I have been battling eczema my whole life. Not a year has gone by in my forty some odd years, that I can remember without having a flair up. To those on my journey, you know the routine. You know what you can wear and what you can’t. To not frighten the general public, we tend to cover up our breakouts. If you  don’t know this journey, a) I am jealous and b) next time you see someone wearing a long sleeve shirt in the middle of summer, now you know why.  I am not one to complain. This diagnosis has been with me forever. The point of this post is to bring more awareness to the battle.

Rash on wrist

Eczema on wrist

Finding the culprit

I am a firm believer that we are what we eat. My eczema tends to get worse if I have consumed too much sugar, typically processed sugar. The skin itches, oozes, flakes and becomes red. It burns from the inside out. My allergist told me that some of us are just born with eczema. I, on the other hand, would like to believe that it is caused by something. But the question is what?

The journey to uncovering the guilty party

baby wash

Baby Shampoo with Peg-80

You can’t simply cut out all food. I have been tested repeatedly. Some of my allergens show up when being tested, while other allergens I have not been tested for. So, for instance, I recently decided to start using baby shampoo to help calm my scalp, back and neck.  I thought baby shampoo would be harmless, right? Wrong! It made the rash worse. My arms and chest later became covered in a break out. How is one not to get discouraged? When I looked up the ingredients of the shampoo, the first ingredient, Peg-80, was termed as “nasty” and a main culprit in skin rashes with babies. Why would this product even exist? You would think you could trust a baby product. Nope! I then turned to an all-natural shampoo, made with coconut. Every Day Coconut Shampoo has been wonderful. And here is something I reminded myself, if you do not recognize the ingredients don’t use or eat it!  You will thank me. Earth Fare carries it in North Carolina.

Natural coconut shampoo

All natural shampoo

Other triggers

Typically, people think that triggers to skin sensitivity are food related or product related like shampoo, perfume or detergent. However, there are other causes that some people do not realize can prompt eczema. In my case it was medication. Who knew that medicine that is supposed to be helping you can also be hurting you? For instance, I am allergic to pork. Did you know that gelatin which is a common ingredient in supplements and medicines is frequently made of pork products? I didn’t! This also helped me uncover why I was reacting when I was eating gummy bears. I thought it was the sugar, it turns out it was the gelatin. When my pharmacist brought this to my attention, I immediately cut out all medicines, supplements and gelatin candies. This gave my skin some respite, but I was not healed yet.

My diet

It was time to analyze my diet very closely. I was beyond discouraged at this point. While things seemed to be improving, occasionally, I would get another outbreak. These eruptions were causing me sleepless nights, depression and embarrassment. I started a food journal. I cut out almost everything. For days my diet consisted of toast, butter, and cheese. While I was eating these few ingredients, I analyzed my diet for the three to four days prior to my breakouts. Everything that went into my mouth was logged. I looked for patterns. The list of elements that provoked my irritations was slowly being narrowed down. Four foods repeated themselves over the few days that could have been the guilty party. These foods were bananas, avocados, onions and wine. I need to reintroduce them back slowly into my diet. To be truthful, I am a little scared. I did have a glass of wine without any re occurrence of an irritation. So one item is off the list, now I just need to muster up the courage to try bananas, avocados and onions.

Rash on knee

Eczema behind right knee

Family affair

Whether you realize this or not, you are not in this alone. You eat meals with your loved ones, you wash your clothes with the same detergent, and you buy many toiletries for the household, not just for yourself. While it may seem like this is your battle, take comfort in knowing your loved ones want to see you healed. I am reminded of this every time my husband adds more cortisone cream to my back.

Other products or treatments

Thanks to the Living Free Expo in Knoxville, TN, I was able to find a new product called Healing Salve by Rainwater Farm. The founder created this product for her father that had skin issues. I am so glad they did! It is very cooling to the skin and is cortisone free. Healing Salve also has a soothing aroma. You need to try it.

Cooling cream

Rainwater’s Healing Salve

Baking soda – yup, you read that correctly. When my skin would get so inflamed, I would take a bath with baking soda. The ocean is typically the best remedy for my skin however since I do not have that in my back yard (and its winter!), the next best thing is a salt bath.

Salt room

Heated jaded mats in a salt room also proved to be a calming treatment for my skin. The salt room acts like the ocean air. It has the same healing properties and is a lot closer for me than the ocean. Call your local spa to see if they have a salt room. A sauna can work in the same fashion, but I do not appreciate the heat as it causes me to sweat which is also an irritant to my skin.

Rash on eyes

Eczema on eyes

Now what?

The point of this blog post is to help those suffering with eczema, so they know they are not alone. There is no magic answer. Each one of us reacts differently. Even after forty years, I am learning what I can and cannot do or eat. I try to keep my head held high and my sleeves rolled up, but the truth is there are days when the eczema wins. If you are in the same boat, please share some of your secrets. What has worked for you? Do you sleep at night? What eases the burning and has been a wonder for you?

Author: Tarah Jakubiak

After working for 20 years in the corporate world, Tarah Jakubiak founded Allergic Traveler. Jakubiak, president of Allergic Traveler has traveled the world since the age of two. She has been to 24 countries and 26 states. Jakubiak has been to all inclusives, gone on cruises, gone camping; backpacking through Europe, gone to the big cities, and little hidden gems. She has multiple food allergies but it does not stop her from seeing the world. Jakubiak is allergic to eggs, nuts, mushroom, soy, garlic, corn, sesame, potatoes, celery, shellfish, chicken, pork, peanuts, and many fruits. She is originally from Montreal, Quebec and now lives in Greensboro, NC with her husband.