Editor’s Note: With our Senior Health Coach Shuchita Singh, Julie completed the six months Integrated Care Plan and has kindly offered to share her eczema journey from the early days of panic and despair to today’s calm and recovery.
WeDerm would like to feature community stories of courageous eczema patients to demonstrate the power of lifestyle medicine to inspire more people to start and continue the recovery journey.
Originally from the Philippines and Los Angeles, now based in Thailand, Julie had sensitive skin since she was six. It was never a big deal until the past few years when her eczema began to develop.
Two years ago, red patches formed on Julie’s fingers and she managed it through aloe vera, lotions, and cold packs whenever it got itchy.
A year later, eczema had spread to both arms, and gradually all over the body. It had changed her lifestyle and despite the tropical climate of Thailand, Julie started wearing long sleeves to avoid being seen in public with open wounds.
Julie entered a 3-month ‘acute stage’ of eczema where blisters had grown around the body and progressed into dry, scaly skin. As per her words, it’s like wearing an ‘under-sized tight suit’. It became difficult to sleep at night, and both she and her husband did not know what to do. Julie could no longer enjoy tennis, pickleball and gardening which were integral elements of her active lifestyle, as the itching had become intense and disruptive into 10 minutes of activity.
Trial and error
For the past 5 years, Julie had lived a rather ‘natural’ life. She avoided over the counter medications and utilized essential oils. Julie always knew the natural way was the only way to treat eczema. But her husband encouraged her to see a dermatologist again.
At first, Julie dismissed the idea of spending a whole day queuing for a skin test at a university hospital… She ended up seeing a rheumatologist who diagnosed her with eczema in seconds as soon as Julie withdrew her long sleeves and the skin flakes became apparent.
As you might have expected, Julie took home steroid creams and the eczema disappeared immediately. Two weeks later, eczema returned with vengeance. It spread to more places, it got itchier and much worse than before. It was ‘going back to square one.’
After experimenting with both natural and conventional care, Julie had come to a point where both approaches would aggravate eczema. Was the immune system very sensitive? Was it that the essential oils stopped working? Is there something else I needed to do? Julie had more questions than answers and realized the need to find the right balance.
The ‘Aha!’ moment
Julie learned about WeDerm through the internet and liked that we were not so pushy and sales-driven with upselling of physical products. “I was skeptical at first, what if Shuchita tried to sell me some supplements down the line?”
The doubt was dismissed when Julie joined the coaching plan and started working with her health coach Shuchita.
Because Julie was a strong believer in natural health, she ‘doused’ herself with extra virgin coconut oil from food to skincare, almost like a panacea. But Shuchita, with an appreciation for holistic medicine, also highlighted the need to personalize a skincare regime, as each patient’s skin is unique. Shuchita identified that the oil treatment wasn’t working well and suggested the use of another lotion at a frequency that alleviated Julie’s eczema.
When it comes to our rooted beliefs, it’s not easy to change our minds and give ourselves the space to experiment with alternatives. For Julie, skincare was a significant change she wouldn’t have considered without Shuchita.
“I learned to lessen my stressors.”
Julie is a full-time missionary and her ministry entails spending a lot of time creating and perfecting lesson plans for students. But part of perfecting the lessons comes with the never-ending side effects of stress and anxiety.
“I have to pick my battles,” among other stressors in life like living in a new country with a limited social circle, and also the drastically different climate than what she was used to.
In Julie’s toolkit to de-stress, tennis was no longer an option because of the itching. So she came to realize she could harness her love for painting as a way to take her mind off work to cultivate mindfulness – it had become an effective approach to work-life balance and not let the job trigger eczema more than it should.
More importantly, as a person of faith, Julie credited the significant role of spirituality in guiding her through the recovery process. When the tough get going, hope and prayers brought her closer to the light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m a fake Indian!”
Julie jokes about her love of using spices in her dishes. Today, Julie mostly eats in the green to yellow zones of the Integrated Food List, which are foods with low to moderate chemical loads.
It’s not easy to follow a ‘diet’. Julie credits her husband for wearing multiple hats of an accountability partner, the chef, and also doing the dishes. Sure, eczema patients often struggle with recipes, but find out what you enjoy eating and find a middle ground with the food list.
To lower the overall food chemical load, Julie only eats two meals a day, for five days each week. Like intermittent fasting, this minimizes dietary irritants and supports gut healing.
Six months later… Any challenges?
Compared to six months ago, Julie’s skin has drastically improved from angry blisters and wounds to smooth and mild patches. She still gets the occasional flare but they are manageable.
With the benefit of hindsight, Julie is self-equipped and empowered to live a life with the knowledge, ability and confidence to manage eczema.
“It’s like hiking a difficult trail. And I don’t panic anymore when I get itchy. I know it’ll get better.”
Shuchita’s help was instrumental as part of Julie’s support network. Julie joined WeDerm when she most needed help at a strong flare up. Shuchita was able to provide assurance in a calm manner. The consultations were like a chit-chat with a mix of intimacy like a buddy, yet professional with effective eczema guidance.
Julie enjoying life at the beach
From the more vigorous activities of tennis and pickleball, Julie had switched to stretches, badminton, walks, and hiking. Yes, the activities are different but Julie maintains an active lifestyle.
“But sometimes I got lazy and Shuchita played the role of an accountability partner.” Shuchita would request exercise photos, and ask for exercise goals for the week, with specifics like what activity, how often, and at what times.
Final thoughts from health coach Shuchita
Julie was an excellent client and very coachable. She was open to all my suggestions and was very disciplined when it came to implementation. I loved working with Julie and her perseverance and self-regulation were inspiring to me as a coach. Julie has proven that WeDerm’s holistic SEEDS+ approach is what is needed to manage a chronic condition like eczema.
Final thoughts for the community from Julie
There’s so much information out there. WebMD, WeDerm, YouTube, online influencers… but not everyone has the same skin type. Eczema is not a one size fits all.
At such times of confusion and complexity, Julie cites Proverbs 24:6: in a counsel of many, there is safety. Make sure the one holding your hand has the right hands.
At one point you need to accept you need professional help, and WeDerm is good in providing integrated perspectives.
If I were to talk to myself one year ago, I’d say “Don’t despair! As there is light at the end of the tunnel. Find someone who has been through it, and follow their advice.”
Shuchita is a certified health coach and a nutrition coach. An experienced health coach Shuchita combines her knowledge of lifestyle medicine with positive psychology to help and support eczema patients in their wellness journey.