Updated: Jul 26, 2019
The passing of my sister in November 2016 wasn't easy. She was five years younger than me which meant we did a lot together as kids and I constantly felt it my responsibility to look after her, but we were also just far enough apart to be going through different phases and having our differences as we got older. Our relationship got worse over the years and despite trying to make amends multiple times, her troubled life caused a great deal of stress on me and my family and became something I could no longer engage with for my own health. We went a couple of years without talking and then on November 5th I got phone call that she had passed away a day prior. Her death happened two days before my mom's birthday and six days before mine, so I found myself flying back home to Wisconsin for her funeral, which landed on my 31st birthday. I hadn't been drinking much due to the eczema, but I was surrounded by my entire family, grieving a loss, celebrating my birthday and needless to say, I drank a lot this night. For weeks I dealt with depression, stress and an irregular and unhealthy eating cycle. I was constantly worried what would happen with my 3 year old niece growing up without a mom, how my parents were doing, what I could have done differently to help her...
Then the holidays came and the mindless eating and drinking continued. In December, my eczema started to flare up and it was more than just a few bumps this time. I didn't do anything about it because at this point I had already spent close to $1,500 on eczema related bills, and just wasn't in the right mindset to start caring for myself on that level again. I also thought, and hoped, that maybe it would go away on its own again.
After neglecting my skin for awhile, it wasn't getting better and I eventually decided to go to one of my favorite places, Dragon Herbs, and explain to them my situation. One thing that stands out most from one of my visits there was when they asked me about the redness on my chest (I was wearing a v-neck). I told them that sometimes my chest just gets red and that its normal and has nothing to do with what's going on. They told me that it absolutely is connected to what is going on! If there's one thing I've learned it's that everything is always connected! They explained that grief is the emotion of the lungs and the excess heat there was causing redness on my chest, to which I responded that my sister recently passed away and I was definitely grieving. They helped me make some other connections based on the placement of my eczema and my symptoms and suggested some herbs to help with grief, stress, digestion and ultimately, the eczema. I made some diet changes, such as cutting out gluten again, and between that and the herbs, it was working and my skin was clearing up.
After a month or so I stopped taking the herbs because I couldn't really afford them anymore and since I was doing better, I thought I'd try without them for awhile. It was now March 2017 and the eczema began to return, although it looked a bit different which led me to think that maybe it was something I was eating, or the dust in our (old carpet filled) apartment. I thought that it had to be something else because I was doing really well taking care of myself. I had begun meditating a few months prior and finding ways to manage my stress and anxiety which was a trigger for me in the past, but I finally felt that it was under control. Coincidentally enough, around that same time, I was given a supplemental article to read on food sensitivities in my cooking course, Rouxbe, and they mentioned an alternative doctor, Dr. Eileen Henry, who was a certified gluten practitioner. I began to research her and what she offers and I felt like I found my golden ticket!
My first visit to Dr. Henry was incredibly thorough - the health history I filled out in advance was close to 6 pages! I already appreciated her for getting to know me and my body so well. She was sympathetic, she listened, she explained, and I felt like I was in great hands. She ran some tests on me in her office which showed how optimally my body was performing, performed a frequency test to help relieve grief, did red light therapy on my eczema patches, and did acupuncture. A couple of the notable things she told me from her findings: I had too many heavy metals in my body which were affecting my liver, and my digestion was weak. Just another voice connecting the dots and confirming things I'd been told! She gave me MetalPul (heavy metal detox pills) to take, essential minerals to take at an opposite time of day from the MetalPul to restore any that were removed, essential fatty acids, glutathione, l-glutamine, and Unda - a homeopathic used as needed for the itching. During all of this I was also taking probiotics which are so important (gut health ftw!) and I would recommend taking them daily to anyone. (My current favorite is Floratrex). She also ordered me a Wheat Zoomer blood test even though I hadn't been eating gluten and it maybe wouldn't show anything, but she still wanted to do it because it tests antibodies to evaluate intestinal permeability (leaky gut) which she was suspecting. I felt good when I left her office. I began taking all of the supplements right away and started seeing improvement after about 2 weeks. Around this time I went back to see her again to go over the results of the blood test. They showed that I didn't react to gluten, but that I did have levels that indicated leaky gut. She explained some things I should avoid, like grains and caffeine, but didn't really tell me too much about how to cure leaky gut other than to take the supplements. Being the person that I am, I went home and researched everything I could, probably too much to be honest, because I was determined to do this right and to heal!
