4.29.2013

The Eczema Tale: Never Give Up

(Lost most of my pictures when I switched from WP to blogger. Slowly working on putting them back, but it's a massive undertaking so please forgive the broken image links!)

I can't stop talking about what's happened to our family in the last few days because I am just flooded with emotion.  It's been well documented here that my children suffer from eczema, and though I rarely post pictures of them here on my blog anymore, if you follow me on facebook or instagram, you may have seen pictures of them recently.

Truth be told, I stopped posting most pictures of Landon and Adalyn several months back, and if I did ever post, it was carefully selected and highly edited until about a week or two ago, when I decided my children were beautiful and nothing to be hidden!   But I stopped posting pictures awhile back because I just didn't want to hear it.  I know that comes off so crazy rude, but it's hard - draining - when you know what your child looks like, but everywhere you go, everyone has to remind you of how horrifying they look.  Everyone has an opinion.  It's not that opinions aren't desired, because obviously, if my kids are still suffering from eczema, we haven't found the solution.  It's just tiring.  When you get to the point where you feel like you really have tried it all, when someone suggests something, the first place my brain goes is to, "Yeah, right, like that'll work."

So it was with skepticism that I entered solveeczema.org on Friday. But in a place of desperation because my kids' skin has gotten so terrible, I read on.  Minutes into the slideshow on her front page, I began to cry.  I was totally overwhelmed because everything in my being said YES!  CHELSEA, THIS IS IT!!!!!!!!!!  The detergent in your home is making your kids sick.

It started with the description of the mom who had done it all over the course of about four years: elimination diets, naturopath, every cream and steroid, herbs, chinese medicine, you name it, she'd done it.  Then I read about the diaper-eczema correlation and immediately, light bulbs went off.  Ben and Adalyn were cloth diapered.  Ben had pretty bad eczema on his face and in his diaper area from about one year to a little before two.  Adalyn had no eczema anywhere but her diaper area (which I now know in hindsight, but I always thought it was just a bad diaper rash).  Shortly after Landon was born, I became overwhelmed with three children three and under, two in diapers and two of them 17 months apart, and I gave away our cloth diapers and decided we were going to turn to disposables.  Since then, Adalyn has had no diaper rashes or eczema in her diaper area.

The diaper protects skin from detergent, since the diaper is on almost all of the time and there is no detergent in disposable diapers.  But when my kiddos were in cloth, they had that same detergent in their diaper area as they have elsewhere.  Who would have thought that something I was doing to be more considerate to my children's skin and the environment was actually more harmful for them?  It blows my mind a little.

This was extremely compelling for me.  As was all the information presented on this site.  This is not a normal "mommy blog."  This is a very knowledgable, empowered mother with a science background who resolved to stop at nothing to solve her son's eczema, and thanks to lots of trial and error and reading a book by T. Brazelton, Touchpoints, she and her husband developed a theory that the introduction of detergent in the 50s correlated quite well with the rising of eczema occurrences.  As more products became detergent-based (almost every wash/body care product/"soap"/cleaning product today contains detergent), the incidence of eczema, allergies and asthma began to climb.  And as these three diseases are known as the allergy march or the atopic march, curing eczema is beneficial not just in the short-term, but in preventing our children from having to endure asthma in the future.

They tested this theory out by removing detergent from their home (not an easy or quick solution), and when they saw dramatic results, they began a dive into incredibly thorough research, talking to experts all over the world.  They've consulted biologists, chemists, doctors, dermatologist, etc.  I believe quite strongly that they have stumbled across the single factor creating the eczema/asthma/allergy epidemic we see today.  Perhaps that's short-sighted because it looks like it's proving to be our solution, but she has quite a following of mamas who have also healed their children from not only eczema, but asthma, too!

