If you struggle with eczema, you know that the redness, swelling, itching, dryness, crusting, flaking, and blistering can range from bothersome to debilitating. I have encountered clients in my practice who suffer with eczema so severe that the itching and blisters interfere with sleep and even social engagements. We've been told there is no cure for eczema, but it is possible to improve your symptoms, or even heal yourself, by starting from the inside out.
We’re largely unsure what exactly causes eczema, but scientists are fairly certain the primary cause is a genetic issue. The important point to understand is that it’s an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system is overactive and mistakes its own tissue for perceived pathogens, causing the body to attack itself. In the case of eczema, there are structural defects in the epidermis, causing impaired barrier function, meaning the skin is more permeable to toxins and antigens that aggravate the immune system. Eczema can be worsened with exposure to environmental factors such as pollen or pet dander and internal factors such as irregular stress hormone (cortisol) levels. The topical creams and steroids you’ve been given may help but don't ultimately address the underlying cause, and they may have side effects.
The goal in treating eczema — and any autoimmune disease — is to determine what’s causing the immune overactivity and reduce systemic inflammation. It starts with food! The following foods may exacerbate eczema because many people cannot properly digest the proteins, causing an allergic reaction that provokes an immune response:
Remove these foods from the diet for 30 days, then add them back in, one at a time, to determine if they cause a reaction or flare-up. This is an allergy-elimination diet. During the 30-day healing phase, clean up your environment: Get rid of toxic cleaning products and cosmetics containing ingredients you can't pronounce. Replace these with natural products, many of which you can make yourself.
Begin taking the following supplements during your 30 day food elimination period:
- Vitamin D, 5,000 – 10,000 IUs.
- Fermented cod liver oil for essential fatty acids and vitamins A and D, both great for skin and immune health.
- Full spectrum probiotics
- Consider taking L-glutamine, up to 3,000mg daily, to heal the gut lining if you have digestive issues like gas, bloating, or heartburn.
- Take a digestive enzyme to help your body digest and break down food.
- Drink aloe vera juice and licorice tea. Both are soothing to the body and healing for the digestive tract.
Apply coconut oil to the skin and make sure you're eating plenty of good fats! Besides coconut oil, use olive oil, ghee, avocado, and eat omega 3-rich foods such as wild salmon and walnuts. Good fats are essential for skin health.
Last but not least, address your stress levels. High cortisol exacerbates inflammation both in the digestive tract and throughout the body. Consider an adrenal stress index saliva test to measure cortisol irregularities. And get some sleep, eight hours every night!
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com