Milo, my middle child, has had eczema since he was just days old. Little did I know, before learning more about natural health, that this external skin condition actually stems from issues in your gut.
Eczema is skin inflammation. Its technical name is atopic dermatitis, or atopic eczema. Thirty million Americans are suffering from this skin condition, and according to an article from TheEczemaSpot.com, about 20% of infants born in the United States develop eczema and some outgrow it by the age of 10.
If you’ve learned one thing about inflammation and natural health, you know that inflammation is an indicator that something’s not right internally.
Why then do we see advertisements for ointments and lotions to treat eczema?
Naturopathic doctors Chris D. Meletis, ND, and Jason Barker, ND, give it to us straight:
“The concept of treating eczema with hydrocortisone or other suppressive therapies is inherently foreign to the holistically minded physician …. Clearly, suppressive therapies for eczema only serve to prolong actual treatment of the symptoms.”
My son’s doctor prescribed a steroid cream. But there was no way I was going to put steroid cream on my infant. Especially because the doc warned me not to use too much, too often, or it could burn his skin right off. I’m thankful I never used that cream because I investigated side effects and health problems from even low doses of steroids, and it’s not good!
The “best” advice I’ve seen yet from U.S. scientists is diluted bleach baths. I cringe at the fact that this advice is published on the Internet for us parents to see when bleach has been linked to thyroid issues.
It seems like so many conventional medical methods offer a temporary solution to try and solve one problem, but it seems to sometimes cause other problems.
The Causes of Eczema
Studies show that food allergens are the main cause of eczema. The most common food culprits are cow’s milk, eggs, gluten (wheat, barley, rye and oats), soy, peanuts, fish, beef, corn, citrus and even tomatoes. Stress and genetics do play a role in atopic dermatitis, and studies show antibiotics and toxic ingredients like heavy metals used to make vaccinations are also a cause.
- Read my article on Is Vaccination Really Necessary to find out more about this.
- Also read Causes of Eczema & 4 Supplements That May Help and Could Fluoride be the Cause of My Child’s Eczema?
In addition, using caustic and toxic detergents or fabric softeners can aggravate and worsen eczema symptoms.
And it makes sense that eating fast food and other processed foods only make matters worse.
A recent finding published in the journal, Thorax, claims that “kids who eat fast food three or more times a week are likely to have more severe allergic asthma, hay fever and eczema.” There’s little to no nutritional value in these sorts of foods, in fact, they even shut off the immune system.
Furthermore, newer studies prove eczema flare-ups are brought about or worsened from exposure to other environmental allergens like dust, animal dander and pollen. In fact, many kids that have eczema may also develop asthma and hay fever.
Either way, topical treatments will not solve the problem of atopic dermatitis. To get to the root of the issue, you must start within the gastrointestinal system and immune function, and let natural topical treatments help relieve symptoms.
Drs. Meletis and Barker stress the importance of keeping the gastrointestinal tract healthy in their article, Skin Health, Eczema, and Preventative Strategies:
“If the eyes and the skin are the portal through which we may observe the body’s internal health, the gut then is the door through which a majority of disease initiates its entrance into the body,” the doctors explain. “It goes without saying that many factors in today’s lifestyle compromise the meticulous integrity of the gut lining, namely food choices and antibiotic therapies. The first area of treatment then for the patient displaying eczema should be the gastrointestinal lining, without a doubt.”
Scientific research continues to prove what nature has known all along … that the best approach for treating eczema naturally ― is a healthy gut and immune system. Let’s break it down …
5 Ways to Manage Eczema Naturally
We have to stop thinking that simple, quick fixes can solve our problems, but we also need to face the fact that no matter how hard we try, we’re not going to be able to do it right 100% of the time. I personally promise you that if you do a combination of these 5 things, you’ll see the difference as the healing process starts to take over.
1. Healthy Diet & Nutrition
A healthy diet and proper nutrition are usually the key when it comes to our well-being. Some people may be able to eliminate eczema altogether by simply giving their body the nutrients it needs while avoiding the things that lead to inflammation and sickness.
Eat a raw food diet, with as many whole and organic foods as possible. Avoid processed foods, caffeine, dairy, gluten, meat, sugar and alcohol.
