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How Can I Treat Eczema Naturally?

Sonima’s naturopathic medical advisor provides some possible solutions for this complex skin condition.

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Naturopathic Medical Advisor
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Q: My eczema flares up in the springtime. Are there any natural cures that will help control this?

A: Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a complicated skin condition that is characterized by itchy and inflamed skin. The areas most commonly affected include the joints of the wrists and elbows and behind the knees. Eczema is influenced by several factors, including vitamin D deficiency, allergies (food and environmental), and digestive issues. Here are a few courses of action to consider if you suffer from eczema:

Identify allergies or sensitivities in the body. Arrange an allergy test with your doctor, or if this is too expensive you can experiment with an elimination diet. Dairy and wheat products are two of the most common allergens; if you are sensitive to these foods eliminating them from your diet may help relieve symptoms of eczema.

Identify environmental allergens. Speak with your doctor about being tested for environmental allergens. Allergic contact eczema can be cured if a specific allergenic substance can be identified and avoided.

Get a blood test to check Vitamin D levels. Low blood levels of vitamin D have been correlated with a variety of skin conditions, including eczema. If you find vitamin D is low, consider getting 15 minutes of sun a few times a week, taking a daily dietary supplement and eating more foods rich in vitamin D, such as eggs, salmon, and enriched dairy products.

Consider a GLA supplement. Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is a fatty acid commonly found in evening primrose oil, borage oil, and black currant oil. It is difficult to find this in our diet. Taking 500 mg of GLA twice daily for two months has been shown to improve the health and texture of skin, hair, and nails.

Optimize gut health with prebiotics and probiotics. Improving digestion and the microbiome of the gut can often positively influence the intensity of eczema. You can get probiotics from foods such as high quality fermented foods, high probiotic containing Greek yogurt or a daily probiotic supplement.

Soothe skin with a topical treatment. Most dermatologists will prescribe a steroid cream to reduce the inflammation of eczema. If your condition does not warrant a topical steroid you can try an alternative treatment such as calendula ointment, aloe vera gel, or Rescue Remedy gel, which can be found in health food stores or online.

Stay hydrated. When the humidity outside is low, the skin needs considerable moisture. Drink sufficient water or perhaps try a humidifier in your home and/or office.

Avoid harsh soaps. Avoid soaps that contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Soaps that contain natural moisturizers such as coconut or avocado oil and shea butter are preferred.

Discuss ultraviolet B light with your dermatologist. For many eczema sufferers this is a successful non-invasive form of treatment.

Check your zinc levels. Some eczema, especially on the face, hands, and feet have been correlated to a zinc deficiency. If you have outbreaks in these areas consider checking your zinc levels.

Explore homeopathic remedies and acupuncture. Homeopathy and Traditional Chinese medicine are both shown to help improve a variety of skin conditions, including eczema. The National Center for Homeopathy and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine are both good sources to find qualified practitioners.

Manage stress. Eczema is a result of inflammation. Stress will naturally increase inflammation. Consider modulating your stress with yoga, meditation, exercise, aromatherapy, and socializing with family and friends.

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Sometimes it’s difficult to cultivate lucidity during troubling times. Patanjali Yoga Sūtras offers 4 practices to help keep the mind steady: 
Friendship, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity. 
These four practices are also praised in various Buddhist suttas.
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