I remember more than a decade ago finally getting that referral to London’s eminent Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. At only 3 months old my daughter was dressed in a full double-body, skin-tight bandage like a severe burns victim or perhaps more accurately as though she had suffered from radiation burn. When eczema is this extreme it moves beyond the already miserable state of the restlessness that a deep-itch creates, on a tiny 3 month old body, open, oozing exposed flesh becomes dangerous. As many parents with eczematous children will recognise, I worked through an impressive array of creams and products, I cut foods out, changed washing powders and more, each time hoping that I would find the culprit. After 3 months and a continual worsening I was willing to do anything to just make it stop. It was with an overwhelming sense of relief that we would finally be seeing a world-renowned Specialist who would be able to make this happen. Of course, a condition as deeply embedded and as complex as eczema can be, is rarely resolved with one silver bullet.
The main tools in the conventional medical kit are corticosteroids. These are powerful drugs that suppress inflammation and are undoubtedly capable of saving lives, in my daughter’s case their effects were initially miraculous. There is a caveat, which not only involves side-effects from the drug itself but from their suppressive action on the entire system. The conventional medical approach is based on a mechanistic or reductionistic world view, compelled by a reassuring simplicity that in order to understand a complex issue all that is required is to reduce it down to its most simplest components. Although there is a vague nod to the idea that other body systems might be involved, eczema is ultimately viewed as just a skin problem. In this mode of thought, it is an entirely understandable conclusion that by suppressing the eczema, by making it disappear – the problem can be well managed although to note, not cured.
Diametrically opposite, the holistic perspective views these components within the context of the whole, they are instead seen as features of complex systems working in relation to and inseparably from one another. Eczema through a holistic lens is not just a skin problem, but a complex condition in which the body utilises its vital resources in an attempt to protect the “more important” organs and tissues from toxicity. In eczema the skin becomes the most appropriate “dumping ground” when the usual eliminative channels like the lymphatic and digestive systems are congested or working insufficiently. The origin of the word eczema itself means “to throw something out – to boil over, break out”. Eczema reflects the dis-ease of the whole body.
Suppressing and essentially overriding one’s attempts to eliminate this toxicity may result in the eczema “disappearing” but it does so at the expense of the “more important organs and tissues” as it is driven deeper in to the body. A clear example of this is the tendency for suppressed eczema to result in the more serious condition of asthma. I have seen one study in which Scientists believe that they have found the offending agent, a clever sounding little protein called thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP), present in those whose atopic eczema has developed in to asthma. This is the perfect example of the reductionist approach, focussing intently on this named protein their answer – the development of a drug to block the action of TSLP. This approach becomes increasingly myopic and not only disregards the complex nature of eczema but the impact that suppressing the body’s natural processes has on an individual’s health and wellbeing.
This is not merely a philosophical stance in which holism versus reductionism – this is a practical matter and one that any parent can observe. The more my daughter’s symptoms became suppressed the more other “seemingly unconnected” issues arose. Her digestive system and by this I refer not only to the stomach but the liver, gallbladder, pancreas and spleen, manifested an ever increasing array of problems. She appeared bloated in her face, her hands, her torso while peevish, uncomfortable and irritable in herself. Her complexion changed, she bruised easily – her eczema had for the most part gone however she was not well.
It was clear that with all good intentions, conventional care meant as with most chronic conditions, the management of her symptoms through drugs and then further drugs to manage the issues caused by the drugs. I was unwilling to continue any further on this trajectory. Having initially dismissed homeopathy with its easy-to-underestimate little pills I decided it would be something worth at least trying. You will hear this from I would say most homeopaths, how an experience with homeopathy transformed their lives inspiring them to study and then practice. This is my story. It was a process, a miraculous process of deep healing that I observed my daughter go through, a transformative journey that not only healed her eczema, but rebalanced her digestive, hormonal and nervous systems and by so doing unlocked her creative potential.