By Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
Up until my mid-20’s, I suffered severe eczema. There were periods in my life where I went to bed with wrapped hands to avoid tearing my skin apart to avoid constant scratching throughout the night that would cause me to bleed. After many years of dermatologists prescribing me steroids, steroids and more steroids internally and externally, which only gave temporary relief, I finally decided enough was enough so I went looking for a natural solution.
I slowly started implementing all of the natural changes I suggest below and now only get a little contact dermatitis on my hands from washing my hands excessively, which comes with having a young child, but it is easily controlled.
When I do a cleanse I may also get a small flare-up but this resolves easily once I get past the initial detox phase and my skin will then look better than before the cleanse. I am forever grateful that I started to concentrate on my inner health to remedy the problem and I did. Hopefully these pointers will help you too if you suffer from this common skin disorder.
What is dermatitis or eczema?
Eczema/Dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disorder that results in red, painful, dry and itchy skin. It may even cause the skin to weep, bleed and crust over. They are often used to describe the same thing but dermatitis can indicate a more acute to subacute flare-up while eczema can indicate more chronic skin inflammation. Affected skin areas include the folds of the arms, the back of the knees, wrists, face and hands.
Where does it come from?
The disease seems to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Causes can be topical irritants such as perfumes, soaps, washing powders, cosmetics, dyes, detergents, mold, animal hair, pollen, temperature, dust & dust mites, nickel, chemicals, latex, wool, synthetic fibers, mineral oils, bacterial or fungal pathogens. This can cause irritant contact dermatitis (skin damage to irritating) or allergic contact dermatitis (hypersensitivity).
Causes can also be internal such as immunological abnormalities, environmental, food allergies and emotional elements such as stress.
I often find that a person who has eczema has multiple allergies combined. Food and topical allergens often coincide with each another.
Natural solutions for Eczema and Dermatitis:
Avoid food allergies: Common food allergens associated with skin disorders are gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, peanuts and artificial additives, preservatives and colors. You can avoid these for 2 weeks then slowly reintroduce one food group every week to determine if a flare-up occurs. Here is more on an elimination diets, dairy and gluten being a possibility for eczema flare-ups.
Avoid possible topical allergens: Switch to perfume and fragrance free soap, detergents and washing powders. Use natural cleaning products. Use essential oils rather than fragrance oils. Vacuum regularly to avoid dust mites and reduce exposure to animal hairs (if you have pets). Dust frequently. Remove any mold in the house if present. Natural goats milk soap or bath wash can be a beneficial alternative.
Replace inflammatory saturated fats: Replace foods such as meat products and dairy with the anti-inflammatory unsaturated fats such as those from deep sea fish, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and all seeds particularly flaxseed, chia and hemp seeds. Increasing consumption of these foods will also increase selenium, vitamin D, zinc and other helpful nutrients for good skin health.
Increase fruits and vegetables: The increase in fresh fruit and veggies will increase the intake of Vitamin C, bioflavonoids, iron, carotenoids and vitamin E which are important anti-inflammatory foods. This is such an important point for good skin health. Juicing really improves overall skin appearance and reduces all types of inflammation in the body. Here is an article on how fruits and vegetables can also improve the way we look.
Consume healthy probiotics: Eating fermented foods can be very helpful or taking a probiotic supplement. Studies indicate that some probiotics such as L. Rhamnosus can reduce infant atopic dermatitis significantly. A healthy gut is a healthy body! Here is more on the benefits of fermented foods. Eczema can also be associated with a high incidence of unbeneficial microbes such as candida in the digestive tract.
Avoid sugar and all processed foods: These have a vast impact on our immune health and our gut health. These foods will aggravate any type of allergy drastically and will increase inflammatory skin ailments. I have seen repeated cases where sugar was the worst culprit of all.
Drink plenty of filtered water: Filtered water aids detoxification and elimination of waste. The skin is a large eliminative organ and it is very important to drink plenty of water to flush out toxins.
Exercise: Exercise that gets you sweating also aids elimination through the skin and improves lymphatic circulation. Exercise helps reduce stress which is a major factor for eczema.
Herbal Teas: Chamomile tea, licorice tea, nettle tea, albizia tea and/or calendula tea and drinking Aloe Vera gel can reduce inflammation associated with eczema.
Stress less: Always a factor with any type of chronic disease, stress will increase inflammation in the body over a long-period of time. There are studies indicating that massage and relaxation techniques can reduce symptoms experienced.
Natural Skin Care on the Outside:
If you wouldn’t eat it then you shouldn’t put it on your skin
Often people forget that the skin is a two-way membrane and if the substance is fat-soluble then it will absorb very easily into the lymphatic and blood systems. This is why hormones and some medications can be utilized as a skin patch due to the easy assimilation through the skin!
Excellent skin foods: Coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, rosehip oil, argan oil, natural vitamin E oil and if it is good for your skin it will also be good to put on your hair and even eat for improved skin health.
Essential oils: Lavender, chamomile and geranium can be beneficial for inflamed skin. Be aware that natural essential oils can also aggravate very sensitive people. You can test this combined with a little carrier oil such as avocado or olive on the inner wrist.
Oat milk baths: Help reduce skin inflammation with an oat bath: place oats in a stocking or cheese cloth bag, fill a tub and make sure the water is not too hot as this can aggravate the skin, soak, relax and enjoy. Adding some anti-inflammatory essential oils can also be an excellent addition to the tub.