It’s also smart to get food allergen testing done to know if there’s anything else you should avoid. Even some fruits or vegetables could be a culprit. Also, drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. Our bodies need it just like plants do. Here is a very helpful Natural Health & Nutrition Pyramid I created to give you a better idea of what to eat, keeping in mind that to clear eczema, avoid the top 3 sections. (Scroll to the bottom to view it.)
Use Coconut Oil
Don’t use vegetable oil, canola oil, peanut oil, etc. These oils are created by a man-made process that manipulates the oil into a thickened saturated fat known as trans-fat. The only thing these oils benefit is their shelf life and the profits of large food companies. For the rest of us, the amount we ingest only leads us to being fat, sick and dead.
Coconut oil, on the other hand, contains lauric acid, a rare type of fat found only in coconut oil and mother’s breast milk. Our bodies convert lauric acid into monolaurin, a compound that is highly toxic to viruses, bacteria, fungus and other microorganisms. It also deeply penetrates and moisturizes the skin while protecting it from environmental and free radical damage. Learn more from our article/infographic on health benefits of Coconut Oil: The Hero For Your Health.
2. Healthy Gut & Immune System
Healthy diet and nutrition are a key part in having healthy gut flora and boosting your immune system. But, there are also a few ways you can take it a step further. By following #1 & #2, you or your child may be free of eczema within a short period of time. It took my son three days for his symptoms to disappear. But each person is unique, with some having a mild case and others having a more severe case. So, healing time will vary for everyone.
Essential Fatty Acids
At least 99% of our population is EFA deficient because our bodies don’t make them on our own, yet they are essential to human survival. We must look to healthy food sources and/or supplements to get the suggested 7-11 grams each week.
Flax seed, chia seeds, cod liver oil and fish oils are all great sources. But, take a look at my article/infographic on Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency – Effects, Symptoms & Sources of Omega 3s. You’ll find everything you need to know there with a helpful list of foods that contain EFAs.
Vitamins & Minerals
Then there are other common nutrient deficiencies that many of us have. Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12, Magnesium and Zinc ― to name a few. I’ve linked each one to an article/infographic that will explain each deficiency in more depth.
Getting the proper amount of these essential nutrients helps keep your immune system healthy and strong. In regards to eczema, vitamins C and E help protect intestinal cells from oxidative and free radical stress, and C has anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant activity and antibiotic qualities.
You can get most of these vitamins and minerals from food especially when you’re eating an anti-inflammatory diet. But, if you eat junk, the nutrients will be depleted.
That’s why I stress the importance of proper food and nutrition. Think veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish and water … these foods are alive to keep you alive ― with all sorts of needed phytonutrients, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, etc. Many people still take supplements to ensure they are getting enough.
Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)
Evening Primrose Oil, Black Currant Seed Oil, Borage Oil and Hemp Oil are the four ways to get GLA, another essential fatty acid (Omega 6). There have been studies that point to the use of GLA supplements for helping to clear eczema symptoms.
But, like I’ve mentioned previously, we can’t expect GLA alone to do the job for everyone, it depends on why you have eczema.
GLAs alone may heal people who have atopic ezcema related to an inability to metabolize GLAs. All together, taking a GLA supplement will help fight inflammation, promote a healthy immune response, improve the barrier function of the skin and is vital for keeping skin cells moist and strong.
Probiotics & Digestive Enzymes
A probiotic supplement will help re-build the friendly bacteria in your gut and fight against bad bacteria that causes inflammation and health issues. Naturopathic doctors Chris D. Meletis, ND, and Jason Barker, ND tell us that probiotic supplementation in pregnant women even helps prevent their baby from developing eczema.
You can also eat cultured probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kefir, natto, tempeh, kimchi and miso. Digestive enzymes also play a critical role in your gut health. They protect the gut lining by breaking down food, eliminating toxins and allowing you to better absorb nutrients from your food.
Eczema may also be a symptom of something called Leaky Gut Syndrome ― a condition that affects the lining of the intestines. Read our short article on Is Your Gut Leaking to learn a bit more about this.
3. Detox & Avoid Toxins as Much as Possible
We can never escape toxins. They are everywhere! In our food, water, air, products we use and we’re even born with an average of 200 toxins passed down from our mothers’ wombs. The only thing we can do is try our best to avoid them as much as we can and clean out our insides from time to time by detoxification. To help get rid of eczema, here’s what you can do:
Detox Your Body (Adults)
But, there are supplements that help eliminate the toxins from your intestines and other organs that can assist your healing process.
