Eczema SOS

Expert tips for how to alleviate eczema naturally

Eczema is an increasingly common skin condition whereby the skin becomes itchy, red, dry and cracked. Unsurprisingly it can be very uncomfortable and distressing for sufferers. According to the National Eczema Society, one in five children and one in 12 adults in the UK have this condition.

Claire Barnes, a nutritional therapist with Bio-Kult (www.bio-kult.com) explains: “Different types of eczema include contact dermatitis, which is a localised rash or irritation caused by contact with a specific substance, and atopic dermatitis, which is particularly common in infants, and causes the skin to become inflamed, dry and itchy. Sufferers often have periods where their symptoms are less noticeable, as well as flare-ups when symptoms are acute.”

Claire adds: “Eczema is thought to occur due to an overactive immune system which is reacting to harmless antigens. There is also a susceptibility to eczema in people who already suffer from leaky gut – where germs, toxins and other substances can be absorbed into the bloodstream via a porous digestive tract. This can overwhelm the immune system, increasing the likelihood of further allergies.”

We spoke to the experts to find out some of the best natural ways to tackle eczema.

Know your triggers

Keeping a food diary will help to identify and remove dietary triggers which are causing symptoms. “The main allergens in eczema appear to be milk, eggs, peanuts, fish, soy, wheat, citrus, and chocolate,” says Claire. “Avoid high inflammatory foods such as animal products and certain oils high in omega-6 fats, and replace with more anti-inflammatory foods such as cinnamon, ginger, rosemary and garlic.”

Heal your gut

“There is good evidence to suggest that multi-strain live bacteria supplements with prebiotics are useful in treating eczema,” says Claire. “Eczema has been associated with an imbalance in the gut flora which appears to promote an immune environment which is more susceptible to allergies.”

“You must heal the gut in order to clear the skin,” says Shann Jones, director of Chuckling Goat (www.chucklinggoat.co.uk). “We get amazing results by using a powerful probiotic called kefir, ideally made from goat’s milk and real kefir grains, that has the ability to repopulate the gut with beneficial bacterial. Kefir helps to resolve autoimmune issues like eczema, as well as the allergies, hay fever, food intolerance and IBS that often accompany it. Our protocol combines drinking the kefir daily, while also applying it to the skin in the form of kefir soaps and lotions – so you’re healing from the inside and outside at the same time.”

Make time to relax

“Many sufferers might find that they experience an eczema flare-up during stressful and chaotic periods, which is further substantiated by studies that show many skin conditions flare up at times of stress,” explains leading dermatologist Dr Daniel Glass from The Dermatology Clinic, London. “Taking time to relax may help to prevent a flare-up and wearing gloves or keeping nails short will prevent you from making a flare-up worse by damaging the skin when you scratch.”

Try taking omega-3

“Taking omega-3 fish oil for eczema can help keep flare-ups at bay,” says Melanie Lawson, founder of Bare Biology (www.barebiology.com). “Omega-3 has been proven to help reduce the inflammation in the body that leads to itching, while the essential fatty acid EPA can help ‘waterproof’ skin cells by bolstering their membrane, keeping skin moisturised from the inside out. A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology saw an 18 per cent improvement in patients given omega-3 supplements after just eight weeks.”

Love your liver

Bitter herbal remedies can help with liver function which, in turn, can help skin conditions such as eczema. “Things like dandelion and nettle work well and can be taken in a tea form too – one to two cups per day,” says nutritionist Rick Hay (www.rickhay.co.uk). “Staying with the liver theme, the mineral selenium can also help as it has such good antioxidant properties. Olive leaf extract and grape seed extract are two other botanicals that help with both liver and skin function.”

Bathe with Dead Sea salts

“It has been found over the years that skin conditions such as eczema benefit from Dead Sea salt bathing as the minerals are easily accessible to the skin in a bath and the cells can absorb the minerals,” explains Karen Davis, the Salt Chemist at Westlab, (westlabsalts.co.uk). “Dead Sea salt has a high mineral content including magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium chloride and calcium chloride. Lack of magnesium causes inflammation in the skin, irritating skin further and creating the urge to itch and worsen the eczema. People who suffer from eczema need to keep the skin barrier as healthy as possible to prevent a flare-up. Dead Sea salt helps the skin improve its barrier function and this improves the skin texture.”

Look to plants for relief

“Avoid sulphate detergents and try soaps made with plant oils that are rich in natural, moisturising glycerine,” advises Abi Weeds, co-founder of organic skincare brand Odylique. “The plant kingdom offers an exciting menu of relief for eczema sufferers. Chickweed, calendula and chamomile, used in the right concentration, have the ability to calm itching and inflammation. Aloe vera is also helpful for the symptoms of eczema.”

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