By Julie Hartmans
When I was 19, I developed a rash on one of my fingers. Soon it had spread to two, then three of my fingers. After a few months it appeared on the other hand. I was mystified. It itched and looked yucky and wouldn’t seem to go away. My doctor told me it was eczema and that I should keep my hands out of water. Thanks Doc! Like that was possible – I was working in a restaurant at the time!
A couple of years later, a college clinic MD (have you ever noticed how these guys seem to be the rejects of the medical profession?) decided that if I still had this rash that it must have a fungal growth in it! He had me rubbing Tinactin on it. Did absolutely no good. The rash waxed and waned, sometimes just in one little spot, sometimes blooming on all 10 fingers, with seemingly no rhyme or reason. After about 5 years I just resigned myself to living with it.
At about that time I discovered cortisone cream, which at the time you could get by prescription only. It seemed like a miracle! As long as I remembered to apply the cream twice a day, the rash stayed pretty much under control. It never went totally away though, and after a few years of using it, an acupuncturist friend told me I should stop. Cortisone is a steroid, after all, and long term use, even topically, can have profound ill effects on the body. As you can imagine, I did not want to give up that cream, but it seemed like the best thing to do. I used up my last tube and decided to see how I could treat the eczema naturally.
I heard that evening primrose oil is effective on eczema, so I tried that for a while. The only problem was that because my rash was on my fingers, it was nearly impossible to keep the oil on it for any length of time. Plus, evening primrose oil is quite expensive. It didn’t seem to be a good solution for me.
At 31 I went to massage therapy school, though I was hesitant about putting my rashy hands on people. Usually they didn’t notice, but I was always very self-conscious about it. By this time the eczema had changed somewhat, from a consistently dry, scaly rash to one that would alternate from raw and weepy to dry and scaly. It always itched! Sometimes giving a massage was excruciating, the eczema would start itching so much!
I went to work in an alternative health clinic with an iridologist/herbalist and a colonic hygienist. I began to trade with the colonic hygienist; once a week I would give her a massage and once a week she would give me a colonic. For those of you who don’t know, colonics are like a high enema. They cleanse the large bowel thoroughly, with a continuous flow of water in and out, all in a closed system (in other words, it don’t stink!). Lo and behold, after a month or two of weekly colonics, my eczema went away. It pretty much stayed away while I continued with this health regimen.
Alas, all good things come to an end… I got married and moved away. Although I continue to get colonics to this day, it is on a much more sporadic basis. Back then, it wasn’t long before the eczema crept back, first on one finger, then on another. Damn!! This was not fun! As the years went on, the eczema changed again – it started to appear on my palms and sometimes even on the backs of my hands as well. It itched and just like the ads say about a related rash, it was unsightly!
About a year and a half ago, I was doing some serious thinking about my diet and how various common foods might be affecting my health. Since my experience with the weekly colonics, I had always suspected my eczema was caused by a food allergy. It made sense that if cleaning out my bowel caused the rash to go away, that it must be caused by an allergen I was ingesting in food.
I was avoiding wheat and dairy products to see if that would help my asthma, and a few days later I noticed that after eating popcorn at a movie, I seemed more congested than usual. I figured what the hell, let’s ditch the corn too. I was really strict with myself for a good four months, and believe me, that is difficult with corn! If you’ve ever been a label reader, you know that corn syrup is in virtually everything from soda pop to ice cream. Corn starch is often a hidden ingredient as well.
After about 4 months, my eczema had totally cleared up. Hurrah! I wasn’t sure it was the corn until one day I just couldn’t stand it – I had to have some popcorn! I was at the movie theater and it just smelled so good! I got the kiddie sized bag, thinking that would be ok, just a little bit, right? Well, the next morning what did I find on my hand? An eczema outbreak! Can’t get much clearer than that.
A year later, I find that I can get away with occasionally ingesting corn. I drink a soda sometimes; sometimes I even eat some popcorn, a tortilla, or even half an ear of corn. My body tells me when I’m eating too much – right now I know I need to cool it because I have a patch of eczema on my right index finger. It has reverted back to the original dry, scaly variety, which is much less unsightly than the weepy form.
I miss corn. I love Mexican food, and between the wheat and corn allergies, that’s pretty much not an option anymore. One thing I have discovered is that salsa and guacamole are just as tasty on potato chips as they are on corn chips. I make do. When I look back, I realize that I first got eczema about six months after moving from western New York to East Texas. My corn consumption probably doubled after that move. Not only did I start eating Mexican food, there was all that yummy cornbread!
Eczema is not life-threatening; it doesn’t make me miss work. It’s just nasty! Itchy, ugly and nasty. And so I choose to abstain from corn most of the time. I enjoy having hands that don’t look ugly and bother me with itchiness, so it is well worth it. I have known others with much more debilitating effects from a corn allergy: one friend started getting hives – he took Benadryl and they got worse – then he read the label and saw that there is some kind of corn product in the medicine! Corn had a soporific effect on another friend of mine – even smelling a batch of popcorn cooking could put her in a stupor, and when she actually ingested corn by accident she would fall into a sound sleep from which you couldn’t rouse her! My allergy is mild by comparison, a fact I am thankful for. I can slip up occasionally and just deal with a scaly patch of eczema on my finger. And then I stop eating corn again – no big deal.
I find it fascinating how our bodies react to the various substances we put into them. It seems that my body is rather sensitive, which could be a good thing, I guess. For now, look for me at the Thai restaurant – gotta satisfy that yearning for spicy food somehow!
Julie Hartmans has eclectic interests and a beautiful boy who is the joy of her life. Her current straight gig is teaching. She loves to dance, sing, read, swim, go to movies, and learn about all things metaphysical. Shes been known to dabble in astrology and numerology, and finds alternative healing and the paranormal endlessly intriguing. Her writings appear in the Alternative Healing section of Fitness Heaven.