Friday night I went shopping for paper towels, Dr. Bronner's, new toothpaste, body soap, laundry soap, shampoo, hair gel, etc.  I came home and whipped up cleaning products using vinegar, water, baking soda and Dr. Bronner's.  Only soap can remove detergent residue so I knew it was important to start by cleaning all surfaces with Dr. Bronner's but then going over them with a water/vinegar solution to keep my whole house from being sticky: check out her recommended procedure here.

A friend came over Saturday morning and helped me scrub down my house.  I began the process of "superwashing" all clothes and linens in our house with Zum laundry soap (which contains no detergent) and cleaning all our dishes with Dr. Bronner's to remove the detergent residue.  Finally, we washed the kiddos and ourselves in Dr. Bronner's and lathered them up in coconut oil (I'm not big on Aquaphor because it's petroleum-based, but that's the "barrier moisture" she recommends).  I'm not anywhere close to being done cleaning out my house, but already we've seen drastic results.  It is nothing short of miraculous, and when I think about how I broke down to God on Thursday afternoon in the shower, desperate for relief for my miserable children, and I prayed that He would heal my children or help me heal them, and then on Friday I found a site I've never before stumbled across after years of research?  It's just...all Him.

I couldn't get this blog post up fast enough!  A lot of people stumble across my old post about Ben's facial rash, so I wanted to be able to update my blogaroo so that I can drive traffic to solveeczema.org.  The site is amazing, and I really, truly believe this is the answer for so many families who have been struggling unnecessarily for ages with eczema or asthma or quite frankly, even allergies.

It is A LOT of work.  There's no way to sugarcoat that.  But it's an all-or-nothing ordeal.  You can't halfway do it and expect to cure your kids.  Her take is that it has to be 100% removal or you might as well do nothing.  So we will be homebound for a month, attempting to heal their skin so that it becomes strong enough to resist short, infrequent exposures to detergent at places like church, friends houses, the store, etc.

Here are a few recent pictures of Landon and Adalyn:

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And here they are a few days after beginning the process of elimination.

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The picture on the left was taken a couple of days before we began eliminating detergent, and the one on the right was today:

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The moral of the story is don't give up!  I have seen stories of so many moms who have resorted to things like steroids which carry pretty serious side effects and don't even rid the body of eczema (or asthma or allergies), but cut down on the outbreaks.  This mama's take, and mine for AGES, has always been that these things are our body's way of telling us something is wrong.  To mask the symptoms with steroid creams really doesn't solve anything.  In fact, it often times exacerbates the problem because you are weakening the immune system.  In a similar fashion, we have given one child antibiotics one time and it has irrevocably changed her gut.  There is a time and a place for medicine, and I will always utilize it when I feel it's severe enough, but this is the exact reason I tend to listen to my gut first and go with God's medicine before man's.  It always made sense to me that to mask the symptoms was doing nothing inside of their little bodies.  I was eager to give them relief, though, so I did try a lot of creams and oils and such.  But I couldn't shake how odd it felt to be slathering chemicals all over my children's severe, inflamed, red, burning, bleeding skin.  It was so incredibly counter-intuitive.

From her site:
The global problem of eczema has not been understood or solved by a long shot. In my opinion, taking the common perspective that eczema is the result of a defect inherent in the child is destructive, unwarranted, unscientific, and premature. This defect-perspective has led to virtually every treatment and approach: adding lotion to make up for the defect of dryness, suppressing the immune system to address a supposed malfunction, recommending random experimentation with different personal care products with the underlying assumption that the child's system has gone haywire and can't handle "normal" products. None of these approaches has resulted in a lasting, global solution. Perhaps the perspective is right; I personally don't see it that way. I think the perspective that the problem is a defect in the children leads naturally to these less-than-satisfactory approaches. At the least, until there are more definitive answers, we owe it to the children to keep an open mind.

My son would not have had eczema had we lived 80 years ago, because detergents didn't exist on the planet. When his skin is not exposed to detergents, it is normal and not unusually dry. For whatever reason, his system chooses to tell me that exposure to detergents is a problem, the same way my body chooses to tell me that banging my knee against the corner of the desk is a problem. From that perspective, the response is a normal warning mechanism, a smart way for the immune system to communicate with the conscious brain, the way the nervous system communicates through pain. I don't see that as a defect."

