How I Cured My Eczema!

Just looking at these photos again causes me great anxiety. I’ve refrained from looking at them because it takes me back to a point and time that I felt so defeated and frustrated. I was officially diagnosed with “eczema” and told that it was just something I would have to “deal with”.

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In March of 2016, I started developing little red spots on my legs. They were quite itchy, but, being a fitness instructor and spending a lot of time out in the Texas heat exercising, I just chalked it up to a heat rash or bug bites. By the summer’s end, the spots were growing, becoming more itchy and definitely not going away as I had hoped they would when the heat subsided. When October rolled around and my sweet kitty got sick, that’s when things got really bad. Both legs were covered, both arms were covered, and it was spreading to my stomach and neck. The stress of my baby being sick, then with his passing on November 18th, really seemed to worsen my condition dramatically. I had to sleep with ice packs at night to get any type of relief. I tried every cream and potion under the sun and nothing helped. I would scratch until I had blood running down my legs. Anyone who has never experienced that kind of itch, just doesn’t understand the agony. The burn, the itch, the pain… no sleep at night. It consumes every single part of your day. I hate going to doctors, but in December, I finally gave in and went to see an allergist. He did an allergy test, told me I had a slight response to lanolin and parabens, gave me steroid cream and told me to get rid of anything containing those ingredients. I was SO happy, thinking that he had found my problem and that I would finally get some relief. The ointment did initially work. The rash went away, and I spent a small fortune replacing everything from laundry detergent to shampoo. I spent countless hours reading labels (interestingly enough I found that none of the products I had been using had those ingredients in them anyway) to make for sure that those ingredients were nowhere in our house. When I tapered off the ointment like I was instructed to do, I woke up one morning covered in the rash once again. I just sat on the floor crying… how could it be? I was ok with using the cream short term, but did not want to become dependent on it.

January and February of 2017, I spent so much time researching. What it could be, what I could do for it, why this was happening… I started moving away from the idea that it was something external causing it. I sincerely felt like something internal was signaling an inflammatory response. That February, I decided to try an elimination diet. My sweet husband did it with me. It…Was…HARD! Pureed soups for 3 days, then weeks of a very minimal selection of foods. We followed it diligently, and while I did see some reduction in the severity of the inflammation, it still wasn’t going away. Then, in March, my Dad was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. Naturally, the stress worsened it once again, undoing the progress I had made. Before his surgery, I went to see my GP. He was a little shocked when he saw my condition and he honestly had no idea what it even was. He gave me more cream, antibiotics and steroids, then told me that I would need to see a dermatologist. I reluctantly took what he gave me, just so I could have some relief while my Dad was in the hospital. It did help, but the day after my last steroid pill, it came right back.

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I researched Dermatologists, and decided on a clinic about 1.5 hours away. Great reviews, great credentials. I wanted someone who really knew what they were doing. I felt like I was at a spa when I walked in. The facility was beautiful and everyone was so friendly. I felt optimistic that they would fix me. While the Doctor was very sweet and seemingly compassionate, she gave me the answers that I had already read from everyone else’s encounters with doctors and similar conditions. She told me that it was eczema, that it “just happens” sometimes and that we would just have to manage it the best we could. I asked for a skin biopsy, which she did. She sent me home with more cream and told me to come back once the results were in.

I went back a couple of weeks later and was told that it was “Spongiotic Dermatitis with occasional dermal eosinophils”. AKA…eczema of some kind. I asked about whether or not food could possibly be the culprit. I was told “not in her experience” and again, it “just happens” sometimes. She started pushing a brand new injection (only costs $36,000 a year!…WTF?) that could possibly work wonders for me. She didn’t have any experience with it, but some of her colleagues had. Umm, no thank you… I told her that rather than treating the symptoms, I wanted to find what was actually causing it. She sort of found that amusing and funny, but, in my opinion, there’s a cause and effect for everything.

I went back to the allergist and told him of the Dermatologists findings. He was not in agreement with my diagnosis just “being eczema” and he was certainly not in favor of me taking the injections. He did more allergy testing, but with no significant findings. He was puzzled, especially since I never had eczema as a kid… all he could do was send me home with more cream and no answers.

