I was 12 years old the first time my Mom took me to the doctor about the redness around my eyes. The doctor told me it was eczema and chalked it up to the make-up I had recently started to wear. He gave me a prescription for a topical corticosteroid cream to apply and I was on my way, not realizing that 20 years later what I thought was a little rash would still be irritating me in full force.
I learned from many specialists that the proper name for my condition was Atopic Dermatitis. Many childhood asthma sufferers like myself develop this condition as adults, especially around the eyes.
Over the years my eczema would come and go. It was always localized to my eyelids and didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason as to why it flared up. Upon waking some mornings, I would look in the mirror and my eyes were so swollen it looked like I had been stung by a swarm of bees. Other days I would blink my eyes and flakes of dry skin would flutter from my face. The second I would get home at night and was able to shower and rub my eyes was the highlight of my day. I would try covering it with makeup or wearing my glasses on days it was really bad and tried every product under the sun but nothing seemed to work.
I had been referred to every top allergist, some with a waitlist of more than one year, for various patch and skin prick testing. Nothing substantial ever came back as a result and I avoided all makeup, detergents, perfumes, dyes etc. that I had been told might be the culprit. Not once in 20 years did anyone ever mention it might be something in my diet. In fact, on more than one occasion, I had doctors literally scoff in my face at the idea when I would bring it up.
One day at work the TV was on and I noticed nutrition expert Lyn-Genet Recitas talking about her new book The Plan. She said certain foods that most people think are “healthy” when combined with our own body chemistry may cause severe inflammation, weight gain, depression and even… eczema. As soon as I heard her say that word I was online ordering her book. When it arrived I read it in a day and immediately started her protocol to weed out inflammatory foods for my body. The program eliminates almost all animal products. For years I had been eating what I thought were extremely healthy foods: Greek yogurt, whey protein shakes, chicken, etc.
I ended up losing 15-20lbs the first month without much effort and my eczema completely went away! Any time I would get busy in life and not have time to prepare my meals at home and revert to my old diet, without fail my eczema would flare up again.
In 2015 my eczema was so severe it was preventing me from wanting to go out and have much of a social life. It had never been this bad before. It was around this time I came across another book called The China Study – The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted. This convinced me to completely eliminate eggs and dairy from my diet. I challenged myself for one month to eat a plant-based diet. Giving up meat would be easy as I was only consuming it at most once per week, but the protein shakes, cream in my coffee and daily egg whites I was having, well that was another story.
On the fourth day of my month long challenge I woke up to perfectly clear skin which hadn’t happened in over a year. Much to my surprise I found it very easy to stick to a plant-based diet. After one month I decided to extend my challenge to one year and I can say it has now been over a year and a half of eating a completely plant-based diet and my eczema has NEVER come back once, not even a speck of dry skin!
This experience taught me that our immune system can be affected by our gut. When we are unhealthy on the inside it can reflect on the outside.