Ayumi Takes Control of Eczema Through Her Diet
The Editorial Team at AtopicDermatitis.net is highlighting people in the eczema community and their healing journeys in a series of Instagram Interviews. This week, we talked to Ayumi, aka @skinhealthandlove, to hear her eczema story and learn more about why healthy eating and self-love are so important to her.
Ayumi's atopic dermatitis story
Ever since I was little, I’ve had atopic dermatitis. I remember as a young child, hating the times my parents would have to hold me still to put on the painful medication- I would run and cry, and my parents, doing the best they could, would try to encourage me by telling me that this would make my rashes go away. In elementary, middle, and high school, I was able to keep my eczema at bay because I was using steroid cream, but I was always insecure about wearing skin-revealing clothes for the fact that I had more blemishes than my friends and peers.
The worst flare up
In college, my eczema flared-up incredibly- mostly likely because I was drinking tons of alcohol, eating whatever I wanted at whatever time I wanted, not sleeping enough, and being stressed out with school work. My worst flare-up was in Switzerland when I was studying abroad. In the land of cheese, chocolate, wine, and everything that makes eczema worse, my skin was so itchy, red, and inflamed that I would have to put my steroid cream every few HOURS to soothe the itch and pain.
Seeing the dark side of steroids
At that point, something clicked in my head, that told me that something was not right here- I shouldn’t be putting something as strong as a steroid cream on my skin every few hours. The ironic thing is, the steroid even seemed to be making my skin even itchier, hotter, and more irritated, and that’s when I knew something had to change. I started to look into how diet plays a role in eczema and other skin conditions, how the bacteria in your gut can affect your skin, the importance of elimination- whether that’s bowel movements and/or sweating, and so much more. I immediately threw away my steroid cream and never looked back.
Oozing, bleeding, and feeling ashamed
Oh, but the 10 months after I stopped using my steroid cream completely was the worst time of my life. I was oozing like I had never been before, my entire body was covered in oozing and bleeding rashes- even in places that I had never seen eczema before, like my face. I was so ashamed of myself that I would get dressed in the dark and even put my makeup on with the lights off. I was still in college, so I would go to class, come home immediately, and not leave the house for any social activities. I even thought about taking a break for the semester, because I was so ashamed of the way I looked, and I thought I just couldn’t go on.
Rashes here and there
Editorial Team: What is the most difficult eczema symptom you deal with currently?
Ayumi: Currently, I only deal with little rashes here and there, but nothing compared to what I had before. I don’t use any kind of medication whatsoever, and I only use moisturizer in the winter time when my skin tends to dry out, but other than that, nothing much. There’s discoloration in the areas that I’ve had rashes for so long, but that’s really the least of my problems compared to when I had it much worse. It’s just amazing what the body is capable of.
Let's talk about food and diet
Editorial Team: Tell us more about your diet and eating habits. What impact has it had on your skin?
Ayumi: Once I made the diet-skin connection, I immediately cut out dairy, meat, gluten, eggs, fish, processed sugar, fast foods & processed foods, oils in cooking - basically everything that you can’t go out and buy in nature! It’s been four years since that time, but I still don’t eat dairy and meat. I’ve introduced eggs and healthy fish (like wild-caught salmon and sardines), but I eat those sparingly and choose high-quality items.
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Ohhhhhyeahhhhhhhh 😍 Guys, I feel so happy to be back at this again. I love food (obviously) but healthy, good-for-your-body type food, and I love the creativity that comes with idea planning, cooking, styling, and photographing. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Here’s a savory oatmeal bowl I can’t wait for you guys to try. 1/2 cup oats 1 cup water @traderjoes Everything But The Bagel seasoning @traderjoes nutritional yeast Make oats with the ingredients above. Top with wild smoked salmon, 1/2 avocado, and poached egg 🍳
Be willing to work with your body
I’ve experimented with my diet a lot over the years, and I’ve found things that work for me and things that don’t work for me that have been touted as the holy grail for eczema online. Everybody is different, so you have to be willing to work with your body to figure out what it needs- and be patient and kind to yourself in the process. In addition to cutting out those foods, I also incorporated SO MUCH VEGGIES AND FRUITS.
