So Embarrassed by My Rash – Is It Caused by Celiac Disease?

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Over a year ago, I started with what I thought was “dry skin”.  Patches of flaky areas that would get red after I showered or was overheated appeared out of nowhere. So I began slathering myself with everything I could find…coconut oil, Vaseline, Neosporin, body butter, and olive oil (yes, I smelled like a salad). It started to get awkward when I bought Bag Balm from Amazon. In case you were wondering, Bag Balm is used on cow udders. Apparently cows get dry skin too. To top it off, my husband and kids started to complain about the continuous oil slick left on everything I touched.

Summer arrived and (again) I felt totally self-conscious about wearing shorts. When the weather was really hot and humid, the dry patches would get bright red. I’m Irish, so imagine my super pale legs with super unattractive red blotches. I also had random patches on my back and one arm. So I wore long skirts and maxi dresses to cover up. When I did wear shorts or hit the beach, I was certain everyone (even the lifeguards supposed to save people and look out for killer sharks) were looking at my skin. This sucked.

I finally gave in and went to the dermatologist. I was convinced I had either a flesh eating virus or “old person shingles”. Luckily, the doc diagnosed me with Eczema and prescribed an ointment. I’ve never had Eczema, but know it’s pretty common, so I filled the prescription and expected the dry skin to be gone in a week or two. Two weeks passed, then a month, then two months. I used the prescription ointment religiously, but the red patches didn’t lessen or change.

Realizing something wasn’t working (it only took me 1.5 years to admit defeat), I started researching Eczema. Eczema is the body’s immune system going into overdrive due to an allergen. Sound familiar? A lot like “Celiac Disease (gluten-sensitive enteropathy), sometimes called sprue or coeliac, an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.”

I’m headed back to the dermatologist next week for a second look. My biggest fear is that because I have Celiac Disease (diagnosed almost 13 years ago), that my immune system is shot. And my shot immune system has oh so kindly opened up the opportunity for other autoimmune disorders to come knocking.

Do you have other autoimmune disorders in addition to Celiac Disease? Did they appear after your Celiac Disease diagnosis? I’d also love to hear if you have any suggestions on Eczema treatments (unless you swear by Bag Balm).

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Maureen Stanley was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2005. Way back before gluten-free was “mainstream“. Maureen created Hold The Gluten blog and podcast in 2008 as a way to connect members of the gluten-free community across the world.


  1. Hi Maureen,

    It’s possible that you’re getting gluten via some product that you think is safe. Sometimes continued low levels of gluten eventually cause symptoms/issues that one has not experienced before. It’s also possible that you’re reacting to something else in your diet, like dairy or eggs. Dr. Rodney Ford from New Zealand has done a lot of work in the eczema area. He has written books on this subject, but he also has articles on his site that you’ll want to check out.

    Hope this info helps, Maureen!

  2. Hello everyone. I’ve been having eczema for two years now and for me, it has been really difficult to control it. thanks for the help! for everyone else, the treatment that has helped me a lot is foderma.

  3. Ive had eczema all my life. Diagnosed celiac early this year. The only thing that has ever made my eczema go away is a rx steroid creme. It’s not meant to use all if the time but I use it once or twice as soon as I fee it until the patches are gone. I have tried rx’s, bag balm, allllllll the lotions. Nothing makes it go away except the steroid. Since diagnosed celiac and going gluten free I have had less rashes and am able to yse the cream less. I do know when I’ve gotten cross contaminated, because the steroid will not make a particular rash go away, just time for the gluten to leave my system in about a week or so. Would love to hear if someone else has found an rx that works that I could try.

    1. Hi Val,

      Thanks for commenting! I’m not a doctor (and I don’t play one on TV), but I’m wondering if your body is still recovering since your Celiac diagnosis. For me personally, it took close to a year before many of my symptoms went away. My daughter had terrible eczema behind her ears before she was diagnosed. The only thing that worked was a steroid as well. Once she went gluten-free, the rash eventually went away.

      Side note – have you checked all of your personal care products? Gluten can be lurking in places such as shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion. I learned this the hard way 🙁 This could be causing your skin to react. Check out my “Gluten-Free Cosmetics” section for more details.

      I hope you get some relief soon. Please stop back and let us know how you are doing.

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