- Eczema affects 20% of school children and 5% of adults worldwide
- Sufferers have little option but to cover up or constantly apply creams
- Because goat’s milk has a different nutrient composition to cow’s milk
There’s nothing more unbearable for a mother than seeing your child in agony and knowing you’re unable to help.
My five-year-old son Benji suffered — like millions — from the misery of severe eczema all over his body, leaving him in pain and unable to sleep.
This unsightly, itchy skin condition is incredibly difficult to treat (there’s no definitive cure) and on the increase: the World Allergy Organisation estimates that eczema affects 20 per cent of school children and 5 per cent of adults worldwide.
My five-year-old son Benji suffered — like millions — from the misery of severe eczema all over his body, leaving him in pain and unable to sleep, says Shann Nix Jones
Sufferers have little option but to cover up or constantly apply creams, which soothe, but don’t treat the problem.
It’s a condition that has baffled some of the most brilliant minds in medicine, but one I, a farmer’s wife from Wales, believe I’ve solved. Now I’ve written a book on it.
More astonishing? It’s all down to my pet nanny goat, Buddug.
While traditional attempts to tackle eczema have approached it as a skin condition, it’s now believed it’s an auto-immune disorder.
Like many such disorders — psoriasis, acne, rosacea — originates in the gut. That means to heal the skin, you can’t just treat the skin, you also have to treat the gut.
In 2010, when Benji’s condition was at its worst, I didn’t know any of this.
My husband, Rich, suggested that getting a goat might help, as goat’s milk is a traditional ‘cure’ for people with asthma, eczema and bronchial infections. It might sound like an old wives’ tale, but there’s scientific evidence behind it.
With more than 20 proteins that can cause allergic reactions, cow’s milk is said to be one of the most common food allergies in children, and can cause eczema.
Because goat’s milk has a different nutrient composition to cow’s milk, it’s easier to digest and so less likely to cause allergies. Simply switching cow’s milk for goat’s milk can often help alleviate the problem.
So Buddug, a £50 black-and-white goat with long ears and Cleopatra eyes, arrived in our family, and I began giving Benji her milk to drink. I never worried about giving him raw milk as I’d done some research and was reassured that, despite popular concerns, raw milk is a low-risk food that is generally safe for everyone. Within a few months, his skin was so much better.
Diet has a big role to play and one of the key culprits is sugar, which feeds the bad bacteria and allows them to become dominant
Then I heard about kefir, a probiotic drink made by adding a live culture of yeast and good bacteria to milk and leaving it to ferment for 24 hours. I was intrigued.
Probiotics are essentially good bacteria that promote gut health. But there’s increasing evidence that putting good bacteria into your gut doesn’t just improve digestion, but can also improve other problems, too, from skin conditions to asthma.
So I decided to make goat’s milk kefir. The resulting drink, unsweetened and unflavoured, tasted tart, acidic and fizzy, but nevertheless, I persuaded Benji to give it a try.
Within four months of drinking three to four glasses a day, his eczema was much better.
In April 2013, my amateur medical skills were called upon once again when disaster struck. After a major operation, Rich contracted MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant superbug that had contaminated the 10 in scar left by the surgery.
With no modern drugs available to counter this awful infection, doctors couldn’t help, so I started doing my own research.
I developed a combination of essential oils I thought might be effective in fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
But I had been told it wasn’t as simple as just getting rid of the MRSA in the wound. MRSA is present on the skin of almost everyone. The problem comes when it gets out of balance and, essentially, the bad bacteria outweighs the good. What I needed to do was to get it back in balance.
I knew that drinking kefir repopulates the good bacteria living in the gut and pushes back the pathogens (disease-causing microbes), bringing the system back into balance. Surely it could do the same on the skin? It seemed it could.
A combination of my oils and warm water followed by kefir, repeated twice daily for ten days, seemed to help the situation. Two weeks later, a swab from the wound was sent off for analysis and the results confirmed that Rich was clear of MRSA.
