The skin is the largest organ in the body and acts as a barrier to protect us from the outside world. It also regulates our core body temperature, peripheral circulation and keeps our fluid levels in check via sweat.
Whenever the skin is compromised, as commonly seen with eczema and other types of skin conditions, our skins ability to function and detoxify properly is adversely affected. This places a burden on all the other detoxifying organs (such as the kidneys and liver) and creates imbalance within the body.
Everything that is applied to the skin will be absorbed into the body so it is important to take a few moments and have a read of the ingredients that are contained in some of our personal care products. If the ingredients list is long with lots of hard to pronounce words that don’t make sense, then it is safe to say that the product contains many chemicals and is best avoided. Reduce your chemical exposure by replacing synthetically fragranced soaps, detergents and other perfumed products with organic and natural alternatives which do not dry out or irritate the skin. Some common chemicals which are best avoided include sodium lauryl sulphate, petroleum, dioxins, EDTA, benzenes and parabens. Additionally, by using natural products we are doing our bit for the environment as the ingredients are more sustainable and biodegradable.
Topical corticosteroids are commonly prescribed by doctors to help alleviate the symptoms of eczema as it suppresses the inflammation in the skin. However, these creams do not treat the underlying cause of the inflammation and are not for long term use as they do have side effects.
From a naturopathic viewpoint, this is why it is so important to quench inflammation from the inside out by treating and healing the gut. To do this it is vital that inflammatory and allergenic foods are excluded from the diet to allow the digestive system time to heal. Additionally, supplementing with fish oil will help to moisturise the skin and reduce redness, swelling and inflammation.
Some natural alternatives to corticosteroids include:
Chickweed ointment – This is a common herb which can be applied to the affected area to help relieve sore and itching skin.
Manuka honey – Manuka honey is from the Manuka bush and has natural anti-bacterial properties. When buying the honey, you will notice on the label a Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) number which ranges from 5 to 30. The number indicates the strength of the honey’s anti-bacterial effect. The higher the number, the stronger the honey is. When taken internally, Manuka honey has an immune boosting effect so it is perfect for when you have a cold or sore throat. When it is applied topically, Manuka honey assists in the natural healing of the skin. Apply the honey to the affected area and put a dressing over it to keep it in place. If eczema is on the feet or hands¸ you can wear cotton socks and gloves once the honey is on.
Oat baths – Taking an oat bath will help to relieve sore and itchy skin. Take a handful of oats and place them in a muslin cloth or clean pantyhose and tie a knot so that the oats cannot fall out. Hang the oat bag underneath the faucet and allow the warm water to run through it and into the bath tub and then drop it in. Enjoy!
Aloe vera gel – applied topically has a very cooling, calming and hydrating effect on the skin. Make sure that it is pure aloe vera gel and not mixed in with any nasties. Or better yet, grow some in your garden and use it when needed.
Instead of creams, moisturise the skin using pure natural oils such as almond oil, coconut oil and apricot kernel oil which will help to heal and soothe irritated and inflamed skin.
Dry skin brushing – this is a good technique that will help improve blood and lymphatic circulation to assist in detoxification of the body. It also assists in skin exfoliation and opens up the pores. It is best done first thing in the morning before having a shower. Use a hard bristled brush to brush the skin in long gentle but firm strokes starting from the feet and up the legs. Then brush the hands working up towards the shoulder and then the buttocks up towards the back. Then you can brush the abdomen working up the trunk, chest and neck. Use more gentle strokes when brushing the chest and avoid the nipples. Do this for about 3 minutes. Avoid brushing the face and any skin that is currently affected with eczema.
Lastly, Himalayan salt therapy is great for eczema and other types of skin conditions as it helps to cleanse the skin and body of allergens, fungi and bacteria which may be triggers for skin problems. Additionally, Himalayan salt can help to relieve itching and heal minor cuts, grazes and raw, flaky skin. It does this by stimulating micro circulation in the top two layers of the skin so that the skin can function better.
I hope this information has been helpful. Please feel free to pass this on to friends or family who have eczema and other skin conditions. Or come into Saltuary to speak to our lovely staff.