Natural Eczema Care

January 21, 2014 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Several weeks ago I was in the midst of one of the most stressful periods in my life. My wife and I were preparing for two moves (ours and my mother-in-law’s), while renovating an old townhouse that we all moved into together. Lots of changes, financial concerns and long days with a seemingly never-ending string of problems that needed solutions. In addition to the obvious stress of the circumstances, there were also many environmental insults (infuriated neighbors, earsplitting construction noise, endless dust, dirt, fumes, etc.). And, as a result, my diet wasn’t as “clean” as it normally is. A little more wine, some foods containing gluten and, generally speaking, a higher carbohydrate count were some of the highlights or lowlights of this recent period. Consequently, I began to notice an “angry” rash on my neck. It was inflamed, itchy, red and began to spread to my arms, chest and face. The severity of the rash worsened by the day. The next several weeks were downright miserable.

I knew from previous experience that most doctors, be they conventional or naturopathic, would likely be unable to diagnose and treat this condition successfully. So, my wife and I began to research the topic to try to come up with holistic solutions on our own. After sifting through countless papers and photographs, we determined that I likely had a skin infection known as seborrheic dermatitis – an inflammatory skin disorder which is related to eczema. As it turns out, lack of sleep, stress and the transition to winter weather frequently coincides with eczema incidence. In some cases, such as seborrheic dermatitis, other factors, including a fungal infection of the oil producing glands involving the yeast Malassezia, likewise play an important role.

Strongly suspecting seborrheic dermatitis as the cause of my skin dysfunction, I adopted several body-mind approaches to address it. In the course of my own treatment program, I discovered some recent developments in the field of integrative eczema management. The following briefly outlines my own path to healing and the latest scientific findings about natural alternatives for eczema in general.

I started with the basics. I re-adopted a diet that centered around nutrient-dense, whole foods which are very low in starches and sugar. I avoided most common allergens, including unfermented soy and all sources of gluten. From a supplemental perspective, I focused on those that antagonize fungi (organic, unrefined coconut oil and probiotics), modulate the immune system and limit excess inflammation (evening primrose oil, fish oil, mangosteen extract and Vitamin D). Also, I attribute my now 100% recovery in part to the use of organic tea tree oil. I began by using a gentle, all-natural baby shampoo with added aloe vera gel and tea tree oil to my daily shower. I applied it generously as a body wash and shampoo. After showering, I immediately moisturized with a natural hydrating cream which featured a high percentage of tea tree oil (5%), aloe vera and some additional Vitamin E. Rounding out my treatment protocol was an emphasis on adequate sleep and daily meditation to manage stress more effectively. Simply put, this approach worked wonders for me. But, it did require diligence, patience and time.

The latest news about natural remedies for eczema is quite promising, though you wouldn’t necessarily know this based on popular reviews by the conventional medical establishment. For instance, a 2013 summary by the prestigious Cochrane Database concluded that oral borage and evening primrose oils, sources of GLA – a rare and therapeutic fatty acid, are ineffective in improving eczema. However, this assertion is disputed by an 8 week trial from August 2013 which determined that 320 mg of GLA daily (evening primrose oil) markedly reduces eczema severity. Fish oil provides a different class of fatty acids, namely omega-3s, which modulate the immune system in those with eczema or other conditions that involve a selectively overactive immune response. Additional research supports a link between a lack of healthy bacteria in the gut and Vitamin D in those living with eczema. This explains why supplementation with probiotics and Vitamin D often yields favorable outcomes. Lastly, a recent review and study support the use of coal tar bath products, a traditional remedy, and ointments containing Nigella sativa or black cumin. The review documents the physiological mechanisms behind the historical skin benefits associated with coal tar products. And, a trial published at the end of 2013 found that a black cumin ointment was more effective than two conventional treatments: Betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory, immunosupressive glucosteroid, and Eucerin, a popular, soothing over-the-counter moisturizer.

