Relief for Eczema (and other itchy skin rashes)
By Joanne Aponte, ND • April 17, 2017
Eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) is a condition of the skin that makes it red and itchy. The red, itchy rash is a result of inflammation and immune cell activity in the skin. Conventional medicine usually involves the use of cortisone creams to suppress the immune system or anti-histamines (such as Benedryl) to suppress the itching.
The skin is our primary defense from the outside world. It’s job is to create a barrier. In people who develop eczema, there are some genetic and physiological abnormalities of the skin function that make the person susceptible to developing the rash. There is often reduced inability of the skin to retain moisture and a weakened barrier function whereby allergens and potential pathogens can more easily penetrate the skin.
I see a lot of eczema in my practice. Patients often come to me because the medications provide only short term relief or they stop working after repeated use. This never surprises me because the CAUSE of the eczema has not been addressed. I always ask WHY. Why is the body having this immune and inflammatory reaction?
Even with a genetic predisposition for developing eczema a holistic approach can provide much relief. The general goal is to build the health of the skin and reduce the burden on the body that is triggering the inflammation.
These are the 4 underlying factors that I commonly address in patients with eczema:
- Food allergies or sensitivities
- When a person is allergic or sensitive to a food (eggs, soy, dairy and wheat are most common in eczema), the body reacts by activating immune cells called antibodies. I often look for delayed reactions to foods. This reaction, called an IgG reaction, can take days or weeks to occur. When there is an immune reaction to foods, inflammation results in the skin and this can cause the itching and rash. Food sensitivities can be identified by a blood test that we do here at the office.
- GI heath
- The other factor to investigate is the overall health of the GI tract. I often assess for dysbiosis. Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance of “good “ bacteria (i.e. probiotics) and “bad” bacteria (pathogens). When there is an overgrowth of “bad” bacteria and not enough of the “good”, the immune system may be triggered. Dysbiosis can be identified by a comprehensive stool analysis.
- I also assess for a leaky gut. When there is a leaky gut, toxins and pathogens inside the GI tract leak into the body’s circulation and trigger inflammation and an immune reaction in the skin. To learn more about a leaky gut click here.
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Vit D, Zinc, and Omega-3 deficiencies (found in fish) are the common ones associated with eczema and skin rashes. These deficiencies can be identified by common blood tests and dietary evaluation.
- Cod liver oil is an excellent choice for those with eczema as is also contains Vitamin A and Vitamin D which are both helpful for healing the skin. Cod liver oil is appropriate for both children and adults.
- Total body burden
- Total body burden is a term to describe how much waste has built up in your body. Our body’s cells make waste every day. This is a normal process and our body was designed to rid this waste – the lungs breathe out CO2, the skin releases urea and heat, the kidneys excrete waste via the urine and undigested food is eliminated daily (ideally) through the bowels.
- When rashes develop on the skin, this may be a sign that your body has too high a burden or that the organs designed to eliminate waste are not doing their job. When your body is overwhelmed with impurities or toxins, they are released through the skin and this can cause an inflammatory reaction that leads to itching or rash.
- The toxins and wastes that may be overwhelming the body are largely due to the first two factors I discussed – food sensitivities and pathogens or toxins being produced in the GI tract from dysbiosis. To address total body burden we must address the the GI health and the diet. Giving assistance to the other detox organs such as the liver and kidneys, takes the strain off the skin and can greatly speed healing. I often include liver detoxifying herbs such as milk thistle, burdock and artichoke in a complete wellness plan for healing the skin.
With the above approach, I routinely see patients experience relief from this very irritating and itchy condition.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.