Skin Condition: Eczema Case Study – Sue Kira

Young boy with eczema cleared with diet

by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist

Client names and identifying information changed

Simon was brought to me by his mum Angela. Simon was nine and his brother Aaron was eight.

Simon had eczema which covered most of his body, but it was worse around the backs of his knees, elbows and chest. Aaron’s skin was clear, but he had some behavioural issues (that Angela didn’t initially mention) which I observed while he was in the background as we focused on Simon’s problem.

Both the boys ate a typical young boy’s diet of cereal or toast for breakfast, snack bars for morning tea break, sandwiches for lunch, and dinner of pasta, pizza or meat and veg for dinner. They also loved their soft-drinks/soda.

Simon was an emergency C–section birth. Aaron was also a C-section birth, which is a common practice because the first child was C-section (but it is sometimes unnecessary). Each was breast fed for only a few days as Angela had trouble producing milk. So both boys had a similar start to life yet only Simon had the skin issues. No one else in the family had skin problems but dad was coeliac and mum had lactose intolerance, so I knew that allergies were ‘in the family’.

Angela had taken Simon to see so many doctors and skin specialist that he was totally fed up with it all. He just wanted more cortisone, which was the only thing that settled things, but it was short-term and when he was off cortisone, his problems resurfaced.

Angela showed me pictures of what he looked like without the eczema (from the cortisone treatment) and you would think you were looking at another boy, smiling, confident and happy with clear skin.

When I saw him, he was a writhing itchy and scaly mess. I had to mop the floor after each visit to collect all the dead skin that was across the floor like confetti. He had a peculiar smell that was rather unpleasant which I knew wasn’t right.

Simon was very shy and didn’t talk to me during the first three sessions and cried or became angry every-time we talked about taking certain foods out of his diet. From the beginning, I knew this was going to be difficult.

Angel was determined to give diet changes a go as she knew how difficult Simon’s circumstances were for the whole family. I suggested that the whole family needed to go on the diet together so that Simon didn’t feel isolated, and Simon’s brother Aaron was very supportive of that idea. Dad not so much, but I quietly told him that if he really needed to have something else in his diet, then to do so outside of the home, such as at work (he liked that idea).

We started with a gluten, dairy, additive and sugar free diet to reduce the inflammation and support Simon’s immune system. We also added in some probiotics and fish oil capsules that he was happy to chew on.

After a few weeks on this diet, the family revisited and there was an obvious change in Simon’s skin which had improved considerably. Although he still wouldn’t talk to me I could see that he was less agitated.

They were encouraged to continue the diet for another few weeks to keep the good work going, and we added some bone broth (as soup with veggies) and some gelatine with dark cherry juice made into chewy gummy jellies that he loved. This was to help with gut repair and increase collagen to further repair Simon’s skin.

Two more monthly visits later and Simon was speaking to me saying, “Thank you for helping me with my skin.” I think he genuinely meant it and was not prompted by his parents. His skin looked so good with hardly a blemish.

He asked if he could go back to eating all his favourite foods and I said that maybe not just yet and with that he had an angry teary moment, but soon calmed down as we talked about how bad his skin was before and how he can be healthier and have more fun without his skin being so itchy.

The next time I saw Simon was three months later and his skin looked really bad. I was puzzled until I had found out that Simon had been to a birthday party and ate everything he shouldn’t. Lollies with artificial substances and sugar, breads, pizza and all sorts of party snacks. He was warned and given other foods to choose from, but kids will be kids. He felt ashamed but the good thing was that he got to see first-hand the effect that food had on his skin.

Unfortunately, that one day of poor eating made his skin bad for another three months of suffering. After that he was very chatty and told me he wasn’t going to touch ’that stuff’ ever again.

I told him that with careful monitoring he could bring back some foods to expand his diet. He discovered that provided he didn’t have gluten, dairy or sugar his skin was good. His itch became a tool to help him feel when a food didn’t suit him; he would only eat a small amount of something new and see if there was an itch.

Because of the family’s diet changes, Aaron’s behaviour (the younger brother) improved tremendously and his grades went up at school. Dad, who I thought was going to eat other foods, ended up just eating what everyone else did and felt better with more energy and was more productive at work. Mum Angela, was delighted and really happy that her family was healthy.

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