Looking for natural eczema relief? These 6 remedies deliver impressive results
(NaturalHealth365) Atopic dermatitis – also known as eczema – is a chronic inflammatory condition that features itchy, scaly, flaking skin, sometimes accompanied by fluid-filled blisters. Atopic dermatitis affects up to 12 percent of children and 7 percent of adults in the United States – and is one of the most common reasons for doctors’ visits. While the exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown, experts say that dry skin, stress, allergies, temperature changes, and infections can all trigger flares.
Western medicine attempts to offer eczema relief with medications such as corticosteroids, but long-term use of these drugs can damage skin structure and increase susceptibility to infections. Fortunately, a variety of nutrients and supplements has been shown in clinical research to ease the itching and discomfort of eczema. Let’s take a look at six of the most effective natural interventions.
Fish oil provides powerful eczema relief, multiple studies suggest
Fish oil, which contains a pair of omega-3 fatty acids known as EPA and DHA, has received attention from researchers for its strong anti-inflammatory effects. Multiple studies have shown these inflammation-reducing properties can help treat eczema, as well as arthritis, depression, psoriasis, and other conditions.
In one peer-reviewed study, patients who received 10 grams of fish oil a day for 12 weeks had significant reductions in scaling and itching when compared to those who took a placebo. In a systematic review of studies evaluating the use of fish oil for atopic dermatitis, investigators noted that supplementation reduced not only the severity of symptoms – but the production of allergy-related antibodies. The most eye-opening results were probably seen in a study that evaluated the effects on eczema of a combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, along with vitamin E and zinc. The combination improved symptoms by more than 50 percent in an impressive 80 percent of the patients.
To avoid concerns over heavy metal exposure, look for high-quality fish oil that has been certified for purity. While amounts of EPA and DHA can vary with the brand, natural health experts advise tailoring your amounts in order to ingest at least 1,000 mg a day of EPA and DHA combined. However, check first with your integrative doctor before supplementing with fish oil for eczema.
Try this time-honored mineral as a home remedy for eczema
Zinc plays an important role in skin immune function, so it’s no surprise that deficiency of this essential mineral can trigger inflammatory skin problems. The good news is that both supplementary zinc and topical applications have been shown to have effects against eczema. (In fact, calamine lotion – which has long been a trusted home remedy for eczema – contains zinc oxide as a key ingredient).
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In one controlled clinical trial, participants with chronic eczema on their hands were treated daily with either a cream containing 0.05 percent corticosteroids and zinc sulfate (at 2.5 percent) or with the steroid cream alone. After two weeks of treatment, researchers found that the steroid/zinc combination was more effective at relieving symptoms than the steroid alone – and led to fewer recurrences at an eight-week follow-up. Strongly antimicrobial and antioxidant, zinc can also inhibit hard-to-treat bacterial infections – such as S. aureus – and stubborn fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot (tinea pedis).
This everyday ingredient features extraordinary therapeutic power
When it comes to addressing skin disorders, this common kitchen staple and natural sweetener packs some serious ammunition. Strongly antimicrobial and antioxidant, honey has been used by herbal healers for centuries to promote wound healing and prevent infections. In fact, laboratory studies have shown that honey even inhibits drug-resistant bacteria such as MRSA or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. And, in one clinical study, honey was shown to be more effective than a commonly-used antiseptic in clearing bacterial abscesses.
In addition, honey’s humectant (moisture-attracting) capabilities make it a good choice for easing atopic dermatitis, which experts say is exacerbated by overly dry skin.
In one study, 30 participants with seborrheic dermatitis (characterized by scaly, itchy patches on the face and scalp) applied diluted honey to lesions every other day for four weeks – and were rewarded with improvements in itching, scaling, and hair loss.
For maximum eczema relief, opt for medical-grade, filtered Manuka honey. Apply a thin layer to the affected area and cover with gauze, allowing the dressing to remain in place overnight. Naturally, don’t use honey to soothe eczema if you are allergic to it, and never use honey on infants under a year old.
Vitamin D3 boosts your skin’s defenses against infection in powerful ways
Recent research has highlighted the role of vitamin D in immune system health, with multiple studies demonstrating that low levels are linked with a host of diseases.
This holds true for atopic dermatitis, with patients showing lower levels of this essential nutrient.
But, there’s more to the story than that. As it turns out, vitamin D produces antimicrobial peptides in the skin and can be used to prevent secondary bacterial infections – such as MRSA – in those with atopic dermatitis.
Vitamin D supplementation also improves eczema symptoms. And, it’s being taken seriously as a possible remedy by researchers and dermatologists alike.
In one study, vitamin D-deficient patients who were given a combination of antihistamines and 20,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day for six weeks experienced decreased eczema symptoms and improved quality of life. And, in a review of clinical studies published in Nutrition, the authors concluded that vitamin D supplementation was “safe and tolerable,” with a “potentially significant role” in improving eczema symptoms.
The optimal amount of vitamin D varies with age, gender, weight, state of health, and even climate in which you live. But experts agree on one point: vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is many times more bioactive and beneficial than vitamin D2, the plant-based form. If you would like to try vitamin D3 supplementation to improve eczema, consult your integrative doctor.
This “old-school” treatment provides modern-day eczema relief
Since antiquity, preparations made from finely ground oatmeal (Avena sativa) have been used by natural healers to soothe rashes, insect bites, and allergic reactions. With anti-inflammatory, emollient, and itch-relieving properties, oatmeal has also been shown to improve skin barrier function, helping to discourage the development of eczema.
In one study, topical application of a cream enriched with colloidal oatmeal reduced itchiness and improved skin hydration in volunteers with mild to moderate atopic dermatitis.
For a soothing, itch-relieving bath, simply add about a cup of colloidal (finely ground) oatmeal to warm water.
Address eczema with proper nutrition and stress management
Simple lifestyle changes can go a long way towards easing eczema.
To control atopic dermatitis, natural health experts advise eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with healthy amounts of omega-3 fats to regulate inflammation. (One Korean study shows that lower rates of atopic dermatitis are associated with consumption of rice and fermented vegetables). Also, remove refined white sugar from your diet, as excessive glucose can interfere with normal healing processes. It is also wise to eliminate processed and preservative-laden foods – and steer clear of GMOs.
And, drinking plenty of pure, filtered water can help ward off the skin dryness that contributes to eczema. In one easily predictable study result, women who drank over 3,200 ml of water a day had superior skin hydration compared to those who drank less water.
Specific foods – such as eggs, dairy products, wheat, and soy – are believed to trigger atopic dermatitis in some people. These should all be ruled out as allergens before being included in your diet.
Exposure to chemicals in soaps, cosmetics, and household cleaners can cause contact dermatitis, which features the same uncomfortable symptoms as atopic dermatitis, but is usually confined to areas of contact. Many people are also allergic to metals, with nickel – found in costume jewelry, cell phones, and laptops – as the most common culprit. In this case, identifying and eliminating the offending substance is key. This can require some detective work – so keeping a journal of exposures and reactions can be helpful.
Finally, experts say that stress can be a major contributor to eczema outbreaks. Meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, deep breathing exercises, biofeedback, and guided imagery can all help minimize stress naturally – and hopefully set the stage for fewer itchy, uncomfortable outbreaks of eczema.
Sources for this article include: