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Eczema, or Atopic dermatitis, affects tens of millions of people in the United States. (Hanifin 2007).
It can be treated naturally, with medications, or a combination of the two. However, it's worth testing natural remedies for a while before resorting to over-the-counter or prescription medications.
Natural remedies are highly effective in combatting not just symptoms but preventing reoccurring flare-ups so that the condition is much more manageable.
Eight of the Best At-Home Remedies
- Increasing sun exposure or supplementing with a multivitamin high in vitamin D. Eating foods rich in vitamin D such as eggs and salmon can help relieve eczema symptoms, as well. (Goddard & Lio, 2015)
- Moisturizing with coconut oil or shea butter after bathing. Coconut oil is antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antimicrobial. It can provide relief while healing the skin, although some people are sensitive to it. Shea butter is an alternative option that is incredibly soothing. These fats can help to minimize skin damage after the use of soap.
- Enjoying colloidal oatmeal and Epsom salt in bath water. These are powerful ingredients when combined that can heal and soothe the skin. They attract moisture while eliminating toxins.
- Taking a high quality probiotic. Pesticides in conventional foods can wreak havoc on the stomach by killing gut flora. When the gut is compromised, it can trigger an array of issues throughout the body such as eczema. Taking a high quality probiotic such as Florastor (Saccharomyces boulardii) or Culturelle (Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG) to repair the gut is essential in getting relief from eczema flare-ups. (Goddard & Lio, 2015)
- Applying witch hazel followed by vitamin E oil. Witch hazel will help more severe cases of eczema that are starting to ooze. It is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Vitamin E is an anti-inflammatory that also relieves itching.
- Essential oils. They are not just good for eczema but are vital in any skincare routine. Mix two drops of calendula oil and two drops of tea tree oil in a tablespoon of almond oil and dab onto cracked and rough eczema patches. This is more effective than zinc oxide, and it is quick to heal an array of skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis. (Wallengren, 2011)
- Manuka honey bandages. Apply Manuka honey onto a rough patch and cover it with a bandage. Manuka honey is an effective therapeutic remedy to help get relief from eczema. It is an antibacterial that reduces swelling, reduces the desire to itch, and it speeds up the healing process. (McLoone, Oluwadun, Warnock, & Fyfe, 2016)
- Bathing in bentonite clay or using it topically. Bentonite clay is world renown for its healing properties. It also provides immediate relief from itching.
- Minimize use of chemicals and perfumed hygiene products. These can overwhelm the body’s detoxification abilities and set off an immune response. Chlorine in water is one chemical that can set off eczema.
- Evening primrose oil supplies arichidonic acid, which helps to waterproof the skin. Arichidonic acid is often low in people with eczema. Consider a starting dose of 6-10g/day for 4 weeks — then a maintenance dose of 1-3g ongoing. Alternatively, high-quality cod liver oil often works well due to its essential fatty acids and Vitamin A.
- Avoid or minimize the use of soap which damages the acid mantle of the skin. This includes when bathing, doing the dishes, or hand washing.
- Wash clothing with low-allergen washing detergent as the residual chemicals left on clothes can cause a reaction.
It’s recommended you try an elimination diet first before testing these natural remedies. Natural remedies will help, but if there is an underlying allergy or immune response, there is only so much they can do.
Eczema is typically the body's red flag or alert system signaling something is not right internally.
Up to 80% of people with eczema have been found to have one to several food allergies. (Dar & Srinivas, 2016).
An elimination diet can often pinpoint what, if any, food allergen, is triggering your symptoms.
The most common allergens that may be the source of eczema symptoms include milk, egg, yeast, oranges, peanuts gluten grains, soy products and additives such as benzoates and tartrazine. (Chang, Robison, Cai, & Singh, 2016)
Other foods such as sugar and alcohol are best avoided in all cases of eczema. There is still plenty of delicious food available that avoids these foods. An elimination diet usually force you to avoid a long list of foods long term.
Remove these foods from your diet for 6 weeks. If your symptoms disappear or improve, you know food allergens are at least partly to blame.
Reintroduce each food type you eliminated one by one. If your symptoms appear right after a food is reintroduced, there’s a good chance your body responds badly to that food.
If after an elimination diet you determine no allergy present, repairing the gut and supplementing with vitamins is a significant first step in managing eczema successfully.
Aside from food allergens, there are other causes that can trigger eczema flare-ups:
- Dry skin or skin that easily cracks
- Immune dysregulation
- Gut dysbiosis
- Poor nutrition status/nutrient deficiencies such as zinc, Vitamins A and D
- Environmental toxins
- Extreme weather conditions
- Hormone fluctuations (especially in women)
- Exposure to allergens - internally or externally in the case of contact dermatitis
- Psychological and physical stress
Prescriptions vs. OTC Medications
People often seek out medical advice from their physician if symptoms persist and become severe enough. Though prescription medications such as anti-inflammatories or corticosteroids do help with the side effects related to eczema, they are not truly effective in combatting this pesky skin condition long-term. By masking the symptoms and not addressing the root cause, your eczema is likely to show right back up in a matter of time.
By learning what triggers eczema and causes flare-ups, you're more likely to find an effective treatment. In many cases, you can increase your chances of getting rid of eczema for good.
Most treatments do not even require a prescription from a physician. The natural treatments and home remedies we list above may help prevent flare-ups as well as help calm the discomfort associated with having them.
Symptoms of Eczema
Eczema symptoms can range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms may present as just rough, dry, and itchy skin. Whereas, those with more severe eczema will have symptoms that include severe swelling, oozing, and bleeding. Other symptoms of an eczema flare-up include:
- Small raised bumps on the skin.
- Discolored patches of skin (red, gray, or brown) on various areas of the body such as hands, feet, chest, scalp, and face.
- Skin that is overly sensitive, which can become swollen and raw from excessive itching.
- A rash that comes and goes and causes severe itching and disrupted sleep.
Types of Eczema
Eczema is not a singular issue. The term is often used interchangeably to describe a group of skin conditions. Knowing your specific type of eczema can help you identify the best treatment option.
- Atopic Dermatitis and Atopic Eczema — typically caused by a problem with the immune system or skin barrier.
- Contact Dermatitis — this results when skin comes into contact with irritants or allergens.
- Discoid Eczema — caused by allergens or very dry, scaly skin. It is often seen in older populations and appears as round lesions (not to be confused with ringworm- as it often can be) that weep.
- Dyshidrotic Eczema — an exposure to allergens, which causes itchy blisters on hands and feet.
- Seborrheic Dermatitis — caused by genetics, hormones, or microorganisms. Appears as white or yellow flaky patches on the skin, often in places where the more oil-producing glands are found.
- Stasis Dermatitis — found in older populations and is caused by poor circulation in the legs. It presents itself with swelling along with skin inflammation and itchiness.
Regardless of the type of eczema you have, the first step you should consider to treat your symptoms is an elimination diet. By identifying any possible food triggers you can keep your symptoms at bay. Follow that with the 8 natural remedies we recommend above.
If your symptoms persist, it’s worth considering seeing a qualified healthcare practitioner.
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