According to the National Eczema Association, 31.6 million Americans struggle with eczema to some degree. They also estimate that 17.8 million suffer from moderate to severe symptoms. It is incredibly common. This week, we want to discuss some of the causes, symptoms, and natural treatment options for flare-ups. As always, check out this week's recipes and current office announcements.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is an inflammation of the skin. It is also referred to as dermatitis. There are a number of varieties of eczema. We've outlined a few of them below.
The most common type of eczema is called atopic dermatitis, which can be described as a red, itchy, scaly rash. Because of its appearance, it can be confused for an allergic reaction. Atopic dermatitis is more commonly observed in children rather than adults.
Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin touches irritating substances or chemicals. Flare-ups can be caused by an irritant such as detergents, paint, acidic foods, fragrances, tobacco smoke, bleach etc. Contact dermatitis can present as a rash, redness, swelling, or blistering of the skin.
Dyshidrotic dermatitis affects fingers, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. It causes itchy, scaly patches of skin that flake or become red, cracked, and painful. It can also present as small fluid-filled blisters. The condition is more common in women. Stress, allergies, or moist hands and feet can trigger a flare-up.
Nummular eczema causes dry, round patches of skin. Symptoms can include round coin-shaped spots, wet, open sores, or dry scaly skin. It is more common in men.
Seborrheic dermatitis causes itchy, red, scaly rashes, particularly on the scalp, on the eyebrows, on the eyelids, on the sides of the nose, and behind the ears.
Stasis dermatitis usually occurs when there is a problem with blood flow in the veins, increasing pressure in the area. It is most often observed in the lower legs. This pressure can cause fluid to leak out of the veins and into the skin, resulting in stasis dermatitis. Symptoms of stasis dermatitis include swelling around the ankles, redness, itching, pain, open sores, and oozing.
Eczema is more common in infants and children between 6 months and 5 years old. Ten percent to 20 percent of all infants have eczema, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, nearly half outgrow the condition.
Symptoms of Eczema
As stated above, eczema and its symptoms vary greatly. It may even appear in different areas of the body at different times. In addition to the symptoms outlined above, these are the most common symptoms associated with eczema:
- Dry, sensitive skin
- Red, inflamed skin
- Rough, leathery or scaly patches of skin
- Itching -- mild to severe
- Dark colored patches of skin
- Oozing or crusting of the skin
What Causes Eczema?
There are a variety of factors attributed to eczema flare-ups. Eczema can be caused by an abnormal response to proteins that are part of the body. Normally, the immune system ignores proteins that are part of the human body and attacks only the proteins of invaders, such as bacteria or viruses. With eczema, the immune system may lose the ability to distinguish between the two. Most scientists believe that this confusion of the immune system can be attributed to a patient's genetics.
Other factors which may cause a flare-up can include stress, chemicals found in cleaners and detergents, rough scratchy material, synthetic fabrics, raised body temperature, sweating, food allergies, or upper respiratory infections.
What are Natural Treatments for Eczema?
Leave the Skin Alone
This may seem almost impossible when you are experiencing a flare-up. Itching caused by eczema can make it very tempting to scratch. However, if the skin is broken, infection is possible especially if the immune system is already weakened. Apply a salve or moist towel to the affected area to ease itching.
Some people with eczema may not tolerate soaking in water. If you do tolerate it, adding magnesium flakes (magnesium chloride) and Himalayan salt to the bath can help to ease symptoms. You can also use epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to achieve the same result. Magnesium in either form is easily absorbed into the skin, resulting in a local and systemic reduction in inflammation.
If soaking in a bath is uncomfortable, a spray made from water and epsom salt can ease the pain if the eczema flare-up if wet or oozing.
Reduce Allergens and Inflammatory Agents
Food, environmental factors, and skin care products can all cause allergic reactions that trigger eczema symptoms. Many brands of soap, lotion, laundry detergent, and disinfectants contain chemicals which can trigger eczema.
Pet dander, pollen, and mold can also trigger in inflammatory response and can increase the severity of eczema symptoms.
Inflammatory foods such as processed ingredients, sugar, gluten, and dairy may also contribute to a flare-up.
Research shows that probiotic supplements can have a protective effect when it comes to skin health. By increasing the level of healthy probiotics in the gut, your body is better equipped to fight the bad bacteria which is fed by sugar, alcohol, and processed foods. The gut is the root of infection and inflammation. Heal the gut first and overall health will follow.
