In 2020, just after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I made some changes to my life. One of the major changes was to my diet. I went from the standard American diet (SAD) to the paleo diet, and through this process, I discovered I had more food allergies than I’d thought.
I’d given up a lot of foods that I loved in favor of trying to live a healthier lifestyle. It wasn’t easy, and I wound up caving in and trying to find alternative ingredients that could help me enjoy foods I missed — chocolate cake, cookies, and bread, because I also had gone gluten free.
This meant I had to rely on alternatives like coconut flour, almond flour, rice flour, and other wheat-free and nongrain flours to try to fill the gaps. I also tried other options, like cauliflower as a substitute for potatoes and rice, cashew butter in place of peanut butter, nut milk instead of regular milk, and so on. All these substitutions had my body going forward and backward. With so many changes in such a short period, I didn’t realize I was adding multiple foods my body couldn’t tolerate.
This is what led to my diagnosis of eczema. A rash had suddenly appeared on the back of my hands, and it itched fiercely. I struggled to keep it under control, unsure of what it was or where it came from. My primary care physician had no idea either and referred another doctor in the office.
In the meantime, I tried every home remedy I could think of to rid myself of this awful rash that burned whenever I washed my hands and shot an itching sensation so far up my arms and so deep into my muscles that I wanted to tear my skin off clear down to the bone!
This experience wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t comfortable, and I did everything I could think of to make it better. I tried strategies like putting coconut oil on the rash (which only made it worse), using essential oils, and changing my soap, thinking I had developed some new allergy.
Nothing worked. I became more conscious of the activities I took part in for fear that someone would see my skin and think I had some horrible disease. I could no longer type on my computer, and working with fabric was a nightmare. The constant discomfort made it impossible to use my hands. I drew back on the new foods in my diet, eliminating everything I’d added, and started over while keeping track to see what might have caused the breakout.
In the meantime, the seborrheic dermatitis on my scalp began acting up just as fiercely as my hands were burning. It was like whatever had been on my scalp for all those years had migrated and nested elsewhere on my body. Along with my flare-up, my seasonal allergies were extremely bad that year, which made the itching on my scalp and hands worse. I was miserable.
This hard experience led to a diagnosis I’d needed for years. Cutting back on those new foods also helped. Figuring out what spiked the itch and caused a reaction was tricky and painstaking, but it went hand in hand with being mindful of what else I exposed myself to.
Pollen, dust, sugar, sweat, laundry detergent, and even the sun could all be culprits, causing the itch to spike for me. I avoid what I can, which helps me manage when, where, and how my eczema and seborrheic dermatitis strike.
I also know what steps to take to mitigate the effects of triggers I can’t avoid. During spring and autumn, I know I’ve reached my limit for outdoor exposure when my hands and arms begin itching — it’s time to come inside, wash off, and moisturize. If I have disposable nitrile gloves, I wear them to cook and clean, and I avoid exposing my skin to sugar and gluten as much as possible.
It took a lot of work at the beginning to make all these changes and adjustments to protect myself from flare-ups. Due to my constant vigilance, I’ve had to resort to my medication only a handful of times over the past two years. It gets tiring — and hard — because who can say no to baked goods? However, as long as I don’t overdo time spent outdoors and I moderate the things that trigger a flare-up, I remain pretty free of itching and rashes.
On MyEczemaTeam, members discuss eczema from a specific point of view. Members’ articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyEczemaTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. Content on MyEczemaTeam isn’t intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.