This whole time, after the elimination diet, there was one thing that I never added back. Gluten. My Mom has Celiac Disease and had to give up gluten years ago. Her problems were primarily in her stomach. I never had those kind of problems, so I never thought I might have it too. At every doctor’s appointment, I mentioned this fact, but no one seemed to care or think it might have anything to do with my rash. In my research I had found that gluten sensitivity can cause a condition called Dermatitis Herpetiformis. It’s an itchy rash that is symmetrical. Generally people with DH do not experience intestinal discomfort, and it usually shows up in people between 30-40. Check, check and check… The only treatment is to avoid gluten. Could that be my problem? Who knows because no one would specifically test me for that.

After about 4 months of no gluten, I noticed my skin healing. It was amazing! It was starting to fade, it was becoming less itchy… it was like a miracle. It still wasn’t completely gone, but much more tolerable. Then, in July, me, my husband and both of my parents decided to go Vegan. Animal protein also causes inflammation, so with my skin issues, and my Dad’s cancer and surgery, we figured the less inflammatory triggers the better. After a couple of weeks, I had a pretty bad flare. In all of my research, I had read about the “healing crisis” and how your body is purging toxins and that you’ll get worse before you get better. I kept my fingers crossed and hoped that was the case. I kept going with the Vegan diet, and as I sit here today, my skin…..is….CLEAR!

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Every day that goes by without itching, is a day that I am truly thankful and grateful for! I know that there are many of you out there that know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve felt the agony… you’ve lost sleep… you’re frustrated and depressed… you pray for a day without the incessant itching and pain. You’ve researched and been to doctor after doctor only to be told to use creams and ointments for the rest of your life. You’ve hit dead ends and don’t know what to do anymore. You can’t imagine how to live the rest of your life this way. You’ve spent small fortunes on lotions, creams, supplements, books, websites claiming to have the answers… It’s a lonely place to be because the people around you just don’t understand. I’m not saying that what I’ve done will work for everyone, or that my experiences are the exact same as yours, but, I wanted to share mine in hopes that you will give some things a try to see if it helps you. If my story can help just one person, then I will feel like my journey will not have been in vain.

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HOW I CURED MY ECZEMA AND THINGS I LEARNED:

1.  YOU HAVE TO STOP SCRATCHING!

This is the hardest part of it all. I hated reading that too, but it’s so very true. Constantly scratching keeps your skin barrier damaged and broken, which will let anything in to the deeper layers of your skin. I kept my nails trimmed, wore pants & a long sleeved shirt to bed to make it harder to reach and used ice packs when I felt like I was going to cave and scratch. I also used Vanicream lotion and several essential oils that really helped on nights I was super itchy. I’ll list those down below.

2.  DITCH INFLAMMATORY FOODS

I’m not saying that everyone should go Vegan if that’s not for you. But, there are definitely some things that you should get rid of to help your body.

DAIRY – I gave this up about 8 years ago because I found that it was causing my debilitating migraines. It is very inflammatory to the body, which is not good for someone with inflamed skin. Almond, coconut, rice and cashew milk are all tasty alternatives. There are also plenty of non-dairy cheeses that taste great too.

GLUTEN – Even if you aren’t technically sensitive to gluten, the proteins in it does cause an inflammatory response in your gut. I know you think it will be hard giving up bread and pasta, but it’s totally worth it when you get that first night of good sleep with no itching. It’s becoming easier and easier to find gluten free products now, so you really aren’t having to give up anything.

SUGAR – This is probably the most important thing you can eliminate. Constant sugar intake causes chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the body. When your body is inflamed on a continual basis, it can start attacking things that shouldn’t be attacked. Like your skin, your joints, etc… Any sugar intake should be directly from whole fruits. Ditch any added sugar (this includes artificial sweeteners) and also refrain from drinking fruit juices.

HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS – If you’re not on board going the Vegan route, then at least make sure you aren’t eating highly processed meat like bacon and lunch meat. This also goes for anything else highly processed like chips, cookies…pretty much anything found in the center of a grocery store. If its expiration date is 2022, then it’s best to put it back. Nutritious, whole foods are what you’re looking for…specifically a lot of leafy green vegetables.

3.  DRINK LOTS OF WATER

You hear that all the time, but it’s something you really should make sure that you’re doing when you have eczema. You’ve got to keep your body hydrated and avoid dehydration at all costs. I shot for at least half of my body weight in ounces every day.

4.  CUT OUT ALCOHOL

I know, I know… I hate to be the party pooper. I’m not saying that you can’t ever have it again, but, until your skin is clear and itch free, you’ve got to try your best to avoid it. Alcohol is inflammatory AND it causes dehydration. A double whammy for eczema sufferers. It was worth it to me to give it up for the time being. I’ve now been able to enjoy wine again without any negative skin effects!

