To me, there’s nothing worse in the world than being itchy. Which is why I can’t even begin to imagine how those with eczema feel when they experience an outbreak. I actually lucked out – Both my brother and Aunt suffer terribly, especially this time of the year when the cold, dry weather air seems to make even the softest skin flake. While all I have to do is layer on a little more moisturizer to get some relief, those with eczema aren’t so lucky.
There are tons of prescription and over the counter remedies available to help treat the skin condition, but as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now I’d much prefer to go the natural route – Not only do I think home remedies (in most instances) work better, but I actually find that most of them do work better. After all, do you think that people just suffered in agony before the pharmaceutical industry came along? Of course not, they healed themselves naturally.
Before you start treating for a skin condition (or anything else for that matter), you should figure out if you actually suffer from that condition as opposed to just dry skin. The signs, symptoms, and severity of eczema can actually vary from person to person – The rash can even present differently or affect different parts of your body from time to time. That said, here’s a general run down of the symptoms associated with the skin condition:
– Dry, sensitive skin.
– Intense itching that sometime causes you to scratch so much that you bleed.
– Red, inflamed skin (sometimes caused by the intense scratching).
– A recurring rash.
– Rough, leathery patches or scaly areas of the skin.
– Areas of mild swelling.
– Dark coloured patches of skin.
– Oozing or crusting heads within the rash (usually caused by itching or picking at the rash, but not always).
If you’re suffering from one or more of these symptoms on a regular basis, there’s a good chance that you’ve got eczema.
What Causes it?
There are tons of things that can contribute to the formation of eczema, from environmental to allergen. Here are just a few of them:
– Certain soaps and detergents.
– Shampoos and bubble baths.
– Chlorine and other disinfectants.
– Contact with juices from certain fruits and vegetables (mostly acidic) or even meats.
– Dust mites.
– Pet dander.
– Seasonal pollens.
– Certain bacteria such as staphylococcusaureus.
– Certain fungi and viruses.
– Extreme hot or cold temperatures.
– High or low humidity.
– Perspiration from exercise.
– Dairy, wheat, or soy products.
– Nuts and seeds.
– A hormone imbalance.
So, as you can see – just about anything and everything can contribute to that nasty, itchy rash. Sure, you can go to a doctor and be prescribed a steroid (which may or may not work…. But probably won’t), but we’re here to talk about natural remedies.
What To Do About It
Just as the symptoms and causes of eczema are not going to be the same for everyone, there isn’t going to be a one size fits all solution. Here are some of the tried and tested solutions (brought to you by my brother and aunt – yearly sufferers since childhood). Try them on their own or combine them until you find what works best for you!
First And Foremost, You Need To Look At Your Diet
This is the first thing you should always do regardless of the condition you’re suffering from; foods are our greatest healer. If you’re someone that eats a ton of processed foods, an elimination diet could help you determine what exactly it is that your body reacts to and what it doesn’t. If you already eat well, don’t worry – There are still steps you can take.
– Eat more foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids because they can help reduce inflammation (walnuts, avocados, salmon, mackerel, tuna, flax seed, etc.).
– Start making and taking bone broth – It’s extremely rich in gelatin which is important for healthy skin, hair, nails, and overall health (feel free to supplement with vegetable gelatin – which is completely plant based – if you’re a vegetarian or vegan).
– Up your intake of healthy fats. From coconuts to avocados to real, organic butter. Your body needs the nutrients they provide.
– Take a multivitamin. You’re probably not getting enough vitamins and minerals from the food you’re eating now – Almost no one does.
– Up your zinc intake (not all multivitamins have zinc added to them) – 30 milligrams daily. Keep in mind though that zinc can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb copper, so you should be getting two milligrams of that daily too if you’re going to be taking the zinc for more than a month.
Addressing your dietary issues isn’t going to necessarily make the eczema go away overnight, of course. You’re also going to want to have some topical solutions:
If you haven’t invested in a jar of this wonderfulness yet, you definitely should – It can be used for just about everything! This one item has successfully replaced conditioner, mouthwash, toothpaste, moisturizer, and more in this household, but if you’re only going to invest in it for one thing, eczema is a great place to start.
The oil can help cool the itching and pain that’s associated with the skin condition, and it leaves your skin feeling silky smooth for hours after you apply it (and the wonderful scent it leaves behind doesn’t hurt at all either). You’ll want to invest in a cold-pressed, organic oil that hasn’t been bleached or altered in any way (Nutiva is my personal favourite). To use, simply spread a thin layer onto the affected area (as well as the rest of your skin) with clean hands. If it’s cold where you are, you might have to wait for the oil to melt a little (it doesn’t take long).
If you have coconut sensitivities and/or you just don’t like the smell of it (some people are crazy like that, I guess), jojoba oil comes in at a close second for me.
