A particular area of interest for me in natural health is the skin and healing options for the skin.
Your skin is your largest organ in your body, with it’s key role being to protect you, to keep pathogens out, prevent the loss of blood and body fluids and to aid in regulating your body’s temperature.
I love the fact that our cells within our epidermis layer (outer layer) replace themselves every two to three weeks. I love the way our skin adapts to environmental and often internal stressors we throw at it. I am fascinated with the complexity and the simplicity of our skin and love learning about what makes the different tones, textures, colours, thicknesses and tissues within different areas of our body.
What I don’t like to see though is the discomfort some people have with their skin and the stress it can cause.
An example of this is eczema in children, not only have you got stressed parents that are worrying about the rashes appearing on their beautiful child’s skin, but you have a child that can’t stop itching and scratching. Often with the scratching comes changes to the structure of the skin and you get weeping blisters and patches of dry scaly skin and sometimes a child that cannot sleep at night.
So whats going on? Often it is your body’s response to fight and get rid of what it see’s as a pathogen (an unwelcome guest). With eczema it can be an IGE immungobloin hypertensive immune response which means your body is on the attack trying to rid itself of the pathogen it thinks it has and your body’s T cells which are helper cells are in overdrive trying to rid your body of the pathogen. A side effect of this over active immune response is pain, swelling, vasodilatation, with red inflamed weeping blisters and plaques forming on the skin that are extremely itchy. The reason you get this reaction on your skin is cause the body tries to rid your system of this pathogen via the quickest route which is your skin.
With the scratching you are opening your body up to bacterial infection, carried on your nails which can easily get into the wounds and before you know it your body is not only trying to rid itself of the pathogen that is causing the eczema but it is also trying to fight an infection. Unfortunately this all mounts to an immune compromised person/child where you now have a child that is itchy, in pain, cannot sleep and now has an infection with a potential fever and overall is a very stressed state.
Unfortunately eczema is a chronic condition and often has many triggers, some triggers may be genetic, and some may be an allergic response to certain foods, with cow’s milk, egg white, peanuts and wheat being the most common allergen causing foods for Eczema. Added to this Eczema can also be exacerbated by trigger factors such as psychological stress, changes in season, climate, irritants, allergens and infections, children with eczema are more likely to develop asthma or hay fever around the age of 5 or 6 years. Researchers looking into the cause believe there is a link with a protein involved with repair of the skin barrier, those with eczema are missing one gene that makes up the protein involved in repair of skin.
The conventional treatment for eczema is often antihistamines and the application of topical steroids, such as corticosteroids, the use of these topical steroids does have an anti-inflammatory effect, however their use is often associated with side effects. Such as reducing the effectiveness of the immune system, they can cause fluid retention and electrolyte imbalance as well as raised blood glucose levels and blood pressure. And of course over time an unfortunate side effect is skin thinning which means if using long term you are more exposed to skin cancers so use with caution.
So what naturopathically can be done?
A naturopath is going to look at all things surrounding your child. Their main focus will be to relieve the itching, pain, inflammation and plaques on skin as well as assisting in the management of stress and improving sleep.
A key focus will be diet – ensuring adequate nutrients, fats and proteins and looking to eliminate foods that could be causing an allergic response.
A probiotic may be subscribed – a particular strain of probitotic that has had proven positive results is probitotic L rhamnosus HN001. This was particularly good in the treatment of IgE associated eczema as it enhances the gut barrier function and has significant immunomodulating effects.
An emollient cream or balm – that will be applied topically to help relieve the pain associated with the blisters and to also heal the skin. Vitalise Health’s skin soothing balm and nourishing body moisturiser are both formulated with inflammatory skin conditions in mind so would both be effective in aiding in repairing the skin.
A herbal formula may be subscribed to enhance the immune systems response and to aid in calming both inflammation and stress as well as improving sleep.
Lifestyle modifications will be recommended such as adequate amounts of vitamin D, swimming in the ocean in the summer, looking into what detergents are used both on clothing and for washing the skin as well as what is been worn against the skin.
The overall goal is to relieve you of the stress associated with eczema and to help you to better manage any flare ups in the skin condition. Essential to the relief of eczema is ongoing management of the condition as it is a chronic inflammatory condition that can flare on any type of environmental change.
I hope this has been helpful, we welcome any questions you may have, and Denise would be extremely happy to support you if you or a family member are suffering from eczema or any other skin condition.
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Wickens, K., Stanley, T., V., Mitchell, E., A., Barthow, C., Fitzharris, P., Purdie, G., . . . Crane, J. (2013). Early supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 reduces eczema prevalence to 6 years: does it also reduce atopic sensitization. Clinical & Experimental Allergy(43). doi: 10.1111/cea.12154