Just remember to drink a lot of water and herbal tea!
Some 5-star-rated, best-selling products from Natural Healthy Concepts include Clearvite, MediClear Powder and ZeoForce Detoxify Daily. These are professional grade products that you’d most likely find in a healthcare practitioner’s office.
Use NATURAL Personal Care Products & Laundry Detergents
If you’re not aware already, conventional personal care products contain many harmful ingredients that your skin absorbs. By first understanding what the ingredients are and being a label inspector, you will eliminate many toxins from entering your body. The same holds true for laundry detergents and softeners. Here’s a better alternative for personal care products and laundry essentials you could try instead. Plus, stay away from the pesticides in your lawn or around your house! They are no good either.
4. Stress Management
Unfortunately most of us carry around way too much stress in our lives, and stress may lead to health issues. Although stress is probably not the sole cause of eczema, it could be the cause of a bad flare-up or perhaps one of the reasons it’s a challenge to kick it. Here are a few things you can do to help keep your stress level under control.
- Sleep: Kids 3-12 years of age need at least 10 hours of sleep a day. Adults should get at least eight hours. During sleep, your body restores and repairs itself ― it’s as simple as that.
- Breathe Deep: Deep breathing exercises help your body relax. It’s a good way to reduce stress, anxiety and tension. Try it.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is based on a system of meridians, or paths of energy, that flow through the body. The belief is when points in this path are blocked or weakened, the body responds by producing symptoms of illness like eczema. To restore the flow, acupuncture uses insertion of fine needles at specific points along the meridians. Eastern medicine practitioners have used this therapy for centuries. Some people believe acupuncture treatments help with stress relief, and the less stress you carry, the healthier you’ll be.
- Exercise: You don’t need me to tell you that this is an integral part of being healthy and warding off diseases. Just do it!
- Stress Support Supplements: There’s nothing wrong with a stress support supplement to help keep your hormones in check. For some people who might be a bit more high strung or tense, this just may help do the trick.
5. Natural Topicals for Eczema Symptoms
There are many natural remedies to help ease the itching, redness, dry and flaky symptoms that go along with eczema. Though most of these are topical, whatever you put on your skin does penetrate through to your bloodstream so, in a sense, it works internally as well. That’s just another good reason why not to use cortisone or steroid cream! To make it simple, here’s a list of things that may work well for you or your child. I’ve linked them all so you can click to read the descriptions, ingredients and reviews.
- Grandma Lye’s Soap: Natural Healthy Concepts has many customers that love Grandma Lye’s Soap for eczema or psoriasis symptoms. It may ease discomfort of dry, itchy skin, psoriasis, eczema or acne with daily use.
- Essential Oils: Oils with skin cell rejuvenating properties like neroli, rose otto and lavender, chamomile and yarrow are the most effective for soothing and reducing skin inflammation. At least one should be included in your blend and only a small amount of chamomile or yarrow is needed. For example, you could mix two drops of lavender, one drop of neroli and one drop of chamomile or yarrow. Be sure to mix with a carrier oil like almond or jojoba.
- Trillium Organics Body Oil: Some people think the organic body oil from Trillium Organics is a big help for their eczema symptoms. It’s a fast-absorbing, light, after-bath oil for moisturizing. It contains many beneficial oils for your skin.
- Salt Baths: An article on bath salts published in the International Journal of Dermatology reports that “skin roughness and redness of the skin as a marker for inflammation were significantly reduced after bathing in the salt solution. This demonstrates that bathing in the salt solution was well tolerated, improved skin barrier function, enhanced stratum corneum hydration, and reduced skin roughness and inflammation.”
- Coconut Oil: Yes, the same organic cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil that you eat can be used for your hair and skin! Try whipping it to make it more like a cream and rub it right into your skin to reap all of its healthful benefits.
- Aloe Vera + Vitamin E: Pure Aloe Vera extracted from the leaf of certified organic plants is one of the most effective skin soothers in nature. It conditions and hydrates dry and rough skin on contact. Vitamin E’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may also help relieve eczema when applied topically.
- Calendula: The flowers of Calendula officinalis are believed to benefit eczema by reducing inflammation, eliminating bacteria and promoting healing of your skin. Boiron’s Homeopathic Calendula Ointment may be beneficial for you to try.
To top it off, here’s a great clip featuring diet and nutrition tips to treat eczema!