Eczema is a chronic condition that requires multiple approaches to achieve and maintain long term relief. If you are struggling to keep eczema at bay consider applying all four stages of this integrated approach.
Avoid or minimise triggers.
Identify your specific triggers and then avoid them. This is harder with environmental triggers than it is with diet-triggers. Airborne triggers that can cause a flare- up, like dust and pollen are impossible to avoid completely. However, minimising exposure, where possible, will support your immune system and lower inflammation. Improve your environment in general by using less chemicals in both household and personal care products. Choose more natural alternatives to minimise exposure to chemicals that can irritate eczema.
With food intolerances you can try to eliminate problem foods and wait to see if there is an improvement in your eczema. However, if during this time you have a flare-up you will be questioning whether you had accidental exposure to the suspected food or whether another food is also a trigger. As skin can take a while to heal it is easy to lose confidence in identifying intolerances through an elimination approach. The swiftest way to get relief from food intolerances is using a blood spot test. This can be used in children from two years old and can be done by post. Once you’ve identified key foods begin eliminating them from your diet. See a nutritionist if you are concerned or confused by the process. Once you have removed these foods from your diet you need to allow plenty of time to see results. With long-standing eczema I recommend removing foods for at least six months. During this time it is important to implement the rest of these steps to get rid of eczema for good. Removing foods from the diet is not a solution on it’s own.
Balance immune system function
Immune system function is often over triggered in eczema. Your body is primed to over react to environmental triggers and/or foods. This can make you susceptible to illness and unable to overcome colds quickly and efficiently . A key part of this step is avoiding foods that trigger an immune response, this is why food intolerance testing and elimination diets are so important. Supporting immune system function is complex but ensuring you have key nutrients in your diet is a good start. Omega 3 fats are important, as is zinc, magnesium and optimal vitamin D levels. The aim is to prevent your immune system from overreacting and ensure it is balanced. Good gut flora is a key part of this process. You may need to address candida or similar yeast or bacterial issues that could be present in your gut. If you are prone to yeast infections or have a constant white coating on your tongue and a history of anti-biotic use then this is worth looking into. If you suspect candida, yeasts or general issues with gut flora and/or digestion it is worth ordering a comprehensive stool test to identify specific issues and restore normal flora.
3. Improve digestion.
Generally we develop food intolerances because digestion is compromised in some way. It is important to restore proper digestive function by identifying low stomach acid, lack of digestive enzymes or sluggish bile flow. The gut flora will also need to balanced to to support your immune system and general gut health too. Identifying digestive dysfunction is best done with the guidance of a nutritionist who can analyse your symptoms effectively. Generally speaking the following signs suggest low stomach acid levels – burping after eating, anaemia, bloating within an hour of eating and heartburn/reflux. Stomach acid levels can be affected by low zinc levels and stress.
4. Provide nutrients for the skin.
Skin is usually the last thing to improve. Whilst following the above advice it is vital to ensure that you are giving your skin the nutrients it needs to heal. Vitamin E and other antioxidants are vital as is zinc and Vitamin D. If vitamin D is low you can add drops of a liquid vitamin onto the skin directly as well as taking some internally if needed. Collagen powder may also be useful and a generally anti-inflammatory diet – high in good quality oils, vegetables, fish and water and very low in sugar.