I have decided to write this week’s article on eczema. Unfortunately most of the people a naturopath will see come in as a last resort. Over the last 6 months I have seen a huge influx of patients with eczema in my clinic. All skin conditions are notoriously difficult to treat naturally, primarily because results can take a few months to become visible. However with the medical treatment being long term use of steroid based anti-inflammatory cream, tackling eczema from the perspective of a naturopath is a much better long term strategy. This is because the steroid creams will temporarily mask the eczema, but as soon as you stop using the cream the rash will come back. They also thin the skin when used long term. However, I have seen some amazing improvements in my eczema patients over the last few months and wanted to share with you a different perspective on treatment of all skin conditions. I have had a few children go from being covered in eczema head to toe to absolutely none within 3 months. I have had adults who have had stubborn eczema their whole lives for it to have disappeared. So below lists some of the things I have found work best when tackling eczema.
What is eczema?
Eczema is an irritating skin disease that ranges from chronic, itchy minor rashes to raging acute eczema flare-ups with open, oozing sores that require bandaging. It typically presents on the skin folds in places such as the elbows or behind the knees as well as the face and hands. However, some of my patients have eczema over their entire body. Besides being upset about how the skin looks, they are often itchy and uncomfortable and skin flaking is a problem.
Medically, eczema is viewed as an atopic (allergic) skin condition where the skin barrier defense is defective and damage. The skin becomes dry, scaly and irritated as both water and oil are lost through the skin. Infections are common as the exposed skin cracks and bacteria thrice, leading to further information and itch.
Eczema considerations and causes
Eczema causes and triggers are often much for complicated and diverse than the medical view of atopy. There are a huge host of factors that can cause an outbreak with each patient having a different set of imbalances that need to be addresses. The key is investigating the complicating factors for each person, and working on these. As most Naturopaths know, the key to health lies in the gut and you will see this is a big focus of treatment. Below lists some of the factors I investigate when treating eczema.
1- Food intolerances/food allergies- I find food intolerances to be the most important part of diagnosis or treatment of eczema. Common food based triggers include dairy products, soy, seafood, nuts and seeds, eggs, and wheat. I test every eczema patient for food intolerances and find this to be the best way to manage eczema in the long term.
2- Inhaled environmental allergens- Inhaled substances such as mould, yeasts, dust, dust mites or pollen can also be an issue. Treatment involves limiting exposure where possible, but our prime work involves balancing the allergic/atopic parts of the immune system to reduce reactions.
3- Gut flora- Our digestive tracts contain somewhere between 2-5kgs of bacteria that have very important roles in immune balance (among other uses such as absorption of nutrients). Correcting gut flora levels and replenishing specific strains that reduce atopic tendencies works well for controlling eczema.
4- ‘Leaky gut’- The name may not sound great, however leaky gut syndrome refers to poor health of the small intestines. Because 70% of our immune system lies in the gut, a healthy digestive system is paramount for immune balance. On top of this, our gut flora live on the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract therefore a healthy digestive environment is paramount.
5- Low stomach acids- Low levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach have been found to be common in eczema suffers and it is believed that this will further impact their gut flora, digestive health and immune system. Simple strategies for stimulating digestion are great for controlling eczema long term.
7- Stress- Stress and the associated cortisol and adrenaline levels are a major trigger for eczema. They disrupt the immune system, cause inflammation, switch of digestion and
9- Nutritional deficiencies- Nutritional deficiencies are also common in eczema and need to be address. The most common include zinc and Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies. Omega-3 is essential for keeping the waterproof barrier function of the skin healthy as well as control inflammation. Zinc improves skin healing and balances the immune system.
For most, it is not 1 thing but a combination of factors that need to be addressed to improve skin health and eczema. Our goal for treatment is thorough investigation and assessment to decide what is important for you.
Want help with your eczema? Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!