What Causes Eczema?
As yet, the medical community appears to have no definitive answer as to what causes eczema. People who have atopic dermatitis, otherwise known as eczema, have a compromised skin barrier that is less able to retain water and stay hydrated and is more likely to become irritated and unable to fight infection-causing microbes. “The condition affects about 17 per cent of children, most of whom first develop it before age 5 and usually as infants,” says dermatologist Dr Richard Antaya, director Pediatric Dermatology at Yale Medicine. “Atopic dermatitis is hereditary and is usually seen in families where other members have eczema, allergies, hay fever or asthma,” explains Dr Antaya, “It can crop up on the legs or hands, and in children, it frequently affects the face.”
Previous research has typically found abnormalities in the upper-most layer of the skin, called the stratum corneum, to be a leading cause of eczema. However, a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology discovered that a second skin barrier structure of cell-to-cell connections known as tight junctions, may also have anomalies and likely contributes to the development of the disease.
Is there a Cure?
Eczema typically causes dry, red, itchy skin, and at the time of writing, there are no therapies that can treat the skin barrier dysfunction typified by eczema. However, finding natural treatments for eczema that can soothe this frustrating condition can be a life-changer. A study conducted by the Department of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center discovered that 39% of Caucasian children developed eczema by the age of 3 and that children who grew up with a pet dog were significantly less likely to have eczema by the age of 1.
Doctors usually prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs such as prednisone and topical anti-inflammatory creams to treat eczema, but the side effects and limited success of these therapies often lead sufferers to more natural treatments.
Natural Treatments for Eczema
There are many natural treatments for eczema, some useful, some not so much. We’ve listed a few that we think might be useful.
Sun Exposure and Vitamin D
Spending 10-15 minutes a day exposing your body to the sun, particularly during an eczema flare-up can relieve and speed healing. Aim for a Vitamin D intake of up to 5000IU daily. Vitamin D-rich foods and supplements like salmon, sardines, cod liver oil and eggs can help supplement Vitamin D levels if your sun exposure is low.
Taking 400IU of Vitamin E every day can boost healing by reducing inflammation. Also, applying Vitamin E topically can help relieve the itch and reduce scarring.
Organic Apple Cider Vinegar Bath
Add 450ml of organic apple cider vinegar to a bath for a 30-minute soak once a week. Follow with a shower and hop out. You can also allow your hair to soak and apparently it’s beneficial (for your hair), but you’ll probably want to wash your hair afterwards. Many people have reported this as being a beneficial way of keeping their eczema under control.
Hemp Seed Oil
Take a teaspoon of hemp seed oil three times a day and use a hemp-based skin cream such as Cibdol Zemadol CBD Cream for Eczema daily. The essential fatty acids in hemp seed oil act as a skin moisturiser and can help fight the dryness of eczema and soothe the inflammation. Hemp seed oil doesn’t contain the psychotropic substances found in marijuana so that it won’t have any mind-altering effects. It can be taken with food, but do not heat too much as this will destroy many of the beneficial substances.
Research has shown that probiotics may reduce the severity of eczema symptoms, and mothers who take probiotics during pregnancy and breastfeeding may prevent their children from developing eczema.
Use a scent-free organic moisturiser at least twice a day to combat dryness and protect the skin barrier.
What to Avoid
- Processed foods – the additives in these foods may lead to irritation of the skin.
- Soap – use a soap-free cleanser that is less likely to remove protective natural oils from the skin.
- Fragranced detergents – can cause allergic reactions.
- Fabric softeners – any residues left on clothing can lead to skin irritation.
- Wool or polyester clothing – is prickly and can irritate the skin, opt for 100% cotton.
- Excessive sweating – rather than heavy clothing, dress in layers that you can remove to prevent sweating.
- Wearing new clothes – wash new clothes before wearing to remove chemicals and dyes that can trigger sensitivity.
It may be quite a process, but try to understand what triggers your eczema and what works to get rid of flare-ups. This endeavour will likely require careful tracking of allergens and triggers, as well as trial and error testing of various medications and natural treatments for eczema. Also, consider getting a dog! Remember, research had found that having a pet dog main prevent your child from developing eczema.