Arthur’s eczema is no more: bye bye dairy!

From birth (in 2004), Arthur had terrible eczema. We had to put mittens or socks on his hands all the time to stop him from scratching himself.  Even with very short nails, this was what it was like for him:

babyeczema

I wasn’t vegan then, and I was eating dairy.  I was in hospital for about six days (emergency caesarian) and I was breastfeeding and it just wasn’t going anywhere.  Back then, I wasn’t clued about breastfeeding and I relied heavily on the advice of the lovely midwives, which was to introduce formula.

Arthur’s eczema started in hospital.  Nobody raised the issue of his diet, instead we would end up seeing dermatologists and the allergy clinic at the Royal Childrens (which was a horrible experience for us).  For two years we applied steroid ointments, did all the compress/bathing/wrapping stuff (which apparently is not the advice given out nowadays) and still Arthur’s body was covered in eczema.  I was getting concerned about the ointments and when we went to the allergy clinic I asked about elimination diets as I was now thinking his eczema was a result of what he was eating.  I had one of those terse unfriendly my-poop-don’t-stink specialists who told me, rather rudely “forget the diet”.

Fast forward to around April 2012, when I went vegan.  The dairy I was eating was pretty much cream now and then in Indian or Italian dishes, ice cream, parmessan cheese and those diet yoghurts “for calcium”. CRINGE. For smoothies and cereal I had been using soy for years but I was definitely not dairy free.  After eating those tubs of yoghurt, I would be terribly constipated the next day.  Cream began to make me feel sick.  I stopped eating them and then a few months later ordered a cream pasta entree at a restaurant.  Halfway through my meal I had to stop because I felt so sick.  I then started to take note of ah, bowel movements, when I would eat and not eat dairy.  When I’d eat dairy, like one of those yoghurts, I was *always* constipated the next day.  I’d be massively bloated too and feel sick.  My skin had always been rubbish too and I had the odd adult zit now and then, as well as these awful boils once every few months.

So when I went vegan, I noticed straight away how my stomach aches stopped.  No more constipation.  My skin cleared up.  Bowel/tummy wise, I felt so much better.

Arthur still had eczema, though it was mostly kept under control with the creams and ointments.  But I was still frustrated that nobody would understand that I wanted to find the *cause* not just treat symptoms!

When I went vegan, I started phasing out dairy in the house.  Initially this was really difficult for Arthur, as he loved milk and toasted cheese sandwiches and he wouldn’t eat much else. Eventually it got better and he was not eating dairy at home, but would still eat it when going out or if he saw grandparents and they went out for icecream.  His eczema had improved but I would notice flareups after he ate dairy.

So we made a deal.  For five weeks, he was to have zero dairy.  He would tell friends and family that he could not eat dairy.  If, at the end of the five weeks, he was completely dairy free, he would earn $30.  It pretty much worked, his skin improved dramatically.  We started off with this:

skin1

skin2

skin3

skin4

Sometimes he would scratch so much that he would cause bleeding. In other areas, his skin would crack then bleed. I took him to the doctor and asked the doctor to talk about dairy allergies and intolerances.

Most of the time now, both Arthur and DeeW are dairy free.  They’re not vegan, I want them to make their own choices in that regard, but the rule is all food prepared at home by the cook (ie, me) will be vegan.  They’re fine with that now, though we did have rough patches in the beginning.

I’m really pleased to say that Arthur’s skin is completely clear and does not look anything like these photos, which were taken about a year ago.  He has finally seen once and for all how his skin flares up like this when he has dairy.  He also gets patches of eczema on his face.  Last month he had a dairy ice cream when he was out somewhere.  Two hours later at home, he had patches of eczema around his mouth and on his cheeks.  He hadn’t had eczema on his face in ages.  The same thing happened when he had dairy cheese.

Unfortunately one of his favourite foods is Hawaiian pizza, which is cheese, ham and pineapple.  I make a vegan version at home which he requests a lot, but he loves going out to get pizza and of course they’re not vegan.  However now with vegan pizza joints available to us, perhaps we can make the switch.  I think the appeal of dairy-cheese pizza is the whole melty stretchy mozarella thing (which always tasted like plastic to me).

