The Ins & Outs of Healing Eczema
This is one of the questions I get asked most often, and I understand why! Two of my three kids have dealt with eczema and there’s nothing to say other than “ECZEMA SUCKS!” It can be very easy to treat or very difficult depending on the underlying causes of the rash. So here’s everything I know about healing it—from the simple to the complicated.
Eczema can range from small patches to an all over body rash. Dry skin, scales, itchiness, it typically shows up in the creases of the body first (behind the knees, at the elbow joint, etc). The causes of eczema can range over a wide variety. On the simple end it is a contact rash caused by toxic laundry soap and personal care products (see my blog post on “Why Purity Matters” for more on determining the right products for your family, as well as THIS photo album on Facebook). In that case, removing the products from the child’s environment is all it takes. However, while switching laundry soap is almost always a key to the healing, typically eczema has deeper roots than just contact allergies. You see, when the kidneys and liver get overwhelmed trying to detox the body, the body will dump toxins out of the skin, which is often the cause of the eczema.
Thrush and yeast rashes are a common complaint in babies. They are caused by fungal yeast, typically candida albicans, but it can be another type of fungus. If baby has it, then it’s almost sure that Mom has it unless baby has been on antibiotics or was delivered via c-section (studies show that babies that do not travel through the vaginal canal have lower amounts of probiotics in the gut). Anti-biotics kill the healthy flora in the gut (probiotics) which often results in yeast overgrowth. A really good way to tell if yeast is a problem is a white coating on the tongue even when baby hasn’t eaten recently. Some doctors will tell you that if you can wipe it off it’s okay. I disagree. If it’s in the mouth, even if you can wipe it out, that means it’s likely in the gut, too. Another symptom of yeast is puffy or dark circles under the eyes. Unchecked, yeast causes a whole host of health problems from food allergies to leaky gut to ear infections to asthma like symptoms. It doesn’t always result in a diaper rash. In older children or adults the white coating on the tongue still holds true, as well as the puffy/dark under eye circles. You might also see vaginal yeast infections, or symptoms of advanced yeast infection like the ones I just mentioned.
Treating yeast is another rabbit hole depending on its severity and the age of the person you are treating for yeast. In a nutshell, you must take something to kill the yeast off. Conventional medicine typically suppresses the symptoms but doesn’t actually kill the yeast. I recommend holistic options. Things that kill yeast include caprylic acid (the active ingredient in coconut oil that is anti-fungal—I recommend capsules of it because you’d have to eat a whole bunch of coconut oil to kill the infection off!), oregano oil (but it’s pretty harsh), grapefruit seed extract (tastes terrible, so be warned!!), and herbs like pau d’arco, echinacea, reishi mushroom, and thyme leaf. There are also companies out there that make anti-yeast homeopathics, and green foods can balance the bodies pH, which makes it difficult for yeast to thrive. Yeast thrives on sugar, so removing sugar and high glycemic foods from the diet is key to killing off the yeast—think bananas, mango, dairy, gluten, etc. You will also need a good quality probiotic that contains Saccharomyces boulardii as well as strains of bifidus and acidophilus. One you can usually find at stores is the Garden of Life brand. Most natural health practitioners also have high quality probiotics. If you have more questions about yeast, feel free to use the contact button to send me an email.
Food & Environmental Allergies/Sensitivities
Food and environmental allergies and sensitivities will be compounded by systemic yeast, but might be the only cause behind the eczema. Check for the white coating on the tongue to see if yeast is a factor. From there, other than eczema symptoms of food allergy include dark/puffy circles under the eyes, stomach upsets like acid reflux, constipation (not going at least once a day), frequent diarrhea, frequent ear infections, constant post nasal drip in the absence of illness, swollen tonsils in the absence of illness, a dry cough, severe mood swings, and sleep disturbances. Take the digestive symptoms out for environmental allergy. The top eight food allergens are dairy, gluten, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, and shell fish, and corn. The active in ingredient in the herbicide Round up, glyphosate, can also cause food allergies.
It’s important to note the difference between an allergy and a sensitivity. An allergy is a histamine reaction; histamine is produced in the liver. Allergies, whether food or environmental, suggest liver imbalance. Balancing the liver through diet and possible detox often eradicates or greatly lessens allergic response. Quercetin is a great natural anti-histamine, anti-oxidant, and anti-inflammatory to help treat the symptoms of allergic reaction. (Note, if you are breastfeeding, anti-histamines can effect milk supply because breastmilk is produced by the lymph system.) There is also a genetic mutation that can cause histamine levels in the blood to be too high, so foods that are naturally high in histamine will cause a reaction not because of a food allergy, but because of a histamine intolerance. Quercetin and liver support will also help with that. Milk Thistle and NAC (N acetyl cysteine) will help the body produce extra glutathione, which is the main anti-oxidant the body uses to detox itself. Those supplements are also something to consider. Food based (not synthetic) b-vitamins will also help the body make cellular energy which will assist the body in clearing itself. If the supplement says folic acid, it’s synthetic.
