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If you suffer from the itch and sting of eczema, you might think natural solutions don’t have what it takes to bring relief. The trick is to avoid being superficial.
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Often triggered by an allergy, eczema (atopic dermatitis) involves excess moisture loss, leading to dehydrated skin that is easily damaged, and hard edges around lesions that can get caught and tear into healthy skin. Keep skin hydrated with a few lifestyle strategies combined with soothing topicals. Short, warm showers are better than hot baths that can damage lipids in your skin. Use coconut oil in place of soap on face and body skin. If you prefer a bath, soak in warm water for no more than 15 minutes to prevent moisture from leaving your skin. For a soothing soak, toss one cup of Epsom salts and ¼ cup of olive oil in the tub with you.
After your quick rinse, apply avocado oil to still-moist skin to seal in moisture. Closely resembling your skin’s natural oils, avocado is gentle on sensitive skin. Zinc creams, similar to baby’s diaper creams, also provide a great moisture trap. Also similar to our skin oils, jojoba oil is a perfect facial moisturizer. Apply creams several times daily.
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Common eczema triggers
•foods including peanuts, wheat, soy, milk, eggs, citrus, sugar and seasonings like mustard and garlic
•nickel (bra clasps, belt buckles, jean studs, jewellery)
•medicinal preparations including lanolin, neomycin, fusidic acid, steroid creams and cetearyl alcohol
•chromium found in foods like broccoli, grape juice and red wine, and whole wheat
•elevated stress levels
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Scratching the surface
Eczema involves more than irritated, itchy and often sore skin: approximately 90% of people with eczema have a bacterial Staphylococcus aureus infection. S.aureus antagonizes eczema by secreting superantigens and structural molecules into the wall of skin cells, triggering inflammation. Studies show the bacteria can cause a secondary infection for those with eczema, and can also cause inflammation in skin that doesn’t appear to be infected.
While bacterial infection is common, studies don’t support the use of antibiotics for atopic dermatitis. Instead, try botanical remedies like Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) to support your immune system and for their cleansing properties. To soothe infected skin, look for salves containing extracts of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) or boswellia, or apply raw honey directly to the lesion. Because of its antibacterial properties, raw, organic coconut oil is a soothing solution that also helps to trap moisture in damaged skin.
From a different perspective, research done in the homes of those with severe and persistent eczema discovered high levels of S. aureus in the bed sheets. If you are suffering through a difficult bout, add some tea tree oil to your wash cycle and change sheets often. Because dermatitis is aggravated by friction, consider getting yourself some sexy silk sheets, too: research suggests that silk next to the skin promotes healing.
Skin cells are only as good as the building material they’re made of, so give yours what they need to be hydrated, vibrant and healthy. The membrane of every cell of your body is made up of fat. For plump, nourished cells, make sure your diet contains ample omega 3 fats from nuts, seeds, deep water fatty fish and fish oils. Because inflammation is a factor with eczema, be sure you have adequate anti-inflammatory omega 6 fat gamma linolenic acid (GLA) in your diet. Unfortunately, many people with eczema have trouble converting omega 6 fats into GLA, so take your GLA directly from spirulina or the oils of borage, evening primrose and hemp. Remember, if your body only has access to weak, trans-fats from French fries and baked goods, your skin will reflect it.
Eczema is often related to Candida albicans overgrowth. Limit dietary sugars and be sure to use probiotic supplements to help re-establish balance in the digestive tract.
Add a daily multiple to your nutrient-dense diet. Look for zinc in seafood and pumpkin seeds, selenium in Brazil nuts and salmon, along with silica in leafy vegetables and brown rice to promote vibrant skin. Beta carotene in orange vegetables converts to skin healing vitamin A, while Vitamin C in citrus and peppers is also necessary for skin repair. Be sure you balance your intake of diuretics like coffee and tea with pure, filtered water to replenish moisture from the inside.
By Lisa Petty