The district nurse who had been visiting to check the progress of his condition was astounded.
The episode brought home to me what I see as the major problem with modern medicine. Doctors are big on killing off the bad bugs with antibiotics, but they don’t often repopulate the good ones.
This realisation spurred me on to find a way to give people the benefits of the kefir in skincare, but in a product that smelled better and was easier to apply.
After many failed experiments, I got it right. Once again, used Benji as my guinea pig, I applied the kefir-based cleansers and lotions I’d made to his eczema, while continuing to give him the kefir to drink. His stubborn eczema completely disappeared.
And it wasn’t just him — thousands of people who were drinking our goat’s milk kefir and using our kefir skincare were reporting tremendous results — not only with skin issues such as eczema, but also with asthma, allergies, hay fever and irritable bowel syndrome.
Numerous scientific studies have started to show that our microbiome — the complex combination of microbes that live in our gut and on our skin — has a profound influence on our health.
Far from being separate to us, our bodies and our microbiome work together, having a significant effect on how we develop, which diseases we catch, how we behave, even what we choose to eat.
Studies have shown children with eczema have different bacteria in their gut to children who don’t suffer with eczema.
And there are certain micro-biome patterns associated with obesity or irritable bowel syndrome. So, what causes damage to the microbiome?
Diet has a big role to play and one of the key culprits is sugar, which feeds the bad bacteria and allows them to become dominant.
But stress, which leads to less diversity of bacteria, and antibiotics and antimicrobial products, which wipe out bad and good bacteria, are also part of the problem. This damage can then show itself in a number of different ways, from skin conditions, food allergies and IBS, to rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and even anxiety or depression.
But traditional remedies for these conditions — painkillers, antibiotics and steroids — will just damage the microbiome further, making it worse.
That’s why I’ve come up with what I call the Good Skin Solution, which I believe can rebalance the microbiome and in turn improve the skin — and many other complaints associated with a microbiome that’s out of whack.
It’s worked for my family and thousands of others, too. It might just work for you . . .
INTRODUCE YOUR BODY TO THE RIGHT BUGS
The best way to reconnect with the ‘right kind of bugs’ is to get outside and get some dirt on your skin. Play with your pets, go for a muddy walk or take your children to visit a farm. Nature is packed with microbes you need to boost your immune system.
DITCH THE HARSH KITCHEN CLEANSERS
As I’d found when Rich used the combination of CG Oil (my blend of essential oils) and kefir, the best way to deal with bad bugs is not to use antibacterial cleansers that leave a space that can be filled with bacteria.
Instead, look for probiotic cleansers, which will clean and fill the space with good bacteria.
STOP FEEDING BAD BACTERIA WITH SUGAR
Ditch the sugar. It’s the kiss of death to your microbiome, killing off good bacteria and boosting bad. I use a sugar alternative called Stevia. It’s made from the leaves of a plant, is low-GI, has no calories and is safe for diabetics.
GIVE YOUR GUT SOME GOOD BUGS
I THINK the best way of doing this is to drink goat’s milk kefir every morning first thing before eating breakfast. This gives the good bugs in the kefir the clearest possible run at your gut.
SWITCH COW’S MILK FOR GOAT’S MILK
Cow’s milk is allergenic and a common trigger for eczema and asthma, but goat’s milk has health benefits for humans.
It has less lactose and smaller fat globules than cow’s milk, making it generally more easily digested by those with a cow’s milk allergy or intolerance.
EAT LOW GI FOODS AND GOOD FATS
Ditching sugar isn’t just about getting rid of the white stuff you can see, it’s also about cutting out the foods your body quickly turns to sugar, such as bread, rice and potatoes, and replacing them with protein, fruit and vegetables, legumes, grains and pulses.
You need to make sure you’re getting good fats, from avocados, nuts, seeds, oily fish and olive oil, as these improve the health of your gut, and so your skin.