Most mamas know November as the month of the mustache. Our husbands, sons and brothers debate whether or not to grow one to raise awareness of men’s health issues like testicular and prostate cancer. So this month, when you see the mustaches start popping up (and often getting out of control), think also of skin health because November is also ECZEMA AWARENESS MONTH.
As a mom of three children who have had eczema, I have been fascinated by the research that has finally linked the digestive tract to skin health. We know from recent research that children who have eczema are more likely to be born via c-section. We know they are more likely to develop asthma. We know that they are more likely to have an impaired microbiome.
So what is the microbiome and why could supporting it improve and resolve your child’s eczema? Your child’s microbiome is the balance of good bacteria in their intestines. Children born via c-section have bacteria like staphylococcus, ecoli and clostridia in higher amounts. In an infant’s early life, this gut balance can be altered but by the age of 2 years old, your gut flora becomes static. This means that if your child develops eczema as an infant, you have until the age of 2 to repair the gut for life. After 2 years, old you can influence the microbiome by supplementing with probiotics but you can never change the balance long term. This information is really important for mom’s who are pregnant. Research shows that mothers who take probiotics during pregnancy are less likely to have children with eczema.
When is the best time to begin giving a child probiotics? C-section babies should start on the first day of life. Babies born to mothers who have been on many antibiotics and have a family history of eczema should also start early.
What is the best probiotic for an infant or child with eczema?
What happens if your child has loose stools or a flare in their eczema from a probiotic? Think of cleaning your garage. The good bacteria will push out the members of the microbiome that are causing problems. Just like cleaning a dusty garage. Sometimes the process of cleaning or repair creates short term aggravation. This is an excellent sign that you are positively impacting the microbiome. Giving smaller amounts of the probiotic or giving probiotic less frequently is best if this happens to your child.
When should you start supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids? Studies show that mothers who take DHA when they are pregnant help reduce the risk of their babies having eczema, allergies and asthma. Babies have a very limited ability to convert omega 3 fatty acids to DHA which is crucial for developmental and skin health. Most Naturopathic Doctors recommend higher doses during pregnancy, lactation and we will often recommend supplementing as early as 6 months.
This is where supplement quality is important. Health Canada does not require companies that make fish oil to remove toxins like bisphenol A and fire retardants. Both these chemicals have been linked to ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorders. There are only 3 companies that I would recommend for a newborn. As a health care professional, I have no affiliation with these companies but I have read third party testing that shows that not only metals like mercury have been removed, but the products are also free of other harmful contaminants like dioxins that have been linked to cancer.
- Nutra Sea / Ascenta
- Nordic Naturals
While you are helping to heal your child’s microbiome, consider a safe, effective and non-suppressive topical treatment. Suppression increases the likelihood of causing another inflammatory disorder such as asthma or allergies The topical treatments that have helped my kids the most include:
- St. Francis – Red Clover Cream
- Unda 270 or Cicatrisane
- Seven eczema cream
Let’s talk A1 beta casein and gluten before I let you get back to looking at your man’s movember hair growth. Dairy is the number one allergy in the world. North American dairy contains A1 beta casein which is a pro-inflammatory protein linked to eczema, asthma, allergies, arthritis and heart disease. Did you know that A1 beta casein is given to animals to give them heart disease, so that researchers can study how to treat heart disease? If your child has eczema, the first thing a naturopathic doctor will tell you is to give them probiotics, an essential fatty acid and take them off dairy.
The other nasty protein out there is gluten. This isn’t your grandmother’s gluten. Wheat today is very different from wheat 50 years ago. Today’s version is dubbed a Frankengrain by Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly. Chemicals were added to wheat until the protein changed making it a highly toxic chemical itself.
What are the most common foods that aggravate or cause eczema?
Dr. Sonya’s story: One mamas battle with severe eczema
As some of you know, my youngest son has had many concerns since he was born. Feeding issues, bowel issues and a birth defect that has required 3 surgical procedures so far to repair. At birth he received IV antibiotics for suspected pneumonia. After his first surgery, he was given IV antibiotics again and developed severe eczema that covered his entire body. It was raw, red, cracked, itchy and my little guy would scratch until it bled. His gut was a mess. Diarrhea for months on end turned his teddy bears ragged from their daily spin through the washing machine. Our family was already gluten free and dairy free and it obviously wasn’t enough to resolve the severe eczema so we embarked on the SCD diet that removes all complex carbohydrates in the hope that our son’s gut would heal. Slowly both his bowel and his skin got better. We used herbal ointments as topical treatment to speed the process. He got high doses of both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. We used homeopathic remedies. And of course, a number of different probiotics to repair his damaged microbiome.
Our son will have to be on probiotics for the rest of his life. The first two years had too many antibiotics for him to have his own balanced microbiome. I feel fortunate that I know that this can be supported through safe and effective probiotic treatment giving him a prosthetic microbiome to rely on. Because you see, eczema is just the first sign of impaired bowel function. Long term, the impaired microbiome will lead to increased risk of chronic disease like heart disease and cancer. As a mom, it was awful to wait out the natural process of healing my son’s gut and skin. I kept thinking, I should just use hydrocortisone cream all over his body (even though it suppress inflammation and thins the skin). In the end, the only hydrocortisone we used was on the top of the foot because the incessant scratching could have led to a severe infection. Today, my son’s skin is beautiful and soft. His poops are mostly solid and he remains on his supplements as well as the grain free diet. For some, this may seem like an extreme approach to resolve eczema naturally. Each parent has to make their own choice. In my heart, I feel we have dramatically reduced his risk of developing asthma, allergies and long term, those big nasties like heart disease and cancer.