Recently my husband Phil has been struggling with an annoying and uncomfortable skin condition—eczema. His case has been quite puzzling to diagnose and treat, but we feel like we have finally figured it out and are on the road to healing through nutrition and smart skincare. Phil’s never had eczema or any other skin issues in the past. His problems began over a year ago, when he badly cut his hand while sharpening our knives. Unfortunately, this led to a trip to the ER and several stitches on three of his fingers. After a few weeks, the cuts healed, but seemed to be forming thick scars. The scars began to itch and then finger by finger he developed inflamed, itchy, peeling skin on all of his fingers on both hands.

Eczema can be triggered by an autoimmune response—one where the body goes into overdrive when healing a wound. Unless he applied lotion several times per day, his fingers hurt and bled when performing simple tasks like opening a water bottle. During our journey with this condition he has seen several doctors, tried several prescription creams, every eczema lotion on the market, worn white cotton gloves to bed and rubber gloves in the shower. Phil was embarrassed and frustrated by his condition and just wanted relief.

We decided to step back and take a look at his diet and run some labs to see if he might have some sort of fungal overgrowth. Sure enough, we discovered that he had a raging fungal overgrowth. Ah ha! Now we had something to work with.

An overgrowth of fungus can be caused by many lifestyle factors. Our bodies rely on a complex system of bacteria that do amazing things like protect us from unhealthy bacteria, metabolize food and manufacture vitamins, and balance our complex microbiome system of bacteria that line our digestive system and cover our skin. Our microbiome can become compromised when we take antibiotics or apply harsh chemicals to our skin, in addition to making poor dietary choices. Once the bacteria are compromised, opportunistic bacteria from uncooked meats and fish and other contaminates can settle in and grow. This fungus thrives on sugar, so when you consume sugary drinks and foods, starchy meals, alcohol and even fresh fruit, before you know it you have a full blown fungal overgrowth.

We began our treatment plan for Phil by removing all sugar, starch and alcohol from his diet. This is not easy, but if you suffer from this condition it’s easier to comply. We added some specific probiotics and herbal supplements that kill fungus, like oil of oregano and berberine. At the same time, we decided to add some gentle acid exfoliation to his topical regimen. Every evening he applies a product that contains salicylic, lactic and glycolic acids in a base that includes natural moisture from sodium PCA and allantoin to hydrate, soften and soothe. He applies lotion one or two times during the day, but that’s it. His reliance on lotion for comfort has diminished significantly. We found that before we were over-moisturizing and neglecting to encourage the skin cell turnover, which we found to be vital in the care of his eczema.

This regimen, combined with the sugar-free diet and targeted supplements has made a huge difference! Phil is no longer embarrassed to shake hands with his clients and business associates for fear of sliming them with hand lotion or having them notice his cracked and scaly skin.

Keep in mind, the treatment of eczema and a strict diet and supplement program should be supervised by your healthcare professional team (your doctor and clinical nutritionist). The fungus that lives among us can be our friend or foe, and it is important to work with professionals who understand the best treatment approach. In the meantime, if you struggle with eczema, consider eliminating sugars, starches and alcohol as a first step. It’s a do-no-harm intervention which just might do you skin some good.

Click here to read Ginger Hodulik Downey’s book The Esthetician’s Guide to Outstanding Esthetics.

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