 

I wanted to write this post because I am fed up reading skincare advice on blogs and magazines in waiting rooms, where people write in about having bouts of eczema or acne.  And the response is always based on what you can apply to your skin.  In some cases expensive products are recommended.  And I want to just go GAAAHHGGGRRRGGRRRRR because I think people should also suggest looking at one’s diet.  For instance, a trainer at my gym told me about a client who had eczema (the flaky, bright red sort like Arthur had on his cheeks) from head to toe and he had to apply creams every hour or so.  His eczema would crack and get so bad that he would be house bound.  Eventually he went to a dietician as a last resort and was put on a vegan diet.  The trainer said this guy went back to the gym three months later and people didn’t recognise him, because his skin was clear.

I’ve met other vegans who had skin problems that went away when they stopped dairy.  I’m one of them myself!

Looking at Arthur’s baby photo up there brings up a mixture of feelings.  Guilt, sadness and anger, anger especially at myself for not sticking to my guns more and pushing for elimination diet.  Or not eliminating dairy myself for him, because I was still too intimidated to do anything other than what the doctors and child health nurses told me.  Friends of mine have gone through this too and when they’ve eliminated dairy from their child’s diet, they’ve noticed the eczema goes away.  Bring back the dairy and the eczema flares up.  This is what happens to Arthur.

 

Now, I’m not suggesting that dairy is at the root of everyone’s eczema.  In our case, dairy is the trigger for Arthur’s skin issues and he would be in the toilet for ages too.  It was the same with me: the bad skin and bad stomach aches.  When my brother in law has dairy, he has bad sinus and headaches. My uncle had migraines that would land him in hospital.  Once he eliminated dairy, his migraines disappeared.  Because of all this, I get so annoyed when people are not told “hey, why don’t you look at your diet and perhaps eliminate stuff and see how you go”.  Instead, people are encouraged to spend heaps of money on things to apply to their skin, instead of being encouraged to look at *why* this is happening.

All I know is that my little boy had a pretty horrible time with his eczema.  And in his case, all it took to fix it was getting rid of dairy.  I wish I had done this when he was a baby!

 

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14 thoughts on “Arthur’s eczema is no more: bye bye dairy!

  1. This is an excellent post! Up until the time I was 42, I an beautiful smooth skin. I used to get compliments all the time on how smooth my skin was. But, I was also constipated most of the time. I had also had a bloating stomach. I enjoyed eating macaroni and cheese, pizza, and grilled cheese sandwiches. I also consumed whole milk. The kind that you get off the farm with the cream floating on top. It is delicious, but at the time I did not have the information that I now have.

    At age 42, all of a sudden I broke out all over my body from head to toe. It was so bad that I was embarrassed to go out, but I had no choice. I had to go to work 5 days a week. I was always feeling severely itchy, and scratched until I bled. My scalp was so dry and flaky that I wore head-wraps when going out. Two separate dermatologists tested me fo everything under the sun that it could be, and both times it came up that I had atopic dermatitis, which is basically unexplained eczema. Since I never had it before, it was simply a mystery to the doctors as to why it flared up in me at age 42. The only thing the doctors ever prescribed were steroid creams. Twice I was put on prednisone when it was so bad that it was painful. I never stayed on it long though because the dermatologist was concerned that I did not weigh enough to be on it long term. The most I would be on it was 3 months. On my own I did stop using dairy, but I was still breaking out. To this day, I am not really sure what caused me to break out with eczema. What made it go away was putting flax seeds in my cereal in the morning. Over a three week period, my face and body began to clear up after introducing flax seeds into my diet. I have been vegan since February 2012, so I have not had cow’s milk since then. I also stopped eating cheese. No dairy at all. The second time around of eliminating diary has improved my skin even more. It has enhanced the job that the flax seeds did. I will never drink cow’s milk ever again. Just recently after two years of being strictly vegan, I decided that if I want some cheese that I won’t deprive myself of it. Vegan cheese just dos not do it for me. I tried to like it, but to me it is just nasty. So once in a blue moon if I want some cheese, I go to the grocery and buy the best quality that does not have any growth hormones in it. I get the smallest package and will treat myself to a few slices. The rest I end up having to throw out because it gets hard and spoils before I feel like having more. I have not been affected negatively since I am not consuming lots of it and it is few and far between. I think that it helps that I am not buying cheese anymore that is loaded up with growth hormones. My bowel movements are like it was when I was a little girl; unstuck and flowing nicely. I think that my overall improved skin condition is attributed to not only the elimination of cow’s milk,but walking away from packaged foods. I am so not into packaged foods, even when buying from a vegan market. So much of packaged foods contain canola oil and sugars. I learned that just because a product says it is vegan, it is not necessarily good for you. I don’t even buy vegan burgers in the store anymore. I prefer to make my own since learning that often you cannot trust the listing of ingredients on the packages of vegan and even vegetarian burgers. It is always better to cook from scratch, which is what I do, I would say, 99 percent of the time. Another big thing for me is the elimination of bread and refined sugar.

