A new year has begun and we are two months into it already! I know I have been missing in action lately and I am really sorry. Having said that, I am happy to say that there are lots of developments at my end. A few of these are to do with my daughter’s treatment and a few others are associated with related topics. So you see, I have a lot to share with you.
First I would like to mention a few things which are uppermost in my mind. I would like to begin my first post this year by expressing my gratitude for all that I have and enjoy. I am really grateful for all the precious and memorable moments spent together as a family. I am also thankful for the constant and untiring support provided by my daughter’s doctors and by our extended family. As a family dealing with a child with a chronic condition, we know only too well how difficult it becomes from time to time, how very exhausting. It is only with all the support that we get that we have managed to come this far.
While it is very difficult to witness the pain and suffering that my daughter has to endure on and off due to her severe eczema, we make sure that as a family we do not forget to have fun, to do the small and big things which we enjoy. Those of you who have been with us from the beginning will know that we have come a long way in the past few years.
Confirmation of a “leaky gut”
In my earlier posts I have shared with you that my daughter is currently on a treatment based on Functional Medicine principles. I have written in details about Functional Medicine in my earlier post (https://eczema-anindianperspective.com/2015/09/10/the-functional-medicine-and-gut-health-approach-to-managing-chronic-conditions-including-eczema/) and you can find out more about it for yourself using the links given in the post. My daughter has been on this treatment for a bit more than 3 months now and we have just done some tests for her to see if there are any improvements. But before I get to that in my next post, a bit more about these tests which confirmed that she had a gut health issue and determined her course of treatment.
The whole approach of this treatment is to heal the gut (or small intestine), wherein lies the cause of many autoimmune disorders and chronic conditions including eczema. These very specific and specialised tests which were done in London last year confirmed what I had been reading about and what I had suspected over the past year or so. Having a “leaky gut” meant that undigested food proteins and bacteria were passing on to the blood stream from inside the intestine and causing her immune system to overreact. This had caused systemic inflammation inside her body over a period of time and had led to her eczema eventually.
One of these tests assessed the gut barrier damage by measuring antibodies to barrier proteins called Occludin and Zonulin. The other factor was the presence of Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) which are toxins given off by some of the gut bacteria. If they are found in the blood, it usually means there is a breach in the protective gut lining. Both of these were present in her bloodstream in high amounts. The other tests showed that her microbiome (the collection of symbiotic, commensal and pathogenic bacteria, fungi and viruses which reside in our gut) was also in poor shape and that her body was not able to digest and absorb the nutrients efficiently. All of these tests collectively reaffirmed the fact that she had a gut health issue leading to a “leaky gut” .
Ongoing Functional Medicine treatment
The primary objective was to start healing her gut using a combination of supplements and medical foods, lifestyle and dietary changes. Hopefully, over a period of time theese measures would reduce the chronic inflammation in her system and bring her eczema under control without the use of harsh medications. I had already made the necessary changes as far as her diet (https://eczema-anindianperspective.com/2014/12/29/our-new-eczema-diet-and-a-heart-full-of-gratitude/) and lifestyle (https://eczema-anindianperspective.com/2015/07/23/green-power-greener-alternatives-for-laundry-and-cleaning-products-especially-for-eczema-and-sensitive-skin-2/) were concerned.
She has been prescribed supplements to repair and reinoculate her gut and strengthen her immune system. These include supplements like L- Glutamine (to repair intestinal lining), probiotics (we use a brand called Culturelle as well as Bifido Complex by Metagenics), Omega 3 (Nordic Naturals), Metagenics GI Sustain (a medical food containing vitamins, prebiotics, minerals). It has been a bit more than 3 months since we started her on this treatment which continues along with her regular immunosuppressive medication (Methotrexate). Her test results will come in anytime now and will show if there is any improvement since we started her on these supplements in October. I will share the results with you as soon as I can.
The silver lining in all of this is the fact that for the first time since the doctors put her on harsh immunosuppressive medications since 2012 (Azathioprine, Cyclosporine, Methotrexate at various points in time), this is the first time that I have been able to reduce her dosage from the optimal level. She has been doing fine on this dosage for the past month or so. It is a small but important step in the right direction and it really counts.
(For further reading: http://draxe.com/4-steps-to-heal-leaky-gut-and-autoimmune-disease/
Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations
It is so true! This is something I have come to know the hard way. Life changed for us completely about 4 years back when our daughter’s eczema turned into something so much more severe and complicated in the form of a chronic condition. I had to let go of my past way of living as a full time working mom and commit myself full time to taking care of the family and my daughter’s special needs. Of course, the whole family has had to make changes regarding our social commitments, travel, diet and other aspects of life. It has not been an easy road for any of us and indeed our daughter has faced the brunt of it. But even as I wish my daughter never had to deal with eczema at all, it has shaped us all in ways which have made us stronger, kinder and more resilient than ever before.
