Eczema & Dermatits – a Naturopathic Approach
As a Naturopath I have treated many skin conditions over the years but some of them you see more than others. Eczema and dermatitis are most definitely my number one. And as the weather is cooling, now is the time when flare ups most commonly occur.
Although it can be caused by a multitude of factors, there are lots of ways to reduce eczema occurrence, and sometime eradicate it for good. Here is what I know about eczema and what you can do about it.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions out there and it’s not selective. Also known as atopic dermatitis, it most commonly appears in early childhood and presents as a red, itchy rash, that may also weep and form dry crusts over time.
You’ll find it most commonly on the backs of knees, elbows, and arms, but it can be located almost anywhere on the body.
What causes Eczema & how do I treat it?
Eczema is most commonly caused by an allergen (or allergens) that the body is responding. It could be allergens that are being consumed e.g. foods and other substances, and/or external allergens e.g. chemicals, detergents and metals.
There are very often other factors that exacerbate eczema, including stress and gut health, and so it’s important to assess the whole picture – both internal and external factors. Let’s take a look.
Food allergens & gut health
One of the most common irritants for eczema is food. This is why one of the first things that should be investigated is food allergens. Most commonly these include cow’s milk, gluten, soy, eggs, nuts and fish.
The quickest way to determine if you have any of the common food allergens is to see a health practitioner who can perform a skin prick test. They may then refer you for further testing.
In terms of general diets beneficial for eczema, you want to look for those providing anti-inflammatory properties. The Mediterranean diet is perfect because it is high in antioxidants and has a low glycaemic index. It’s also rich in whole grains, low in refined sugar, and contains those all-important, skin-loving omega 3s (e.g. avocado, olive oils, fatty fish).
Want to supplement? Specific nutrients shown to reduce eczema incidence include essential fatty acids (omega 3s, evening primrose oil), vitamin D and zinc.
Having a healthy gastrointestinal system is also key to reducing eczema symptoms. This includes having the right balance of healthy gut flora and reducing intestinal permeability.
Probiotics should be a regular component of your diet and can be added via foods (e.g. kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee) or supplements. Not only does good gut flora improve the absorption of key nutrients necessary for healthy skin, but it also benefits the immune system and is anti-inflammatory.
Stress & lifestyle choices
Stress can aggravate eczema because it increases production of the key stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol has an inflammatory effect on skin and can contribute to flare-ups.
To reduce stress, use daily stress management practices e.g. yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises. Gentle exercise and a good night’s sleep also help regulate cortisol levels.
The climate and temperatures you expose your skin to can also cause eczema to flare up. Where possible, avoid excessive climatic extremes – too much heat, too cool, high winds, and high humidity. Keep baths and showers to a moderate temperature, as well as your home heating and cooling systems.
It’s also important to think about what you put on your skin. Firstly, choose clothing that is naturally breathable (cotton, bamboo) and does not cling tightly to skin. Bedding, towels and clothing should be washed with a natural, low-allergic laundry detergent. Also consider replacing your household cleaning fluids (dishwashing detergent, surface spray etc.) with a natural, low-allergen option.
Last but certainly not least, it’s important to think about the products you put on your skin. I have formulated products in the Clémence Organics range to help alleviate common skin conditions including eczema.
To make it easier to find which products are best suited for your skin type, you will see a ‘Shop by Skin Condition‘ tab on the top bar of our website which will take you directly to products best suited for eczema.
If I had to recommend a product (or two), it would be our Baby + Mum Balm and our Ultimate SOS Balm. These multi award-winning balms have helped ease many eczema cases, particularly in children. Grateful parents have provided us with some wonderful reviews which you can read on the product page. The ‘grown-up’ version of this balm, Ultimate SOS Balm, has also worked wonders on adult eczema (including Mia Freedman of Mamamia fame most recently).
As always, I’m here to help, so please feel free to reach out if you have any specific queries.
Best of health to you,