Eczema - how to treat
Eczema simply means inflammation of the skin. Inflammation may have many causes and since the skin is the interface between the outside world and the inside body, there are many possible causes of this inflammation. The starting point for all problems is the The general approach to maintaining and restoring good health.
The causes which I see in order of importance are as follows:
Causes and things to try
- Dry Skin: Avoid soap and water which remove oils from the skin. Use an emollient such as Oil Emol as a soap substitute, shower rather than bathe, or best of all hardly wash at all.
- Nutritional Supplements: All eczema patients should take nutritional supplements and also essential fatty acids as in evening primrose oil. Epogam used to be on prescription specifically for the treatment of eczema - the starting dose is 8 capsules a day and most patients end up on a maintenance dose of 2 - 4. Zinc is a common deficiency and 30mgs daily should be taken in addition to the nutritional supplements I like people to take at all times.
- Infection: We all have bacteria on our skin but eczema patients seem to get allergic to these bacteria especially the staphylococci. These bacteria inhabit the cracks in the skin where there is an allergic/infectious reaction causing inflammation and itching. I think this explains why children are prone to eczema in the creases of the elbows and behind the knees where the skin is thinner. I recommend using an emollient which has at least 2 different antibacterials in it such as Dermal 500, in order to prevent resistant strains of staphlococci emerging. All eczema patients should have a regular supply of Fucidin ointment and apply liberally to any broken or cracked skin to prevent infection getting in. Be careful of creams which contain preservatives and may cause allergy in their own right.
- Allergies: I think of allergies in 4 groups namely inhalants, foods, chemicals and micro-organisms (mites, yeast and bacteria).
- Inhalant allergy - Nearly all eczema sufferers are house-dust mite sensitive and sufferers should take anti-house-dust mite measures. Allergy to animal furs can be tested by rubbing the offending fur into the skin to see if there is a reaction such as itch or redness - see Housedust and Mites.
- Allergies to foods - Any food can cause eczema but in my experience those most commonly implicated are dairy products, egg, additives, colourings, flavourings and wheat. If a baby develops eczema and is breast-fed, then the mother must avoid the provoking food since food antigens are readily able to pass from the maternal gut into the blood stream and from there into the breast milk. Do the Stone Age Diet
- Chemical Sensitivity - Chlorine in water is very sensitising and many eczema sufferers do not tolerate public swimming baths. Some children do not tolerate the chlorine in tap water. Care should be taken using creams which often contain preservatives, hence my preference for ointments. See Healthy House.
- Gut dysbiosis - It is perfectly possible to be allergic to bugs in the gut. Indeed a recent Lancet study showed that mothers taking probiotics before and after delivery reduced the incidence of atopy (i.e. allergy) in the babies by 50%. See Probiotics.
If all the above things fail, it's time to try desensitisation
Eczema patients often have multiple causes for their skin problems and therefore I have a low threshold for starting desensitisation. I like to use enzyme potentiated desensitisation which I find extremely effective in treating eczema. Indeed if somebody told me I had to save EPD for just one group of patients, then it would be for eczema since the results are reliably good.
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