Archive for the ‘My Story’ Category

My Baby Has Eczema: Diet Disaster

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Last week I related the experience of how my son came down with eczema as a tiny baby. Trying to find the cause of it was an exercise in futility. My brother was born allergic to wheat and as a child suffered from many allergies, which he eventually outgrew sometime around puberty. So I was familiar with food allergies and had some ideas about how to deal with them. My basic understanding was this: Find the reactive foods, eliminate them, problem solved.

But it wasn’t that easy. I already mentioned last week how I tried cutting out one food at a time to test to see if that was it. This works if there are only one or two allergens–which usually is the case for most people–but it didn’t work for me. There was absolutely no change no matter what I was avoiding.

Some people speculated that maybe his eczema was not food related. But I knew otherwise. Sometimes when I was nursing him, I could practically watch him react. It was as though my milk were poison to him. Sometimes my husband would notice the reaction, and say, “He’s breaking out again.”. I began to dread him saying that. What could I do about it that I wasn’t already doing? I mean, he had to eat!

What About Formula?

We thought of trying some kind of formula, but the doctor did her best to discourage me from switching. After all, even though he was allergic to something in my milk, he was still getting the best nutrition possible. And for all we knew, he might be allergic to something in the formula. I learned later that there are hypoallergenic formulas out there, and we even got one when he was about 9 or 10 months old, but even that had corn syrup solids in it, and he has since proved to be very reactive to corn, so even if he had been willing to take a bottle, I’m not sure how well it would have worked.

My husband was convinced that if Manny could just get off my breastmilk and onto something he could handle, he would clear up. (I know now that this was not true, but we were still operating under the “some food is causing this allergy; eliminate the food(s) and the eczema will go away” assumption. We didn’t realize that allergies were only part of the equation in his case, and not necessarily the greater part.) After some research we decided to try goat’s milk formula. My mom’s milk supply ran low when I was about 3 months old, and she supplemented with goat’s milk. My very allergic brother thrived on it as well. So I figured it was worth a try

Now if you try to find goat’s milk formula, you won’t find it–at least, not in the States. You have to buy the ingredients and make it yourself. I found a source for fresh goat’s milk, got my hands on a good formula recipe, and made up a batch.

I don’t want to remember the day we tried to get him to drink it. He was about 6 months old by then and was firmly established with breastfeeding. He didn’t even want to take breastmilk from a bottle! My husband sat for hours while Manny cried for milk the way he was used to getting it and resisted the bottle with all the firmness a six-month-old can muster. I can’t tell you how hard it was to watch. I knew I had what he wanted–more and more as the hours passed–and it was killing me to listen to him cry. But Daddy was determined to try.

Finally he drank some. Then he vomited. Then he had a bad reaction on his skin. And he refused to drink more. I begged my husband to “Just let me feed my baby!” and he finally relented.

We never tried that again.

The Home Skin Test

We had much to learn, but eventually we figured out that certain foods would cause a hives-like reaction on his skin, and this was an indication that he was almost without question truly allergic to those foods. (Note: There is a difference between true allergies and sensitivities; one should avoid true allergens and limit contact with things they are merely sensitive to. This will be discussed more in depth later.) We have used this simple home skin test–rubbing an area of his skin with the food we are testing–with some success to test things  without actually giving them to him orally. Once we figured this out, we suddenly understood why he reacted the way he did to the goat’s milk: he is highly allergic to all forms of dairy, including goat’s milk. By trial and error we discovered that he is also without doubt truly allergic to wheat, all nuts, most seeds, kiwi, cranberry, and maybe one or two other things. But that wasn’t until months later, and I still had some of those in my diet when we finally weaned him.

Diet Restrictions Toughen

In an attempt to put our finger on what was causing the eczema and eliminate it, I began to cut more and more out of my diet. I was hoping that if I could just figure out all the things he was allergic to, he would stop breaking out. Meal preparation became a burden, because my husband and daughter didn’t join me in the restricted diet–meaning I had to cook two different meals. I would try to have at least one dish in common, and find a substitute for what I couldn’t have. Friends became concerned that I wasn’t getting enough nutrition to make good milk. I wasn’t so worried about that–as long as I was producing, I knew from the research that I had done that the milk itself would be fine–but it certainly did drain me. It was also very frustrating. I remember being hungry for a snack one evening, and I couldn’t find any snack foods that I could eat in the house. I was so desperate that I grabbed my purse and headed over to the local health food store (less than a mile away) and stocked up on rice crackers and other expensive snack items. Then I tried to make them last, because I didn’t have a lot of money in the food budget for things like that!