    I think that probably many centuries ago milk was okay to consume, but over the last 40 plus years the world’s entire food supply has been altered and that is what is making people sick and causing death. There was a time when eczema was extremely rare, but in the last 40 or so years it has grown to epidemic proportions, and there has to be a reason for that. Human beings started having tremendous health issues with the introduction of supermarkets and packaged foods that have a longer shelf life. Now we also face the genetic modification of food.

    • Wow thanks for your long reply! I also used to feel embarrassed to go out and see people when my skin was bad but like you I had to go to work. I also had relatives that would comment on my skin, as if I didn’t know how bad I looked! I’m with you about cooking from scratch, I have really slacked off in this regard, hence needing to stick to meal plans because that’s when I cook from scratch. When I first became vegan I tried a lot of the vegan junk food, and put on a bit of weight as a result! I was just so excited about the cakes, desserts, faux meats and so on. I’m getting back in to more raw foods, I find eating raw is when I feel fantastic.

  2. Great post – my sister had bad skin problems for ages and gave up dairy and it suddenly cleared so I understand the power of cutting out dairy. I also am wary of the creams because I once worked with someone in her 20s who showed me her skin on her arms which was paper thin like an old ladies because of all the creams she had used for her eczema. We are not dairy free but I have been trying to eat more vegan cheese and less dairy cheese and I like the lighter feeling of it. Glad to hear Arthur’s eczema has cleared up – must make life so much easier for him (and for you)

    • I was worried about the long term effect of using the creams/steroid ointments as I’d seen pics of that kind of paper thin fragile looking skin. One GP agreed with me but the specialists gave me a lecture about why we should use the ointments and not worry about diet… gahhh!

  3. Oh, I also wanted to add that for years now I only use all natural creams on my skin after bathing. No more off the shelf lotions. I make my own or purchase online from people who only use natural ingredients. Lately I have not been making my own because I have gotten lazy to go through the process. It’s okay though. Who I purchase from online sells great products that are just as good if not better. I have never been able to get my whipped butters to come out as light and airy.

  4. Sounds like you had a really rough time. My youngest had very mild eczema, even with me being vegan, but it may have been worse had I been consuming dairy etc. I am glad your son’s eczema has cleared up now!

  5. That is amazing to hear. I am so glad to hear that your son’s eczema has cleared up. I think it is really astounding what diet can do sometimes, and also amazing how much diet is often massively overlooked by doctors and health care professionals. Everything’s about drugs, when sometimes changing diet could be healthier and more beneficial – I read The China study over Christmas and it really hit home to me all of this and the fact that excessive consumption of animal products is clearly not great for peoples health.

  6. It must have been hard for you all seeing him scratch his sweet baby skin like that! Poor wee boy.

    My husband’s family doesn’t tolerate dairy well so I kept the kids off dairy until they turned 2. However, now I feel guilty because I gave my son a lot of soy formula in his second year. Then they started saying soy wasn’t good for boys! So, we do the best we can as parents with the advice we are given. And there’s a lot of feelings of guilt. 😉

    I get frustrated too when people don’t try taking their kids off dairy (when they have eczema or lots of ear infections, etc.). It’s an easy one to try and it often works.

    My kids have never had milk, but they do eat cheese, as does their dad.

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