Eczema FAQs & How Naturopathic Medicine can help
Dr. Eric Viegas, ND
Why do I have Eczema?
- Partly due to genetics, immune dysregulation causing allergic inflammation, and environmental factors.
- If you have a family history of eczema you are more likely to develop it. Environmental factors like bacterial (staphylococcus aureus) colonization of damaged skin, and chronic phthalate exposure (found in textiles, food products, and plastics) contribute to inflammation and immune dysregulation.
- There is some evidence that the presence of helicobacter pylori, a bacteria commonly known for causing stomach ulcers, can also contribute to immune dysregulation and inflammation of the skin barrier.
- Food triggers are also an important contributor to eczema. Increased intestinal permeability contributes to allergen sensitization, so chances are good that your digestive system needs some help. A naturopathic doctor can work with you to establish which foods may be contributing to your eczema.
- If you have endocrine problems like thyroid disease it is best to take your medication and be well managed, as worsening hypothyroidism may also worsen the severity of your eczema.
What is the best treatment for Eczema?
- A combination of dietary management, skin care, and stress management will help to control the chronic symptoms of eczema and address the underlying causes.
Can diet affect Eczema?
- Eggs, wheat, dairy, soy, peanuts, tomatoes, and artificial colours & preservatives have been implicated as triggers in a large percentage of eczema cases. Elimination of these offending foods has been shown to restore normal intestinal function and reduce the progression of new food allergies. Avoidance of these foods may be continued for up to one year to achieve the best results.
- There is also a growing body of evidence to support histamine intolerance in the development and severity of eczema. In histamine intolerance, ingestion of histamine-rich foods (think red wine, aged cheeses, cured meats) overwhelms your gut’s ability to breakdown this inflammatory molecule. Overtime, more systemic signs of histamine intolerance (rashes, heart palpitations, irritable bowel syndrome, and allergies) develop.
- Eating more fatty fish (eg. salmon, herring) in pregnancy, lactation, infancy and childhood has shown protective effects against eczema in epidemiologic studies.
What lifestyle behaviours can help with my eczema?
- First, stop scratching. Scratching will break the skin barrier and allow for bacterial colonization.
- In terms of keeping clean, baths are more beneficial than showers as long as you remember to “soak and smear”; bathe, pat yourself dry, and then apply a very generous amount of moisturizer to the skin. For added benefit, soak oatmeal in a clean cloth bag in your bath to soothe your skin.
- People suffering from the itchiness of eczema tend to have more anxiety, and feel more stressed out. Finding an outlet for your stress and keeping your anxiety at a manageable level will help to benefit your outlook and the severity of your eczema. A naturopathic doctor has many tools to address high stress and anxiety.
What are natural topical remedies for Eczema?
- Seabuckthorn oil, castor oil, olive oil, coconut oil, calendula oil, chickweed cream, and moisturizers containing beeswax can all help to moisturize the skin and maintain its barrier. It is also important to use a mild pH-neutral soap free of any perfumes or fragrances to avoid any unwanted skin irritation.
What Supplements are good for Eczema?
- Daily fish oil supplementation and use of the probiotic strains lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium bifidum are two supplements with good evidence for use in eczema.
- However, you should always consult your doctor before starting any new medication or supplement. A naturopathic doctor will take a thorough health history to determine any other health concerns that should be addressed along with your skin health and come up with a comprehensive treatment plan. It is not uncommon for people with eczema to also experience digestive issues, allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies), and asthma.
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