Naturopathic Options for Eczema
Nov 21, 2022
Tis the season for dry, itchy, flaky skin, so let’s chat about eczema. Many patients that we see with eczema are frustrated that their eczema persists despite trying various medications. We are here to tell you that we have options that can help with your eczema!
What is eczema? Inflammation of the skin that can occur in up to 20% of children and 3% of adults. Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis. It causes dry, red, itchy, skin that over time can crack or become thickened. While it is more common in children, adults can suffer from it as well. Eczema is more common in developed countries with colder climates, so it is common for populations like Canadians! It is most commonly seen on the face, scalp, behind ears, and creases of the elbow, groin and knees.
Let us help you! We want to help decrease the frequency and severity of your flares. Some of the goals we have in treatment for clients with eczema are:
- Relieve dry, itchy skin
- Regulate inflammation
- Repair skin barrier
- Prevent flares
- Prevent secondary infection and complications
Naturopathic Treatment Options
As naturopathic doctors, we focus on getting to the root cause of your eczema, by improving skin integrity from the outside and inside. Helping to lock in moisture will allow the skin to heal and prevent future flares from being as severe and as frequent. We focus on skin integrity so intently because our skin is the first point of contact for everything we come in contact with, so of course we want it to be resistant to bacteria and irritants! Reducing inflammation, restoring optimal gut health, and managing stress are other main components of our treatment plans.
Here are some of our go-to tips for reducing eczema:
OATMEAL BATHS. For intense breakouts we typically recommend trying an oatmeal bath. This may sound odd, but oats are very soothing and reduce itch like a charm. You can buy pre-made kits but we prefer to make our own.
- What you will need: Blender/ Food Processor, ½ cup of oatmeal, cheesecloth
- What you will do: grind/ blend oats into a fine consistent powder. Test 1 tsp of the powder in water; you are looking for a milky liquid consistency with a silky feel. If this texture isn’t what you see; keep blending. Add oat powder into the cheesecloth and secure. Place the bundle into a warm bath and move around with your hands. Soak in the tub for 5-10 minutes.
- ** If gluten/ wheat is one of your sensitivities, try using gluten free oats or skip this step all together.
- WARM! NOT HOT. When it comes to bathing/ showering, opting for lukewarm water is the way to go with eczema. Avoid using hot water as it can further dry out the skin.
- TIMING. We all love a long hot bath/ shower. However, when it comes to those with eczema this can be causing more harm than good. Limit bathing to 5-10 minutes for kids and 10-15 minutes for adults.
- BE GENTLE. When washing, use a soft wash cloth instead of a loofa as it is less abrasive and won’t further damage the skin. After bathing, pat skin dry with your towel instead of using friction.
- FRAGRANCE FREE. Opt for hypoallergenic and/ or fragrance free products. Perfumes and other artificial additives can be very irritating and drying to already damaged skin. They can also aggravate the allergic process that is happening. Skin products with high alcohol content can also be very drying and damage that skin barrier.
MOISTURIZING. This is a key player when it comes to eczema. We know that the skin barrier is damaged and keeping moisture in is difficult. Moisturizing with a good quality emollient morning and night is essential for hydration and soothing the skin. This is key for prevention as well, so even if the eczema lesions have subsided keep moisturizing!
- CERAMIDES. We generally recommend a thick moisturizer with ceramides day and night to repair the skin from the outside. Ceramides are lipids (fats) that make up ~50% of that lipid bilayer and help enforce our skin barrier.
- CALENDULA. Our favorite herb for soothing and repairing the skin. Calendula helps reduce itch, irritation and dryness. It can be used as needed on active lesions.
LAUNDRY CARE. This is an underestimated one. The products we use around the house, especially in our laundry can affect our skin because the irritants are on our skin all day! Here are some of our recommendations to help reduce irritants to the skin:
- HYPOALLERGENIC DETERGENT. Choose laundry detergents that are hypoallergenic without artificial fragrances and dyes. Those made for sensitive skin are best.
- ATTITUDE, Seventh Generation, AspenClean, Ecover Zero
- SKIP THE FABRIC SOFTENER AND DRYER SHEETS. It's not necessary and can be causing more harm than good!
- ADD ANOTHER RINSE CYCLE. Some soaps and detergent can leave a residue on clothing and sheets. This can irritate sensitive skin. Powdered detergents are more likely to do this, so I typically recommend liquid. But adding in another rinse cycle is always a good idea.
- DRYER BALLS. Dryer sheets are full of chemicals and toxins. They contain artificial fragrances and can be very irritating to the skin. Wool dryer balls are a great alternative to prevent static and improve drying. They are also re-usable which we love. Adding a few drops of essential oils to each ball will make your laundry smelling fresh for days!
- We get our dryer balls at The Wellness Exchange.
- INCREASE HEALTHY FATS. Our skin is made up of a fatty bilayer that helps lock moisture in and keep allergens, toxins and microbes. out. With eczema this bilayer is compromised and leads to loss of moisture and increased inflammation; leading to dry, itchy and irritated skin. Obtaining healthy fats through the diet is a great way to reinforce this fatty layer.
- Foods to include: fish, olive oil, avocado, hemp hearts, chia seeds, nuts.
- INCREASE PROBIOTIC RICH FOOD. The gut has such an impact on what happens to our skin. Acne, eczema, yeast are all impacted by what we put in (and on) our bodies. Food allergies, sensitivities, stress, antibiotics, etc. can all impact our gut flora, which is essential for a healhty and robust immune system.
- Foods to include: Kefir, kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, pickles, tempeh.
- DECREASE INFLAMMATORY FOODS. Dairy and sugar are typically the biggest culprits when it comes to eczema aggravations. These are two of our most inflammatory foods and unfortunately, two of most little one’s favorites.
- Reducing these foods in the diet is always a good idea. A trial elimination of even 1-2 weeks can show big results for the skin.
- AVOID FOOD SENSITIVITIES/ ALLERGIES. Food sensitivities are common in children with eczema. The most common are dairy, gluten, eggs, nuts and some fruits. Continuing to consume aggravating foods increases inflammation and dysbiosis in the body.
- If you have suspecting food allergies, we can help guide you through a trial elimination. We also offer Food Sensitivity Testing.
FLARE PREVENTION. Once initial eczema is under control our major goals is to prevent further flares from happening
- If using prescription creams - once remission has started stop using
- Use daily moisturizer with ceramides to prevent flare up and support skin integrity
- Use herbal or prescription topicals at the FIRST sign of a flare.
If you found this article helpful, consider booking in with Dr. Ashley Shea, ND, who works commonly with eczema! You can book with Dr. Shea, ND by CLICKING HERE!
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