I strongly believe that most skin problems are a reflection of a greater dysfunction in the body as a whole. So, while I encourage the use of creams, lotions and supplements to safely reduce or relieve symptoms, I also suggest taking a deeper look for other causative factors. Typically, lifestyle choices which support general well-being will also improve skin disorders. Make positive changes in your diet, focus on psychological health, look for natural alternatives such as chlorine filters for your shower, humidifiers during dry conditions, and skin care products that are free of unnecessary additives and chemicals. And, perhaps most importantly, try to find some sort of meaning while you work towards better skin health. Even at the lowest points of my current skin episode, I knew that something positive would come of this. I’m confident that someone reading this will find hope and/or part of their solution because of my challenging experience.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Oral Evening Primrose Oil and Borage Oil for Eczema (link)

Study 2 - Dose-Dependent Effects of Evening Primrose Oil in Children and (link)

Study 3 – A Randomized Controlled Double-Blind Investigation of the Effects of (link)

Study 4 - Do Fast Foods Cause Asthma, Rhinoconjunctivitis & Eczema? Global … (link)

Study 5 – Microarray Analysis Reveals Marked Intestinal Microbiota Aberrancy in (link)

Study 6 - A Protective Effect of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus HN001 Against Eczema ... (link)

Study 7 - Changing of Fecal Flora and Clinical Effect of L. Salivarius LS01 in Adults (link)

Study 8 - Fish Oil Supplementation in Early Infancy Modulates Developing Infant (link)

Study 9 - Comparison of Therapeutic Effect of Topical Nigella w/ Betamethasone (link)

Study 10 - Old King Coal – Molecular Mechanisms Underlying An Ancient (link)

High Dose Evening Primrose Oil Reduces Eczema Symptoms

Source: Ann Dermatol. 2013 Aug;25(3):285-91. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Detoxification, Mental Health

12 Comments & Updates to “Natural Eczema Care”

  1. Sylvia Stewart Says:

    Very interesting to learn the combination of changes that yielded positive results for what sounds like was a miserable condition. Grateful for their success and that you found relief!

  2. JP Says:

    Many thanks, Sylvia! :-)

    Be well!


  3. G.Paul F. Says:

    Hi JP,

    This stressful episode in your life yielded the opportunity to be able to cure yourself thanks to your proficient research and discipline. We are blessed to have access to current research through the internet.

    I am happy you selected the appropriate treatments thanks to your ability to discern supported by your years of experience and analysis of the conditions.
    You could make a superb doctor!



  4. JP Says:

    Thank you, Paul! I appreciate your kind words and support!

    The Internet is a genuine blessing. It affords so many resources that, in the past, weren’t available to laypeople such as myself. :-)

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Dietary and/or supplemental zinc may also be helpful:

    Acta Derm Venereol. 2014 Jan 28. doi: 10.2340/00015555-1772.

    Hair Zinc Levels and the Efficacy of Oral Zinc Supplementation in Patients with Atopic Dermatitis.

    Kim JE, Yoo SR, Jeong MG, Ko JY, Ro YS.

    Zinc deficiency in patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) and the use of zinc supplementation is still controversial. We measured hair zinc levels in 58 children with AD and 43 controls (age range 2-14 years). We also investigated the efficacy of oral zinc supplementation in AD patients with low hair zinc levels by comparing eczema assessment severity index (EASI), transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and visual analogue scales for pruritus and sleep disturbance in patients receiving zinc supplementation (Group A) and others not receiving supplementation (Group B). At baseline, the mean zinc level was significantly reduced in AD patients (113.1 μg/g vs. 130.9 μg/g, p = 0.012). After 8 weeks of supplement, hair zinc level increased significantly in Group A (p <  0.001), and EASI scores, TEWL, and visual analogue scales for pruritus improved more in Group A than in Group B (p = 0.044, 0.015 and < 0.001, respectively). Thus, oral zinc supplementation may be effective in AD patients with low hair zinc levels.

    Be well!


  6. Craig Says:

    Well researched post!

    I too struggle with eczema. I have recently managed to get it under control to the point where it has completely cleared up. Similar to the article I have had to implement a regime of:
    – eat clean & healthy (no dairy/ little gluten)
    – reducing stress;
    – daily DHA/ EPA;
    – 1-2g of Vitamin C per day;
    – Probiotic daily;
    – Using soaps/ shampoos which contain few/ no chemicals.
    If any of these change i.e. stop taking fish oil then the eczema slowly returns.

    I have taken the positive, that eczema returning is my body telling me that I am not being as awesome as I could be.


  7. JP Says:

    Thank you, Craig! Do you supplement with Vitamin D or spend non-peak time in the sunshine? I’ve found that helpful as well.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Update: More support for natural topical preparations …

    Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2014 Nov 11;7:321-7.

    A cosmeceutical formulation based on boswellic acids for the treatment of erythematous eczema and psoriasis.

    BACKGROUND: Boswellic acids (BAs) show anti-inflammatory properties in a variety of inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and asthma. A topical administration route is currently used to deliver active compounds in psoriatic and eczematous patients. In this double-blind study we compare a novel BA formulation (containing Bosexil(®), INCI [International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients]: lecithin, Boswellia serrata resin extract) with a placebo formulation. A third arm of the trial received a formulation of Vaccinium myrtillus seed oil, previously demonstrated as an effective local treatment for psoriatic lesions.

