In Only You Can Cure Yourself, I explained why the first step to cure any chronic disease is to accept responsibility for your condition. Once you accept that no magic pill, potion, or treatment is going to miraculously heal you without any effort on your part, you are well on the way to improvement. In the case of eczema, the next step is to find out what is actually causing your skin to act up, and then take appropriate measures to eliminate those causes.
I published a list of the most common causes of eczema outbreaks here. You may at first be daunted by the sheer length of the list, and it is by no means comprehensive! If you are not leading a particularly health-conscious life already, it may seem overwhelmingly difficult – and indeed quite discouraging – to eliminate all of these things from your life forever.
Step by Step
The good news is that you do not have to eliminate all the possible eczema causes from your life at once. It is okay to go one step at a time. Pick an item from the list that you feel is most likely to be a cause for your eczema, and find out how you can avoid or at least reduce it. If you then do not notice any improvement after one or two weeks, you can safely assume that this particular item is not an issue for you, and you can safely re-incorporate it in your life.
I used to wear a metal bracelet for a while, but after a few days I noticed that under the bracelet my skin would become red and irritated. So taking off that bracelet was an obvious step to improve my skin.
Similarly, if you have lots of dust in your living quarters, make an effort to clean more frequently. Better yet, if you live with a partner or family that do not suffer from eczema, try to get someone else clean the dust, so you will be less exposed to it. (As a matter of fairness, you might agree to take over other tasks in the household so that the workload is evened out ;))
On the other hand, many people name sweat as a possible cause for dermatitis. However, I found that after working out or other activities that made me sweat a lot, my skin actually got better. It even didn’t matter if I danced a lot at night and didn’t shower until the next morning – my skin would still feel a lot softer and healthier the next day. Therefore I can safely say that sweating fortunately does not affect me negatively at all, in my case actually the opposite is true.
Food Allergies, or: How Will I Ever Smile Again If I’m Not Allowed to Eat This?
I remember I used to become quite disheartened when I heard or read about all the foods that can provoke eczema. When I saw the long list of foods that I was supposed to avoid, I was like “No way will I ever be able to eliminate all of these from my diet!” I actually became so discouraged that for a long time, I actually refused to make any changes to my diet at all.
As before, the good news here is that it is seldom necessary to eliminate all the suspicious foods from your diet forever. Take them on one by one, and see which foods affect you and which don’t. For example, try to go without cow’s milk just for two weeks, and see what it does for your skin. For me, giving up cow’s milk led to my eczema symptoms decreasing by about a factor of 10, so it was actually my personal bull’s-eye shot on my journey to eliminate eczema!
Then again, if you go without a type of food and do not notice any improvement after a maximum of two weeks, that food is probably not problematic for you so you can safely go back to consuming it as your heart desires.
After eliminating cow’s milk from my diet and noticing the huge improvements that resulted for my skin, I did several other food elimination trials. For instance I went gluten-free for a couple of weeks, but that did not yield any noticeable results. So after about a month, I stopped paying attention to gluten any longer and went back to eating bread and other cereal products just as I used to.
It can be difficult to imagine living without a particular food type that you have consumed you whole life. If you want to eliminate cow’s milk, what are you going to put in your breakfast cereal/milk shake/coffee?
The answer is, of course, substitution. Fortunately nature supplies us with lots of alternatives to any foodstuffs that may cause us problems. To substitute cow’s milk, there are actually dozens of alternatives available: Soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, and oat milk, to name but a few vegan ones. If you prefer animal products, try goat milk or sheep milk.
Here’s a table of health relevant substitutes to give you some ideas:
Product Substitute Cow’s milk Soy, rice, or other veggie milk Coffee Tea Meat Tofu, seitan Cigarettes Chewing gum, match, straw Sweets Fruit juices or smoothies Cheese Soy or other vegan cheese White sugar Brown sugar, honey, agave syrup