Culture: How you can get on top of eczema by Carole Baker
This month sees National Eczema Week. There seems to be an increase in this debilitating skin condition so I thought I would do some up-to-date research on the causes of and the latest natural treatments available for.
The first point I would like to make is that the skin is the largest organ in the body and can absorb anything we place on it directly into the blood stream, as well as excrete our sweat. So, I refer you to the recent articles on trying to avoid the many, many nasty chemical products contained in health and beauty products from creams, shower gels, hair products and make up.
Phthalates are shown to make eczema worse in children. Phthalates, as well as being contained in many plastic toys, are also found in many scented and cosmetic products, where they stabilise the fragrance, increase spread ability and enhance absorption. So you’ll find them in deodorants, nail polish, hair spray, perfumes, lotions, creams and powders (including baby lotions, creams and powders). The chemicals from these products can be absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream.
Bisphenol A (BPA) has also been sown to make eczema worse in children and is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles. They may also be used in other consumer goods.
Epoxy resins are used to coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines. Some dental sealants and composites also may contain BPA.
What can you do to avoid exposure?
Use BPA-free products. Manufacturers are creating more and more BPA-free products. Look for products labelled as BPA-free.
Cut back on cans. Reduce your use of canned foods since lots of cans are lined with BPA-containing resin.
Avoid heat. Advice says do not microwave polycarbonate plastics or put them in the dishwasher, because the plastic may break down over time and allow BPA to leach into foods.
Use alternatives. Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers and also think about the positive impact on the environment!
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
There are some interesting studies that have looked at how our diet in pregnancy can either prevent or predispose our children to eczema.
Taking probiotics whilst pregnant and giving specialist baby probiotics at birth can be preventative.
Exclusive breastfeeding reduces the incidence of eczema.
Fish oil supplementation during pregnancy and breastfeeding may reduce the incidence of infant allergy.
Omega 3 fatty acids in breast milk protect against atopic eczema and allergic sensitisation in infancy.
The digestive link
There are many recent scientific studies linking poor gut function and much disease and particularly eczema and other allergies.
If you haven’t read either of these two books, I highly recommend them:
GUT by Giulia Enders
The Clever Guts Diet by Dr Michael Mosley
In these you will discover just how important your gut micro biome is to every function in your body.
Here are just a selection of some of the studies:
Supplementation of lactobacillus sakei in children with eczema-dermatitis syndrome is associated with a substantial clinical improvement.
Probiotic supplementation may stabilise the intestinal barrier function and decrease gastrointestinal symptoms in children with atopic dermatitis.
Supplementation of mothers and their babies with the probiotic lactobacillus reuteri reduces IgE-associated eczema and may reduce respiratory allergic disease later in life.
Supplementation with L. reuteri during late pregnancy reduces breast milk levels of TGF-beta2, which may be associated with less sensitisation and possibly less IgE-associated eczema in breast-fed infants.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG significantly reduces eczema in the first two years of life.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus supplementation given to pregnant mothers and their offspring during the first six months of life is effective in preventing atopic disease in children at high risk.
Probiotic and prebiotic supplementation improves the symptoms of children with atopic dermatitis.
Prebiotic foods include: Garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, bananas, whole oats, apples, flaxseeds (linseeds)
The liver is the centre of detoxification for your body so it is important to note that sometimes if the liver is unable to process a substance, it will cry for help by excreting the toxins through the skin.
From personal experience, my middle daughter developed eczema when she was about six months old and started weaning – it was in the crook of her arms, behind her ears and backs of knees. I took her to see a nutritionist (which 23 years ago was quite controversial!) and she suggested a link with cows milk – we took that out of her diet (she tolerated a little goats milk) and the symptoms completely disappeared, never to return. She still doesn’t eat dairy and survives just fine (that’s in reply to those who say a human can’t survive without the calcium it gets from dairy products – rubbish!)
1 in 3 with atopic eczema have anti milk antibodies
Increasing fermented foods (hence link with probiotics) can improve eczema
Exclusion diets (under strict guidance from a nutritional Therapist) can reduce symptoms
Wheat intolerance is a common causative factor in atopic dermatitis.
Vitamin D deficiency was higher among children with asthma, allergic rhinitis, atopic dermatitis, acute urticaria, and food allergy.
Scientific research articles exist on the following treatments for eczema and dermatological conditions
Evening Primrose oil EPO has a simultaneous, beneficial effect on itch/pruritus, crusting, oedema and redness (erythema) that becomes apparent between four and eight weeks after treatment is initiated.
However, the magnitude of this effect is reduced in association with increasing frequency of potent steroid use.
Homeopathic remedies – there are many studies showing the effectiveness of various homeopathic remedies on eczema and other allergic conditions (consult a registered homeopathburyhomeopaths.co.uk )
Manuka honey/virgin coconut oil applied topically have both been shown to improve skin conditions in eczema.
* With thanks togreenmedinfo.com for Scientific research articles.
The suggestions in this article are the personal opinion of the author. Please do not take any new remedies if you are currently on any medication without the consent of your GP.
Carole Baker is founder of The Self Centre,
Bury St Edmunds