    METHODS: Patients with psoriasis or erythematous eczema were randomly assigned, in a 1:1:1 ratio, to Bosexil(®), V. myrtillus seed oil, or placebo. In order to evaluate the effects of treatment, the changes of scales and erythema from diagnosis to the end of treatment were scored in psoriatic patients, while changes in itch and erythema were analyzed for erythematous eczema patients. Psoriasis Area Severity Index and Eczema Area and Severity Index scores were also calculated.

    RESULTS: In patients with psoriasis, scales and erythema improved both with Bosexil(®) and the V. myrtillus seed oil treatment in comparison with placebo. In particular, the treatment with Bosexil(®) formulation improved scales (70% of cases) and erythema (50% of cases) without any case of worsening. In patients with eczema, the administration of placebo did not result in any improvement in 90% of cases, and in the remaining 10% worsened both itch and erythema. Bosexil(®) formulation improved both itch (60% of cases) and erythema (60% of cases) without any case of worsening. V. myrtillus seed oil improved itch and erythema in 66.7% and 77.8% of patients, respectively.

    CONCLUSION: A topical formulation of Bosexil(®) may be promising for the treatment of psoriasis and erythematous eczema. Long-term studies are recommended to evaluate the adherence to this topical treatment and its clinical benefits in real life.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update 06/26/15:

    PLoS One. 2014 Sep 5;9(9):e107003.

    Importance of fatty acid compositions in patients with peripheral arterial disease.

    OBJECTIVE: Importance of fatty acid components and imbalances has emerged in coronary heart disease. In this study, we analyzed fatty acids and ankle-brachial index (ABI) in a Japanese cohort.

    METHODS: Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) was diagnosed in 101 patients by ABI ≤0.90 and/or by angiography. Traditional cardiovascular risk factors and components of serum fatty acids were examined in all patients (mean age 73.2±0.9 years; 81 males), and compared with those in 373 age- and sex-matched control subjects with no evidence of PAD.

    RESULTS: The presence of PAD (mean ABI: 0.71±0.02) was independently associated with low levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) (OR: 0.90; 95% CI: 0.85-0.96; P = 0.002), eicosapentaenoic acid∶arachidonic acid (EPA∶AA) ratio (OR: 0.38; 95% CI: 0.17-0.86; P = 0.021), and estimated glomerular filtration rate (OR: 0.97; 95% CI: 0.96-0.98; P<0.0001), and with a high hemoglobin A1c level (OR: 1.34; 95% CI: 1.06-1.69; P = 0.013). Individuals with lower levels of GLA (≤7.95 µg/mL) and a lower EPA∶AA ratio (≤0.55) had the lowest ABI (0.96±0.02, N = 90), while the highest ABI (1.12±0.01, N = 78) was observed in individuals with higher values of both GLA and EPA∶AA ratio (P<0.0001).

    CONCLUSION: A low level of GLA and a low EPA∶AA ratio are independently associated with the presence of PAD. Specific fatty acid abnormalities and imbalances could lead to new strategies for risk stratification and prevention in PAD patients.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Update 06/30/15:

    Nutrients. 2015 Jun 25;7(7):5098-5110.

    A Traditional Diet Is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Eczema and Wheeze in Colombian Children.

    BACKGROUND: Diet might influence the risk of allergic diseases. Evidence from developing countries with high prevalence of childhood asthma is scant.

    METHODS: Information on wheeze, rhinitis, and eczema was collected from 3209 children aged 6-7 years in 2005, who were taking part in the International Study on Asthma and Allergy in Children (ISAAC) in Colombia. Intake frequency of twelve food groups was assessed. Associations between each food group and current wheeze, rhino-conjunctivitis, and eczema were investigated with multiple logistic regressions, adjusting for potential confounders. Simes’ procedure was used to test for multiple comparisons.

    RESULTS: 14.9% of children reported wheeze in the last 12 months, 16% rhino-conjunctivitis, and 22% eczema. Eczema was negatively associated with consumption of fresh fruits and pulses three or more times per week (adjusted Odds ratio (aOR): 0.64; 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 0.49 to 0.83; p value = 0.004; and aOR: 0.62, 95% CI: 0.47 to 0.80; p value < 0.001, respectively). Current wheeze was negatively associated with intake of potatoes (aOR: 0.44, 95% CI: 0.31 to 0.62, p value = 0.005), whilst this outcome was positively associated with consumption of fast food (aOR: 1.76, 95% CI: 1.32 to 2.35, p value = 0.001). These associations remained statistically significant after controlling for multiple comparisons.