My gut says that if so many children are reacting to this, it can't be good for anyone.  I've used this analogy time and time again, but I can think of no better time for it than now: sensitive children are like canaries in a coal mine.  They're out warning that something is wrong.  Perhaps I'm off-base, but I believe it bears further studying.

Be your child's best advocate.  Fight for them despite the lack of knowledge in the medical community surrounding eczema.  Whatever your child's health problem is, do your own research.  Experiment in your own home.  Never give up!  Always go with your gut.

I'm not the only person seeing incredible results here.  This is the original blog I stumbled upon that pointed me to solveeczema.org and how I found it to begin with.

8 comments :

  1. I'm thrilled that you found what looks to be a solution. Fingers crossed! Let me know if there's anything I can do to help you endure the month of sequestration at home!

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  2. I'm so excited to hear that you are finding answers, Eczema SUCKS! my daughter doesn't struggle with eczema in the same ways as your kids and I've found that limiting her milk intake has so far been our best answer... but then we also use very few detergents on her, our laundry soap probably has them in it, but she is bathed in apple cider vinegar I even wash her hair with it... and I clean our home with vinegar and water rather than any chemical based cleaning agent... it isn't that I'm an 'all natural' advocate really but rather that I'm really cheap and water/vinegar mixes are great for cleaning.. I was told to stay away from soaps and things for her skin and just took that seriously from the start and never used anything directly on her... I'll have to try an alternative to our laundry soap and perhaps dishes and see if it helps her out. (aside from those things she isn't exposed to any detergent though)
    again, I'm SOOO happy to hear you are finding answers for your kids!

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  3. This is amazing! Hope it means you don't have to move!! Let's schedule a zum factory tour some thurs afternoon with the girls!

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  4. Praise God you're finding a solution! I applaud your determination to find the answer. Thanks for letting us in on your journey toward healthy living.

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  5. Samantha, that's great! It's in a surprising amount of things, though, so if you do decide to cut back on the detergent, just be aware. A huge one is toothpaste. Almost every toothpaste on the market contains detergent, even natural toothpastes. Weleda tooth gel is one of the only children's toothpastes that doesn't have detergent in it (we are using Earthpaste). Our dishwasher detergent was a big one, but I'd have to say what you wash clothes in has the biggest impact of all (in my opinion) since our children are in clothes nearly 24/7 and that detergent residue is ALWAYS there and builds up quickly. You can use Dr. Bronner's as a cheap laundry detergent if you are interested!

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  6. Like I said on FB I am so excited that you have finally solved this awful problem! And I'm sure you've already done this somewhere, but could you outline which products you use now? I am especially interested in the dishwasher detergent (er, I mean soap) :)

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  7. This sounds great. Excema is a hard one to understand, especially when it happens with children. It involves so many aspects of life, diet, emotional issues, medications etc. I enjoyed reading your post. Would love to know how you get on!

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  8. Chelsea I am so sorry your children have to suffer with the eczema. My husband has been battling it for years. I've tried every lotion, medication and homemade concoction you can imagine to get him some relief. Two weeks ago one of the ladies that work in our local pharmacy mentioned her grandson battles it also. She told me that she got him a bar of Grandma's Lye Soap and he is so much better. I've always kept a small bar of lye soap in my laundry room but never thought of bathing with it. Since I suffer from a lupus induced skin condition I decided to give the soap a try for myself and my husband. Two weeks later and except for some scars the eczema is gone. I took away all his "manly" soaps in the bathroom and cleaned out all my cleaners. I now try as many organic methods of cleaning so that he won't be exposed to any chemicals. As for me, the soap helped some but with my lupus and fibro it is a nerve ending problem and the soap isn't a total cure for it. Hope this might help.

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