It’s easily absorbed by your skin and is less greasy than many of the other oils that are produced. Also, jojoba oil is odorless, so there’s no unpleasant smell to bother you and you can always add in a few drops of your favorite essential oil to give it a lovely scent.
It closely resembles the oils that out bodies naturally produce, so if you’re only going to invest in one item on this list to help get you some relief, this might be the one you want to put at the top of your list.
Sea Salt Spray
If you’ve already scratched at your rash to the point that it’s beginning to ooze, you might want to try drying it out as opposed to moisturizing it. If you happen to live near the ocean (you lucky soul, you), try going and spending a day at the beach – Between the vitamin D you’ll get from the sun and the magnesium, salt, and other minerals in the water, you’ll be feeling better in almost no time at all!
If, however, you’re like me and don’t live anywhere near salt water, you can make your own magnesium and salt water spray by adding a tablespoon of Himalayan or other sea salt and a pinch of Epsom salts (or magnesium flakes) to about a cup of hot (pre-boiled) water (you can also add some essential oils if you’d like, but it’s not necessary). Put it in a spray bottle and spray it on the affected area or put it on a cotton ball or washcloth and hold it on the rash.
This one isn’t going to be for everyone since some people that suffer from eczema can’t tolerate sitting in water for long periods of time, but if you can, you should definitely try soaking in a bath with Epsom salts. Not only will your skin feel soft and smooth when you get out, but you’ll also be getting some (probably much needed) magnesium! If you happen to have the stuff on hand, try a detox bath. Or click here to see what else you can do with that bag of Epsom salts aside from bathing.
Cod Liver Oil
Fermented cod liver oil is great for restoring healthy fats in the body. It aids in the reduction of inflammation and leads to healthy cell, hormone, and brain development. It can also help remineralize your teeth. It’s chalked full of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and plays an integral role of having a healthy system (we need fermented foods, and most of us just don’t get enough of them).
You can find fermented cod liver oil in your local health food store in liquid, capsule, and gel tab form. Full disclosure: It tastes like crap. But most things that are super good for us do. The chocolate flavoured ones really aren’t all that bad when they’re mixed into your morning smoothie though, so that might want to be the way you introduce it to your body.
I didn’t put this in with the diet part only because it’s a supplement. We’re beginning to learn more and more that optimal health begins with your gut, and probiotic rich foods are generally missing from the average North American diet – Back before there were refrigerators (and when people had very little money and wanted to make their food last as long as humanly possible), food was often preserved via fermentation. Eating that fermented foods got them the probiotics their bodies needed. Now that no one (or very few people) does that that anymore, we don’t get the probiotics we need unless we specifically seek them out. Here are a few probiotic rich foods that you can work into your diet:
– Yogurt, milk, and cheese from goats.
– Kefir (a fermented dairy product made from goats milk and fermented kefir grains).
– High quality dark chocolate.
– Spirulina, chorella, and other microalgae’s.
– Miso soup.
– Kombucha Tea.
If none of those things appeal to you, you can find probiotics in supplement form in the refrigerated section of your local health food store.
According to my grandmother, this was the one and only thing that would help my aunt’s suffering when she was little. Simply buy a bottle of the liquid gels, cut or break them open and pour the contents directly on the affected area. A washcloth soaked in warm water with some vitamin e salve should also be able to give your some relief.
If you’re able to tolerate it, the exfoliation that a sugar scrub provides could do you a lot of good (not to mention that you’ll absolutely love the lingering smell some of them leave on you). You can make your own sugar scrub with ingredients that you have laying around your house – Not only is this a more economically friendly option (some of the scrubs you buy at the store or spa can run you 30-50 dollars!), but you’ll actually know what goes into it. Click here to find out more about sugar scrubs and to get a few recipes you can make and use yourself.
An Oatmeal Bath
If you had chicken pox (which are also exceptionally itchy) when you were a child, there’s a good chance that your mother threw you in an oatmeal bath to get some relief.
Sure, you can buy an oatmeal bath at the grocery store, but why waste the money when you probably already have everything you need on hand? All you need to do is take some oatmeal and put it in a mesh bag (I use a lingerie bag) and set it under the faucet while the bathtub is filling up with warm (not hot) water. Soak for 10-15 minutes, and when you get out pat (don’t run) yourself dry with a fresh, clean towel. Lock that moisture in with one of the oils that we discussed above and you should feel better.
And there you have it! Hopefully at least one (if not a combination) of these things will help get your some relief. Please note that I’m not a dermatologist and that you know your body better than anyone else – If something feels like it’s just not right, it probably isn’t and you should make an appointment with your family doctor or naturopath as soon as possible.
If you have eczema, what are some of the things you do to help treat and prevent flare-ups? Let us know in the comments section below.
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