5.  GET YOUR GUT HEALTH IN CHECK

Most of our immunity comes from our gut. If you’re eating a lot of sugar and gluten filled products, and, if you’ve taken antibiotics in your lifetime, then your gut is probably in need of some attention. If your gut health is bad, then chances are, you’ve got lots of inflammation and your body’s defense system is not up to par. I took two things: Probiotics and L Glutamine. Probiotics replenish your microbiome with good bacteria, which you need, and the L Glutamine is anti-inflammatory and helps repair your gut lining.

6.  GO WITH WHAT DOESN’T MAKE IT WORSE

I got into using so many different products, it was hard to tell if they were helping or hurting. Nothing you put on your skin is going to cure your problem. When you’re so desperate, you really want to believe that this special $50 lotion is going to make it all just go away. Then you buy another and another, then you make this special concoction you found on the internet, then you end up with a whole basket full of stuff that hasn’t helped your condition any. I know because I have one of those baskets… If special lotions and potions were actually cures, then no one would be in this boat. What worked for me was to find what didn’t exacerbate the problem and just use that. I found one soap and one lotion that didn’t cause me to itch anymore that I already was and only used those. When you’re trying new products every day in the hopes of finding that miracle cure, chances are you are only inflaming your skin more, and filling yourself with disappointment because none of it worked.

7.  TAKE A DEEP BREATH

It’s hard to manage stress, especially when the condition you have is what’s causing the stress to begin with. It’s easier said than done I know, but it will help in the long run. If you can take some time out of your day to do some deep breathing and bring a sense of peace and calm to your mind, it will help tremendously. Stress will wreak havoc in your body and the only way to heal yourself is to learn how to manage it. Yoga and meditation are great tools for that!

8.  YOU WILL HAVE SETBACKS

This was the hardest thing for me to get used to. You will think it’s going away and that all your hard work is paying off, then BAM… you feel like you’re back at square one. With eczema, it takes time to heal. Your skin only regenerates every 27 days. Your body purges toxins when you start eating healthier and that’s what you want. GET OUT TOXINS! So, please know that if you have a bad day after having several good ones that it’s completely normal. You may feel defeated and disappointed, but keep trucking along.

9.  GET SOME VITAMIN D

I tried to make it a habit to go out in the sun for 15 minutes every day. Vitamin D is crucial for immunity. Your body needs help healing, so give it the tools it needs. Just be sure not to stay out to the point of sunburn!

10.  SWITCH TO SHOWERS

Before my eczema ordeal, I was an avid bather. I loved my baths, and only showered when I needed to wash my hair. Sometimes, I would even do that in the bathtub too. After developing eczema, I found that immediately after bath time was usually the itchiest (and also at 3 in the morning 😦 ). I switched to taking exclusively showers and that helped so much. Since your skin is soaking in the water (and chemicals in the water of course), it tends to dry it out. Even now that my skin is clear, I still take showers instead of baths. I’ve gotten used to it, it saves water and there are certain things I just don’t want to get back in the habit of doing. I do NOT want it to EVER come back, so the things that helped me get rid of it that I can deal with, I don’t plan on changing.

11.  GET YOURSELF A SUPPORT GROUP

This is really hard to deal with alone. At times, I found myself going inward, trying to ignore it in hopes that it would just go away. That doesn’t work and it only makes things worse. I dealt with it better when I talked about it. My mom and husband were definitely my shoulders I cried on the most often, but, I always felt better mentally and emotionally after I talked about how I was feeling or how frustrated I was. Everything always seems worse when you’re alone and this is no different. Find friends, family members or support groups online that you feel comfortable talking to and let those feelings out!

PRODUCTS I USE:

Vanicream – Find it here on Amazon or at most Targets

Massage Therapy Essential Oil – Edens Garden

Muscle Relief Essential Oil – Edens Garden

Probiotics – Garden of Life Dr. Formulated

L Glutamine – Micro Ingredients

Bodywash – Dr. Woods Raw Black Soap 

Laundry Detergent – Simple Truth – here or at any Kroger

For me, I fully believe that ditching gluten and becoming Vegan are what have cleared my skin. To be told that I would have to deal with this and use creams the rest of my life, I feel so empowered that I was able to do it myself through diet and lifestyle changes. If I can, I know you can too! Cut out inflammatory foods and products, build up your immune system and repair your gut health… you’ll see amazing changes!

