Eczema and Skin Dermititis
Eczema/dermatitis is the common term for inflammatory diseases of the skin. Most skin diseases that are inflammatory in nature (eczema and dermatitis) are multi-factorial and can be treated holistically. It is important to recognize that the skin is not an isolated organ; in almost all cases the topical rash or dermatitis is a manifestation of some allergic reaction occurring inside the body. Skin tissue is intimately connected with other organs, including the nervous system.
Since the skin is an organ of elimination, it is helpful to assess the other organs involved in the elimination of toxins from the body, including the lungs, bowels, and kidneys. Increasing the efficacy of these organs can help to reduce the stress placed on the skin by an overloaded toxic system. This will also reduce the risk of an exacerbation of symptoms.
TYPES OF ECZEMA/DERMATITIS
Atopic eczema is the most common type of dermatitis that is allergic in nature. Atopic eczema is characterized by an itchy skin rash that can also be scaly, red, and with lesions that weep. It usually occurs in skin flexures (especially behind the knees and inside the elbows), but can occur on other areas of the body as well, including the face, neck, wrists, ankles, palms, fingers, and scalp. Atopic eczema is likely associated with heredity, and sufferers may have greater incidence of hay fever and asthma.
Allergic contact dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the skin comes in contact with an allergen that the skin is sensitive to. Symptoms include itching, swelling, redness, blistering and weeping, and usually occur within 24-48 hours of initial contact. There are many sources of contact dermatitis, but contact with plants is the most common.
Nummular eczematous dermatitis
Nummular eczematous dermatitis involves a very stubborn rash, which forms circular lesions on the skin. The lesions resemble ringworm or impetigo, and the condition tends to be chronic.
Hand eczema may occur with other skin conditions like psoriasis. Excessive exposure to irritants (chemicals) may initiate and aggravate the disorder.
Seborrhea is a form of dermatitis that most commonly affects the scalp, eyelids, and face.
Winter eczema occurs commonly on the lower legs of the elderly and appears as fine cracks of the hands during the dry seasons of winter.
There is surmounting evidence that food allergies and hypersensitivities play a major role in dermatitis. It is well known that sensitivity to particular foods and increased intestinal permeability go hand in hand. Many people have intolerances to foods, and they consequently have a history of gastrointestinal problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, Salmonella poisoning, leaky gut syndrome, and chronic antibiotic therapy. All of these can cause inflammation, which can exacerbate skin reactions. Dermatitis from GI diseases such as celiac disease will usually respond to the removal of gluten from the diet. The classical symptoms of gluten sensitivity include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating, and fatigue. In many cases removal of dairy products from the diet has improved skin problems, including eczema.
Eczema can frequently be associated with the overgrowth of Candida albicans, an unfriendly yeast in the gut and intestinal tract. The consequences of a yeast overgrowth includes the development of food sensitivities that might trigger a bout of eczema.
Heredity is a factor that cannot be excluded as a major factor in skin manifestations. One study indicates that infants have more than twice the risk of developing eczema if their mothers had asthma or eczema during pregnancy.
Other dermatological “triggers” vary from person to person but tend to include anxiety or stress, cold and/or dry weather, and infections such as colds or flu. Others forms of eczema and dermatitis have an increased prevalence of serum IgG antibodies reactive with wheat gluten, eggs, and bovine milk.
Food allergies are assuredly the most common cause or “trigger” associated with eczema. It is vital to eliminate or severely limit the consumption of allergic-prone foods. The most common food allergens are dairy products, wheat gluten, nuts, eggs and soy. Other allergens are refined sugar, coffee, soda pop with artificial sweeteners, citrus fruits, fried foods, red meats, and animal fats. Attempt to desensitize food allergies or follow the Elimination Diet. Salicylate-rich foods have been implicated in dermatitis exacerbations. These foods include strawberries, tomatoes, peaches, and apricots.
A low-protein, vegetarian diet can be helpful, most likely because it is predominantly alkaline in nature and high in fiber. Increase fiber foods (plant floods) and cold-water fish; try to bring weight to normal levels.
