Monday, April 4, 2011

The Scoop on Skin Allergies

You would not believe the number of people that come to me telling me that their child has eczema. I CRINGE every time I see somebody using those steroid ointments on their kids' skin. I don't say that out of arrogance, because up until a couple of years ago, I was in the same boat. I believed whatever the doctor told me when it came to my skin. negating my own accomplishments as a skilled, licensed esthetician. It's funny, when someone wears a badge and a labcoat, we're all ears, but when a friend or family member tells you about a discovery they made through their own research, we blow them off! Although I say "we", I really don't include myself in that category. I have always been eager to learn things for myself, instead of taking everyone else's (doctors included) word. Not to say that I am a skeptic of conventional medicine, I just feel it should be used as a last resort, not the first.

Let's get back to the steroid ointments for a minute. Wow, this post could potentially become a novel if you knew all I know and continuously learn about this stuff - but I won't do that to you today! Now steroids, why exactly are they prescribed for eczematous skin conditions? Well, they "work" that's for sure, at calming inflammation to provide almost immediate relief, whether you're rubbing in an ointment or creme, or taking them orally. If you've ever been in this situation, what happens normally after you use the steroid??? The dang problem comes right back! Take a look at some of the harmful side effects of steroids (and I'm trying to keep it simple here):
  • Lightened patches of skin (hypopigmentation)
  • They may mask an already existing fungal infection (which means you're taking the wrong meds - hello?)
  • Diminished response to the drug after repeated use
  • Glaucoma and cataracts when used around eyes
  • Growth suppression
  • Adrenal suppression (these glands control our hormonal balance!)
  • Discoloration and thinning of the skin
  • Acne or rosacea
  • Allergies toward the steroid may be developed
Now, of course, in an emergency situation, no one is saying don't use it. I'm just saying that a little bit of something eventually leads to a whole lot of it after consistent daily use, even if you're eczema is episodic and you think you can control it.

Now, this is the paragraph I've been waiting for (drum roll, please...). Have you always been told that eczema is hereditary? I was, in fact, I was told a lot of different things from different doctors, leaving me to believe nothing and everything at the same time. I guess I should have prefaced this paragraph with the fact that I have had eczema since I was 18, although it's slowly on its way out - what do I mean? Well, that will be another post :). Most may wonder why I was 18 when I got it. Heck, so did I. I never had it as a child or any other skin problems for that matter. What is eczema? Otherwise known as atopic dermatitis, it is characterized by inflammation of the skin that itches and is usally red, bumpy, and irritated. Some eczema weeps and oozes while other types may crust or flake. Our skin makes up 70% of our bodies, folks - it's the largest organ! Has it ever occurred to you that whatever is happening on the inside of you manifests through your skin? That's why you hear people say, "You are what you eat," or "Stay away from those fried foods." If something negative is happening on the inside, it is probably going to try to escape by the easiest means possible, through your skin. Other processes of elimination include the kidneys and liver, but how well are you treating your body for those organs to be functioning optimally and eliminate waste properly?

Many things can cause eczema. Those things vary from person to person. CHEMICAL sensitivities are becoming more and more prevalent today. They are used in everthing from skin and hair care to the flame-retardants on your flatscreen, laptop, carpet, well you get the drift. Chemical exposure, in my opinion, is to blame for causing so many undetectable or uncurable diseaseas or disorders. IF your eczema is a daily problem, no matter what you eat or do, then think about where you live. Does your skin clear up if you go away for the weekend? If so, this is a clue that you could be allergic to something at home. Paint, latex or not, contains chemicals that may be toxic to our health. New carpet is usually sprayed with a myriad of chemicals before it is installed in your home. Shampooing will not remove these chemicals. Do you live near some sort of chemical plant? IF your eczema travels with you, I would seriously consider that you may be eating something your body does not agree with.

In terms of food, dairy and wheat are two culprits (but not the only ones) that go unnoticed because we consume so darn much of them as a society! Food allergies and gluten intolerances (gluten is a protein in wheat, rye and barley) are both examples of things that can trigger eczema. If you REALLY want to get help with your skin condition, eliminate certain foods from your diet for a while (this "while" could be 2 weeks, 30 days or longer), but you have to be honest and consistent about it. Yes it will be hard in the beginning, maybe even a little overwhelming, but very well worth it in the end. Imagine a life without itchy skin, scarring and discomfort that makes you want to stay at home. Spring and summer are around the corner, and it's no fun when you feel subconscious about your skin! Keep a log of the food you eat and write down how it made you feel. Did you get a reaction? After your established food elimination time limit,  try introducing that food (dairy, wheat, etc.) back into your diet and see what happens. Any reactions? If so, this food is more than likely part of the problem and you should stay away from it. No reactions? Slowly add it back into your diet and begin eliminating another type of food. One thing to keep in mind - try eating out as less as possible. It's terribly difficult to know what's in something when you don't cook it yourself. I know this is all a lot to take in, but once you wrap your mind around it, you will feel more in control than ever.

So (long exhale), what lessons can be learned today? Today, I want you to think about the "whole" you - your body, your skin, your hair, everything. Are you putting up with discomfort in any way that you just can't put your finger on? Often times we just "learn to live with it" because it's easier; but, I'm here to tell you that you don't have to just live with it. Take control of YOU. If you don't, no one else will and I'd bet what's in my pocket on that one!

Till Next Time...

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