Over 222 million people live with eczema daily – crazy ‘eh… the numbers say that figure is only on the rise. It’s frustrating, it’s darn itchy, it’s confidence sucking and it’s scratchy, itchy painful. If you have eczema you are not alone, you are beautiful, you are strong and you can still be in control.
Today, we take a different walk down eczema lane. Whereas before we’ve had good ol’ chin wags revealing the science that makes the eczema clock tick, today is all about the reality of living with eczema.
Which is why I introduce you to the completely awesome, eczema beating – Alice.
Alice is an Instagram hero on a mission to heal her body from the inside out. She shares the real, un-instagram filtered reality of living with eczema… p.s. you won’t believe how glowy her skin is now.
Enough of my chatting, I’m handing over to Alice to tell you her story, in her own brave words.
Alice – Hello! Welcome! … I’m in huge amounts of admiration for your braveness in sharing your eczema journey with the world. Thank you for being so kind, brave and inspirational. Would you tell us a little about yourself and how your eczema journey came to start?
Hi Cheryl, thank you for your kind words it means so much to me! I am 23 years old and live in England.
As a child I suffered with small patches of eczema on the backs of my legs and creases of my arms, I don’t remember suffering too much, and it was always managed by applying a bit of cream. My eczema came back with vengeance when I was 19. In this 4 year period I feel like I have tried every diet under the sun, seen many nutritionists, homeopaths, had more food intolerance tests than I can count and bought enough lotions and potions to open a pharmacy!
At the time of my eczema first flaring, I was at university. A rash appeared on my face and neck, not your standard eczema rash it was more like a heat rash. I carried on with life, took a few antihistamines and didn’t think much more about it. A few weeks later the rash appeared again, this time a bit worse and spreading to my chest and arms. I took myself to the doctors and left with a couple of tubes of steroid cream, I was told I would be feeling better in a few days, and I did. This relief only lasted a few days, as the days passed the condition worsened, my eyes would be constantly itchy, red and puffy with dry flaky skin around my eye lids.
It’s so important to remember how far you have come. I’ve had a week of feeling like I’m stuck in a rut, I have dry patches and red rashes on my neck. BUT in comparison to this….. WOW it’s nothing! I hate looking at these pictures but I think it is important to compare where you are now compared to then. Diet is so so important to get right it keeps me focused and even more determined to have perfect skin one day. For me it’s the @medicalmedium lifestyle that suits my body the best. Keep fighting everyone your doing an amazing job #eczema #getyourskinout #health #nutrition #healthy #healing #instafood #instadaily #transformationtuesday #rashes #allergies #skin #medicalmedium #plantbased #vegan #raw #foodie #organic
Every morning I would wake up feeling worse than I did the day before, it made me panic, I wondered what was happening to me. I decided one night that it was all too much and went to hospital, I left with a high dose of oral steroids which I was to take for 2 weeks, I left feeling relieved and quite positive. Within a day my skin changed, the red patches disappeared, the itchiness calmed and my skin was feeling a lot smoother I was SO SO HAPPY. After taking the steroids for a few days, I started to feel light-headed, tired, and I was unable to concentrate – not ideal when you have tons of coursework deadlines!
I decided to start researching eczema; I wondered what caused it and whether I would have to continue taking steroids for the rest of my life. I came across blogs such as Prime Physique Nutrition and ITSAN.org I stopped taking steroids that day, I didn’t care what anyone said, I knew this wasn’t the way to heal.
Within a week the eczema came back this time 10 times worse than it ever had been, I would wake up to blood over my sheets from itching aggressively in the night, I felt hopeless and often had breakdowns. My skin looked horrendous, I hated looking at myself in the mirror, my skin felt so dry and tight that often moving would split my skin and cause it to start weeping again. I moisturised throughout the day, it gave some relief I suppose, but with it came a sunburn sensation, often the pain would reduce me to tears. This was completely sole destroying.
Being at university, it affected me in so many ways, I dreaded nights out, so often opted to stay in. It made me so upset watching my friends get dressed up and go out partying and hear about all their hilarious stories the morning after. I started to become very self-conscious of my condition, I felt as though passers-by were staring at my dry, red and blotchy face, some people even thought it was contagious! I felt so awkward about myself, and definitely wasn’t ‘happy in my own skin’
Oh gosh – Alice that is a lot to have gone through at 19. You are so, so brave and fabulous.
Can you tell us, when you went to hospital did they diagnose you with eczema there and then? Can you now look back and pinpoint what might have been your initial trigger?
Yes as soon as I saw a doctor I was diagnosed with severe eczema all over my upper body. Unfortunately where my eczema was I couldn’t hide it!
