Living Eczema-Free – Five Natural Steps Which Might Help You Live an Eczema-Free Life
Anyone who suffers from eczema knows how distressing it can be. More than just an itchy and uncomfortable skin condition, its sufferers run the risk of infection and often carry not only physical symptoms but also psychological ones. After all our skin is a part of us that we show to the world.
Unfortunately, eczema can be a difficult condition to get rid of. Indeed, most medical practitioners will tell you that it is a lifelong condition (if one hasn’t grown out of it naturally in childhood) and that there is no cure. And so they don’t try. Instead, they try to manage it, throwing a questionable brew of steroid creams, topical immunomodulators, antibiotics, and even ultraviolet radiation therapy at the problem.
The thing is, these treatments don’t work very well, at least not in the long term. They also carry the risk of adverse side effects, including weakening the very thing they are trying to protect – the skin!
In light of this, an increasing number of people are looking for alternatives to pharmaceutical drugs, making changes in their life which offer the hope of living without eczema, rather than simply managing it.
Some of these choices are not easy to make, nor are they easy to maintain. But they can be worth it, especially if conventional medicines don’t work for you or you are concerned about the potential adverse impact these medications might have.
Here are five natural steps you can take to help treat eczema and perhaps even live eczema-free:
1. Check Your Diet for Hidden Allergies
A wealth of research exists to show that dietary allergens help cause and perpetuate skin disease. Many of the food types that might cause eczema are well known and include:
- dairy products (especially milk and eggs);
- preservatives in food, including sulphites (look for the numbers E220-228 on food labels) and colour and flavour enhancers (MSG boosters like 627, 631, and 635
When you stop to consider the western diet, this is quite a list. But it is not definitive. Whilst many eczema sufferers are aware that consumption of the above foods can come with the risk of a breakout, fewer know that even foods we identify as ‘healthy’ bring with them an attendant risk. The biggest danger here are salicylates, which are often found in the healthiest of foods, including fruit and vegetables. Salicylates are natural pesticides that are present in most plant life, but particularly in tomatoes, broccoli, citrus, and juices. They are also a major ingredient in aspirin and other pain-relieving medications.
In the end, to discover whether your eczema is caused by food allergens, you will be well served to embark on an elimination diet, which requires you to eliminate certain foods from your diet for a specified time (usually 3-4 weeks) before slowly reintroducing them, one food type at a time, until you discover what is causing your allergic reaction.
If you are an eczema sufferer, it’s quite possible that the trigger for your condition lies in the food that you eat.
2. Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic Environmental Chemicals
Let’s start this section with a disclaimer. Unless you live in a remote jungle, without access to technology, and all your food and clothing is sourced from the local fauna and flora, then you can’t possibly escape exposure to the thousands of toxic chemicals which are part and parcel of modern day life.
Not only can these chemicals trigger eczema in some people, they are being held increasingly accountable for the explosion of allergies generally that western society has witnessed in the last few decades.
Thankfully, with careful planning, you can at least limit your exposure to these chemicals and give your overloaded immune system a helping hand.
The best place to start is in the home. These days, there are an increasing number of non-toxic household products available, thanks largely to growing consumer demand. If you take the time to seek these products out, read ingredient labels carefully and adhere to the following guidelines, you might help to relieve the incidence and severity of eczema:
- Select cleaning products made from plant-based materials and free of synthetic fragrances.
- Avoid anti-bacterial soaps, and shampoos and toothpastes containing sulphates.
- Use certified organic skincare and makeup products.
- Choose organic fruits and vegetables for your family when you can. They have less pesticide residue.
- Avoid using synthetic pesticides. Chemical weed and bug killers are particularly noxious and their use should be avoided both inside and outside the house.
- To help ensure that pesticides and other chemicals do not enter the house, establish a ‘no shoe’ policy for your home.
- Have your tap water tested and if contaminants are found, install a reverse osmosis water filter on all your faucets.
- Do your research and make informed choices when it comes to your choice of furniture, bedding and clothes.
3. Maintain the Health and Integrity of Your Skin
Our skin has a mantle of healthy, natural bacteria that helps protect it. If these bacteria get out of balance and the skin becomes host to unwanted bacterial growth it can lead to a heightened immune response which causes inflammation (and associated redness and itching). This is what happens when eczema flares up.
It is vital therefore that we do what we can to protect these natural bacteria and maintain the pH balance (the acid/alkaline balance) of our skin. To do this, we should start by avoiding chemical surfactants (foaming agents known as sulphates and which, as noted above, we often find in everyday items such as our shampoo, our toothpaste and our laundry detergent).
Further to this, we need to start using products that have the same pH balance as our skin. World Organic products are formulated and batch tested to match optimum skin pH (our Calendula Cream has proved especially effective for a number of eczema sufferers), whilst our skin will respond positively to organic ingredients in general.
4. Look After Your Gut!
The health of our gut is intimately connected to the health of our skin. If our gut is compromised, then our skin will most likely serve as a mirror, beset by breakouts that can range from sudden rashes and acne right through to severe cases of eczema or psoriasis.
There are about 100 trillion microorganisms living in our gut – a collection of bacteria, yeasts and fungi which help produce beneficial waste products at the same time as they break down foods our bodies cannot absorb by themselves.
The problem is, most of us eat too many grains, sugars and processed foods, all of which cause bad bacteria and yeast to multiply and which create an imbalance in our gut. This can lead to a host of debilitating symptoms and conditions, including eczema.
If we want to avoid these, and help our skin to glow, then we need to preserve the balance of microorganisms in our gut, just as we must maintain the pH balance of our skin. To do this, we should not only avoid an excess of grains, sugars and processed foods (as well as antibiotics where we can), but look to supplement our diet with probiotics and fermented foods.
Whilst this might require us to substantially change our diet, the payoff for our gut, our skin, and our health is likely to be enormous.
Just as we can’t escape toxic environmental chemicals, we can’t escape stress. It is part of our modern life and can actually be good for us if managed in small doses.
A problem occurs though when we become overly stressed or stressed for extended periods of time. When this happens, our immune system is compromised and we get sick. Stress is associated with a number of different physical and psychological ailments and is known to be a key trigger in causing eczema.
The trick then is to learn how to manage stress and thereby help our bodies to function healthily. This is where meditation can be beneficial. It can take us outside whatever is bothering us, help us to breathe properly (which is so important for our general wellbeing), and provide us with the focus and peace of mind necessary to not only cope with external stressors but maximize our health.
Practising yoga can have similarly beneficial effects, as can many sustained forms of exercise.
Eczema is not easily controlled and even more difficult to beat. But it doesn’t have to be a life-long sentence, continuously managed by pharmaceutical drugs. If you are prepared to put your mind to it, and put into action some of the lifestyle and dietary changes suggested above, then you will be giving yourself the best chance to get on top of this debilitating condition.
The Health Canada website contains an excellent list of foods containing sulphites – http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/pubs/securit/2012-allergen_sulphites-sulfites/index-eng.php
The Food Intolerance Network offers an overview of flavour enhancers, their impact, and what foods you might find them in – http://fedup.com.au/factsheets/additive-and-natural-chemical-factsheets/635-ribo-rash-ribonucleotides-627-631
Whilst visiting a specialist is always advised, a good overview of elimination diets can be found on the Precision Nutrition website – http://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet