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Ask a CNAP: Integrative Help for Eczema

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Dermatitis.  Also commonly referred to as eczema; or if you have it you may call it “ick-zema,” or “itch-zema.” The terms eczema and dermatitis are often used interchangeably to describe an inflammatory skin condition with symptoms such as dry, scaly patches: areas that are crusty, flaky, and thick, which can sometimes ooze and are often red and very itchy.

There are many different types of eczema, and it affects people of all ages. Different professionals will tell you different beliefs of why certain people get eczema, depending on their own experience and training. However, a single cause is not known; it is believed that a combination of underlying problems cause eczema.

Here are some examples of how a Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner® (CNAP) might work with clients seeking seeking relief for eczema.

Client:

I’ve been struggling with eczema for a long time. It doesn’t show up all the time, but when it does, it really shows up and drives me nuts. I’ve kind of gotten used to it, but then I started seeing patches on my two-year old daughter and now I’m very concerned. She scratches at it which makes her bleed, and it’s really frustrating for both of us. I’m fed up. What can I do for both of us?

CNAP:

First of all, I’m so sorry to hear that you and your daughter are struggling with this, and I completely empathize with your frustration! I’m so glad you’ve come to talk about what holistic and integrative approaches you can try. First and foremost, I have to ask–have you had your skin and your daughter’s evaluated by a physician?

Client:

Yes. I’ve been to the dermatologist for myself, and showed my daughter’s skin to her pediatrician. In both instances it was recommended that we kept the dry patches moisturized with a heavy moisturizer like petroleum jelly or mineral oil; and that we also apply topical over-the-counter corticosteroids. This seemed to help temporarily, but the flare-ups still came back. I am also a little concerned about using steroids and petroleum-containing ingredients, as I’ve heard they’re not the best.

CNAP:

OK. I’m glad you had it checked out–it’s always better to be safe than sorry–and there are definitely alternatives to corticosteroids and petroleum jelly-containing products. The idea to reduce inflammation topically, and keep moisture in the skin, while forming a protective layer is a good one. However, there are definitely plant-based oils and butters that get the job done while also delivering anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals into the skin to help support it as it heals. We can also talk about some herbal compresses or poultices that can help. I’d also love to know if you have any known allergies or sensitivities to foods, topical products, or anything else?

Client:

I’m not positive. Neither my daughter nor I have ever been tested for allergies. I mean, I’ve noticed we both get teary eyes in the fall and spring, but it’s not anything we’ve ever had to take medicine for. Foods, I’m not sure.

CNAP:

The reason I ask is because there are several different forms of eczema, and while some are caused by direct contact to an allergen or irritant, others are related to certain foods. Common food triggers for eczema include dairy, eggs, gluten, and sugar. There is one kind–dermatitis herpetiformis–that is specifically linked to Celiac disease, which is a gluten-related medical condition. You might consider getting both yourself and your daughter tested for food sensitivities and Celiac–and we can also talk about a gentle elimination diet.

Learn more about Elements of a Safe Elimination Diet in our NAA Membership File Card Library! Click HERE to join today!

Client:

That sounds like a wise idea. What else can I do?

CNAP:

One of the greatest causes of eczema and other skin irritations is synthetic fragrances and perfumes. I would suggest making sure that none of your or your daughter’s skincare or personal care products list the words “fragrance” or “parfum” on the ingredient list, as these are always synthetic–even if the word “natural” precedes them. I’d also suggest switching to all natural laundry detergents and household cleaning products, and avoiding air fresheners. Diet-wise I would recommend that you and your daughter both cut down on the common triggers we just talked about, drink lots of water, and also make sure you have enough healthy fats in both your diets. This will help to soothe inflammation and keep moisture in from the inside out.

Client:

OK, we’ll start with that!

Additional Nutritional Aesthetics® notes for eczema:

For any person, the most important thing is to identify the triggers and avoid them as much as possible.  This can be very difficult to do for children, and especially babies or toddlers who have eczema, since they cannot effectively communicate when something is bothering them, or follow instructions to not scratch or pick. The best way to prevent eczema flare ups in children is to keep the skin well moisturized at all times with a non-irritating, hypo-allergenic emollient–but not occlusive–moisturizer.

Avoid known allergens and other common allergens such as dust, mold, pollen, pet dander, etc.  Wear breathable fabrics, and clothes that do not constrict or cause any friction during movement.  Viral or bacterial infections can often be triggers as well, so make sure you boost your immune system on the regular, and identify any possible infection so it can be addressed quickly.

Besides keeping the skin constantly nourished, hydrated, and protected and avoiding triggers, it is a good idea to check your personal care product ingredients for possible irritants other than synthetic fragrances.  Many commonly used preservatives, like formaldehyde releasing agents, phenoxyethanol, and parabens; surfactants like sodium (or ammonia) lauryl/laureth sulfate; colors and dyes; lanolin, etc. can be very irritating to the skin, and should be avoided.

Leave a comment about aromatherapy in the spa!Have you found a way to keep eczema under control, or get rid of it completely?

We’d love to hear how you did it! Please share in the comments below.

*Photo credit Marek Isalski.

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