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109: Eczema Triggered By Hidden Infections [CASE REPORT]

Ever feel like you've done everything and STILL aren't getting answers about your eczema (or other skin rashes)?

You're not alone.

Even I felt like my dermatologist should have better answers than just use another steroid cream and “this is probably genetic”. I really felt like the answers that I got weren't real answers.

At a certain point, I realized that I'd rather someone level with me and say “I don't know what's causing your eczema” rather than just blaming things that felt out of my control.

And that's how one of my clients felt as he neared the point of feeling very hopeless. He's tried both conventional and holistic solutions without getting pretty much anywhere.

Fortunately, we crossed paths and were able to uncover a major root cause that has gotten him some great results!

All it took was asking the right questions so that we knew where to dig!

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | Subscribe on Android

In this episode:

  • Chad's challenging eczema story
  • Why a really in-depth case history was crucial to finding answers
  • How we chose testing that help get to Chad's root causes
  • Why an elimination diet didn't help at all even though prior testing said he had many sensitivities
  • What Chad's eczema is like now after working on his root cause

Quotes:

“One crucial step in my process is doing an incredibly thorough case history. I often ask questions that no one has ever asked before. All to tell me where we need to dig!”

“If you've ever visited a third world country, it can be a red flag… even if you didn't get sick. It's possible that you picked something up that didn't make you sick enough to even consider it a trigger for your rashes.”

Scientist looking for hidden infections in microscope

109: Eczema Triggered By Hidden Infections [CASE REPORT] [FULL TRANSCRIPT]

Welcome back to episode #109 of the Healthy Skin Show!

Because I know how frustrating it can feel to go through the process of trying to figure out what the heck is driving your skin conditions, I wanted to share with you how one of my clients finally got answers.

Like many of you who feel like there are no answers, Chad believed that he likely would never get control of his eczema.

He had spent a ton of time trying to figure out what was going on since his eczema started in the past few years. The rashes had become very destructive to his quality of life.

A few spots spread to become itchy rashes on his arms and legs. I know that many of you listening to this can relate to watching the rashes spread.

While some people have symptoms that aren't directly tied to their skin like fatigue, headaches or even gut problems, Chad didn't have any other complaints. He didn't even have any gut problems (which will be very important in a moment).

Frustrated man sitting at desk

No Improvement In Eczema Despite Everything He'd Done

Despite his best efforts, Chad didn't feel like he was able to get relief except through using steroid creams which he really didn't want to overuse due to their potential side effects.

He'd seen a naturopath, his regular doctor, dermatologists, an herbalist, and an allergist. At this point, he felt as though he had really run the gamut of both conventional and more holistic medicine.

But he didn't have any significant improvements to speak of (which was very frustrating).

Topical steroids were one of the few things that did really help him, but he didn't want to be on them long-term.

In an effort to figure out what was going on, he did a minimal stool panel for infections through a conventional lab run which came back clean.

He tried a round of antimicrobial herbs that didn't produce any improvements whatsoever.

Low dose naltrexone seemed to provide him some relief, but not enough to keep him happy.

At this point, one of his practitioners suggested doing a food sensitivity panel. The test showed a bunch of food sensitivities and so Chad began an extensive elimination diet.

Again… no improvements despite removing these foods.

His diet was about to become even more limited because someone recommended the Eczema Diet to him. He was open to it, but was becoming incredibly frustrated with how limited his diet was without seeing or feeling any positive change.

And, his allergist suggested a very extensive environmental allergy panel. But he was concerned about the $6,000 investment because he wasn't convinced that this was truly an allergic issue. 

Feeling really stuck at this point, we crossed paths and he agreed to revisit his entire case with a fresh set of eyes.

Lots of questions

It's All About Asking The Right Questions

Despite feeling like things were hopeless, Chad was open to considering new potential root causes that had not been evaluated yet.

In my process of understanding a new case, I use my 16-Root Cause Model to identify pieces of the puzzle that have either been blown off, dismissed or completely ignored.

I start with an in-depth and thorough case history to understand your health history in the past as well as what your current, daily exposures are.

A lot of times I ask questions that no one has ever asked you before.

The reason that I do this is to help me know where we need to dig.

The process of identifying root causes is not like throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping that something sticks.

My clients are fed up feeling like their skin has become a guessing game. Or that it's just all chaulked up to genes or something that they'll just have to learn to live with.

Because living with chronic skin issues can be incredibly hard (and heartbreaking).

That's why I use a specific approach that casts a wide net that ultimately leads us to critical clues.

In Chad's case, we did a thorough health history combined with his previous labs (some dating back to nearly 10 years) and were able to identify some very significant pieces of his puzzle.

[THESE ARE THE CONVENTIONAL LABS I USE IN MY PRACTICE!]

I knew that diet wasn't the problem here even though the recent food sensitivity panel said otherwise after reviewing Chad's diet. He enjoyed very clean, homemade, organic meals made fresh (for the most part) loaded with nutrition

But his labs indicated some nutrient deficiencies that allowed me to identify some potential digestive or absorptive issues going on. Plus, inflammation within the gut can also decrease your body's ability to extract and assimilate nutrition from food.

