Atopic Dermatitis Self Help

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition characterized by redness, itching, and sometimes oozing, crusting, and scaling. The itch makes us scratch, which causes redness and inflammation. It affects fifteen million Americans. Approximately 0.5 to 1 percent of us have eczema and it affects 10 to 20 percent of all infants.

Fifty percent of children outgrow it by age fifteen; the rest may have mild to severe eczema throughout their lives. It can first appear at any age, but most often during the first year of life. Babies can have eczema on their faces, scalp, bottom, hands, and feet.

In children and adults, it may be more localized. Eczema is on the rise in industrialized countries. The causes are multifactorial and include imbalanced intestinal flora; leaky gut syndrome; food allergies; environmental contaminants, such as air pollution and tobacco smoke; and genetic predisposition.

The red patches are itchy, scaly, and dry, which encourages people to use lotions and creams to which they are often allergic. This complicates the problem further.

Eczema varies over time, flaring up and calming down, at times better and worse. Emotional stress, heat, increase in humidity, bacterial skin infections, sweat, pets, hormone fluctuations, dust, molds, pollens, toiletries, cosmetics, and wool clothing commonly aggravate eczema.

As children age, they may continue to have eczema; it may disappear; or they may develop other allergies, including asthma. People with eczema have high levels of IgE, secretory IgA, and eosinophils, all allergy signs. Strong connections exist between eczema and food, microbial, and inhalant allergies.

The word atopy, which is often used by physicians synonymously for allergy, refers to inflammations of the skin, nasal passages, and lungs. People with eczema often have allergies to dust, mold, dander, pollens, and foods.

Food allergies diagnosed through IgE and skin testing is apparent in most children with eczema. In a study of 165 children between the ages of four months and twenty-two years, researchers found that 60 percent had at least one positive skin-prick test for food allergies.

When they challenged these results with a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, thirty-nine of sixty-four subjects had a positive test, with milk, egg, peanut, soy, wheat, codfish, catfish, and cashews accounting for 89 percent of the positive food-allergy challenges.

Undoubtedly, many more would be borne out by IgG, IgA, and IgM testing. Studies of children with eczema have shown that eczema improved in forty-nine out of sixty-six children after elimination of the particular foods.

Foods that aggravate eczema, in descending order, were eggs, cow’s milk, food coloring, tomatoes, fish, goat’s milk, cheese, chocolate, and wheat. A study was made of 122 children, aged four months to six years, with food intolerance. Of them, 52 children had eczema; the rest had chronic diarrhea.

The allergies caused damage to the intestinal lining, and there was a decrease in the body’s ability to defend itself because of lactose intolerance and dysbiosis, which caused leaky gut syndrome, leading to more food antigens and sensitivity. Children with eczema had more intestinal damage than those with chronic diarrhea.

Breast-feeding dramatically reduces a baby’s risk of developing eczema and allergies. Babies with eczema, and probably most babies, should not be given cow’s milk, milk products, eggs, or wheat before one year of age. As their digestive system matures, they can better handle these complex foods.

Babies with eczema who drink formula should be tested by skin prick to determine which formulas are most suitable for them. Because babies are born without intestinal flora in their digestive tracts, giving supplemental flora to the baby (and the mother, if she’s nursing) can quickly alleviate baby eczema.

The best flora for infants is Bifidobacteria infantis. Elimination of foods, stress, and allergens can significantly alter the course of the disease. Even though you cannot control all factors, controlling enough of them will allow you to stay under the symptom threshold.

Jonathan Wright, M.D., had success in thirtynine out of forty patients with eczema who followed this program: 50 milligrams zinc three times daily for six weeks, plus 2 milligrams copper daily, 5 grams omega-3 fatty acids (evening primrose or borage oil) twice a day for three months, and 1 to 2 grams omega-6 fatty acids (EPA/DHA fish oils) three times daily for four weeks.

The most common treatment for eczema is cortisone cream, which suppresses your body’s normal immune function. However, there is often a rebound effect after you stop using the cream, and your symptoms return worse than before. A new class of medications, called topical immunomodulators, is available by prescription.

In test studies, they relieve symptoms in most people without an equal number of the adverse effects of steroid creams. Natural creams with chamomile, licorice, and comfrey root are also very effective at soothing and healing eczema without negative side effects.

It’s important to remember that even though eczema shows up on the skin, it is a systemic problem. Use creams to decrease irritation, but look for the underlying irritants. Exercise may be especially beneficial for people with eczema. A recent study indicated that exercise reduced the inflammation associated with eczema by increasing the body’s adaptability to stress.

Vacuum fastidiously and use air purifiers in bedrooms and other rooms you are in frequently to reduce eczema. One recent study attributed a reduction in eczema severity to a reduction in mattress dust and carpet mites by using a high-filtration vacuum cleaner and bedcovers. Keep your bedroom clean and clutter-free.

Healing Options

  • Investigate food and environmental sensitivities. Follow the directions in Chapter 6. An elimination-provocation diet can significantly reduce eczema. Foods that you are sensitive to will generally make you itch. Often the itching starts soon after the meal, but it can be delayed up to forty-eight hours, which makes tracking down the foods a bit tricky.

Food allergy and sensitivity testing can help you determine which foods to eliminate from your diet. Eliminate all foods and chemicals that you are sensitive to for four to six months. Use natural household cleaning products and shampoos, and soaps and toiletries that are hypoallergenic.

If you are sensitive to mattresses, gas stoves, carpeting, and upholstery, you may need to use cotton and other natural fiber clothing and sheets that allow the skin to breathe naturally. Work with a health professional who knows how to help you meet your needs.