One study found that 41 percent of eczema patients were allergic to eggs; 19.5 percent to peanuts; 12 percent to soy foods; 8.3 percent to wheat gluten; and 6 percent to cow’s milk.
- VITAMIN C
This vitamin reduces sensitivity to air toxins, prevents bronchial spasms, blocks histamine, and acts as an antihistamine. A variety of in vitro and in vivo experiments have shown that select flavonoids possess anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant activities. It is important to maintain adequate doses, especially during seasonal allergen exposure. Even higher doses are recommended for neutralizing moderate or severe allergic reactions. Dosage: 250-6,000 mg, depending on age and severity. See a qualified health-care practitioner for safe dosing.
- OMEGA 3, 6 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS (FISH OIL EPA/DHA, BORAGE OIL, GAMMA LINOLENIC ACID, PRIMROSE OIL, AND FLAXSEED OIL)
Eczema sufferers often have fatty acid imbalances—too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3 fatty acids. The cold-pressed oils help in the treatment of dermatitis and eczema by increasing fat metabolism, offering anti-inflammatory benefits, easing eruptions, and improving the overall condition of the skin. Omega fats also promote lubrication of the skin, relieving itching and dryness. In Some studies, borage oil was the best source. Dosage: 2,000-5,000 mg daily, or as directed by a qualified practitioner. Fish oil can also be applied topically.
- TOPICAL SALVES
Although conventional eczema treatments use steroid creams to soothe irritation, frequently these creams when overused can lead to an increase in inflammatory triggers and support the growth of candida. I recommend the use of Jungle Salve, a unique salve from the rainforests of Belize. Other topical ingredients include Aloe vera gel, vitamin E, cortisone, calendula, and natural cortisone. Jungle salve is compounded by Dr. Dan Wagner. The main ingredient is the bark of the gumbo limbo tree (Bursera simaruba) from Central America. Call 1-877-289-7478 for information. Another effective topical treatment includes adding /4 cup of olive oil with ¼ cup Epsom salts to a warm bath. Or soak in Epsom salts and massage olive oil into skin when you come out of the tub.
Lactobacillus can safely be used to reduce atopic eczema usually caused by the increase production of yeast (Candida albicans) Probiotics are safe to use in children and infants. Probiotics can be added to milk, vegetable juices, or water to aid in digestion. Dosage: One or two capsules 3-4 times a day between meals for 2-3 weeks, then maintain 1 or 2 daily.
- MSM (METHYLSULFONYYLMETHANE)
MSM is a potent anti-inflammatory derived from a natural source of the mineral sulfur. It plays a number of important roles in the body, including limiting the buildup of allergens. Unlike antihistamines, MSM acts to suppress histamine production and blocks histamine from being lodged in the sensitive tissues of mucous membranes. Dosage: 500-3,000 mg daily, as needed or as directed by a qualified practitioner.
This adaptogenic herb has anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, and adrenal-boosting action. In one study half the children supplementing with licorice for 4 weeks had a 90 percent reduction in symptoms. Licorice is used by many naturopathic physicians in Australia for chronic eczema, in combination with other herbs such as DANDELION ROOT, REHMANNIA, ASHWAGANDA, GOTU KOLA, VALERIAN, BURDOCK, and SKULLCAP.
An important mineral that aids in healing and enhances the immune system, zinc is responsible for the utilization of vitamin A at the skin level. It is required for the production of cortisol, an adrenal hormone used to decrease the inflammatory exacerbations of dermatitis. Dosage: 25-75 mg daily.
- B-COMPLEX VITAMINS
These essential water-soluble vitamins are necessary for healthy skin and proper circulation. B vitamins are needed for the reproduction of cells, including skin cells, nerve cells, hair cells, and others. B vitamins are nature’s anti-stress vitamins and may be helpful in reducing dermatitis, especially when it is stress-induced. Extra B vitamins needed include NIACIN (100 mg 2-3 times a day), VITAMIN B6 (50 mg 3 times a day), VITAMIN B12 (1,000-2,000 mcg daily), and BIOTIN (2-8 grams daily). Dosage: 50-100 mg of each major B vitamin 2-3 times a day.