I hope this can be helpful to you in your journey and welcome any questions. Or, if you just need someone to vent to, I’m here for ya!

Take care and know that you have the power to heal your body, no matter what the doctors say!

Namaste and blessings, ❤ ❤ ❤

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Weekly Menu Planner Printable

WeeklyMenu

Meal planning is one of the best ways to go when you’re trying to change your eating habits. If you have a whole week’s snapshot of what you’re making and when, you are less likely to impulse buy, or cheat.

If you’re running to the grocery store every night to pick up something for dinner, it puts you around temptation much more often than if you were doing your whole weeks worth of shopping in one go. When you plan out your meals and only buy what is actually on your grocery list, it sets you up for success!

I’ve created this simple little Weekly Menu Planner Printable to help get you started! Just click the link and it’ll take you to a pdf version for ease of printing.

Happy Healthy Eating! ❤

The Plant Based Revolution – Part 1

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Hippocrates was a brilliant man. Food can help or food can harm…which do you choose?

6-weeks ago, my husband and I went “vegan” (along with my mom, then eventually my dad too!). I say “vegan” because that word has such bad connotations, but it’s what most people know to mean, no animal products. The preferable term is “Whole Food Plant Based”, but not many people have heard of that. The difference is that “Whole Food Plant Based” is narrowing down the vegan diet to foods that are in their natural form, not highly processed and from plants. Technically, Oreos, Potato Chips and Coke are vegan, but that, of course, would not constitute a healthy diet. Oreos, Potato Chips and Coke are not whole foods and they’re all highly processed, so, they would not be a part of a WFPB diet.

I know the power of food. Suffering from migraines and eczema and actually healing my body with foods, I understand the importance of what’s on the end of your fork. What you put in your body is as important as what you leave out. Stayed tuned for future posts on my journeys to healing!

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I love research and scientific information. I love documentaries on health and nutrition. Knowledge is power and I believe in having a lot of it. So, when we came across the documentary What the Health on Netflix, I was really excited to watch it. It was shocking. Not only because we are ruining our planet by raising so much livestock, or because of the inhumane, cruel treatment of the poor animals that end up on our plates, but also because of the corruption of leading health organization, the government, Big Pharma and agribusiness. I wanted to learn more, so we binge watched more documentaries: Eating You Alive, Forks Over Knives and Vegan Everyday Stories. They all had the same basic premise: animal protein is not health promoting, corruption of our system, inhumane treatment of animals and the detrimental effects that agribusiness has on our environment. This led me to read the book, How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger, and watch videos on his website, www.nutritionfacts.org. With all of this scientifically based information, it all started making so much sense. Because of my eczema, we had already eliminated most of the animal protein we were eating. This time last year, we were having animal protein at least three times a day, then we reduced down to twice a day, then eventually, only once a day. I had researched how animal protein was acidic and inflammatory to your body, and with an inflammatory condition like eczema, I figured that cutting back was a good idea. After adding all of this new information to my knowledge toolbox, we went full-on vegan and haven’t looked back.

I also had an epiphany. Ever since I was a small child, I’ve always had a profound love of animals…any living beings, really. I’ve always been the kind of person that catches the spider in a glass, then carefully takes it outside rather than just squishing it. After witnessing the treatment these animals endure, it turned on a light bulb that really made me question why I had been eating the very beings that I so love. Like most everyone else, I was culturally and socially conditioned to not make the connection between what was on my plate and what it used to be. I felt so guilty and ashamed. The first Yama of the Yoga Sutras is ahimsa, translated as: nonviolence. Being a yoga instructor, I know this. But, by eating meat, I was condoning the violent treatment of those poor animals. It may have taken 35 years for that awareness to slap me in the face and open my eyes, but I’m certainly glad that it did. For me, there’s no turning back… I intend on fully practicing ahimsa without blinders on. I already feeling like I’m making a difference by not voting for violence with my dollars.

Of course, we’ve encountered the very common questions… “Where do you get your protein?” “Where do you get your calcium?” The same place that the biggest, strongest herbivores like cows, horses and elephants get theirs… PLANTS! Protein is found in abundance in the plant world, just like calcium. I mean, just look at these poor malnourished vegans, lol.