Deep down, I believed that something else outside of diet (which is often blamed in skin rash communities) was wrong.

Chad had spent a lot of time in Africa and visited many other third world countries where he would often eat the local cuisine without any reservation. In one of these countries, he experienced a very significant sudden allergic incident that was the onset of his seasonal and other allergies.

He also loved backpacking and camping.

Despite having a stool test already run that came back clean, I somehow convinced him to do a second, more extensive stool test.

What we discovered was both surprising and not (given his penchant for travel)!

[MY FAV FUNCTIONAL TESTS THAT I USE!]

Roots under a tree

How Working On The Root Cause Gets Results

When you don't fully know what's wrong, your “process” can feel a lot like throwing darts in the dark hoping to hit the bull's eye.

You *might* get lucky.

But after a certain point, most people (including myself) just want some answers and a straight-forward plan.

That's why I felt a stool test was the right way to go here to look both at gut function AND Chad's gut microbiome given his history.

What we found was equally surprising and not surprising.

Chad had multiple infections hiding under the surface.

On the surface, his case only looked like some sort of “allergic” issue.

He didn't have any other complaints which is why so many people pointed at addressing his chronic eczema from a food or environmental allergies standpoint.

But when I took Chad through my process, I was able to see things that weren't obvious.

The reason that the original antimicrobial protocol didn't help his skin was that the specific bugs found aren't sensitive to those specific herbs.

It also explains why doing an extensive elimination diet didn't work. Chad wasn't really sensitive to those foods.

His gut was really unhappy as a result of what was going on and indicative of increased gut permeability rather than a specific food issue.

In working together with his physician team, we were able to get him on the appropriate antibiotics to help move things along. Then he shifted over to a different more targeted antimicrobial herbal formula in order to continue the work that the antibiotics had started.

At the same time, I found an appropriate digestive aid that he needed to be on in order to optimize the digestion and absorption of his meals.

Plus I was able to find some specific creams that were helpful to keep his skin moisturized. Chad noticed that this ended up reducing his need for topical steroids (which made him very, very happy).

Where Chad is today is much different than where he began. To be clear… this was not a quick fix.

His journey has been one that's taken many months. One reason shared by his doctors is that he had likely had these unfriendly bugs in his system for a number of years.

At our last check-in, Chad shared with me that he only has a few small spots of eczema left that are very, very manageable.

Happy man with no eczema on beach

How Chad's Eczema Has Improved

I wanted to share this with you because oftentimes when you're stuck in the midst of things, it can feel incredibly frustrating and hopeless. Both Chad and I know how you feel.

Chad shared his thoughts on his eczema journey with me so to help you know that answers are possible.

Chad write…

“Before I started seeing Jen about my eczema, I thought I would never get it to stop. I developed eczema in my mid-thirties seemingly out of nowhere and it caused great stress in my life. I had extremely itchy discoid eczema that later developed into eczema all over my hands and limbs.

I saw an acupuncturist, a naturopath, an herbalist, and multiple dermatologists, but nothing seemed to help much. That all changed when I started working with Jen. She helped me to identify the root cause of my eczema and put me on a plan to address it while providing me with multiple tools to help me better manage my rashes.

I used to get pretty depressed as a result of my eczema and I never felt like I had much control. Jen helped to change all of that and now my eczema is totally manageable. I'm so grateful that I found Jen online. It's been so nice to work with her, especially since she understands what I've been going through based on her own struggles with eczema. Plus Jen has given me a renewed positive outlook on life and the power to understand my skin… for that I am grateful.”

I am equally grateful that Chad took a chance to look at his skin from a completely different perspective and was willing to go down the rabbit hole with me and trust the process.

And while Chad's journey here is about eczema, I've found that the same process applies to other chronic skin rash conditions too. Hidden infections should always be considered.

No matter where you are on your journey, if you're feeling like there is no hope, perhaps you haven't yet been asked the right questions.

This piece of the process is crucial because if you're not getting asked the right questions, you could totally miss out on those critical clues.

I have learned through experience that all of the information that we carry with us and all of the things that we experience are important.

We need to pay attention to them as well as begin to see symptoms as a communication system from your body. They aren't just there to annoy you!

And if you're feeling overwhelmed, then find someone who can dig for you, especially when you're not sure what's crucial and what's not.

There are answers out there. They may not always be obvious, convenient, or easy to address, but they do exist.

And no matter what, you have to keep going… keep on digging. You have to keep holding out that candle of hope for yourself.

If you have any questions or comments, leave them below! That way we can continue our conversation.

And if you know someone who's struggling and could use a story of inspiration, please share this episode with them!

Perhaps something in Chad's story will ring true and help them uncover a hidden root cause that they had no idea could potentially be connected.

Thank you so much for tuning in and I will see you in the next episode!

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377866/

"One crucial step in my process is doing an incredibly thorough case history. I often ask questions that no one has ever asked before. All to tell me where we need to dig!"


Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.


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