EczemaDr. Jensen Yeung, BSc(Hons), MD, FRCPC
Merck Manual of Medical Information states: Eczema is an inflammation of the upper layers of the skin, causing blisters, redness, swelling, oozing, scabbing and scaling. It is usually itchy as well.
A dermatologist is a medical specialist in the prevention, recognition and treatment of diseases of the skin, hair, and nails.
Observations: Eczema is linked to inflammatory white blood cells coupled with excess moisture loss. Lesions most often show on the inner elbow, back of knees, scalp and face, but can develop anywhere. Eczema typically appears in early infancy and is often associated with atopy, a hereditary tendency toward hay fever and asthma. Many people outgrow eczema, others experience adult-onset. Medications like beta blockers, lithium and ACE inhibitors can worsen skin lesions.
Solutions: Hydrate skin with a moisturizing cream three times daily. Avoid irritants like wool, harsh detergents, grass and weeds. Cotton clothes are best. Prescription topical steroids reduce inflammation and itch. Steroid creams are to be used judiciously. Be careful not to overuse them on the face, in the groin area, and on skin folds. Calcineurin inhibitors, a new class of medication, suppresses inflammatory T-cells without the use of steroids. Eczema patients are more prone to infection involving Staphylococcus aureus because of the open sores.
DOCTOR OF NATUROPATHY
Dr. Tracy Malone, B.Sc., N.D.
Her practice focuses on naturopathic functional medicine, a science-based approach that treats illness by uncovering the cause of disease and promoting wellness.
Observations: There’s usually a genetic component, with a family history of atopy in 2/3 of her eczema patients. Food sensitivities are often a trigger, evident in 80% of eczema patients. To identify food causes, common allergens are eliminated from the diet – dairy, peanuts, and eggs. If there’s a noticeable improvement, food is retried to see if the eczema returns. If it does, the offending food is permanently avoided. (More on food allergies Hard to Swallow page 58.) Stress also influences immune function and can activate break-outs.
Solutions: For topical relief, “Put about 1/2 cup of large flake oats – not instant – in a piece of cheesecloth, tying ends. Throw the sachet into a warm bath to relieve itch and replace the soap, which often irritates broken skin.” Avoid hot water, and apply avocado oil to still-moist skin. Avocado oil resembles skin’s natural oils and is beneficial to sensitive skin. Apply raw honey to lesions.
Repeated use of doctor-prescribed cortisone cream may thin skin and often triggers a rebound reaction. When cortisone is necessary, support healing with anti-inflammatory calendula topical cream or salve. Zinc creams, like those used to soothe a baby’s bottom, also seal in moisture. If infection occurs, Goldenseal and Yellow Dock are botanical remedies used for their immune enhancing and cleansing properties.
Lisa Petty BA, RHN, RNCP
Holistic nutrition links symptoms to possible nutrient imbalances, and aims to support healing by addressing deficiencies.
Observations: Eczema is often associated with an overgrowth of Candida albicans, unfriendly yeast in the digestive tract. Overgrowth can damage the walls of the digestive tract, creating tiny holes (leaky gut) that allow undigested food proteins into the bloodstream. These particles can become food sensitivity triggers for eczema.
Solutions: Adding a daily multiple vitamin to a nutrient-dense diet helps give skin the nutrients required for healing. Restrict dietary sugars; they feed Candida bacteria. For all inflammatory skin conditions, supplement with essential fatty acids found in nuts, seeds and fish. People with eczema can have trouble converting omega 6 fats into anti-inflammatory gamma linolenic acid (GLA): supplement with GLA found in borage, evening primrose and hemp oils, and spirulina. Skin-healing dietary minerals are zinc (sea-food, pumpkin seeds), selenium (Brazil nuts, salmon) and silica (leafy vegetables, brown rice). Vitamins A (orange vegetables) and C (citrus, peppers) are also necessary.
Merck Manual of Medical Information states: Psoriasis is a chronic, recurring disease, recognizable by silvery scaling bumps and various-sized raised patches called plaques. Plaques are caused by an abnormally high rate of growth and turnover of skin cells.
Observations: Psoriasis is a T-cell mediated inflammatory skin condition affecting 2% of the population. Lesions typically appear on the outside of knees and elbows, scalp and nails, but can develop anywhere.
Solutions: Treatment includes prescription topical steroids, topical vitamin D derivatives (calcipotriol) or an ointment containing both. In severe cases, oral immune-suppressants such as methotrexate cyclo-sporine are used. A new class of medications called biologics is also effective at targeting the inflammatory cascade of psoriasis. Topically, a retinoid-derivative (Vitamin A) ointment may be recommended. Phototherapy (light therapy) can also be beneficial but, “The UVA or UVB prescribed treatment is in a controlled setting and at a different wavelength than what is used in a tanning bed.” Do not self-medicate at a tanning salon.
Observations: About 50% of psoriasis patients have a family history. While food sensitivities play a role, many cases result from digestive tract problems. Increased bowel toxins associated with infrequent bowel movements occur, as does intestinal permeability (leaky gut).
Solution: Supplemental sasparilla can be used to address gut-derived toxins. Low stomach acid in some psoriasis patients leads to incomplete protein digestion, also a factor in lesion development. Use digestive enzymes to help with food digestion and absorption. A gluten-free diet may also promote healing. Topically, Oregon grape root (berberine) oil-based salve, and a relaxing tub-soak with Dead Sea salts promotes healing.
Observations: Foods high in saturated fats promote inflammation and should be avoided. Alcohol is also a factor in psoriasis.
Solution: Support the digestive tract with probiotics (live bacterial cultures) from fermented products like sauerkraut, kimchi and yogurt, or supplements. Certain food combinations are digested more easily than others, so consider making menu changes to boost digestion. This may involve changing how you’ve eaten for years. “Eat fruit alone, at least 20 minutes before or two hours after other foods unless you have blood sugar issues. Keep high starch vegetables away from protein; avoid meat-and-potato dinner.
Instead, combine protein with low-starch veggies, as in a chicken and vegetable stir-fry (without rice). Starchy foods like rice combine well with non-starchy vegetables, so a vegetarian stir-fry would work.”
Gradually increase fibre intake to move toxins from the digestive tract. Oatmeal and apples contain soluble fibre; insoluble fibre is plentiful in whole grains and the skins of many fruits and vegetables. Drink at least eight glasses of pure, filtered water daily for hydration and to flush out toxins.
Always speak to a health care professional about possible symptoms and solutions before trying something new.
Dr. Jensen Yeung is the Medical Director of the Dermatology Department at Women’s College Hospital, University of Toronto. • Dr. Tracey Malone is a Naturopathic Doctor at the Family Practice Centre of Integrative Health & Healing in Burlington, Ontario. www.fpcihh.com • Lisa Petty is the principal registered holistic nutritionist for Healthy Awareness Inc. and author of Living Beauty: Feel Great, Look Fabulous & Live Well http://www.livingbeauty.ca