Managing eczema has been a big issue in my family. While it has caused great worry, it has also raised thought-provoking insight into health. Whether you are affected by eczema or not, reading more about my experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine may frame different perspective on your goals for wellness. Please read on for more, but be aware that the pictures of my daughter's eczema may be difficult to see.
When my youngest daughter was 3 days old, she began developing eczema. Since my older two children had not experienced any eczema or other health issues, I kept waiting for my youngest to outgrow the eczema as I tried different natural remedies. Sometimes it seemed that the eczema was subsiding. But, in fact, it was on a general trend of becoming more severe.
This picture was taken before my daughter's first visit with a pediatric allergist. It doesn't represent the eczema at its worst, but it represents a bad day.
In spring 2013, before my daughter's first birthday, I took her to see the best pediatric allergist/dermatologist that I could identify in our local area: Dr. Scott Sicherer. He was described by a few pediatricians as the "creme de la creme." He is highly revered by anyone who knows him.
With impressive credentials and impeccable "bedside manner," Dr. Sicherer provided invaluable context for allergies, explaining how the medical community addressed allergies in the '60, '70s, ..., and now. Basically, he summarized (and I'm paraphrasing), The approach nowadays is to apply a steroid cream, along with other steps. But, we don't really know what causes allergies. Therefore, we've been making educated guesses on how to treat them...
Appreciative of this honest overview, the conventional approach of applying a steroid creme on my daughter felt uncomfortable: For my daughter, it would be applied not just to a few patches of skin, but on almost her entire body. Further, I had read about some concern that steroid creams may not help eczema and may cause more serious problems, like thin the skin or disrupt hormones, which, for a fast-developing child has unknown long-term consequences.
During our Thanksgiving 2013, my daughter was 16-months-old, and her eczema had worsened: The skin on my daughter's upper back and upper left arm became open wounds that were infected. Desperate to help her, I remembered an intriguing physician on the website that detailed Dr. Sicherer's team: Dr. Xiu-min Li.
November 2013: These pictures don't even reflect my daughter's eczema at its worst!!!
Dr. Li is not only a member of Dr. Sicherer's superb team of Western-trained pediatric allergists and immunologists, but she also integrates Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) into her approach. Nervous about subjecting my 16-month-old to this alternative approach, I checked with my pediatricians. One feedback that sums it best is: "Dr. Sicherer's department is an All-Star team... Every member is top notch."
Before our first appointment, I was required to obtain blood tests for my daughter's IgE levels, an indication of her sensitivities to various allergies, like nuts and dairy. Not surprising to me, my daughter's IgE levels were high for several things. These results would serve as a measure of how my daughter would respond to the TCM from which adjustments could be made.
Dr. Li explained that eczema results from an imbalanced immune system. While the inflammation on my daughter's skin was obvious, Dr. Li suggested that I imagine what kind of inflammation was occurring inside my daughter's body. The skin often signals what's going on beneath the surface, Dr. Li added.
Dr. Li explained that up to 80 percent of children with eczema go on to develop asthma or other allergies and sensitivities. My daughter was definitely on track to developing a longer list of allergies: She often broke out in hives as we introduced new foods to her as a baby. We couldn't leave the home for a long time because we needed to feed her near the kitchen sink, where we could quickly wash her off after reacting to a new food.
Together, our approach would focus on balancing and empowering my daughter's immune system. Since we're making educated guesses on how to deal with eczema and allergies, I liked that focus.
Dr. Li prescribed herbal teas, herbal creams, and herbal baths that would have to be given to my daughter about every 2 hours. Time-consuming, expensive, high maintenance, and impossible for many. However, the potential long-term benefits--preventing asthma and more allergies--were worth the commitment.
By the end of one month, my daughter had a new suit of skin. My husband and I were surprised by how much more healthy and resilient her skin became. After a year, my daughter's IgE levels dropped significantly: They were normal for everything except a mild sensitivity to dairy.
By now, we've been working with Dr. Li for almost 2.5 years, and we're so grateful. While my daughter has relatively minor breakouts at times, Dr. Li's approach will clearly be life-enhancing for my daughter.
July 2014 - After 6 Months of TCM:
May 2016 - Over 2 years of TCM
I've learned a lot through this experience. Before, my focus on health was on eating and exercising for weight management, strength, and endurance. Today, I focus on how to boost immunity, reduce inflammation and unnecessary burdens, and facilitate the body's ability to heal. I consider this new goal for each member of my family, no matter how young or old.
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For more on Dr. Li's work, you can consider the books below.
Sophia Ruan Gushée is a Toxic Exposure Specialist, mother of three, and the author of A to Z of D-Toxing: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Our Toxic Exposures. New York Times bestselling author Frank Lipman MD described this groundbreaking reference book as “a great guide for people to reduce their toxic exposures from consumer products.” Sophia's healthy, nontoxic tips have been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, amNewYork, MindBodyGreen, Manhattan’s Modern Luxury, and much more.
In 2020, we're deconstructing our home, habits, and things to reconstruct a practical nontoxic and healing lifestyle. We're bringing consciousness to unconscious choices.