It is estimated that one out of five children and one out of twelve adults today suffer from some kind of inflammatory skin disease. In the last few decades, the number of cases has risen dramatically. In fact, nearly 31 million Americans suffer from eczema-related symptoms. (R) And more people are searching the internet for eczema-related subjects than even for cancer. Could it be something about our modern lifestyle that is contributing to this phenomenon? Let’s see what we can find out and also explore some natural help for eczema.
What is Eczema?
Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a general term that refers to disorders characterized by inflammation of the skin. Eczema comes in quite a few different forms that each have unique causes and symptoms, but it typically describes reddish, swollen skin with an itchy rash.
Dermatitis is a commonly found condition that is generally not a major health problem, and in most cases, except for certain kinds of contact dermatitis, it is not contagious. However, if infection sets in, it can become more serious, especially for folks with compromised immune systems.
What Are the Types and Symptoms of Eczema?
There are several major types of dermatitis, and each has distinct characteristics.
This common form of eczema results from irritants or allergens that come into contact with the skin. Typical irritants include soaps, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and cleaning products. As a side note, you should also be aware that many of these products are laced with strong and dangerous chemicals that can cause a multitude of other health concerns. American homes have become toxic waste dumps, thanks to the chemical companies and Madison Avenue. People have died after inadvertently mixing cleaning products that produced poisonous gas. Be very careful with this stuff. Allergens that commonly cause contact dermatitis include latex, nickel, gold, jewelry, poison ivy (poison oak and sumac), cosmetics, perfumes, certain types of clothing, and neomycin, an ingredient found in many topical antibiotic creams. The difference between irritants and allergens is that it usually takes repeated exposure over time for an irritant to cause a reaction. In contrast, an allergen can begin to cause issues after only a brief exposure if the individual is sensitive to that particular allergic agent. Contact dermatitis is found in adults more often than in children, and it usually appears on the hands, feet, and/or groin, although it can affect any part of the body. This eczema cannot usually be passed from person to person or be spread to other parts of the body. The exceptions are such things as poison ivy, oak, or sumac. In fact, reactions to these weeds are the most common allergy in the United States, affecting about 50% of the population. The symptoms of contact dermatitis typically appear within 48 hours after contact with the irritant or allergen. They include red, swollen skin that may have an itchy, weepy rash.
Neurodermatitis results from something, such as a tight garment, for example, that irritates, scratches, or rubs the skin continually in the same area. This form of eczema is often located on the ankle, wrist, back of the neck, and forearm. Sometimes neurodermatitis is worsened by repeated rubbing or scratching of the area.
This form of eczema occurs when the accumulation of fluids causes irritation just beneath the skin. This is found most often in the lower legs. Any condition that affects blood circulation that seeks to return to the heart through the veins may cause this excess fluid and accompanying dermatitis. Varicose veins are a good example of this. In addition, the fluid may make it difficult for nutrients and oxygen to reach the area, and the pressure of the fluid can also cause issues. All of these factors can result in stasis dermatitis. Symptoms appear as greasy, scaly skin most often found on the inner calf and around the ankles. In some people, the rash can deteriorate into sores referred to as “stasis ulcers.”
Seborrheic Dermatitis manifests itself with a reddish rash that has a yellowish, oily scale on top. It may appear dry or moist. Its crusty effects can be found mostly on the scalp, face, eyelids, outer edges of the ears, armpits, breasts, and groin. Seborrheic dermatitis is known as “cradle cap” when it is found in infants. This condition can come and go with seasonal changes, is common in folks with oily skin and hair, and is easily brought on by emotional stress. It is also frequently associated with Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological disorders.
This form of eczema is linked to allergies and often runs in families with a history of asthma and/or hay fever. It exhibits a rash that is scaly and itchy and sometimes will swell and blister. It is often found in young children and is referred to as infantile eczema. It’s really tough on kids, with its reddish, oozing sores that frequently crust over. Look for it to make its appearance on the face, at the back of the knees, and on the inside of the elbows. It is generally less of a concern the older a person gets. Some research has indicated that immune system dysfunction is somehow related to atopic dermatitis. Individuals with dry, sensitive skin are more prone to suffer from this type of eczema.
Also known as nummular eczematous dermatitis or nummular eczema, this type is seldom found in anyone under the age of 55. It most often takes the form of a circular rash that is patchy and very itchy and is commonly found on the hands, arms, legs, and buttocks. It often comes on during cold weather and is more likely to affect people with dry skin.
Perioral Dermatitis is thought to be a type of seborrheic dermatitis or a variant of the skin disease called rosacea that specifically attacks the areas around the mouth and nose. It is thought that certain cosmetics or dental products composed of fluoride may play a role in the onset of perioral dermatitis.
What are the Main Causes of Eczema?
The following are the most mentioned causes of eczema in young people.
