How Subtle Changes Can Make a Dramatic Difference: Eczema Patient Experiences Skin Revolution

 

Since she was a child, Chicago resident Sandra has battled eczema. The red, itchy, painful skin was "just a part of life" for her.

 

As she aged, though, the condition worsened. Sandra had outbreaks on her ears, eyes, joints, and hands. Swollen, scaly skin spread from her face, down her neck, and across her chest. In her early 30s, she looked years beyond her actual age.

 

"I was just going with the flow. This was life; this was what I had to deal with," Sandra says. "But it got really bad."

 

A chronic disease, eczema can lead to painful, itchy skin. In Functional Medicine, doctors see eczema as an indirect result of irritable bowel; chronic antibiotic or steroid use; allergies; toxic exposure to pesticides, viruses, or chemicals; and genetics. Traditionally, dermatologists attempt to treat eczema in a variety of ways, in order to:

 

• Control itching

• Avoid infection

• Reduce redness and swelling

• Remove scaly lesions

• Keep new lesions from forming

 

Sandra needed help with all of that. So in the late 1990s, she began going to a series of doctors. Each prescribed different treatments to try to clear up her eczema.

 

Trial and Error

 

One dermatologist wrote Sandra a prescription for steroids. Another put her on harsh transplant drugs to attack her immune system. An eczema specialist told her to soak in water-mixed with diluted bleach. Nothing worked.

 

"I wish I didn't have to go through all those drugs," says Sandra, who works in a molecular biology laboratory at a hospital in Chicago.

 

Then, a friend told her about the Raby Institute and its founder, Theri Griego Raby, MD, ABIHM. Sandra scheduled her first appointment two years ago, in 2012.

 

When Dr. Raby first met Sandra, she noticed her swelling, cracked skin-and she asked Sandra about her diet. It may have seemed like an odd jump, but Dr. Raby explains, "When we see things going on in the skin, it's a direct reflection of what's going on in the gut."

 

Sandra told Dr. Raby that she felt bloated and that her stomach hurt constantly. She only had weekly bowel movements, not daily. And she was always sleepy.

 

"I was going to try anything," Sandra adds.

 

But unlike the other doctors, Dr. Raby didn't prescribe any medications or harsh treatments. Instead, she told Sandra to cut down on gluten and sugar-substances that can create inflammatory reactions throughout the body, especially in people with allergies or intolerances to them.

 

"It was hard at first. I love bread, and the gluten-free breads taste dry and stale. But that was the only hard part," Sandra says. "The majority of the time I didn't really eat or drink that much soda or sugar anyway."

 

Dr. Raby also recommended supplements to bring balance to Sandra's systems and support her skin health. She began taking vitamin A, zinc, evening primrose oil, probiotics, fish oil, and Manuka honey cream.

 

"We kept tweaking to support her," Dr. Raby says.

 

And then, they waited.

 

New Beginnings

 

It wasn't a long wait, though. Change happened quickly. Within four months, Sandra's skin began to clear. Her energy levels went up, and her digestive issues abated.

 

"I was working against 20-odd years, but we were able to rectify it," Dr. Raby says. "It was an impressive response in such a short period of time. It's affected her whole person-her demeanor, her self-confidence, everything."

 

Sandra and her fiancé began to plan their wedding. She picked out a dress, and brought in photos to show Dr. Raby.

 

Sandra's family and friends took note, too. "My co-workers were like, ‘Oh my gosh! You look so pretty now! What are you doing? I want your complexion!'" Sandra says.

 

Today, the majority of Sandra's eczema has cleared, but it remains a work in progress. For example, Dr. Raby discovered that Sandra has a latex allergy. That knowledge not only affected what Sandra wears during her work in the lab, but when she came in for an appointment one day eating a banana, Dr. Raby had to tell her to stop. Bananas are related to the rubber tree-the source of latex.

 

"We continue to explore what's going on in her environment, what's going on with her life," Dr. Raby says.

 

And even though there's still work ahead, Sandra remains undaunted. She says, "I'm never going to give up."

"Inspire me with love for my art and for thy creatures. In the sufferer let me see only the human being."
- Moses Maimonides, The Physician's Oath