I recently returned from an epic 3 month backpacking trip throughout Europe, don’t be too jealous! Because of my life experience with eczema, I would like to share with you my ‘eczema travel tips’.
For many years eczema, or as I like to call it- ‘bloody eczema,’ at times stopped me from socialising with friends, going swimming in chlorine pools and generally made me retreat from life. However, as I gradually educated myself via the wonderful Skin Friend community, overtime I was empowered to make significant lifestyle changes- altering my diet, introducing supplements, exercising more and meditating. Through these changes I was able to heal my skin and myself. Although eczema continues to raise its ugly red rash at times - stress, weather and lapses with diet - it has never been as severe as it used to be and I feel that I now can manage these outbreaks so much better.
Although I was so very excited for this long-awaited adventure, I was also very nervous. That niggle of an eczema flare is always just sitting within the recesses of my mind. Would my skin react in the cool Irish air or the intense heat of the Spanish seaside? How would I maintain my healthy skin diet and still eat all the Italian gelato I was dreaming about? Would a severe skin reaction ruin my trip and leave me running home instead of running through the Swiss Alps? But this adventure was something I had dreamed and planned for, and I was not going to allow my anxiety surrounding eczema ruin it. Instead I took some calculated steps in order to be prepared and prevent my skin from flaring, and guess what…it worked! Planning was the key! I hope that some of these tips shared can help lessen anxiety around travelling with eczema.
Prepare your body
- One month out from my trip I instigated ‘Bonnie’s travel menu’. I prepared my body by promoting liver detoxification, restoring acid-alkaline balance, reducing my blood histamine levels, and improving my gastrointestinal health for optimal skin health. This sounds complicated, it wasn’t but it did take commitment! I did this by following the Eczema Diet for 4 weeks from Karen Fischers 2014 Eczema Diet publication. I would also recommend following the 7-day Eczema Detox program from Karen’s most recent publication, The Eczema Detox.
- In addition to following a healthy skin diet it is also important to take all necessary supplements to promote skin health. Before and during my trip I continued taking vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, biotin, B6, B12, riboflavin, calcium, glycine, chromium (I know, it's a lot!). However, all of these are conveniently contained in Skin Friend AM and PM and are essential for skin health. I would also recommend taking an omega 3 supplement with DHA and EPA. Again, this sounds complicated but it is all about being prepared, being organised, being committed and having a good routine. On my trip I took my own reusable cup so I could always have my powder supplements no matter where I was staying.
Book in advance
- As often as possible I booked airbnbs that had kitchens so I knew there were certain times on the trip where I could nourish my body with the correct foods. Obviously, this is not always possible but I highly recommend doing it if you can. Sometimes there's nothing better than the taste of your own cooking...if you know how to cook that is! This also allowed me to experience shopping at the local markets which I really enjoyed especially in Italy and France where the there was an abundance of high quality produce.
Learn the Language and do your research
- I made an effort to learn my food intolerances in different languages for the countries I visited. I found that making an effort to speak their language shows a great sign of respect for other cultures, and majority of the staff were much more helpful and accommodating for food allergies (even the French!)
- Warning- Even in Italian ‘gluten free’ (senza glutine) and dairy free (seza lattosio) is very confusing for a culture that lives off cheese, pizza and pasta! So, if you're going to Italy you might have to settle for a lot of salads (however these were delicious so you won't be missing out).
- I also recommend doing your research to find the best health food cafes or restaurants in the areas you are travelling. On the times I didn't do this I would often be wondering the streets for hours very 'hangry' before finding somewhere to eat. 'Allergyeats' was a fantastic app where I was able to find some amazing healthy places to eat that catered to many complicated food allergies and preferences.
Exercises to de-stress
- Travelling can often have its stressful moments, and I had my fair share - missing planes and trains, losing personal belongs, getting scammed by charming French men and being stranded in the Irish countryside, just to name a few. There is strong evidence that stress is a contributing factor to eczema as stress directly affects immune and resident cells in the skin. Therefore, I believe it is so important to practise mindfulness and meditation while travelling to de-stress and help keep your skin happy and calm. To do this I strongly recommend the app Headspace which I would use daily to decrease stress and increase positive vibes!
- An obvious but important point is to pack right! With sensitive skin, I always ensure I have to correct clothing to avoid possible flares. This includes staying away from wool, linen and synthetic fibres such as nylon and polyester. Karen Fischer has written an informative article on clothing recommendations for eczema that really helped me find some quality clothing brands. The article can be found here.
- Ensure you pack essential creams. To be extra prepared I packed 3 of the 24-Hour Rescue Balms, as I believe it's the best moisturiser to for dry skin and to prevent eczema flare ups. I also packed the Welda White Mallow Nappy Rash Cream as it's a great product to help angry red eczema patches. Although I avoid steroid creams as much as possible I do recommend taking a tube of hydrocortisone cream in case of an emergency, out of control flare.
- In addition to creams I also included my own natural soaps and shampoos as we all know that the majority of commercial shower products are filled with nasty chemicals known to trigger eczema (well they do with me!)
I hope these few tips can help my fellow eczema friends going on a travel adventure!