For us, we have loved the switch. Typically, we had a rotation of about 6 or 7 meals that we would have all of the time. Since we’ve gone plant based, I haven’t made the same thing twice! You try things you would have never tried before. It opens all of these possibilities and it’s been quite fun. I also sleep better, have more energy, my skin continues to clear, I’ve had less knee pain, and the list goes on. There’s no question that my body prefers the plant based lifestyle. We finally convinced my dad a few weeks ago to join us on this journey… He recently went through surgery to remove a massive tumor from his colon. In my studies, it has been found that animal protein and processed foods are the leading contributors to colon cancer. Luckily his tumor had not spread, so he got a second chance. We felt that he should make the most of it by taking better care of himself and not indulging in the very things that contributed to his cancer in the first place.

Plant based diets have been scientifically proven to REVERSE the number one killer in America, which is heart disease. (Check out Dr. Esselstyn) That is powerful! If simply changing your diet can prevent and reverse the leading killer in America, then you must be able to see why more organizations aren’t promoting this change. Money. Plain and simple. Doctors, hospitals, Big Pharma & health organizations don’t profit from you being healthy. They profit from sick people… If they can keep you just sick enough to keep coming back for medicine after medicine and procedures and surgeries, then they keep making their mega dollars, all the while, the cure for your ailment was probably right there in the produce department. It’s all so mind-boggling to me that our system is set up that way, but, it’s the sad truth.

I know that nutrition is so confusing. One day you’ll read that ______ is good for you. The next day you read it’s bad for you. Ahhhhh! So what do you do?!?!?!  For one, you must consider the source. If a study is funded by say, the beef industry, then of course their funded study will have favorable results. Dr. Greger put it best… He says that if all of these industries can keep you just confused enough to the point you don’t know what’s right and what’s not, then you’ll eventually just throw up your hands in frustration and decide to just do what you want to do. Most everyone will tell you that they don’t eat enough vegetables or that they know they need to eat more. Why is that? Because most everyone will agree that vegetables are what’s healthy for you. If you know that, then just eat more… it’s that simple and it might even make you feel better! What you eat now is going to affect you later in life. Why wait until you have a health problem to make a healthy change?

It is not my intention to bash anyone that eats a certain way, or to try and force anyone into my way of thinking. Each to their own… Everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do and I certainly respect that, just as I hope you respect my decision for doing what I do. My goal is simply to share my own personal experiences and knowledge I’ve obtained through research, then you may do with it what you will.

“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”

Peace & Love,

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Operation Clean Eating

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Hopefully, September will be bringing cooler temperatures! Since the triple digits have seemed to subside, we are getting back to the grind and ramping up our HIIT once again. We are also going to incorporate more nutrition into our sessions this month. To help, I’ve created the following Daily Food Log, as well as some healthy eating tips to use as tools for “Operation Clean Eating”!

Healthy Eating Tips

Daily Food Log

Fed Up…It’s Time To Get Real About Food

Fed Up is a great documentary exploring the American obesity epidemic, and how the food industry is only aggravating the problem.
Did you know that Congress considers pizza a vegetable in school lunches? Me either! How crazy is that? Did you know that in 1980, there were zero children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but that in 2010, there have been over 51,000 children diagnosed? That’s a frightening statistic! I was shocked and angered by what I learned from the film.
Watch it! Then, take action! Visit the website: http://www.fedupmovie.com to buy the movie, learn valuable information, or to find out how you can help with this growing epidemic!

You Can’t Out-Exercise a Bad Diet.

​When trying to lose weight, exercise is only half the battle. The other half is found in the kitchen. If your eating habits are not so great, then you are sabotaging all of the hard work you’ve been doing exercising. This will only lead to disappointment and despair because you’ve been working out so hard, but, you just aren’t seeing the results you thought you would.

Taking a look at the above chart, you will see that it takes a LOT of exercise, just to burn off the calories of a seemingly small meal or snack. I don’t know about you, but, I don’t love soda enough to do almost an hour of lunges for each one!  And, that glazed donut in the break room is not worth 88 minutes of crunches to me…yikes!
One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, therefore; to lose one pound a week, you need a deficit of 500 calories a day. Take a look at your daily habits to see where you can make some improvements. Do you drink 4 sodas a day? If so, you could replace those with water, and you are well over your 500 calorie deficit!
The next time you are toying with the notion of getting that large order of French fries, ask yourself if you really want to do 524 burpees. Chances are, the answer is no, then you just saved yourself 500 calories and the torture of everyone’s most dreaded exercise!
“Take care of your body…it’s the only place you have to live.”