I have been sharing my research and knowledge about eczema and its related topics with you through my blog. I also realised that in order to make all the changes necessary to manage my daughter’s eczema, I had to first make sure that she understood her condition in an age appropriate manner. I did this with the help of information and facts on eczema, countless discussion and counselling, story books and other means. This has helped her to not only accept the physical aspects of dealing with eczema (like moisturising and bathing routine, diet etc) but also deal with the far more difficult emotional aspects of living with this chronic condition.
My daughter’s dermatologist Dr Amrita Talwar has been instrumental in encouraging me to share our story and subsequently to write a book about eczema specifically for children. This has led me to write a book for children on this topic and is the first major development at my end. Both Dr Talwar and I realised that while there are many many resources for parents and adults who are looking for information on eczema and ways to deal with them, there is practically nothing for the children who are actually suffering from eczema. Hence the decision to write a book based on the experiences of a young girl dealing with her severe eczema. This book should help other children understand, accept and ultimately deal with their condition in a better manner. This book is scheduled to be published in the month of April and I will keep you posted on the same.
The other development at my end is that I will begin a new chapter in my life in the form of health counselling as a certified Health Coach. Over the past few years I have gathered a lot of knowledge about eczema and related topics pertaining to lifestyle ( clothing, detergents, moisturisers etc), foods ( gluten free, nut free, dairy free) and their availability in India, essential oils, stress management through mindfulness meditation etc. I would like to put all of these practical knowledge of dealing and living with a chronic condition as a caregiver to good use and share with others who are struggling with similar issues. I decided to augment my experience and practical knowledge with a course from the esteemed Dr Sears Wellness Institute in the US to become a certified Health Coach. As many of you may know already, I had also started a Support Group for parents whose children suffer from eczema in Mumbai. I had taken a break due to my other commitments last year but I am planning to restart the Support Group meetings as well. My counselling work is also likely to begin in the next couple of months.
I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust the sails to always reach my destination
This is exactly what I have had to do in order to cope in the past few years as the primary caregiver for my daughter. This is what I teach her as well. While we cannot always change or control all the tough situations that life brings us, we can choose how we react to them.
In this post I have decided to focus only on the few baby steps that we have taken forward. We need to celebrate every little bit of achievement even if it may not look like much at all at that time. We have realised the hard way that dealing and living with a chronic condition is more like a marathon than a sprint and every step forward is a reason to rejoice. I hope we have more such reasons to celebrate in 2016!
Every time I read your blog , I learn something new. Not just about eczema but about life and how you and your family have learnt to handle it with a smile. My inspiration always.
Thank you Ivy! Thank you so much for your kind words..thanks for your encouragement
Hey Anindita, it was emotional reading about your daughter’s condition. I have seen you all going through with it since many years now and I must doff my hat and say that you and Sudeep have always a smile on your face and yes, inspite of all the changes in your lifestyle, diet, etc. you have won many a battle. Of course you have a long way to go, but your family staying together and getting stronger by the day, will eventually reach the beautiful destination! All the best in your new role as a Health Coach!! I’m sure the book will become a bible for parents in similar situations. God Bless.
Thank you so much Tanuja! Thank you for your wishes and your words of encouragement
When a fighter has to fight, she/he has to fight. But a support like your’s not only to your daughter but also to the society is great. You are born to do much more than a corporate career. You are very inspiring.
Thank you so much for your kind words Jayeeta….thank you for reading my post and writing to me
You are an angel in disguise for coming up with this blog Anindita. My 13-year-old son has been dealing with atopic dermatitis since he was 15 days old. While topical steroids had helped to control his condition initially, ever since he has entered his preteens his dermatitis has gotten more severe. Right now under homeopathy treatment since last ten months, things haven’t improved but nevertheless don’t want to give up so soon. Waiting and watching and praying every single day for some miracle to happen. Meanwhile your blog gives me the strength to not lose hope and keep fighting and finding ways to help my son. Lots of love and blessings to your beautiful, brave daughter and keep going!!! You are truly an inspiration to moms like us. Thanks for leading the way. God bless!!!
Thank you so much for writing in to me Rashmi. Readers like you give me the motivation and encouragement to share our story and I am so glad it is helping you and your son in some way. I am sad to hear about your son. You can write in to me at my email id if you want more information/points on how to manage his eczema. Dont give up hope and dont give up trying…take care and all the best!
Hi, please feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My daughter’s skin condition has improved drastically and her medication has been halved. I would love to share what we have done for her
Thanks Anindita. I have sent you an email.
Thank u so much Anindita. I needed some information, have sent u an email.
Hi…I have received your email but haven’t had a chance to go through it yer. Will definitely reply to you and send you the information by today evening