Eczema – part 1

February 28, 2013

This months series will focus on one of the most common chronic childrens diseases , that of eczema.

Eczema is a non-infectious, recurrent inflammatory disorder of the skin. There are different types of it, all of which produce slightly different symptoms.

Up to 85% of sufferers show symptoms before the age of 5 but it can occur in other age groups too. Symptoms include dry skin with rash like, scaly lesions and often, a thickening and itching of the skin. There is no clear pathology of where it comes from, but familial (occurring in the family) and a possible link to atopic conditions (eg: allergies) are common thoughts. Eczema is usually worse for over heating, excess bed covers or clothes and stress. Drying agents, such as soaps, air conditioning and chlorinated pools can also aggravate the condition. Plastic based disposable nappies are also a common problem, causing what’s commonly referred to as ‘nappy rash’. Nappy rash is a type of ‘contact dermatitis’ which is often thought of as a type of eczema. For this last one, there are a number of completely natural and very healing balms that can help here. They should be used at every single nappy change, and often contain herbs including calendula, paw paw and arnica to name a few. Whilst I’m at it, as much time out of nappies as possible helps too..

From a naturopathic viewpoint, skin health starts in our gut. The skin is our biggest organ and if our guts are not healthy, generally our skin will not be healthy either. For this reason, most naturopathic treatment for eczema (and other skin conditions) would be internal and often involves taking probiotics (the good bacteria in our gut) as a starting point.

There are a vast number of different probiotic strains, but one of the best strains for eczema is known as LGG. We will stock this at Saltuary when we open in about a month, but it’s fairly widely available in most health food shops too. Our staff would be happy to discuss your needs and recommend the right strain for you.

The permeability of the skin is also a common issue for eczema sufferers. Being a semi permeable membrane, healthy skin is able to selectively decide what it will and won’t let in or out.

Part of the structure of the skin are lipids (or fats). A very easy way to add health to the skin is by taking omega 3 fish oils. They act a little like the mortar in our brick and mortar houses, helping to hold the structure in place. Omega 3 fish oils are essential to the structure of the skin as well as being strongly anti-inflammatory. Getting inflammation under control in eczema can be of huge help.

Another very important consideration for skin health and one that’s commonly low in eczema patients is zinc. Zinc deficiency can show up as ‘cloudy spots’ on our nails (as can calcium, so please don’t go self diagnosing!). Zinc levels can be easily tested with something strangely referred to as a ‘zinc test’ 🙂

This is a quick and easy test where a person takes a little of the ‘test’ liquid into their mouth and depending on the severity of the taste, it’s easy to gain an insight as to the persons zinc level. This is a test that our naturopath Amy will be doing with her patients at Saltuary. If you are already taking zinc, a good idea is to keep it in the bathroom and take it last thing at night when you brush your teeth. Reason for this – zinc binds to many other things in the body, especially grains, so taking it last thing at night, will allow for maximum absorption.

Over the coming weeks, we will post a weekly blog on an aspect of eczema.

I hope this helps people out there. Once we open our clinic, please do feel free to come in and chat with one of our qualified staff to see what we can do to help manage eczema.

tiina xx

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