Eradicating Eczema

  • 20 Jan 2012
  • Reading time 26 mins
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Eczema is an inflammatory disease, which is the body’s way of saying something isn’t right. Natural remedies can make a difference.

The downside of cortisone creams

The body’s own natural anti-inflammatory, released at times of emergency, is the adrenal hormone cortisol. It is fat-based, originally derived from cholesterol, and is known as a steroid hormone. Cortisone-based cream that mimics cortisol, usually betnovate, is applied for eczema when the skin flares up. The creams may also contain anti-bacterial drugs.

Many eczema sufferers use this anti-inflammatory cream every day, as well as a moisturiser or emollient made out of petrolatum and hydrogenated vegetables oils to stop the skin from drying out and cracking.

Some hydrocortisone-based creams, such as Cortaid and Cortizone, can be bought over the counter. Higher-dose products that are generally available on prescription include triamcinolone (Aristocort, Kenalog), fluocinonide (Lidex), betamethasone (Valisone, Diprosone, Diprolene), mometasone (Elocon), and clobetasol (Temovate). In essence, they all work in the same way, by reducing inflammation.

They don’t have quite the same degree of danger as ingested cortisone, which gradually suppresses the body’s ability to makes its own, but they do have long-term side effects. Long-term use of cortisone creams isn’t desirable because they gradually damage the skin, making it thinner and more prone to drying and cracking. In fact, the changes in the collagen are identical to those seen in ageing. As a result the skin becomes more vulnerable to any infections and heals poorly. It’s a vicious cycle; the more you use the creams to help with the problems, the worse they become. Some of the preparations contain fluorine.

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Although possibly more effective, the fluorinated preparations such as Lidex are even more likely to cause skin thinning (particularly on the face, armpits, and groin), and they shouldn’t be used for prolonged periods on the face or around the eye. Higher-strength glucocorticoids, in particular, should be spread in a very thin layer, covering only the area requiring treatment. For most conditions, applying the medication once daily will suffice. (1) Of course, none of these creams do anything to address the underlying causes of the over-inflammation associated with eczema. And they have considerable long-term side effects.

Fortunately, there are natural solutions which, for some, can eliminate the need for medication completely and for most can reduce the need for medication.

Natural alternatives

In most cases the root cause of the inflammation is often a combination of exposure to irritants, unidentified allergies, and a predisposition to inflammatory reactions which can be activated by the wrong kind of diet, as well as stress and anxiety.By tackling the root causes, most people find partial to complete relief.

This means:
• Checking for airborne, food or chemical allergies
• Ensuring an optimum intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients
• Reducing the use of anti-inflammatory drugs
• Balancing blood sugar, reduce stress and the use of stimulants
• Healing the skin with antioxidant-based creams

The nutritional approach to eczema is based on the idea that a sufferer’s total environmental ‘load’ – that is, how much pollution, stress and poor nutrition they are dealing with – has exceeded their capacity to adapt to it. While there may be a specific trigger, such as an emotional crisis, drinking too much coffee or eating a food allergen, these can be seen as the final straw rather than the root cause. So the goal becomes to increase a person’s adaptive capacity and to lessen the total load. Anti-inflammatory drugs, by contrast, merely suppress symptoms.

Identifying hidden allergies

MilkFood allergies often develop when solid foods are introduced too early in the first six months of life. Ideally, a baby should be exclusively breast-fed for at least 4 months, ideally 6, and only introduced to high allergy-provoking foods such as cow’s milk, wheat and eggs, after 12 months. This is especially important if there is an inherited risk, with one or more parents suffering from allergy. (2)

The two main types of allergies, IgE and IgG, refer to different kinds of antibodies produced by your immune system. IgE or immunoglobulin E antibodies cause the more severe and immediate reactions. These are conventional allergies where, for example, a person’s skin flares up if they eat shellfish, or their breathing immediately constricts when they eat a peanut. People with allergies are often found to have higher levels of IgE, making them hypersensitive to certain substances. You can test your IgE sensitivity and identify specifically what you are reacting to from an IgE blood test. If you have eczema you may already have had this done. If not, ask your doctor or arrange it yourself. These tests are available direct to the public. However, most eczema suffers also have IgG-based allergies to foods. These are less obvious, and are sometimes called food intolerances or hidden allergies because they don’t cause immediate or severe reactions. Symptoms may not occur for a full 24 hours. Foods that commonly trigger IgG reactions are milk products, gluten cereals (wheat, rye, barley, oats), eggs and yeast. Your doctor is unlikely to offer an IgG allergy test, but you can test yourself using ......

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