This month at Pasture Living, we are doing a series on how to take care of our skin naturally. The skin is the body’s largest organ and it absorbs everything we put on it directly into the body’s bloodstream; bypassing the organs that would filter out harmful ingredients. This is why it is so important to know what we put on our skin.
Today we are focusing on how to heal eczema naturally. It may apply to other skin irritations as well.
What is Eczema and What Causes It?
Eczema is a chronic inflammation of the skin which is characterized by redness, itching, dryness, flaking, cracking, and bleeding.
There are many causes of eczema including food allergies, reactions to chemicals in food or skincare products, dehydration, lack of good fats in our diet, hormonal changes, and even stress. Eating healthy food is very important to keep our skin in good condition, but even with good food, skin issues such as eczema may still arise.
I used to have eczema on my right palm. Many small fluid-filled bumps developed, it would get very itchy, flaky, and bled at its worst. I've always used cortisone (steroid) cream to relieve the itch and irritation, which is the most common treatment for eczema these days. I did realize that although this cream brought my skin back to normal, it didn't actually solve the underlying issues, because I still experienced eczema every so often and it was not fun. Cortisone or steroid cream is a cause for concern because it thins the skin and makes it weaker and more susceptible to infections, etc. Also, anything that we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream, I read that it can even cause hormone imbalance and reduced growth rates in children.
Ways to Solve Underlying Causes of Eczema
1. Stay Hydrated. Drinking enough water is essential to keep our cells hydrated and nourished.
2. Avoid Processed Foods. Our bodies are not meant to consume the chemicals that are in many processed foods. Chemicals such as MSG, artificial sweeteners and colorings, and preservatives, are unnatural and often toxic, which our body treats as foreign invaders when we consume them, causing reactions such as skin irritations, allergies, digestive issues, headaches, and weakened immunity.
3. Consume Enough Good Fats. Good fats, especially Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are important for many bodily functions as well as keeping our skin and hair healthy. They moisturize our skin from the inside out. That's probably why I saw dramatic improvement (and hence healing) of my eczema a few months into consuming fermented cod liver oil (FCLO). FCLO is very rich is EFAs.
4. Use Natural Skincare Products. We've discussed how to choose skincare products and what ingredients to avoid. Filler ingredients such as synthetic fragrances, parabens, and chemicals irritate our skin and may even be toxic to our body. Remember that everything that we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream! Using natural skincare products is the best way to to nourish our skin and gives our body the best chance to heal any existing skin issues.
5. Try Elimination Diet. It is quite common that food allergies or sensitivities cause eczema. It may be due to poor digestion or improper preparation. Common suspects include wheat, eggs, dairy, soy, and shellfish. Elimination diet is removing these allergens from the diet temporarily, and slowly reintroduce them again one by one, as we try to heal the digestive system by avoiding refined grains and sugar and taking probiotic supplements during that time.
How to Relieve the Discomfort of Eczema?
1. Constant Moisturizing. This is important to sooth the irritated skin caused by eczema. Choose a natural moisturizer that doesn't contain fragrance or synthetic additives. Extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil or jojoba oil is wonderful for its antibacterial properties. Calendula cream or aloe vera gel is excellent to sooth and protect the skin.
2. Soaking in Sea Salt Water. My little one is still battling her skin rash on her elbow. Though giving jojoba oil has helped to moisturize her skin, it hasn't given the result that she needs. I finally brought her to a naturopath who suggested that she gets sea salt bath soak everyday for 15-20 minutes and also by adding a bit of sea salt to her drinking water. There is something powerful about the minerals in real sea salt that helps in healing since the olden times. I've also read that you can add coconut oil or ground oatmeal to your bath soak to help relieve the itch and sooth the skin irritation.
3. Avoid Hot Water. Chemicals in the water such as chlorine can be easily absorbed into our skin when we take a bath with warm or hot water as our skin pores opens up. If your eczema is more severe, try less frequent bathing and wear gloves when you do household chores.
Clearly I don't have an easy answer for healing eczema since I'm still battling with my daughter's own eczema on her elbow. She was given steroid cream by her ped which I refuse to use for the time being as I try my best to protect and nourish her skin (internally and topically) and providing relief to her discomfort naturally as best as I can.
What ways have you tried to heal eczema naturally?