- allergens (including pet fur/dander)
- food and drink allergies
- getting the skin wet and chemicals in water such as swimming pools
- cleaning products
- cosmetics and bathing products (including fragrances)
- clothes and fabrics
- upper respiratory infections and other systemic infections
- Candida overgrowth
What Are Some Natural Help for Eczema?
As with most disorders, the mainstream medical community’s favorite treatment for eczema is—you guessed it—prescription drugs. The concern is that many of these drugs do not work very well, and the ones that do work must be continually taken, or the condition will return or worsen. And then there are the side effects to consider. All in all, the use of drugs to control eczema should be avoided. With many forms of dermatitis, there are common sense natural approaches to managing the illness that is quite effective. Let’s explore some natural help for eczema that you may not know about.
Elimination of the Agent
It may take a little detective work, but the most important thing to do is identify and eliminate the irritant or allergen behind the rashes. Sometimes there are natural alternatives to something that is causing the concern. For example, if you are allergic to laundry fabric softener, consider eliminating that element from your wash day routine and replacing it with white vinegar. Vinegar is non-toxic and leaves clothes soft and fresh smelling. There are also many alternatives available to commercial laundry detergents and other dangerous household chemicals. Sometimes you may have to change the type of clothing you are wearing, the fragrance you like to use, or even the type of water you bathe in. Hard water has been implicated as a risk factor in dermatitis. Perhaps a good water filtration system can help. Just beware of adding a water softener to your home. Many of these systems use harsh chemicals that can be harmful to your health.
Bathe Less Often
Fewer baths and showers are often beneficial to those with dermatitis. In our modern world, especially in the United States, we tend to overdo it when it comes to bathing. Most people do not need a bath or shower every day, especially in the cooler weather. The soaps and shampoos that many people use are drying and irritating to the skin. These excesses reduce or eliminate many of the natural oils our skin produces to keep it supple and healthy. Use soap only on your face, underarms, genitals, hands, and feet, and just warm water everywhere else. Again we have fallen prey to the advertising machinery that constantly pushes this personal care product and the other—most of which we do not need, and many are actually harmful. Sometimes I think we were better off back in the old days when everyone took their weekly bath on Saturday night. Well, maybe we can reach a happy medium anyway. One study found that up to 20% of all children experience dermatitis to one degree or another, and it may be caused by our obsession with hyper cleanliness, both on our bodies and in our homes. Sometimes we are so afraid of germs that we go overboard and become clean freaks. It is also recommended that folks with eczema pat themselves dry after bathing rather than rubbing, as this is less abrasive to the skin.
However, many people say that running hot water (be careful not to get the water too hot) on the severe itch that often comes with eczema brings an overwhelming feeling of relief for a few seconds. Then the itch stays away for hours.
Hormone imbalances can definitely play a role in eczema. This also includes the thyroid and other hormonal issues, including blood sugar regulation and sex hormones like estrogen to progesterone ratio. Even most practitioners would not include checking for unbalanced hormones in their natural help for eczema recommendations.
Hormones also influence your histamine levels (see info about histamine under healthy diet below). Mast cells that store and produce histamines also have estrogen receptor sites. This means that estrogen can cause the production and release of histamine; it also decreases DAO levels, so estrogen can certainly cause higher histamine levels. The use of bioidentical progesterone naturally lowers histamine levels, so if you have estrogen dominance (and thus, lower progesterone) which has almost reached epidemic levels, you’ll most likely experience higher histamine levels.
Go 100% Cotton
Wearing 100% cotton clothing is beneficial for many people, especially with undergarments in direct contact with the skin. Cotton breathes very well and is less irritating than many other fabrics, especially in hot weather. Even our clothing today is often treated with chemicals. Ever wonder how “permanent press” clothing stays permanent? It is treated with the chemical methanol, which is a form of alcohol. It is always a good idea to wash new clothing before wearing it in a mild, unscented, dye-free detergent.
Check Other Areas in Your Home
Look around your home for anything that could harbor irritating or allergic agents. Examples might be wool carpeting, certain kinds of bedding, or fabrics in furniture and/or window treatments. Sometimes pets can be an issue too. Some people have discovered an allergy to their pet or perhaps bedding used for the pet (such as wood chips used for many small rodents). However, often the allergen is a particular soap or flea and tick powder used on the pet.
Use Natural Skincare Products
Keeping your skin moisturized is a great way to reduce the risk of dermatitis outbreaks. Unfortunately, many commercial moisturizers contain harsh and dangerous chemicals that you are better off staying away from, and they might even make your eczema worse. Some natural lotion ingredients that can help soothe and moisten your skin are aloe vera, chamomile, and lavender. Some people get good results using Moroccan Argan oil.