Increase Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake
Fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Numerous studies have linked omega-3's to an improvement in eczema and psoriasis symptoms when taken in higher doses. Just ask Dr. P to be tested at your next appointment to see which omega-3 supplement you best respond to. Olive oil, flaxseed, nuts, and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel are all powerful sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Please note that omega-6 fatty acids, found in safflower, sunflower, and corn oil, have been shown to worsen inflammation.
Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant found in turmeric. It has been shown to protect skin by neutralizing free radicals and reducing wound-healing time.
Aloe is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It also provides a cooling sensation for itchy skin. Keep an aloe plant in your home so it is readily available when you need a little relief. Snip off a leaf and apply it to the infected area.
Apply Healing Oils
Certain natural essential oils have anti-inflammatory and soothing properties which might help keep sensitive skin from flaring up. Lavender and tea tree oils have antibacterial properties. Lavender is also helpful in reducing inflammation and skin redness. Frankincense is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, as is chamomile. Neroli has been found to soothe inflamed, itchy skin. We recommend using essential oils that you respond to. Choose which scents smell good to you and then introduce a few drops of your chosen oils into a carrier oil before applying to your skin.
We are a fan of using organic coconut oil as a lotion. Coconut oil has anti-fungal, anti-microbial, and antioxidant properties, all of which will help to ease eczema symptoms.
Another option is to use olive oil as a moisturizer or carrier oil as it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. If your scalp is affected, you could try applying olive oil to your scalp before a shower. Allow the olive oil to soak in and nourish the scalp for 30 minutes or so, then shower as usual.
Dr. P is in the process of developing a treatment cream for those who suffer from eczema, psoriasis, fungal infections, dermatitis, allergy rashes, windburn, or dry skin. It includes Phytoplenolin, an extract from the Australian native plant known as Centipeda Cunninghamii. The plant has been used by Australian aborigines for many years and is highly regarded for its healing properties. The active components in the extract have shown to have outstanding cell renewal, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. For more information about this new product, please contact the front desk.
We also carry Magicream, which can be helpful for those who suffer from eczema, as well as other dermatological conditions such as shingles, dermatitis, psoriasis, diaper rash, and very dry skin. Below is a link to our online store.
Shrimp and Sausage Skillet
Recipe Credit: www.paleonewbie.com
- 1 lb of medium or large shrimp (peeled and deveined)
- 6 oz of pre-cooked smoked sausage, chopped (choose your favorite)
- 3/4 cup diced red bell pepper
- 3/4 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1/2 of a medium yellow onion, diced
- 1/4 cup bone broth
- 1 zucchini, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Olive oil or coconut oil
- Optional garnish: chopped parsley
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with some olive oil or coconut oil
- Season shrimp with paprika and sea salt.
- Cook shrimp about 3-4 minutes until opaque – remove and set aside
- Cook onions and bell peppers in skillet with 2 Tbsp of olive oil or coconut oil for about 2 minutes
- Add sausage and zucchini to the skillet, cook another 2 minutes
- Put cooked shrimp back into skillet along with the garlic, and cook everything for about 1 minute
- Pour bone broth into pan and mix through to moisten everything
- Add salt, ground pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
- Remove from heat, garnish with parsley and serve hot
Paleo Chicken Curry with
Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes
Recipe Credit: www.abbeyskitchen.com
*Note: we omitted frozen peas from this recipe and
substituted pureed tomatoes for tomato sauce.
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil divided
- 8 boneless chicken thighs
- Pinch each of salt and pepper
- 1/2 onion finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp ginger grated
- 2 1/2 tsp curry powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp dried coriander
- Pinch of cayenne
- 3 cups pureed tomatoes
- 2 small or 1 large sweet potato peeled and finely diced
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 1 small head cauliflower cut into small florets
- 1 cup baby spinach
- Cilantro if desired as garnish
- Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add in one teaspoon of oil. Season the chicken with a pinch each of salt and pepper and sear on both sides until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Once golden brown, transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Return the pan to medium heat and add in the additional teaspoon of oil. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the garlic, ginger, curry, coriander, cumin and cayenne and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Next, add in the tomato puree and the sweet potatoes, cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 7-8 minutes, until the sweet potato pieces begin to soften.
- Pour in the coconut milk, and then nestle in the chicken thighs and cauliflower. Cover the pan with a lid and cook until the cauliflower and sweet potato softens, and the chicken thighs are cooked to an internal temperature of 165- 175 F, about 5-7 minutes.
- Remove the lid and stir in the spinach and peas. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro and enjoy.