    CONCLUSIONS: A traditional diet might have a protective effect against eczema and wheeze in Colombian children, whilst intake of fast foods increases this risk.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Updated 08/17/15:

    Clin Exp Dermatol. 2015 Jul 30.

    Dairy and nondairy beverage consumption for childhood atopic eczema: what health advice to give?

    BACKGROUND: Many parents of children with atopic eczema (AE) practise empirical dietary avoidance and supplementation, and seek healthcare advice on whether consumption of dairy and nondairy beverages may be beneficial or detrimental for this condition.

    AIM: We investigated if frequency of consumption of beverages was associated with disease severity and quality of life (QoL).

    METHODS: Parent-reported frequency of drinks and beverages were recorded in consecutive children with AE, and disease severity (Nottingham Eczema Severity Score; NESS), QoL (Children’s Dermatology Life Quality Index; CDLQI), skin hydration (SH), transepidermal water loss (TEWL), blood pressure (BP), resting heart rate (RHR) and body mass index (BMI) were evaluated.

    RESULTS: AE was associated with worse QoL than miscellaneous non-AE skin diseases (P < 0.001). Compared with children without AE, there was a trend for children with AE to drink less milk (P = 0.06) and more miscellaneous beverages (such as Chinese herbal tea and soymilk; P = 0.03). In children with AE, NESS correlated with CDLQI (ρ = 0.66, P < 0.001) and reduced SH (ρ = -0.32, P < 0.001), whereas CDLQI correlated with a higher RHR (ρ = 0.25, P < 0.01). Multiple logistic regression showed that male sex (OR = 0.44, 95% CI 0.20-0.97; P = 0.04) and drinking fresh milk (OR = 0.42, 95% CI 0.20-0.93; P = 0.03) were independent factors associated with less severe disease. Moderate to severe impairment of CDLQI was associated with NESS (OR = 1.48, 95% CI 1.28-1.71; P < 0.001) and RHR (OR = 1.05, 95% CI 1.02-1.08; P < 0.01) but not with reported habits of beverage consumption. Concerning cardiovascular health in AE, frequency of formula milk consumption was associated with RHR (ρ = 0.17, P = 0.04), and soft drink consumption was associated with higher systolic blood pressure (SBP) (ρ = 0.18, P = 0.04).

    CONCLUSION: This study provides evidence for parental/patient guidance. Children with AE who reported more fresh milk consumption had less severe disease. There was no correlation between consumption of nondairy beverages with disease severity or QoL, but frequency of soft drink consumption correlated with SBP. With these results being supported by a literature review, it is reasonable to advise parents that fresh milk can be consumed by unsensitized children with AE. Soft drinks and other beverages should not be consumed in excess for optimal cardiovascular health and for other health reasons.

    Be well!


  12. JP Says:

    Updated 08/17/15:

    Allergy. 2015 Jul 27.

    Breast milk fatty acid composition has a long-term effect on the risk of asthma, eczema, and sensitization.

    BACKGROUND: Levels of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and n-6 PUFAs in breast milk are associated with development of allergic diseases up to school age. However, it is unknown if this relationship persists when the child becomes older. We therefore studied the association between levels of n-3 PUFAs and n-6 PUFAs in breast milk of allergic- and non-allergic mothers and asthma, eczema and sensitization up to the age of 14 years.

    METHODS: The study was nested in the ongoing PIAMA birth cohort. At the child’s age of 3 months, 276 mothers provided a breast milk sample. Asthma (Ntotal=269) and eczema (Ntotal=274) were self-reported up to the child’s age of 14 years. Specific serum IgE levels were measured at the ages of 4, 8, and 12 years (Ntotal=216). Generalized estimating equations analyses were used to take account of repeated observations.

    RESULTS: Asthma up to the age of 14 years is less prevalent in children of allergic mothers receiving breast milk with higher levels of n-3 long chain polyunsaturated (LCP) fatty acids (OR 0.50; 95% CI 0.31-0.79), and more prevalent in children of non-allergic mothers receiving breast milk with higher levels of n-6LCP (OR 1.86; 95% CI 1.14-3.03). Weaker associations in similar direction were observed for eczema and sensitization. Direction of associations were consistent and of similar magnitude throughout childhood.

    CONCLUSION: The association between breast milk fatty acid composition and asthma, eczema, and sensitization persists up to the age of 14 years in children of both allergic and non-allergic mothers. This article is protected by copyright.

    Be well!


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