Pay attention to the ingredients in cosmetics. Look for botanical ingredients such as red clover, burdock, black walnut, Echinacea, eucalyptus, calendula, or goldenseal. Ozonated Olive Oil such as OxyBalm can be an effective remedy to help keep the skin moisturized and oxygenated to help soothe dermatitis outbreaks.
Keep your skin well-hydrated to reduce the dryness of the patch while also providing a barrier from the elements. I highly recommend Oasis Serene Botanicals for non-toxic skincare.
Cleanse and Detoxify Your Liver
The liver is the main filter of the body and thus filters out a tremendous amount of toxins, chemicals, hormones, etc. every single day. As with any filter, the liver can be over-worked and thus become sluggish in doing its job effectively. Often when the liver is sluggish toxins will find other ways to get out of the body which includes the skin. I highly suggest incorporating three to four back-to-back liver flushes in order to cleanse and support the liver.
Stop Candida Overgrowth
Any disturbance of the good bacteria in your intestines can permit Candida (yeast), to flourish. When Candida is given an opportunity to thrive in your gut, it can quickly become leaky which then lets the yeast to escape via your bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, Candida can affect your mood, hair, nails, and yes, even your skin. In fact, researchers have gathered skin cultures from eczema patients and found that more often than not, yeast was found in the samples. (R)
As a reminder two of the most common causes of yeast overgrowth are antibiotics and immunosuppressant drugs, both of which are commonly prescribed to eczema patients.
Healthy Diet is Foundational
Implementing healthy oils into your diet can help the skin to heal and is important when looking for natural help for eczema. Cold-pressed oils such as flaxseed, olive, and hemp seed are good choices. Omega 3 Fatty Acids are also recommended. Eating lots of organic fruits, vegetables and nutrient-dense foods will help the body to repair. Drinking one-half of your body weight in ounces of purified water every day is also recommended. Removing foods known to be common allergens such as gluten and dairy is always a good idea. Other culprits might be peanuts, shellfish, soy, casein, citrus fruits, tomatoes, etc. Those with leaky gut and/or gluten intolerance are always more prone to skin conditions such as eczema.
Be aware that high-histamine foods can be a concern for those with eczema. Because histamine build-up can happen as a result of deficient DAO (diamine oxidase) levels, it’s vital to support your DAO levels in order to clear histamine from your body.
Histamine causes an immediate inflammatory response. It warns your body of any potential attackers. Because it travels throughout your bloodstream, histamine can affect your gut, lungs, skin, brain, and entire cardiovascular system, contributing to a wide range of symptoms, including digestive issues, mood swings, and eczema. (R)
There are even some healthy foods that are high in histamine or release histamine in your body. Foods such as avocados, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, bacon, and dried fruits or citrus can be culprits in releasing histamines. Other histamine-releasing foods include fermented foods, cured meats, aged cheese, bananas, pineapple, and milk. Many have reported that by eliminating these foods their eczema has improved tremendously.
You can turn to a natural antihistamine for relief if your symptoms are disrupting your daily life. Look for supplements that contain natural histamine blockers such as quercetin, turmeric, stinging nettle leaf, Vitamin D3, or Vitamin C.
All-Natural Supplements for Eczema
Adding quality and all-natural supplements for eczema can also help the body in its recovery from bouts of eczema. Choose an effective and high-quality probiotic, organic multi-vitamin-mineral supplement, trace minerals, and zinc orotate. Cat’s Claw (Una De Gato) is also great for supporting the digestive system and helping with leaky gut. Natural Vitamin E with tocopherols and tocotrienols is also recommended both orally and topically.
Research indicates that vitamin D taken as a daily supplement shows favorable results for children suffering from eczema.
Vitamin D helped reduce the uncomfortable symptoms children experience during winter flare-ups, making it less demanding to control the development of the skin condition. I recommend Organic Vitamin D3, a vegan-friendly, lichen-derived, organic vitamin D3 supplement that boosts the immune system, supports the nervous system and promotes brain health.
Adding a full-spectrum enzyme formula and HCL to your diet can help support favorable digestion and nutrient absorption, and aid your body’s intestinal repair and inflammation responses.
Although not many people like to hear this, unmanaged stress can be a huge factor in bouts of eczema. Try eliminating as many of the causes of stress in your life as possible. Meditation, mindful breathing, yoga, long walks in nature, soothing music, rebounding, and good books are all great ways to help eliminate stress. Getting at least 8-9 hours of sleep each night will also allow your body time to heal and repair.
Before we wrap up, I want to underscore why it is so crucial and also equally rewarding to look at your skin issues from a root-cause approach. It has been said that eczema is a disease caused by an overactive immune system that leads to inflammation in your body. It is this internal inflammation that causes the symptoms you experience. Atopic dermatitis is called the “itch that rashes” for a reason. While the focus may be on the itchy, red burning rash on top of your skin, a bigger story is happening inside your body. Check there first.