Sharing recipes on Instagram
I started my Instagram page because I began making up recipes using as much fresh fruit and veggies and natural ingredients as possible, and I had so much fun with it. From smoothies, to raw vegan desserts using only natural sugars, to bean burgers- there’s so many things you can do!
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Low-glycemic, antioxidant rich brownie cakes 🍫 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ 1 1/4 cup coconut sugar (low glycemic sweetener so it doesn’t spike your blood sugar) 1/3 cup cacao powder (cacao is richer in antioxidants than cocoa) 3/4 cup gluten free flour (@bobsredmill 1 to 1 baking flour) 2 eggs 1 tsp vanilla essence 1/4 tsp baking soda 1/2 cup coconut oil (avocado oil if you prefer less coconut flavor) 1/4 cup water Pinch of salt ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Adapted from @countryside_cravings
Gut health and bowel movements
The incorporation of fiber from fresh fruits and veggies helped my elimination tremendously. I used to have a bowel movement once every 3-4 days, and even then, they were little pebble-sized ones. Now, I have a bowel movement every single day, that is banana-shaped (which is the ideal shape for poop). Sorry if this is #toomuchinfo but it’s the truth! You need to poop a good poop to have a healthy body! ;) I also learned so much about leaky gut syndrome and gut health in general, so I try to incorporate as much probiotic-rich foods in my diet as I can- miso soup, kimchi, saukerkraut, coconut yogurt- you name it!
Diet will not heal your skin overnight
I’m not going to sugar-coat it and say that changing your diet will heal your skin overnight, because it won’t. It took years for your body to get to a place where it had to find a way to release all the toxins in your body through your skin, so it’s going to take time to reverse that. The great news is, you’re changing your body from the inside-out - There are lasting changes that will be beneficial to you beyond just clearing up your skin!
Self-love and listening to your body
Editorial Team: Your Instagram bio mentions self-love. How has eczema impacted your self-love journey?
Ayumi: When I first started healing my eczema, I was concentrating just on my body. I was careful with what I ate, I exercised and made sure to sweat, I took epsom salt baths to help my skin, etc. Since I was coming across so much information on ways to heal the body to heal the skin, I figured that taking care of my body alone would heal my eczema completely! Boy, was I wrong. Eczema is the manifestation of imbalance- in our body, in our mind, and in our soul. No matter how clean your diet is, if your mind is still filled with critical and self-loathing thoughts, then your eczema can only get well to a certain extent.
Adopting a new mindset
I really started to work on my mind- the way I spoke to myself, the way I looked at my skin and my body, and realized that the eczema was here not to torture me or to make me feel bad about myself, but to deliver a message to me. When you think about it that way- that eczema is trying to tell you something that you’re not picking up on, then the way you look at your skin changes. I used to look at my skin and hate myself, curse this affliction that no one around me seemed to suffer from, and felt like I could never be loved because of the way my skin looked. But thinking this way was so hurtful to me, and definitely did not aid in my healing.
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It’s hard to admit, but I’m hard on myself. I just want to be the best version of myself always. I have high expectations of myself. And when I react in a way that is less than what I know I’m capable of, I beat myself up. I get disappointed, I criticize, I berate. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I have to remind myself that this is my first time being myself in this lifetime! 🌈 Every experience and every moment on this planet is new to me. I want to learn to view every experience and every emotion as an opportunity to learn more and more about myself, with less judgement and expectations. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Shoutout to my friends who remind me to not be so hard on myself 💕 I appreciate you guys ☺️ tag someone you want to share this with!
Gently guiding her inner voice
Now, when my skin starts to flare-up, I ask my body “What are you trying to tell me? What is it that you want that you’re not getting?” I highly suggest talking to your body- talk to it as if it were a friend that you genuinely care about, rather than talking down to it and criticizing it. To me, this is self-love- to gently guide the voice in my head from a place of fear to love; to realize that I am my best friend and not an enemy; and to patiently nurture the process of becoming more of who I am.
How have you changed your diet to help with your eczema?
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