The word ‘eczema’ is from the Latin phrase ‘to boil’, and this is precisely what happens to eczema skin. Inflammation underneath the skin barrier generates severe itching, rashes, blistering and burning sensations. Typical treatments for eczema revolve around steroid medications which focus on dampening down the skin’s inflammatory response in order to provide some respite and give the skin a chance to heal. However, it’s wise to think about why the skin is inflamed in the first place to figure out how to improve your skin. Naturopath and Director of Educator for Enzymedica UK, Leyla Moudden told Express.co.uk the five best ways to heal eczema.
Suffering from eczema can be tremendously disruptive.
In addition to having to cope with the horrendous sensation of continuously feeling itchy, eczema patients must also manage the fallout from scratching episodes such as scabs, scars, dry and cracking skin.
It is common to see eczema patients with a huge collection of skincare products as they move from one product to another, seeking immediate relief.
According to Leyla, the number one step to eczema recovery is understanding the amount of time it takes for the skin to recover.
The naturopath said: “The skin works on a very slow regeneration cycle compared to the rest of the body, renewing itself every four to five weeks depending on your age.
“This means that even if you have found the perfect diet, skin care products, nutrition and routines to solve your eczema problem, it will still take four to five weeks to show.”
To help yourself remain patient, Leyla recommends keeping a diary about the state of your skin can be very helpful, so you can begin to understand your ‘skin’s cycle’.
She explained: “Like a hormonal cycle, the skin will go through red, hot and dry phases at different times of the month as it responds to your regime.
“This can also help you compare how your skin is doing compared to previous months, helping you to stay up to date with improvements.”
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Break the itch-scratch cycle
The itch-scratch cycle is the term used to describe the process of feeling itchy, scratching the skin and then having to handle the aftermath of the injuries and soreness induced by the scratching.
This cycle eventually begins to feed itself and increase the eczema – scratching will introduce bacteria, fungi and allergens into the skin, the skin will inflame more and more itching is created from the inflammation and also from the healing stage.
Leyla explained: “For many eczema sufferers, scratching to the point of injury provides a temporary relief from the itching. But if we can understand the reason for the itching, it can help us work toward breaking the itch-scratch cycle.
“The skin is an organ that communicates with the brain, so when there is inflammation underneath the skin, histamine is produced. Histamine is the same chemical that makes an insect bite itch.
“The brain receives a signal to itch, and that signal will get louder and louder until we scratch. This skin-brain connection can be manipulated to break the cycle.
“Certain sensations such as an ice-cold temperature, a pinch, slap or tickle can override the itch signal and give some respite. Over a period of weeks, you can train yourself to pinch an itch instead of scratching it.
“Once you have mastered this first step, you are well on your way to healing, provided that you have also removed the dietary triggers that also set off the itchy sensations.
“Every episode of itching that is avoided, is an episode spent on healing rather than breaking the skin.”
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Identify food intolerances
Food intolerance is a major contributor to eczema, particularly in children.
Food intolerances cause many problems, the first of which is the intolerance reaction itself, and the second being the consequences of that intolerance reaction.
Leyla said: “Any digestive complaints such as loss of appetite, bowel problems, indigestion, bloating, flatulence, heartburn or diarrhoea signal that there may be a food item that the body is not handling well.
“Wherever there are digestive symptoms there are nutrient issues, because the body can only access nutrients from the diet via digestion.
“Intolerance reactions also disrupt the healthy gut bacteria that live in our digestive tract, further affecting our ability to heal.
“Healing from an unidentified food intolerance is a process that can vary in time, according to how long a person has been exposed to the intolerance that is creating the problem. Clearing the body of an intolerance to food such as gluten or dairy requires total abstinence from exposure to that food molecule for two to three weeks.
“After two to three weeks, the molecules will be cleared from the body, but healing from eczema will still take some time as we wait for the body to repair itself.”
An intolerance reaction will have caused inflammation in the sensitive lining of the gut.
That inflammation damages the gut lining leading to ‘leaky gut’, which is when the tight junctions that hold the gut wall in place are no longer tight.
When the gut is permeable, molecules that are supposed to stay in the digestive system make their way into the rest of the body where they create all sorts of inflammation that can show up as IBS, a thyroid problem or eczema.
Leyla said: “In an intolerance reaction that has created a leaky gut, a person may feel like they are intolerant to absolutely everything, and for a period they will be.
“This is because the original intolerance has inflamed and sensitised the person to multiple food intolerances.
“Once the gut is healed and digestive support in the form of enzyme supplements is provided, the gut will begin to heal and the list of food intolerances will slowly reduce, leaving only one or two allergens to deal with.”
Most of the time, the offending food molecule belongs to dairy, soy or phenols (organic compounds found in fruits and vegetables).
The trick with food intolerances is to understand that the intolerance reaction can occur in the body up to three days after exposure.
The expert added: “An elimination of the suspected food for at least two weeks with the support of an enzyme to catch accidental exposure is best to truly understand if the food is a problem for you. Seeking a reduction in the severity of symptoms is the best option, as the aim is to choose a way of eating that will generate healing.”
Clear out airborne irritants
Healthy skin is a flat smooth surface, whereas under a microscope, eczema skin looks more like a sieve.
It has millions of tiny holes in the lipid barrier, which allows for particles to slip through into the deeper layer of skin where they begin to generate histamine and inflammation.
Examples of these chemical particles include minute particles like dust, pollen or animal dander.
Leyla said: “Chemical sensitivity is when chemicals that are in manufactured products cause an allergic type reaction in or on some part of the body.
“Most of the chemicals that trigger such reactions are chemicals that smell nice, such as cleaning products, bathing products, scented candles, perfumes, moisturisers and soaps.
“A good piece of advice to follow is that ‘if it dissolves grime and slime, it dissolves skin too’.
“As with food intolerances, it will take the body a number of weeks to recover from continuous daily exposure to household or environmental chemicals.
“In the case of laundry, items that have been washed with the typical chemical washing powders and fabric softeners will need to be re-washed and dried up to nine times before all traces of the washing powder and softener can no longer be detected in the material.”
Fortunately, cleaning the home and doing the laundry without the use of chemicals is much easier now, with so many green and eco-friendly products on the market.
A simple switch to eco-friendly products, with the addition of a water softener will get rid of most of the common chemical irritants that affect eczema skin, Leyla said.