A food sensitivity is a problem digesting a food. Yeast, low enzyme activity, adrenal fatigue, leaky gut, probiotic imbalance (seen often in babies delivered by c-section, formula fed, or after anti-biotic treatment) can all lead to food sensitivity. In that case you have to treat the underlying problem, which is beyond the scope of this particular article. One thing to keep in mind is the active ingredient in the pesticide Round up, called glyphosate, has been shown to cause leaky gut. It’s a good idea to go organic for this reason. You can also choose to use a product called Biome Medic to detox the glyphosate from the body and re-balance the gut biome. Also, any chemical food additives like MSG, chemical preservatives, chemical dyes, and genetically modified foods can put further stress on the digestive system and liver. See the aforementioned article on “Why Purity Matters” for more on those subjects. For more on Adrenal fatigue, check my blog post HERE.
Other causes of eczema
In some cases, eczema is a deficiency in either essential fatty acids or in fat-soluble vitamins of A, D, E, K. Adding omega 3’s and 9’s, as well as gamma-linoleic acid into the diet can greatly improve the skin. Making sure you are getting enough vitamin D is also key. There is a genetic mutation that can make it hard for the person to use or produce vitamin D, and sometimes supplementing a lot of it is necessary. A natural doctor, or even a conventional one, can assist you in determining vitamin D levels. Eating a balanced diet will be key for the other nutrients. Sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamin E, green leafy vegetables and probiotic balance is key for K, and Vitamin A will be your orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes and leafy greens. If you are supplementing Vitamin D, make sure it is D-3, not D-2, which is what is found in fortified milk. You have to eat fat with all of those foods because those vitamins are fat soluble and will not be absorbed into the body otherwise.
Eczema can also be caused by toxicity in the body. Whether it is heavy metal build up or other environmental toxins, anything that puts stress on the body to detox can overwhelm the liver and kidneys and result in skin rashes. This is the reason that vaccination sometimes results in eczema. In this case, detoxifying the body is key. There are lots of choices of detox programs out there. If you want a whole food detox that takes the guess work out of it, look into the Purium 10 Day Transformation HERE. If you need a detox for a baby or toddler, please contact me as each situation is different and I'd rather give you specified advice.
Role of Genetics in Eczema
I mentioned genetic mutations in the genes that are responsible for Vitamin D creation and use. But it can be more complicated than that. The body has a methylation cycle, which is the way the cells produce energy. Mutations in that cycle not only effect the ability of the body to make energy, they also effect the body’s ability to produce glutathione, which I mentioned earlier is the main anti-oxidant the body uses to detoxify itself. With lowered cellular energy and lowered levels of glutathione, the body is much more likely to become overwhelmed by toxins. The most talked about genetic mutation that effects this is in the MTHFR gene. Estimates say that about 50% of the population has a mutation in this gene, some mutations more limiting than others. The best known mutations are in the 677 allele and the 1298 allele. 98% of those diagnosed with autism have a mutation in this gene. Synthetic b-9, known as folic acid, is poisonous to people with this mutation because they cannot process it correctly or efficiently. Folate or methylfolate supplementation can assist in this mutation, as well as B-12 in the form of methylcobalamin, and milk thistle or NAC to boost glutathione production. Glutathione levels can also be influenced by mutations in the detoxification pathways of the body as well.
In some cases, eczema is an auto-immune disorder. Again, we’re getting into deep subjects here. I mention this because in some cases you try everything and still the skin rashes persist. That is when it’s time to do some DNA testing and look further into the causes.
Treating Eczema Topically
Lots and lots and lots of people will tell you to use petroleum based products to treat eczema (vanicream, aquaphor, vaseline, mineral oil based lotions, etc). Those products seem to help the rash because they clog the pores of the skin. The skin can then no longer dump toxins out of it and the rash seemingly goes away…..but then the toxins stay in the body, which is not exactly where you want them. Mineral oil is often contaminated with other toxins, and since almost anything you put on your skin is absorbed into your blood stream, I recommend staying away from that particular ingredient. It is also important to note that personal care products are not regulated, and most of them have toxins in them. Ignore the marketing and read the ingredients. For more on reading ingredients, check the aforementioned photo album on Facebook HERE.
Companies that make good lotions for eczema that are also safe to use on your body are Poofy Organics, Earth Mama Angel Baby, Badger, and even Shea Moisture. Poofy Organics has a range of products that help in eczema relief—Ciao Eczema lotion, Everything Salve, Healing Skin Oil, Greener-Than-Petroleum Jelly, organic essential oils like lavender and tea tree, and even the Happy Boobies ointment. For more on Poofy Organics click HERE.
If you want to make your own eczema treatment, ingredients that are key in helping are: High vitamin E oils like Argan or Sunflower to help the skin heal, oils high in GLA and omega 3 and 9 like borage or evening primrose oil, coconut oil for it’s anti-fungal effects and medium chain fatty acid content, lavender essential oil for it’s anti-histamine and anti-bacterial/fungal/viral effects (and tea tree essential oil works well here, too). There are other variations, but that should get you started.
Finally, baking soda baths, gluten free oatmeal baths, and sea salt or epsom salt baths with lavender essential oil sprinkled on the salt before putting it in the water can help ease the symptoms.
Hopefully this information will serve you well as you continue on your Higher Living Journey.