Treatment and Prevention of Eczema the Natural Way

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that affects ~25% of children and a smaller portion of adults.

Treatment and Prevention

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Perhaps it is the recent cold spell that we have been experiencing, or merely parents fed up with the skin-drying effects of winter, but there has been an influx of patients in my office struggling with eczema over the past few weeks.

Eczema is a chronic skin condition that affects ~25% of children and a smaller portion of adults.  Characterized by dry, red, scaling, and often itchy skin on the flexor surfaces of the elbows, knees and hands – eczema can be a debilitating and socially isolating condition.  It will often occur in conjunction with asthma and allergies as part of the ‘atopic triad.’

Topical approaches offered by conventional medicine like corticosteroids (i.e. cortisone cream) may help manage symptoms in the interim, but do little to address the root cause and create long-term sustainable changes.

A naturopathic approach to managing eczema takes into account environmental, genetic, dietary, and immune factors.  Check out these helpful tips for managing eczema in your family!

Naturopathic solutions for preventing and treating eczema:

  • Identify and avoid common skin irritants like laundry detergents, soaps, and body lotions.  These products contain bleaches, perfumes, and enzymes that may weaken the skin’s barrier making it more susceptible to drying.
  • Identify and remove potential food sensitivities and intolerances, as research has suggested that they contribute to over 50% of all cases (1).  It may be appropriate to do a trial period of eliminating wheat, dairy, or eggs as an example, to see if symptoms improve.
  • Support the immune system by healing the gut and decreasing inflammation
    • Probiotics can help correct underlying dysbiosis in the gut, especially if there has been a history of antibiotic use
    • Fish oil and adequate fatty acid intake promote a decreased inflammatory response.  Consider: avocados, chia seeds, flaxseeds, salmon, anchovies, sardines, mackeral and herring.
    • Decreased consumption of refined sugars and fried foods
  • Avoid frequent bathing and hot water, as this will contribute to dryer skin and symptom aggravation.  Consider adding oatmeal to the bath to help decrease itchiness and irritation.
  • Increase skin moisture.  Topical ointments can promote healing if the skin barrier is compromised, thereby decreasing the risk of infection.  Some of my favourite products contain calendula, zinc, neem, manuka honey, and coconut oil.
  • Manage stress as this can be a major contributor to eczema flare-ups by increasing systemic inflammation.

References:

1. Breuer et al. Late eczematous reactions to food in children with atopic dermatitis. Clin Exp Allergy.    2004 May;34(5): 817.

Author: Dr. Kristi Prince, ND

Dr. Kristi Prince, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor in Cobourg with a focus on Family Medicine and Women's Health.  She is also a soon-to-be registered lactation consultant.

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