Eczema can be debilitating, and unless you have been affected it’s hard to understand how a skin condition impact so negatively on your life. Characterised by dry, itchy red skin eczema is caused by a lack of fat between the skin cells, this causes them to shrink, and cracks open up between them. Allergens, the substances that can trigger an allergic reaction, can then get into the skin, causing inflammation. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as experts agree that most cases can be controlled. We have picked the brains of those in the know to find out how to help yourself.
1 Gut feelings
With many conditions, it’s important to take a holistic approach to managing the symptoms, and diet is an obvious place to start. The key nutrients for healthy skin include omega 3 fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E), amino acids, vitamin C. selenium, zinc, silica, and water. However, even if you are eating all the right foods, these nutrients may not be fully digested. For example, in leaking gut condition the intestine becomes damaged and has tears in it which allow undigested food to pass out from the intestines into the blood where it triggers allergic reactions and histamine release. Natalie Lamb, from Probiotics International, explains why probiotics can help.
“There is increasing evidence that high-quality probiotics could help with conditions like eczema. A study found that using a multi-strain probiotic significantly reduced eczema symptoms in infants and young children in just eight weeks. The use of probiotics should be considered as part of a management plan to rebalance the gut flora, control bacterial overgrowth, and its toxic by-products, improve digestive efficiency, restore a healthy gut lining and modulate the corresponding immune system to prevent further outbreaks.”
2 Skin deep
If you were to visit your local GP with this skin complaint you would more than likely be prescribed Aqueous Cream. Dr.Des Fernandes explains why this is a big no-no! “Doctors were taught at university that this cream is good for eczema. Very few people dare to doubt this advice and only lucky ones stop using the cream… and then find that their skin condition improves. This is because it doses the skin with high levels of the emollients popularly known as SLES or SLS. When it is used in very high concentrations and several times a day then the outer layer of the skin (stratum corneum) really suffers and becomes thinner. It then loses its condition and becomes dry, which leads to eczema being aggravated.” he explains.
“Vitamin A has a normalizing effect on the skin and controls the cells responsible for its immunity and protection. IT also renews the water-proofing barrier and smoothes the surface layer of the skin. What’s more, it stimulates the production of glycosaminoglycans which gives skin its firmness by holding in moisture. Topical antioxidant vitamins C, E and beta-carotene in sufficient amounts can help return skin back to health by neutralizing free radicals, which exacerbate inflammation,” he advises.
“Buy pure evening primrose oil or meadowfoam oil and apply onto the skin one hour before going into the sun as a body moisturizer,” explains Clare Eluka, from preemie. “Creams that are rich in gamma-linolenic acid, which is thought to play an important role in maintaining healthy skin are the best products for managing eczema. So look out for evening primrose oil, borage seed oil, black currant oil.”
3 Energy Balance
Rhiannon Griffiths, a member of the British Acupuncture Council claims if your out of kilter in mind as well as body, your condition can get worse. “Traditionally acupuncture uses very fine, sterile needles to stimulate energy channels in the body helping to rebalance internal energy, known as Qi. For eczema, we seek to address the root cause, and choose specific points that have the function of clearing ‘damp’ and/or ‘heat’ from the body,” she explains. “All eczema has a damp element, so I would suggest a reduction of dairy. Wheat, sugar, yeast, bananas, peanuts and concentrated orange juices may also lead to the formation of damp in the body,” she adds.
Eczema can also be exacerbated by having a hectic lifestyle. Practising yoga, meditation, and other holistic therapies can help. “Acupuncture is also very relaxing, as it focuses on harmonizing the mind, body, and emotions, which can help if a patient finds stress makes their eczema worse,” says Rhiannon. “During an initial consultation, an acupuncturist will ask lots of health and lifestyle questions to establish the underlying cause of eczema before selecting specific points on the body where needles are inserted. Further points may also be chosen to increase any Qi that is lacking; in both cases, these needles are not left in – the energy is boosted to encourage proper functioning of the body, and the needle is removed.