- BETAINE HCL
This plant-based form of hydrochloric acid is especially helpful in treating people with dermatitis induced by gastrointestinal problems. Many gastro problems stem from low stomach acid concentration (hypochlorhydria). Dosage: As directed on label. CAUTION: Do not take this product if you suffer from too much stomach acid.
Follow a whole-body detoxification (bowel and liver) with lots of pure water, raw fruits and vegetables, and easily digestible proteins like almonds, beans, and seeds. This regimen should definitely be followed if all other therapies seem to fail.
- VITAMIN E
This important antioxidant enhances the immune system and helps to maintain healthy skin. Vitamin E supplementation may relieve dryness and itching. Dosage: 400-800 IU daily; vitamin E oil may be applied freely on the skin.
- VITAMIN A
Vitamin A is an important antioxidant vitamin needed for smooth skin. In higher doses it may prevent skin dryness. Dosage: 5,000-25,000 IU daily. Higher doses should be taken strictly under the supervision of a physician.
- WHOLE-FOOD GREEN DRINKS or POWDERS
These potent superfoods are packed with nutrition, vitamins, enzymes, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. They often contain synergized algae (chlorella, kelp, dulse, kombu); phytonutrients and enzymes (papaya fruit, blueberries, natural plant enzymes); green juices (oak grass, alfalfa grass, parsley, kale, spinach); and herbs and natural antioxidants (rosemary, sage).
A fruit cultivated in the tropical regions of both the eastern and western hemisphere. Sometimes called the “queen of fruits,” it has long been recognized in Asia for its powerful anti-inflammatory effect and is effective in treating eczema and other skin conditions. Dosage: As directed.
Silicon is a mineral required for the structural integrity of connective tissue. When supplemented in a bioactive form, it has been shown to improve aged skin and reduce wrinkles. Dosage: As directed on package.
- COLEUS FORSKOHLII
Coleus Forskohlii contains the diterpene forskolin, which activates cyclic AMP, which can be helpful in decreasing histamine release and cellular proliferation, especially with psoriasis. It may also decrease inflammation associated with eczema. Dosage: As instructed.
- VITAMIN D3
Vitamin D3 is an antioxidant mineral that aids in the healing of tissues. Dosage: 400-1,000 IU daily.
Echinacea is often overlooked as an effective topical medicine and may be useful in atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and herpes simplex. It has been approved in Germany for poorly healing wounds and chronic ulceration. Dosage: As directed by practitioner.
Tumeric has long been used in treating skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis, blemishes, dry skin, discoloration, irritation, and sun damage. Dosage: As directed.
Alternative & Complementary Therapies. April 1999. Pp. 106-109.
Balch, JF, Balch PA. Prescription for Nutritional Healing- 3rd edition. Penguin Putman Inc. New York, NY. 2000.
Biotics Research. Recognizing Induced Digestive Toxic Overload. Copywrite 1998.
Cook, T. Effective Herbal Treatment of Allergies. Medi-Herb Modern Phytotherapist, 2003. 8(1): 8-11.
Dean, K. Plant Patents. Herbalgram: No. 49. Fall 2000. Pp. 30-31.
Hair Analysis information. ARL Analytical Research. Phoenix, AZ. 85021.
Marion, JB. Anti Aging Manual. Information Pioneers, S. Woodstock, CT. 1996.
May. M. Pure Synergy brochure. The Synergy Company, Moab, UT. 2003.
Naguib, Y. Facing Up to Skin Disorders- Naturally. Vitamin Reviewer, Oct 2002. 9(10): 61-65.
Passwater, RA. Bioactive Silicon Improves Aged Skin. Whole Foods, April 2005. 28(4): 48-57.
Petty, L. Erasing Eczema. Alive #275, September 2005. Pp 82-83.
Templeman, JF. An Asian Medical Secret. Alive #282, April 2006. P. 112.
Van Niel, CW, et al. Lactobacillus Therapy in Acute Infectious Diarrhea in Children. Pediatrics, (109): 678-84.
White, L. Herbal Eczema Remedies. Natural Science News, January 1999. 4(1): 46.
Yarnell, E. Botanacal Medicines for Dermatological Conditions. JAG Group, 2000.
Up Next: Hepatitis C (HCV)