Karen Fischer is an Australian nutritionist and award-winning author who specialises in eczema. She is the author of five health books including The Eczema Diet and the award-winning book The Healthy Skin Diet. Karen has worked with hundreds of eczema patients and now runs the Eczema Life Clinic in Sydney, Australia.
My daughter's journey with eczema
“My daughter Ayva was two weeks old when she developed spots on her face and the creases of her elbows and knees were red and weeping. Our doctor diagnosed it as eczema. Ayva would often scratch until her arms bled so we put mittens on her hands (that's her in the purple jumpsuit with her Nanna). Ayva slept poorly and cried often and it was heartbreaking to see her suffer.
When she was about one, a nurse from the local Early Childhood Centre, who had seen Ayva a few months earlier, exclaimed, ‘Has your child STILL got eczema?’ I thought what a rude comment, eczema is a genetic condition and what could I do about it? I was a nutritionist and I had not considered looking at treatment options for my baby beyond cortisone cream and thick ointments.
Ayva was diagnosed with walnut allergy, and dust mite allergy which meant she could no longer sleep with, or touch, any of her soft toys. Playing on the grass, swimming in a pool and patting the family cat inflamed Ayva’s skin from head to toe, so our beloved cat was sent to grandma’s house, swimming lessons were cancelled and many of her toys were packed away.
However, she still had eczema and we noticed she was becoming more sensitive to everything and it was sad to see her suffering. We stopped using steroid creams and I began researching eczema and the role diet plays in skin health.
By the time Ayva was two I had devised a supplement routine and an eczema diet for her and two months later, to my surprise and excitement, her eczema was gone. I thought maybe it was luck so I stopped the supplements (now called Skin Friend) and diet and her eczema soon returned. When I gave her the supplements and modified her diet slightly her eczema would quickly go away so I knew it was her health routine that was helping.
Some friends and family members were sceptical of Ayva's new diet. They suggested that Ayva had simply grown out of her eczema. However, when they fed her the wrong foods they could soon see it was triggering her eczema to return - she was itchy all over and the dark red rash around Ayva's mouth freaked them out. Pretty soon they became supporters of her new routine.
Thanks to the eczema diet and supplements Ayva could enjoy normal activities such as playing with fluffy toys, swimming in chlorinated pools and occasionally she could eat party food without her eczema returning. Ayva’s diet was gradually expanded and eventually she could eat most foods and remain eczema-free. Ayva could also pat our cat without breaking out in a red rash and she is no longer allergic to walnuts. The supplements I gave her are now called ‘Skin Friend’ and the Skin Friend kit is now available without prescription from this website.
For the past twelve years I have had the privilege of working with eczema and dermatitis patients and I now work at the Eczema Life Clinic in Sydney.
I had dermatitis and psoriasis
On a personal note, in my teen years and early 20s (before I changed my diet) I suffered from dermatitis. I had chronic peeling and inflamed hands, which would often crack and bleed. And I used cortisone (steroid) creams daily on my face and hands. In my late 20s I had severe psoriasis on my body and patches of rosacea on my face. I guess that is why I spent five years writing The Healthy Skin Diet, as I wanted to help others find the success I did when I changed my diet.
What I found most surprising is how a regular healthy diet can be a part of the problem. People with eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis and/or chemical sensitivity can have adverse reactions to everyday foods that are naturally rich in saliyclates (and sometimes amines and MSG). These include tomatoes, oranges, avocado, almonds, and broccoli to name a few. It was a real eye opener to find that the solution was something quite unique.
At the time, I really felt people with naturally good skin just didn't understand what someone with skin rashes goes through and how we need to eat 'gentle' eczema-friendly foods to keep our skin clear and healthy. That's why I wrote my books, to help people understand how to treat these conditions in a gentle and effective way.
I know that having a skin disorder can be painful and incredibly alienating at times, but your skin can get better with dietary changes. Sometimes it's hard work but it's worth it.
Thank you to everyone who has supplied feedback and comments – it's great to hear how you're going on the Eczema Diet program (see the link below for patient testimonials).