4 Key Points for Treating Eczema Naturally
What is eczema?
Eczema is a common skin condition characterised by inflamed red, dry and itchy skin. Naturopathically we think of this as a malfunctioning skin barrier. Most commonly we believe eczema to be a topical problem and it is often treated with creams and steroids - however finding the root cause of eczema is crucial to alleviating the skin condition fully. Ideally we want to treat it in a natural way, boosting the bodies innate ability to heal itself.
How is eczema caused?
Our skin consists of 3 layers of epithelial cells - the dermis (the one we see), epidermis and the subcutaneous. In those suffering from eczema the layer area of skin involved in locking in the oils and sweat becomes Somewhat defective. Because of this the skin (dermis) begins to dry out making it itchy. As we itch the skin bacteria goes into overload and the skin reacts by causing inflammation and redness to fight against the bacteria.
For those suffering from eczema it can be a vicious cycle. Commonly steroid creams are used topically to reduce the immune reaction and decrease inflammation - however this is only a suppression of the symptoms - it doesn't find the root cause.
What is the best treatment for eczema?
Treating eczema Naturopathically can be pretty straight forward for most people. The key treatment protocol is to find out what is causing the eczema in the first place. Once we get these factors under control, the occurrence of eczema reduces and we can go back to having happy, healthy skin!
What causes eczema flare ups?
Is eczema a sign of decreased immunity?
Balancing your immune system is a key treatment protocol in treating eczema. This links in with our gut health as 80% of our immune system is found within our gut lining, making it a central player in immune system homeostasis. If we think about it our gut is one of the only major organs in the body that is exposed to external stimuli, be that food, pathogens or toxic substances. Immune responses to allergens - especially those that are food related - are mounted in the gut. This in turn can interrupt the integrity of our gut mucosa (the lining that is responsible for absorbing nutrients from food).
To help the body mount a proper immune response dietary changes, fixing nutrient deficiencies, repopulating gut flora and improving digestive function it integral.
What nutrient deficiencies cause eczema?
The skin has some key nutrients that help it to rebuild and repair itself. Commonly with eczema supplementation of Zinc, omega 3's and Vitamin A can help do this.
Zinc reduces cytokine release and improve T cell function suggesting that is possess potential immune modulatory actions. Zinc also maintains integrity of collagen and kills topical skin bacteria by opening pores and dialling down keratin production. Zinc has also shown to be anti-inflammatory and useful in times of high stress as it essential for the healthy functioning of the hippocampus.
Omega 3’s are inherently anti-inflammatory. They work by altering the levels of arachidonic acid and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Supplementation may be necessary to boost levels up to an optimal level in chronic eczema, however omega 3’s are readily available in food sources including seafood, cold pressed olive oil, chia seeds and walnuts.
Vitamin A supports systemic immunity and is responsible for epithelial cell differentiation and collagen synthesis - AKA replication of new skin cells
Is eczema link to gut health?
Having an inflamed gut can wreak havoc on our bodies. As this is where we break down our food and absorb our nutrients, having an inflamed gut impairs our bodies ability to reap all the rewards from the good foods that we are eating. Increasing the digestive function and decreasing inflammation will help us to absorb key nutrients required for skin health as well as a myriad of bodily processes. Common gut prescriptions include strain specific probiotics - most commonly Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium lactis.
What foods to avoid if you have eczema
Everybody is different and food allergies are often hard to diagnose without proper testing. This being said however there are common food products that seems to flare up with those suffering from eczema. Removing these from the diet during the treatment phase is very beneficial. In some cases they may need to be removed for the long term, but for most they are just foods causing acute inflammation and are hindering the healing process.
These foods include:
• Dairy - most common
Its important to monitor your eczema once you remove these foods. After your skin has healed and you have finished your supplemental treatment (4-6 weeks) you may be able to slowly re introduce these foods back into your diet. Do this one by one and monitor your symptoms. If your eczema flares back up you can then identify what food is triggering it and remove it from your diet for a period of time whilst your gut fully heals.
Best topical treatments for eczema
Whilst you correct the root cause you can also apply certain creams to speed up the external recovery of the skin. Our favourites include Moo Goo’s Eczema and Psoriasis Cream and Weleda’s Skin Food and Avene Cicalfate Creme.
Does stress and anxiety cause eczema?
Stress can exacerbate eczema and is what we call a ‘modifiable risk factor’ meaning we can change this situation. Addressing high stress can be done through lifestyle interventions including meditation, deep belly breathing and relaxation techniques. We wrote a blog post on how you can do this for free - check it out here
About the Author
Chloe is an internal skincare Naturopath with a passion for, you guessed it, healing your skin from within. Aside from seeing people in her online clinic, Chloe is also runs several internal skincare courses to help set you up for success by giving you the tools you need to help heal your skin for good. Sound like you? Check out her courses here.
Chloe also hosts a podcast Skin From Within, covering all things internal skincare from hormonal acne to rosacea, psoriasis and more.