  • Supplement with lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. Restoring the normal balance of flora in your intestinal tract can help reduce eczema. Use of supplemental beneficial bacteria can make a tremendous difference in your ability to thoroughly digest foods. The supplement you purchase may have additional microbes, such as saccharomyces.

Take 1 to 2 capsules two to three times daily, or ¼ to 1½ teaspoons powder two to three times daily. Mix powdered supplement with a cool beverage. It works best on an empty stomach. Babies are born with sterile digestive tracts, and as soon as they are born they are exposed to microbes of all sorts.

Dairy and soy products are difficult to digest until the baby’s digestive system has mature flora. Supplementing with beneficial flora, such as Bifidobacteria infantis and others, will help your baby digest food more easily and heal the eczema.

Use probiotic formulas specifically designed for infants, toddlers, or small children. Give ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon to baby three times daily. If the mother is breast-feeding, she should also take ¼ teaspoon three times daily.

  • Check for candida infection. Fungal infections are a common cause of eczema. In a study of 115 men and women with eczema, 85 were sensitive to fungus and after they were treated with fungal creams, oral ketoconazole, or a yeast-free diet, there was much improvement.

Take the yeast self-test and do blood testing or CDSA to determine if yeast is contributing to your eczema. Try black cumin seed oil. In four human studies, black cumin seed oil (Nigella sativa) has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of eczema and other allergies.

It also moderately helps to normalize serum triglycerides and cholesterol. Black cumin seeds are a food, so there is low toxicity. Take 20 to 40 milligrams daily per pound of body weight. For example, a 20-pound baby could take 40 to 80 milligrams. A 150-pound adult could take 300 to 600 milligrams. Take internally, but could also be mixed with lotion and put on the skin.

  • Use natural eczema creams. Herbal creams can be as effective as cortisone creams in reducing eczema, and they don’t have the negative side effects. Licorice root stimulates production of healing and anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Use of a 2 percent licorice cream is recommended.

Chamomile creams are widely used in Europe. A recent study compared a chamomile product, Kamillosan, against 0.5 percent hydrocortisone cream. After two weeks, the Kamillosan was reported to give slightly better results than the hydrocortisone cream.

Look in health-food stores or ask your health professional to find a product that works for you. Take a multivitamin with minerals. It is wise to add a good-quality multivitamin with minerals to your daily routine. However, you probably cannot get all the nutrients you require from a single tablet or capsule.

Look for a supplement that has at least 100 micrograms chromium, 100 micrograms selenium, 5 to 10 milligrams manganese, 500 milligrams calcium, 250 milligrams magnesium, 25 to 50 milligrams zinc, 1 to 2 milligrams copper, 10,000 to 25,000 IU vitamin A (not beta-carotene; pregnant women should not exceed 10,000 IU daily), and 400 IU vitamin E.

Zinc and vitamin A are essential for healthy skin and mucous membranes, and zinc is also necessary for production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and formation of hydrochloric acid. There are many anecdotal reports of the effectiveness of vitamin E and eczema, but no controlled studies have been done.

It is best not to buy a supplement that contains many different foods and herbs because you may be unknowingly sensitive to one or more of the ingredients. Be sure to buy a supplement that is free of common allergens.

  • Take vitamin C. A study of ten young people with severe eczema showed that supplementation with vitamin C significantly improved eczema and immune function. They needed only half as many antibiotics for treating skin infections as the control group. Take 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams mineral ascorbates or Ester- C daily. Do a vitamin C flush once a week.
  • Try evening primrose, flaxseed, and borage oils. Studies show that people with eczema generally have low levels of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The first step in metabolism of linoleic acid, which allows for the conversion into gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), is often impaired in people with eczema.

Taking GLA directly in evening primrose, flax, or borage oil circumvents blockage. GLA has an anti-inflammatory effect and benefits immune function. Take 1 to 2 grams three times daily of any of these oils or a combination.

  • Increase fish oil consumption. One recent study on people with eczema showed a 30 percent improvement in a four-month trial of 8 capsules of fish oil per day. Though the placebo group was given corn oil, which gave an improvement of 24 percent, results suggest that people with eczema have a generalized need for essential fatty acids.

Eating cold-water fish—salmon, halibut, sardines, herring, tuna —two to four times each week can provide you with the omega- 3 oils you need. If you use fish oil capsules, do so under the supervision of a physician. They cause a significant increase in clotting time and should not be used by people with hemophilia or those on aspirin or anticoagulant drugs.

  • Try quercetin. Quercetin, the most effective bioflavonoid for antiinflammation, can be used to reduce pain and inflammatory responses and control allergies. Take 500 to 1,000 milligrams three to four times daily.
  • Use turmeric. For eczema, turmeric can be used in combination with neem, an Ayurvedic remedy for parasites and infections.
  • Try a nickel-restricted diet. The relationship between nickel sensitivity and eczema has appeared recently in scientific literature. Nickel is an essential nutrient that is found in many enzymes. However, excess nickel is an irritant to the GI lining. You can be tested for nickel sensitivity through skin testing or an oral challenge.

Nickel is used as an alloy in jewelry, so if jewelry irritates your skin or turns it gray, you may be sensitive to nickel. If you are, a low-nickel diet should be followed for a limited period of time. High-nickel foods are chocolate, nuts, dried beans and peas, and grains.

  • Neutralize reactions. There are many ways to minimize the effects of food sensitivities. Clinical ecologists can provide neutralization drops to counteract your reaction to particular foods. These drops work like allergy shots—a small amount of what you are sensitive to helps stimulate your body’s natural immune response. Malic acid can also curtail sensitivity reactions.