I am always reflecting and trying to pin point why my eczema started that day and I honestly don’t think there was one reason. I think a number of factors played a part such as living away from home, not having the correct diet, and drinking more alcohol than usual (being at university! Ha!) perhaps stress and uncertainty played a part too, it’s so hard to say it was one thing that caused my eczema!
Wow, you don’t really stop to think about the overwhelm of changes that happen at University ‘eh. There’s so much a’happening – it’s distracting, especially from taking extra special care of yourself!
Once your eczema introduced itself, did you find certain triggers that made it worse? What was the first trigger you identified? Can you tell us how you went about finding them?
Yes absolutely, you’re so right there was so much happening at the time I forgot how important it was to look after and make time for myself!
I first went for skin prick tests which identified that I was allergic to horses, cats, dogs, mould dust, pollen, nuts…. a lot of those things I couldn’t avoid which made me feel so hopeless! I then bought an online blood test kit from a company called York Testing. It showed that I was allergic to 13 different foods such as dairy, eggs, tuna, corn, wheat, mustard, tomato the list goes on! I immediately cut out those foods and saw a minor improvement.
I felt this new diet helped but certainly wasn’t curing the problem, I then had an appointment with a naturopathic nutritionist who put me on a diet high in omega 3 (fish, seeds nuts, oils, avocado etc) and very low in sugar. Again this helped but I still had eczema on parts of my body that would randomly flare up.
One of the triggers I could relate directly to having a flare up was alcohol so I instantly took that away, others such as dairy and wheat also had correlation to a flare up.
I have also tried homeopathic medicine which made the condition worse
Jeez… Alice that is a whole load of life changes to make in one go – Go you! Do you stick regimentally to these till this day? How long was it before you saw results from your diet changes?
Yes it was a bit of a shock to the system but I was prepared to do anything to make my skin better!
So I was on a diet high in protein, omega 3, fish, and low in sugar for about 1 and a half years. Some days my skin was amazingly clear and others I would be bed bound with oozing red-hot skin (always on my face annoyingly!)
It was after returning from travelling this year in about October that I stumbled across Anthony William (the medical medium) on Instagram. I ordered his book and immediately changed my diet to a raw vegan without any grains. It was hard but so worth it my skin changed overnight to become clear and smooth.
Amazing to think that food has been my only medicine here Today marks 8 weeks into the @medicalmedium way of living it’s also eczema awareness month. Overall my energy levels are much better and skin, in general has been a lot better. The picture on the left is my skin today , top right last week – healing is NOT linear, you will get random flares which are so disheartening and worrying especially when you are nourishing your body to the best you can. Remember to keep calm and stay on track with what you are putting into your body, you will see the results in a few days. Going vegan and ‘raw’ (well 80% of the time) has been a huge challenge and a diet that I have been reluctant to try for a long time but after seeing people heal their lives through living this way I HAD to give it a go. Although I’m not fully healed I am so grateful for this it’s the best I have felt in 3 years keep fighting I know how hard this is your doing an incredible job, don’t forget to stop and tell your body that too – it’s doing all it can to help you #healing #eczema #medicalmedium #medicine #raw #vegan #eczemaawarenessmonth #eczemarelief #eczemasucks #tsw #skin #foodie #foodismedicine #organic #health #nutrition #wellness #loveyourself #dairyfree #glutenfree #grainfree #getyourskinout
I stayed on this raw vegan diet for about 2 months. I have now introduced cooked veg and some nice gains avoiding wheat) I juice a bunch of celery every morning followed by a smoothie. For lunch now it’s winter I tend to have a warming soup and dinner varies, but always vegan. My skin has been amazing since starting the diet there has been the odd flare up but nothing as bad as before!
Wow – that must have felt like the hugest Aha! moment of your life to date. I can only imagine the pain & emotional impact it all took… and to have that change almost overnight. That’s as close to the M word as you could possibly get. Have you had your allergies retested since your body begun to heal? Did you keep your GP linked in on the changes you made? Where they helpful and supportive?
Yes it was such a relief to find something that worked for me! I have been researching the condition endlessly for 3 years trying to find a cure!
Hard to believe this is how I looked in January last year. I felt so embarrassed by the way I looked being on my face it was impossible to cover up. 3.5 years is a long time to deal with this but I finally feel like my body is healing the amazing thing is it’s all been done through food, no doctors, no fancy creams, no long list of supplements, no steroids just a hell of a lot of patience and changing my diet to become vegan. Anyone suffering from any mystery illness that is looking for answers I urge you to check out @medicalmedium it will be life changing #health #eczema #skin #raw #topicalsteroidwithdrawal #tsw #skincare #happy #vegan #nutrition #love #healing #glutenfree #dairyfree #wellness #instadaily
I tend not to see my GP regarding eczema they were very negative on the changes I made to my diet and said there was no correlation with diet and eczema which didn’t fill me with a lot of hope at the start! But I decided to stick to my gut feeling and keep trying to find a diet that suited me! I am so happy I did!