More than anything else, the restrictions that I was putting in my diet were all the more frustrating because of the lack of improvement. It didn’t matter what I tried; he just wasn’t getting better. The strain began to manifest itself in emotional issues. I came very near to a serious breakdown. I will share about that next week.

Have you ever dealt with eczema in a loved one–or yourself? Can you enter into the frustration that we were experiencing–trying to figure out the allergen(s) and not being able to pinpoint all of them? Please share with us  in the comments. If you have a blog about it, be sure to include a link. And consider subscribing so you won’t miss next week’s post, where I will delve into the emotional pain I experienced–and how I almost didn’t survive intact.

Help! My Baby Has Eczema: The Beginning

Friday, January 7th, 2011

My son was born at home on January 17, 2009. He was 7 pounds 12 ounces–just like his sister had been. Perfect. Precious. Adorable. We had no idea what was ahead.

When he was around one month old, I started noticing what looked like baby acne. The doctor didn’t seem concerned about it. Then a few weeks later he started getting puffiness an redness around his eyes.  You can see it in the next picture. Once we determined that this was not something in his eyes, we watched as it gradually spread and eventually he was diagnosed with eczema.

I am familiar with eczema. My brother had it growing up, and we were able to control it with a limited diet and some cream that mom put on it. It was mostly on his tummy, and it bothered him some, but usually only if he ate something he wasn’t supposed to eat. I learned to read labels. He grew out of it sometime around puberty and eats everything today–even the wheat that he was born allergic to.

But this was nothing like my brother’s eczema. Within two or three months it spread over almost his entire body, until he looked and felt absolutely miserable. Sweat irritated him, and summer was coming. I watched as the patches of “good skin” got smaller and smaller, finally disappearing under the onslaught of the advancing raw, irritated, itchy skin that is characteristic of eczema.

I remember the doctor asking me about a “bruise” over his sternum. I hastened to assure her that that was no bruise, but rather a patch of good skin surrounded by bleached bad skin. You see, the eczema actually bleaches his skin. He got a light olive complexion from his father (who is Hispanic), but when suffering from the ravages of eczema he is whiter than I am.

Although he didn’t look very white. He looked awful. Here’s a picture one of my cousins took of him when he was about six months old. You can see how red and irritated his cheeks were. Sadly, this was also the state of his tummy and thighs. The red patches were raw and oozing a lot of the time.

Now, I had done some research, and I had heard that there was a link between eczema and asthma. That what was causing the skin irritation was toxins or something the body was getting rid of through the skin that was causing such irritation. The theory was that if this was suppressed (by the use of steroids) that the irritation would go inward to the lungs and cause asthma. Indeed, many children with eczema also have asthma. For this reason, I was leery of using any steroid cream at all–even hydrocortisone. I used it only on the worst areas, and as sparingly as possible.

During this time, I also tried to figure out what was causing this problem. I systematically eliminated wheat, soy, eggs, and milk from my diet, one by one, trying to figure out what was causing such a reaction. There was no change. (I should say that after testing each one, I added it back in to my diet, so I was only avoiding one food at a time.) Finally we had a rather unconventional allergy test done (electroacu-something–some kind of thing where they tested for electrical responses on the skin) and it pinpointed several foods. I cut those foods out of my diet. Nothing changed. I began to wonder how long it was going to take to see a change, since he seemed to be getting steadily worse.

Then I heard about NAET. Desperate to try anything, we went for several sessions. Nothing changed. Granted, we didn’t give it long enough. But money ran out, and I’m not sure it was doing anything anyway. I don’t want to go into that here. I was willing to try anything, but I wonder if it is a valid thing or if it something dangerous. I don’t have the answer. All I know is, it didn’t work and we’ve moved on.

By this time, I was really becoming emotionally drained. Trying to deal emotionally with the fact that my precious baby was suffering so much was just too much for me. I will share more about that in a future post. Next week I will share with you more about the things we tries in terms of diet to find a solution. I will post an instalment of this series every Friday morning until I finish–however long that takes. So stay tuned to see how I coped and what turned things around for us, and consider subscribing so you don’t miss out on the rest of the story.


This post was originally published on the Life of a Happy Mom blog. You can read more comments on this post here.