowing your food without properly chewing it can cause more digestive problems and leaky gut. Try to chew your food until it is liquid, and then swallow it.
Also, don’t drink a lot while you are eating your meals. Drinking tons of water or other drinks can flush out the stomach acid that you need to properly digest your food.
If you are still experiencing problems, you can supplement with digestive enzymes like these to further support your stomach in digesting your food. I take these and notice a HUGE difference with them. No more bloating!
One cause of leaky gut is dysbiosis, or an imbalance of bacteria in your intestines. You may have too much bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria. Or you may have enough good bacteria, but in the wrong place – the small intestine instead of the large intestine.
It’s important to be getting plenty of good bacteria to support a healthy gut and, therefore, to help heal your eczema. Consuming good bacteria, or probiotics, will help to flush out the bad bacteria in your gut and get it back in balance.
Some foods that are naturally rich in probiotics are:
- Kombucha (fermented tea)
- Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
- Water kefir or milk kefir (fermented with kefir grains)
- Sourdough bread (don’t consume it if you’re super sensitive to gluten though)
- Other fermented vegetables
You can also take probiotic supplements to make sure you are getting enough. Mary Ruth’s Prebiotic Probiotic Enzymes are a great one for gut health! These have diverse bacteria that your gut needs to help with dysbiosis and leaky gut.
Spirulina, a blue-green algae, is another great supplement to take to help promote the growth of healthy bacteria and maintain balance in the gut microbiome. It is full of beneficial nutrients, is a great source of antioxidants, and is a natural anti-inflammatory supplement. It comes in tablet form or powder that I like to add to smoothies.
9. Toxic-Free Home & Beauty Products
Many household cleaners and beauty products contain chemicals that can really irritate your skin. These don’t usually CAUSE eczema, but they do aggravate it and make it worse! Instead of using chemical-laden cleaners, I either make my own cleaners using natural products (like baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils), or I buy cleaners with safe ingredients.
Always look at the ingredients on the back of the bottle before you buy products. Don’t just look at the claims the company makes on the front of the package. If the ingredient list is super long, full of ingredients you can’t pronounce, contains artificial colors, or fragrance, it’s probably not a good idea to buy.
My favorite cleaning concentrates to use for almost EVERYTHING are Branch Basics and Dr. Bronner’s. They’re both super clean and won’t irritate your eczema any more than it is. Many of my favorite clean beauty products are from Beautycounter. You can read more about Making the Switch to Clean Beauty here!
Of course, besides removing irritating foods and healing your body from the inside, it is also important to keep your skin moisturized.
I make my own body butter using coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and essential oils. I sell it on Etsy, if you’re interested in trying it. It helps so much with keeping my skin moisturized and helping with the healing process, without clogging my skin or irritating it with harmful chemicals.
Another quick topical treatment I use – I mix lavender essential oil, melaleuca (tea tree) essential oil, and fractionated coconut oil together in a rollerball. I apply it to any patches of eczema I have and it helps SO MUCH with keeping the itch down.
I was able to heal my long-time eczema by following these steps. Do I ever have flare ups? Yes! If I eat a food that I have a sensitivity to, I do get a flare up (which tells me that I still have some work to do in my gut). BUT my flare ups are few-and-far between now, and they don’t get NEARLY as bad as they used to. I no longer get eczema on my armpits, bra line, eyes, or neck. When I get them, they’re just on my hands.
Try these steps out if you have eczema or share with a friend or family member who suffers from eczema. You can be free of your eczema soon too! Eczema is not something you have to suffer with forever. There is hope! I healed my eczema without the use of steroid creams, and you can heal your eczema naturally too! Let me know if you try these things and how they worked for you.