Throughout my childhood, the red blotches and itchy, dry flakes on my skin didn’t bother me. I would simply scratch away as I happily raced around on my bicycle. Nothing could rain on my parade.
Fast forward to today, and it’s a different story. With an eczema diagnosis, I thought my life would forever be filled with endless supplies of expensive ointments and sticky creams. And I could say goodbye to whatever confidence the carefree, seven-year-old me had–that ship had sailed.
For those of you wondering what this flaky, peculiar condition is–eczema is a type of dermatitis that inflames the skin. Normally, eczema first appears by the time a child is five years old, but it is possible for it to initially erupt at any age. The National Eczema Association estimates more than 30 million people in the United States suffer from eczema with over 10% of those affected during childhood still experiencing symptoms throughout adulthood–a category I fall under.
With the realization that eczema would be something I’d always contend with, I decided to find a more natural remedy for the itchiness and utter embarrassment the unsightly blotches caused. Since flare-ups can stem from a number of triggers–including genetic factors and environmental irritants, the exact cause of eczema remains a mystery resulting in no known medical cure.
So the hunt to discover my triggers began. I quickly noticed a correlation between my stress levels and my eczema flare-ups. It was quite simple–the more I stressed, the more those bright red blotches made themselves known. I tried countless home remedies from coconut oil to light therapy, but the issue still persisted. Could there be another unknown force triggering the eruptions?
Since eczema can be a sign of a body’s malfunctioning immune system, the exterior symptoms found on the skin are merely a sign of something much more serious occurring internally–further reinforcing my decision to ditch topical creams, lotions, and ointments and further solidifying my belief that emotional stress was only fueling my already apparent symptoms.
I’d been a vegetarian for about seven years before I made the transition to a more restrictive diet. I became an ethical vegan–ditching dairy and animal by-products. My initial reason for making the switch revolved around my desire to ease the suffering of animals; however, the impact of this diet was far-reaching.
I began to notice a major change in my skin’s appearance–the aforementioned red, itchy blotches that had resided on my face, arms, elbows, and legs were healing and breakouts were becoming more infrequent. This wondrous change in my skin’s appearance caused me to take a hard look at my diet. Were my restrictive eating habits transforming my skin?
When I transitioned to veganism, I cut out the obvious no-nos, processed foods and dairy, and began consuming high amounts of fruits and vegetables. Unbeknownst to me, I had begun eating a diet largely made up of anti-inflammatory foods. Since an overactive immune system’s response to certain irritants causes inflammation of the skin, excluding inflammatory foods was paramount to my skin’s success.
So which food products have the capacity to cause inflammation? Dairy, processed meat, red meat, gluten, processed foods, and sugar–just to name a few. Since I had significantly decreased my sugar intake because of the sugar refining process (not vegan), my vegan diet had eliminated the vast majority of inflammatory-inducing foods.
My consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants, was actually boosting my immune system. My meals regularly included broccoli, garlic, and onions–all of which are rich in antioxidants. And since antioxidants are predominantly found in plant-based foods, a vegan diet seemed all the more plausible for fighting inflammation.
Adhering to a strict diet of raw fruits and vegetables can be difficult for some. It certainly is for me, as I still occasionally consume soy products–a food high on the inflammation causing list. But one lesson I’ve truly learned? You are what you eat. If you want to see results, you have to put in the work.
If you’re trying to find a way to ease your eczema flare-ups, you might want to try switching up your eating habits. After all, transitioning to a plant-based diet is not only beneficial for your skin but also for your overall health. And who doesn’t want to feel fabulous in a two-piece bikini or a strapless, summer dress?! Revamp your diet–say goodbye to dry, scaly skin and hello to a confident, sexy you!
Has a plant-based diet helped you defeat persistent skin issues?
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