After hours of research I decided to put myself back on a strict diet to heal my gut. This time I additionally cut out all grains, legumes, sugars, most nightshades and tried to limit lectins. I also did a 3 day vegan "bone" broth cleanse which works to heal your gut lining. After that I would occasionally have broth days and practice intermittent fasting to give my digestion a break; both of which significantly decreased bloating and made me feel really, really good. Between this diet and the supplements, my skin and gut seemed to really be on the mend and I was feeling alive again. I was finally sleeping through the night and wasn't constantly laying awake scratching! During this time I also moved out of that old-carpet-filled apartment I mentioned earlier and I believe the lack of dust played a role in this healing as well.
In April, while still working on my overall health, I had to have a repeat test done to look for abnormal cells on my cervix. Even though I'd had a year to heal since the first test, the results of this repeat test came back positive. Granted, it was one hell of a year for me and my immune system, so while I was upset and frustrated, I wasn't really surprised by the results. What did surprise me is that the doctor never called me with the results. I only found out once someone from another department, that I'd never talked to, called me and said I needed to make an appointment for a biopsy (which I knew was to make sure the cells weren't cancerous). I didn't like my current OB-GYN for many reasons, or the way she handled the situation, so in June I went to get a second opinion from a doctor with a more holistic approach, Dr. Collins. I'll cover this more in another blog post, but getting this pre-cancerous cell news on top of everything else I was trying to process and cure made me feel so defeated. I felt like I couldn't catch a break despite all of this effort I was putting into getting myself healthy.
Just when I thought I couldn't handle any more, I reminded myself of how far I'd come and I pushed harder. I had to. I began researching ways I could heal my cervix in addition to my gut, skin, etc. I added another supplement, Indole-3-Carbinol, cleaned up my diet a little more, got the book WomanCode to start Cycle Syncing, and spent the next few months practicing self care, meditating more, and just being there for myself. I learned to stop being so hard on my body for everything it was putting me through, and began thinking positively and appreciating it for all that it has allowed me to do the past 31 years. Mental affirmations became my new best friend and helped me love myself more. I'd like to think all of my effort worked because I eventually decided to get the biopsy (in mid september - 3 months after taking real action to heal the cells) and the cells were normal - no more pre-cancer! It is now the end of September and I haven't had any eczema flare ups. six months ago I started treatment for leaky gut and five months ago is when my eczema cleared up and never returned! Five months - this is the longest I've gone without a flare up since this all began. Occasionally I get a tiny bump on my hands, but it's not visible, painful, itchy, and doesn't negatively affect my life like it did in the past.
I believe everything I did - acupuncture, herbs, stress management, supplements, minimizing irritants, etc. - played a role in helping me heal, but ultimately it came down to healing my gut. There are so many things that we don't realize are slowly destroying our gut over time: caffeine, alcohol, fried food, antibiotics, toxins, chronic stress, etc. Everyone will react differently, and some people may never develop any symptoms, but it is something everyone should be mindful of.
If you are struggling with a health issue that you want to truly heal and manage, know that it could be a long process. BUT! The end result is going to be so much better than if you were to take that quick fix from the beginning. Our bodies are self healing, they just need the right environment and tools to do so. What I recommend is to find the root cause of your issue, put in the work to heal, and give your body what it needs to thrive! Once I changed my mindset to embrace my situation and think of these struggles as a blessing, not a curse, everything became much easier. I feel like I was put on for this path to help me realize my true passions for holistic health, nutrition, and sharing my knowledge with others who are on the same search. I desperately needed a sign and this was it. This journey is just beginning, stay tuned!
Feel free to reach out if you need support or have questions. You're not in this alone.
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