If you suffer from red, scaly, dry patches of skin that are extremely itchy, you may have eczema. Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is an allergy-related skin condition common in young adults, children and infants. Simple measures can often help to minimize symptoms and provide relief. Instead of turning to the topical steroids often prescribed for eczema, which I believe only suppress the problem and may worsen it over time, try these six suggestions below and see if they work for you.
- Trial elimination. Often eczema is best considered an internal inflammation that is being pushed out to the skin. With this in mind, it is important to lower any burden to the immune system. Start by taking gluten as well as cows’ milk and all cows’ milk products out of your diet, as well as inflammatory foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, a common source of trans fats. Three to four weeks is a solid trial time; then add one group of foods back at a time and see what role they may play in your inflammation.
- Take 500 milligrams of black currant oil or evening primrose oil twice a day (half that dose for children younger than 12). These are sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential omega-6 fatty acid that promotes healthy growth of skin, hair and nails. You should begin to notice positive changes in six to eight weeks.
- Apply aloe vera gel (from a fresh plant or buy lotions or moisturizers containing aloe) or calendula cream to the affected areas of your skin.
- Experiment with lotions and salves containing chaparral (Larrea divaricata), a desert plant used topically in Mexican folk medicine for skin conditions.
- Bathe or shower as quickly as possible and use a non-perfumed moisturizing soap. Apply a thick moisturizing cream or coconut oil immediately after patting yourself dry – don’t add irritation to your skin when you towel-dry your body. Recent research connects some cases of eczema with a genetic lack of ceramides. Look for products containing these skin barrier-supporting components.
- Practice visualization and hypnotherapy. They can have a significant positive impact on all allergy-related skin conditions. Find ways to relax – stress can make the condition worse. Explore relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and yoga or give a trial to one of the guided meditation smartphone apps.