Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a very common skin condition that chances are you've either heard of it or had personal experience with it.
Often found in kids, it can have a variety of presentations – from just very dry skin, to a cracking, weeping, itchy patchy rash. Classically, the rash would appear on flexural surfaces, meaning on the inside of elbows and knees, but also on limbs, torso, face and scalp.
Though it's not totally clear what causes eczema, we do know that it has to do with the immune system.
Eczema is a condition predominantly found in developed countries, where the standard of hygiene is quite high. Whereas that's a really good thing, making our world more sterile also means that our immune system is not necessarily as busy as it used to be.
A “bored” immune system could overreact to things that are harmless – cue allergies, asthma, and skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
One theory about the cause of eczema is that it's an allergic reaction. The immune system identifies tiny harmless protein segments as foreign and tags them as antigens. It may be that that tag is similar to a natural tag found on skin cells, but nonetheless, the immune system then begins an inflammatory process that manifests on the skin, leading to those red, itchy, dry patches seen in eczema. That harmless protein segment can be from food, a cosmetic or domestic product, or a pollutant.
Treating Eczema, Naturally!
Conventional approaches tend to be centred around suppressing the immune system, which usually includes topical cortisone creams. In many cases, this approach tends to be effective, but I'm sure you could see that that doesn't address the root cause of the problem.
Naturopathic treatments, in addition to allergen identification and elimination, can involve botanicals and nutrients to calm the inflammatory response and balance immune function, as well as topical products to soothe itch and dryness while underlying issues are being addressed.
Very often, we find that eczema is linked to a food allergy. Given the amount of artificial foods that are prevalent and foods that have been highly modified from their original and natural state, that fact should not come as a surprise. Think dairy, wheat, refined sugar, GMO foods, etc.
For that reason, one of my first go-to's when treating eczema in both children and adults is to assess the diet, and either eliminate some of the strong suspects, do a full elimination diet to discover which foods could be causing the problem, or run a blood-based food allergy test.
Finding that irritant will go a very long way towards improving the skin, and you can try a mini elimination at home by taking out one type of food at a time, such as cow dairy for a few weeks and watching your symptoms.
Omega fatty acids
Fish oil and evening primrose oil are important in any inflammatory conditions in that they help steer the inflammatory process away from the painful pathway to the innocuous one, thereby overtime and at the right dose can reduce itch, swelling, and redness.
The good bacteria found in your gut are important mediators of the immune system, so having the right balance of them in your intestines helps ensure that your immunity doesn't over-react and keeps inflammation low. Read more about how to include probiotics in your diet.
Herbal remedies tend to be my personal favourites in practice. In cases of eczema, I may choose anti-inflammatories such as Turmeric, Boswelia, Ashwaganda, or St. John's Wort (careful with this one as it can interact with many medications), in either liquid extract form, topical, or both.
Stress management is a huge component of eczema management, as symptoms tend to get worse in times of high stress. Some approaches could be time management, meditation and mindfulness, counselling, exercise, or herbs called adaptogens. Adaptogens help you by easing the effects of stress on your body – they help you adapt.
Discover Your Food Sensitivies
A 7-Day Meal Plan
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