Eczema

IMG_20140321_182708After several years of not knowing what the skin irritations were, it finally made sense. It felt like the pieces of a puzzle fell into place when a dermatologist made a proper diagnosis. It was eczema. An inflammatory skin condition that can be triggered by contact with environmental allergens, certain foods, and even stress.

With eczema, the affected areas on the body can become inflamed with dry, scaly red patches. And, symptoms can include unbearable itching! Scratching could feel great, but it’s best to refrain from scratching since that could break the skin, leading to infection and deeper scarring. If your skin is prone to hyper-pigmentation at the slightest blemish, you know how important it is to avoid scratching.

If you experience skin irritations and you’re unsure what it is, first and foremost, please consult a medical practitioner for a proper diagnosis. If the diagnosis is eczema and depending on the type of eczema, your physician may prescribe a hydrocortisone cream to relieve the inflammation, itchiness, and to help promote healing. For us, we used a topical medication that helped, but at the same time we researched preventative measures and natural remedies for the near and long term if it recurred.

While you may not be able to avoid eczema especially if it’s genetic, here are some at-home remedies that we found helpful in managing some forms of eczema, alleviating some symptoms, and to promote healing.

  • Stay hydrated. We’re often so busy that we forget to hydrate and our skin was screaming from the dryness! Well, we heard it loud and clear. So, drink ample amounts of water to stay hydrated from within. Alternatives to water are flavorful beverages like coconut water, chamomile tea and Rooibos Tea, which are hydrating and have anti-inflammatory benefits. Also, these beverage options are non-caffeinated so they’re perfect to drink throughout the day.
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! With eczema, the skin cell barrier is compromised, so it’s difficult for the skin to retain moisture. Regular and frequent moisturizing can help keep moisture locked in and prevent the condition from reoccurring or worsening. After showering or bathing, pat the skin dry and moisturize immediately. We found it helpful to moisturize in the morning and evening before bedtime since our bodies lose moisture during sleep as well.
  • Exfoliate. The last thing you may want to do is exfoliate, yet this helps to get rid of the dry, dead skin cells so that moisturizers and treatments can more effectively absorb into the skin. A sponge or soft loofah may be ideal since you want to be gentle. In some cases, blister-like bumps can form in and around the affected areas so it’s even more important to get a proper medical diagnosis to rule out any bacterial or fungal infections since you wouldn’t want it to spread.
  • Stay calm. Stress can trigger eczema. Meditation, yoga, long walks, listening to your favorite songs, and engaging in your favorite activities can help to take your mind off of the itching and irritations and alleviate stress.
  • Use gentle all-natural body cleansers. Soaps and fragranced body washes can irritate and cause or worsen flare-ups. It’s best to choose fragrance-free body washes that also calm and add moisture to the skin.
  • Take a soothing bath. Draw a warm bath and sprinkle some oatmeal into the bath to enjoy a relaxing soak. Or, use a body wash with colloidal oatmeal to soothe the skin. Avoid taking long hot showers which tend to dehydrate your skin so be cognizant of the water temperature and the length of your shower.
  • Monitor your diet. Certain foods can trigger skin irritations including nuts, shellfish, dairy, gluten, and sugar. We kept a daily food diary to identify potential food triggers. We had already significantly limited dairy and shellfish from our diet, so we focused on managing our sugar intake.

The most important take-away is to consult a medical practitioners for a proper diagnosis. While eczema and other skin conditions can feel embarrassing, remember, you’re not alone. According to the National Eczema Association, 3.6 million Americans suffer from some form of eczema. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants until the eczema and scarring eases are not the most fun especially during the heat of Summer, but remember it’s temporary. Identifying and addressing the triggers that can cause your outbreaks are important in managing flare-ups. Know the causes, symptoms, and treatments that work best for you and it will help you in the near and long term. So, remember to listen to your body, and your body will thank you for it.

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OH SUGAR!

