This was a very recent case that reminded me that I should take more ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos. There is no greater reward as a practitioner than seeing a baby who was once covered head to toe in angry red eczema come back with smooth clear baby skin!
Presenting Case/ Initial Consultation
Harry* was brought to my clinic by his mum at 8 ½ months (age corrected) for treatment for the eczema that covered his entire body. It took the form of large raised red patches which would come up and down but never disappear. The eczema started when Harry started eating solids at 7 months of age. Harry was also an unhappy and unsettled sleeper Although initially a good sleeper, sleeping solidly from 7pm-4am, he was now waking every 2 hours. He had become incredibly clingy, needed to be constantly held and would often cry inconsolably. This was one unhappy little chappy.
Harry was born early at 31 weeks. When he first came home from hospital he would scream from 9pm until midnight every night. This lasted a few months. Harry was growing well although small, and had only had to be re-hospitalised once since leaving NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) for bronchiolitis at 6 months old.
After doing her own research, his mother had pursued a dairy-free, sugar-free and gluten-free diet, and started bathing Harry in Epsom salts and tea tree oil. She reported that none of the many creams she had tried seemed to make any difference at all.
I recommended that Harry continue with the dietary modifications (and mum as well, since Harry was still being breastfed) while we investigated further with an Allergenics Food and Environmental Sensitivity Assessment. I prescribed a homeobotanical formula to help improve digestion, reduce reactivity and calm Harry’s nervous system. I recommended Harry continue with the probiotics he was taking and additionally gave him a baby dose of Cod Liver Oil to take daily.
Essential Fatty Acids help with improving skin health while also reducing inflammation and reactivity. I often choose Cod Liver Oil instead of regular fish oils or omega-3 supplements because of the naturally occurring levels of Vitamins A and D. Both of these are beneficial for infants’ and children’s immune systems, but especially for a baby born prematurely such as Harry. Vitamin A is not only anti-viral but also helps support tissue development, especially of the lungs and gut.
Second appointment: 2 weeks later
After our first visit Harry’s facial eczema was improved for a week but had flared up again on the day of our visit. Harry was sleeping much better, only waking 1-2x a night, and having longer daytime naps. Harry wasn’t as clingy and was happier in himself. Harry’s body was still covered in eczema but the angriness of it would come and go.
The highest score on the hair test results was for kiwifruit, with moderate-low scores for various other foods such as banana, fish, sugar, yeast and dairy. Interestingly, although Harry doesn’t eat kiwifruit, his mum has one each morning on her breakfast. I recommended Harry and his mother both avoid the trigger foods for the next 6 weeks, focussing on eating a nourishing wholefood diet of eggs, meat, chicken, bone broths, vegetables and grains. We discussed meal and snack ideas, and I added to the initial prescription ½ tsp Slippery Elm powder in warm water or on food 3x daily. Slippery Elm helps to soothe digestion and improve bowel flora.
Email: 3 days later
I just had to email you and tell you that on day 3 of the new diet, Harry’s eczema is almost gone!
He only has a few very faint spots and is a happy boy.
Amazing work! Thank you.
Third appointment: 6 weeks later
Harry’s eczema has continued to improve and his body is now almost completely clear. The skin on his torso, which was formerly a mass of red eczema patches, was now smooth and clear. A few patches of mild irritation persist in Harry’s armpit creases and occasionally a faint line behind his knees. Harry tends to have flare-ups with teething. Mum reports he is “So happy. Completely different!”. Harry is also sleeping through the night once more. The most exciting thing for Harry’s mum, other than the eczema being gone, was the fact that his development seemed to have accelerated. Harry has been gaining weight, suddenly sprouted his first 4 teeth, and amassed a thick mop of hair.
I recommended Harry continue with the probiotics, cod liver oil and slippery elm. We discussed his mother re-introducing most of the foods into her diet, but continuing to avoid most dairy and kiwifruit. Mum will monitor harry for any flare-ups on the skin or any changes to temperament or sleeping. I also prescribed a herbal cream for the stubborn patches of eczema, containing Poroporo, Kawakawa and Burdock. I recommended they trial baths with nothing added, and have a break from the tea tree oil.
Future & Discussion
From here forward we will continue to reintroduce foods back into Harry’s mother’s diet, and then systematically and carefully into Harry’s diet also. Taking trigger foods away is simply the first step in the healing process, allowing the body to return to a less inflamed and reactive state, the gut to heal and the immune system to rebalance with the support of herbs and supplements.
Sometimes finding the individual child’s level of tolerance for a food is an important part of moving forwards. Some babies can have a little bit of dairy for example, but too much will cause a flare-up of eczema. Others may be ok with yoghurt but not milk, while still others will not tolerate even the barest smidge in mum’s breast-milk. This also changes with time and the strengthening and maturing of the digestive system. Hopefully Harry has had enough of a break that he can reintroduce it and tolerate it once more. Time will tell.
It has been wonderful to witness Harry’s progress, and to see not only his skin recover so beautifully but also to see how much Harry’s development progressed once his body’s resources could be channelled into growth and development rather than just dealing with a constant state of reactivity. No doubt the eczema calming down also helped Harry to sleep, allowing the extra growth to take place during those precious sleeping hours. His mother noted that in the first week of starting the new diet Harry had extra long naps, almost as if his body was finally able to rest and repair.
Harry’s mother has done a wonderful job of supporting Harry through this process and changing diets for both herself and for him. This is never an easy task, especially when other children are involved, but the rewards speak for themselves. So often I see positive results when addressing eczema in this way, in all ages. A holistic approach involves removing triggers, rebalancing the gut and immune system, building nutrients and strengthening the skin. As with all skin conditions, taking steps towards healing are beneficial not just for the skin, but for the whole body. Helping to support more robust and healthy babies makes for better health in all their growing years to come.
*not his real name