By Deb Strauss
My now almost 19 year old son, Joshua has struggled with mild eczema since the age of 4. Until recently, the eczema was mild enough to manage with a variety of essential oils and occasional Epsom salt baths. All of this changed this past summer as Joshua’s skin began to break out in eczema in places that he never had issues before. In fact, in just a few short weeks, the eczema got so out of control and began to appear on his knees, elbows, neck, face, scalp, ears and ankles. Additionally, Joshua’s breathing became more labored with exercise and activity, he felt lethargic most days, he lost 10 lbs without reducing his caloric intake, his sleep was interrupted and he had difficulty focusing and remembering things.
Joshua’s pediatrician couldn’t explain why these symptoms suddenly appeared, as all of Joshua’s labs and diagnostic test results were normal. Since Joshua struggled with seasonal allergies, one of our visits was with an asthma and allergy specialist. For the first time, Joshua had a positive and allergic reaction to milk, eggs, corn, soy, wheat and gluten. He had no previous food allergies as we had tested him several times in the past. The allergy doctor could not explain this sudden new onset of food allergies, outside of possible hormonal changes due to puberty.
This explanation did not sit well with me and so I began doing my research before returning to our pediatrician for a follow-up appointment. I have always had a passion for nutrition and in my heart, I felt like this might be a gut/nutritional deficiency issue. I had read about “Leaky gut syndrome” and I remembered symptoms including abdominal bloating, gas, cramps, food sensitivities, body aches and pains, lethargy, brain fog as well as some others. When Joshua and I went back to see his pediatrician for a follow-up appointment, I had some questions about leaky gut and to my dismay Joshua’s pediatrician didn’t offer much guidance. He simply said, “Leaky gut syndrome” isn’t a diagnosis taught in medical school. Instead, “leaky gut really means you’ve got a diagnosis that still needs to be made.” Other than that, he continued to recommend the prescription grade cortisone for Joshua’s eczema and for Joshua to avoid his food triggers.
I have read enough to believe that our gut is our biggest immune system organ. Clearly my son’s body was inflamed and there was an auto-immune response via all the eczema and sudden food allergies. I believe that our body is a miracle and when given the correct balance of nutrients healing is possible. For the next several months, Joshua avoided his trigger foods, most carbs and sugars. He ate mostly alkalizing foods and homemade soup broths (GAPS diet recommendation). Additionally, we supplemented with omegas, a whole food vitamin with extra Vitamin D3 and zinc, pre-biotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes and cleanse juice daily.
I am happy to report that all of Joshua’s symptoms slowly lessened until they resolved entirely in about 6 months. Today, Joshua feels and looks 100% better and continues to eat an alkaline rich diet by choice. I am so pleased that a nutritional approach helped Joshua with his symptoms and that we were able to avoid medications, which may have only masked his symptoms.
For those of you who might be reading this and identify with some of the above listed symptoms, please know that “leaky gut” may be the reason for your eczema, chronic fatigue, weakened immunity, unexplained weight loss, respiratory troubles, difficulty with attention and focus, stomach/bowel discomforts, etc. Leaky gut seems to be a medical mystery and although I don’t have a confirmed diagnosis for my son, as a mother who went through this with him, I know that a nutritional approach is what healed my son. I am pretty confident that my son’s weakened immunity was the result of poor gut health, possibly due to over exposure to antibiotics due to recurrent ear infections as a toddler. You would hope that your doctor is a good-enough Sherlock Holmes, but it seems that it is very hard to make a “leaky gut” diagnosis. I am glad that I trusted myself enough to skip the medications and attempt natural healing via superfood nutrition.