I’m so, so happy for you too! I think GP’s are great… I also think sometimes you have to go remembering they’re a general practitioner. Imagine trying to keep up with cutting edge research in all fields – you’d have to be superhuman.
Old school dermatology textbooks will tell you there’s no link between diet and skin conditions like acne or eczema. But there’s many new research studies that do. That’s so great you went with your gut. Did you find what you did from the outside effected your skin? Do you have to be careful which skincare products you use? Do they affect your bodies vulnerability for eczema?
Yes your 100% correct with that! I’m really happy that new research is showing a link between the two, I don’t think eczema gets enough exposure I think a lot of people suffer in silence.
Feeling unbelievably happy and grateful for my body. I have been camping for a week then spent 2 days at a festival and look at my skin! I most definitely didn’t stick to my diet, I have been eating pizza, bread, drinking hot chocolate and even built up the courage to have my first drink in almost 2 years!! I was fully expecting a flare but so far so good! It’s so lovely to know I can sometimes be a little more relaxed on my diet and not have a reaction although I can’t wait to get back to eating healthy this week! And starting my new diet as recommend in the @medicalmedium book I will keep all you eczema suffers posted… Keep hopeful here is the proof, you will be able to live like you used to eventually! Keep fighting #eczema #tsw #skin #allergies #healing #healthy #nutrition #happy #grateful #positivevibes #instadaily #gettheglow #nutrition #medicalmedium #vegan #clearskin #tswwarrior #keeppositive #healthyhealer #lifestyle #foodie #blessed
Yes I do have to be careful with environmental factors too… I am allergic to dogs and horses and I am always around horses and dogs which makes it 10 times harder! I just have to remember to wash my hands before I touch my face. For skincare I keep it very simple, I very rarely wear makeup, I use an organic vegan mascara daily which is great and I moisturise with pure argan or almond oil I find this is the only thing that doesn’t react with my skin.
That sounds lovely, fresh and the best part – simple. I wonder, if you were to go back to Alice before learning all you have now, what would be the 3 pieces of advice you’d give yourself? What would’ve helped you the most to know when eczema decided to jump you?
That’s a tricky question ha! I think the most important piece of advise would be ‘patience’ never did I ever think It would take 3.5 years to get where I am today. There were times I felt so low, angry and hopeless I felt like giving up on everything and going back to steroids.
Secondly have faith in the route you have chosen to take and keep focused on healing it’s so easy to get side tracked with fad diets and also get distracted in what you are trying to achieve especially when everyone around you isn’t on the same page as you!
For all you eczema suffers don’t forget how far you have come. Some days you might not see an improvement, others you may get worse, but that’s ok because MENTALLY you are getting stronger everyday that goes by. The picture on the far right was taken in December of last year, I was on my way to work, looking back I can’t believe i carried on working looking and feeling like this. Hell is the only way to describe it! Now my skin is much more manageable, I still don’t think I have gotten to the route cause but I feel better mentally and physically. Although having eczema has been the hardest experience of my life. I am grateful for it. I have learnt to listen to my body, I know what it likes to be fed and what it doesn’t like… Keep going I promise you will get better #eczema #tsw #eczemadiet #getyourskinout #allergies #cleaneating #organic #vegan #dairyfree #glutenfree #exzemafree #fitfood #happy #nutrition #healthy #foodie #skin #glow #postivethinking #grateful #guthealth #healing #healthyhealer
And finally keep calm! There were some days I woke up having the worst flare up ever, don’t be embarrassed about what you are going though stay calm and don’t let it rule your life! I was adamant not to miss a days work because of the way I looked or felt I think this is so important to accept yourself!
That is such great advice Alice – thankyou. There’s a lot of truth in the saying great things take time ‘eh… I’m so glad you’ve been able to heal yourself from the inside out with diet and lifestyle. I can tell it’s taken a lot of resilience and persistence – you’re such an eczema conquering superwoman to have stuck to your guns and stayed clear of the steroids.
Go you and thankyou for being so kind to share your experiences and learnings with all of us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
There you have it dear friends, what it’s really like living with eczema, conquering this skin condition without steroids and how to take your own trip to glowy skin haven.
Do you have eczema? Have you tried food switches with great results? What are your triggers. Chat with us in the comments below.
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who is more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She is founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.