Amazing Grace: A Mountain Mama’s journey with eczema

Amazing baby Grace enjoying summertime watermelon

Grace was born a healthy 7 pounds and 1 ounce on October 1, 2012. Her parents Doug and Steph could not have been more proud of their new baby. But at 3 months, Grace broke out in a mysterious rash that covered her whole body. Doug and Steph were completely at a loss as to what might have caused this terrible rash. What’s worse, it wouldn’t go away. While it didn’t seem to bother Grace very much, her parents were obviously very concerned.

Steph wondered if it was something she was eating and transmitting through her breast milk. So she radically simplified her diet, omitting every potential allergen—but the rash persisted. When she took Grace to the pediatrician, she was told that she suffered from atopic dermatitis, also called eczema.

According to the National Eczema Association, “eczema is a medical condition in which patches of skin become rough and inflamed, with blisters that cause itching and bleeding.” What causes eczema? “…exact causes are unknown…there are many triggers that can make it flare or get worse.” The routine treatment is the frequent application of topical steroids. “The pediatrician recommended cortisone cream for everything.” Steph wanted to avoid giving steroids to her newborn, and instead followed a strict diet and tried some natural creams.

By the time Grace was eleven months, the eczema was limited to her face, around her mouth and chin. The eczema was in “rough patches” that were dry, cracked and bleeding. Nothing Steph did seemed to be helping, so she took Grace to see a dermatologist.

The rash was getting worse and spreading. “By that point, it had turned into a dangerous staph infection, and the dermatologist prescribed Mupirocin—a topical antibiotic. She recommended that she also see an allergist to rule out any major food allergies. Grace tested positive for peanut, tree nut and egg allergies, and now has a prescription for a baby-sized Epipen Jr. She also did a test that determined that she had a strep bacteria in her nose (which, it turns out, is benign) and prescribed a broad-spectrum antibiotic.” The treatment cleared the infection, but the eczema came back with a vengeance.

Doug and Steph were at wits end. In desperation, Steph began researching baby eczema online, reading blogs by other mamas with similar challenges, talking to friends and family. She found a smorgasbord of treatment strategies, “natural cures”, and plenty of advice. She tried homemade and store-bought creams, shea butter salves, coconut oil and lavender. A holistic family doctor recommended that she eliminate all gluten, dairy, corn, soy and wheat from Grace’s diet—cutting her down to meat, fruit and veggies. She switched to all-natural hypoallergenic soap and laundry detergent. She tried probiotics, chaga mushroom and homeopathic sulfuricum. Everything helped a little, but there was no singular cure. When nothing would work, they would resort to Muciprocin. The antibiotic would clear things up temporarily, but the eczema kept coming back.

“Our hope was to find some practitioner who had the whole picture.” But the best advice came from trying as many different approaches as they could find. “This is how we got most of the ideas we tried for Grace… talking to other mamas, other people with eczema, different practitioners, and reading stories from people who were struggling to figure out similar issues.” A friend mentioned that her child reacted to strawberries—one of Grace’s favorite foods. Another, tomatoes. So they cut down her diet even more, leaving the one-year-old with only seven “safe” foods. A yoga teacher at Tadasana recommended they try an Ayurvedic approach to healing based on Grace’s “constitution”. Here, they discovered cucumber as one of Grace’s best allies and favorite foods. “There’s something intuitive about Ayurveda. Cucumber symbolizes what she needs, it’s cooling and has almost no citric acid.”

After much trial and error, Doug and Steph were able to link the list of “triggers” to one thing—citric acid. Eliminating it almost completely cleared the rash, but it is not as easy as it sounds. Citric acid is in almost everything, and some foods must be tested for weeks before noting a reaction.

Doug and Steph were constantly looking for the “root cause” of Grace’s eczema. “True root cause, I think, is her early exposure to antibiotics while I was in labor. I think it messed with her gut. I’m confident that once we fix that, she’ll be able to eat the foods she loves best—fruits and veggies!”

Grace just celebrated her second birthday and is truly an amazing little person after all she’s been through. She is curious, thoughtful and (understandably) a bit possessive with her snacks. Thankfully, the eczema seems to be clearing. Doug and Steph feel they’re on the tail end of their whirl-wind journey with this condition. After everything they’ve been through, Steph has become a resident expert on the topic: “Every child is unique, so a truly integrative approach is necessary. The only way to figure it out is by trial and error. Try anything. We felt so much frustration when we couldn’t figure it out. We learned to be patient with the process. Don’t just try something for a couple days, give it time. Turn over every rock. Don’t give up.”

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