Ever since moving to Central Florida, I have been plagued by itchy, easily irritated skin. It flares up during certain times of the year, and especially when I am experiencing a high volume of stress. The constant itching and scratching combined with burning irritation makes sure that eczema is annoying at best. The term eczema is actually a blanket term that is used to describe itchy, inflamed skin with occasional blisters and/or scales. It’s often used interchangeably with the term dermatitis, which translates to “inflamed skin.”
Like most of the chronic problems in life, eczema is mostly due to dietary factors in combination with environmental ones. In short, eczema is inflammation. Eating inflammatory foods can trigger it, and being in stressful, inflammatory situations can trigger it. I have noticed that mine flares up worse in the summer as well, because of the stress of heat and the moisture I loose through excessive perspiration.
Conventional treatments all work on the external side of things, mainly by just suppressing the symptoms. Some of these include bleach baths (I cringe at this thought because bleach makes my eczema much worse) and steroid creams. Neither of which address the actual cause of eczema. Eczema starts in the gut. Yup. You heard me right. An annoying skin condition is actually caused by inflammation in your intestines. This means that diet is really the only true “cure” or preventative measure for this condition.
Inflammation in your gut, which leads to eczema, is caused by food allergens. The most common allergens are cow’s milk, eggs, gluten, soy, peanuts, fish, beef, corn, citrus, and tomatoes. In order to figure out which one is causing your particular symptoms, you should stop consuming all of them. After a period of time where you are symptom free, begin re-introducing them into your diet, one at a time. Wait a period of time before adding the next one in so that you can assess your possible symptoms. If you encounter one that causes issues, that’s your allergen. You may have more than one, so continue the process until you have eliminated all of those allergens. Other things that cause inflammation in your gut include herbicides, pesticides, GMOs, and radiation. Eliminating these toxins from your diet is a good idea even if you do not show signs of eczema or other inflammation. Also, inflammation in your gut can happen when there is an imbalance of healthy gut flora. Probiotics are great to help prevent and correct this, as well as fermented foods (yogurt, Kombucha, keifer, etc).
Now that we’ve addressed the root cause, what makes eczema worse? If you have eczema, then your skin is not holding in moisture properly. This means that any harsh soaps or excessive scrubbing can wash away too many of your natural oils that help to hold in moisture, making your eczema worsen. Harsh chemicals can do the same. I’ve heard, through the years, that bathing is bad for eczema, that bathing is good for eczema, that you should or should not use lotion, etc. There are many contradicting thoughts out there for what makes eczema worse, and what helps.
What actually helps? Hydration is key. Internal hydration, by drinking plenty of water, as well as external hydration, such as soaking in lukewarm (not hot) water. But hydration is not just about water. You can be dehydrated and drink your weight in water every day, simply by not having enough fats/oils in your diet. Healthy fats are the real heroes of hydration because they help our bodies hold in moisture. Making sure your diet has plenty of healthy fats (coconut oil and flaxseed are both great sources) is a great way to stop eczema before it starts. However, when a flare up does occur look to lotions, salves, and ointments. These can all help by adding healthy fats to our skin to help it hold in the moisture.
One of my favorite things to use is coconut oil. In more northern climates, people consider coconut oil an already made salve. In Florida, however, it turns completely liquid at room temperature. But it still provides a great amount of moisture for hair, skin, and internally as well. It also makes a great makeup remover, just wet a cotton pad with coconut oil and remove away! Jojoba oil is also amazing to use with eczema. Just apply it externally when needed. Also, when you are thinking about baths, adding chamomile or oats to your bath can help ease the itching and burning of eczema as well as lessen the inflammation. Lavender essential oil is also something I use for my eczema, it helps to prevent infections in any open wounds and it’s a natural pain reliever, so it helps to minimize the burning that accompanies excessive scratching.
I hope this brief introduction helps you out and gives you a good start on living an eczema free life.
Every Day Roots: http://everydayroots.com/eczema-remedies
Natural Healthy Concepts: http://blog.naturalhealthyconcepts.com/2013/05/09/5-natural-ways-to-manage-eczema/
Wellness Mama: http://wellnessmama.com/12065/natural-eczema-remedies/