Immunity-Boosters Plate PhotoSugar. The sweetness that many palates crave is touted differently by others of late. During the last year, in our quest to maintain better health and wellness, we took a closer look at the foods that we were consuming. The foods that we were relying on to maintain our health. And, we noticed an ingredient that we didn’t expect to find in many of the foods. We noticed it over and over again. What was it? It was sugar. Sugar in it’s various forms…cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, glucose, maple syrup, and agave. And, it was everywhere! From pasta sauces, to breads, to juices, to cereals.

Based on our research, we found that excessive consumption and buildup of sugar in our bodies could play a major role in various health-related issues including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammation, arthritis, thyroid conditions, dementia, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and cancer. So, in our quest to ensure that we maintained our health, managed our sugar consumption, and consumption of inflammatory foods, we decided to significantly reduce all processed foods and foods that had added sugars from our diet. This included some pastas, pasta sauces, potato chips, granola bars, bagels, bottled juices, breads, and cereal. But there was more. It was more than the sugars that were listed on ingredient labels. We factored in natural and “hidden” sugars that were in whole and dried fruits, and carbohydrate-rich foods that our bodies convert into sugar such as corn, potatoes, peas, carrots, and others.

We decided to do this for 12 months, with the intention of reintroducing certain foods back into our diet afterwards. You may wonder as many did…”What did we eat?” In addition to increasing our intake of immunity-boosting foods like lemon, ginger and garlic, below are some of the foods on our “Eat More of” list.

1) Low-sugar, non-starchy foods:

    • Arugula root
    • Cabbage
    • Cilantro
    • Romaine lettuce
    • Mushrooms
    • Spinach
    • Cauliflower
    • Cucumber
    • Asparagus
    • Celery
    • Baby carrots
    • Artichokes
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Cucumber
    • Garlic (raw)
    • Kale
    • Onions
    • Tomatoes
    • Zucchini

2) Fruits that were lower in sugar:

    • Avocado
    • Lemon
    • Lime
    • Olives

3) Unsweetened beverages:

    • Water
    • Coconut water
    • Almond milk
    • Coconut milk

4) Snacks:

    • Almonds
    • Cashews
    • Sesame seeds
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Veggie chips

Because we were opting for more fresh foods, this meant cooking more often which meant grocery shopping more often. Sometimes the most frustrating and time-consuming part of this process was having to deal with long grocery store check-out lines, but we remained determined. When pursuing this, we realized that this also meant a lifestyle change. This changed our daily routine especially when we had work events. Gone were the days when we timed our mornings so that we could squeeze every second of morning snooze with just enough time to shower, dress, and go (fellow sleep-lovers…you know how difficult this is!).

Instead, we woke up earlier to prepare our daily meals to make sure we had as much of what we needed for the day. Oftentimes, we cooked large meal portions enough to last the full week and we reheated the meals in the mornings so that we could bring breakfast, lunch, snacks, and beverages for the day. Needless to say, our shoulders felt the burden of carrying the meals in heavy glass Tupperware. But our solutions for our heavier loads…rolling back packs and lighter stainless steel food containers! During days when we did not have events, we would often eat lunch before leaving home and then return home after meetings and/or errands for dinner.

At times it seemed impossible to stick to our new diet especially during gatherings with friends and family due to the options available. Yet, we chose wiser options and we kept to our diet as much as possible.

At the conclusion of the 12-month period, we felt the difference in natural energy levels. And, we decided to keep many of the changes that we made to our diet, incorporating more color and variety in the produce that we chose to consume to make sure we had the proper nutrients and vitamins to nourish and replenish our bodies. And, the fresher the ingredients, the better. 2017 was a year of healthier discoveries for us. And, we met many friends and colleagues on this same journey which helped us stay on track. By doing so, our journey better prepared us for a healthier 2018!

Did you have a similar journey? Let us know. We thank you for being kind to your body.