For eczema sufferers, winter can be a very difficult time as the dry season can worsen skin inflammations. While there are tons of creams and treatments out there to help combat this dermal condition called atopic dermatitis, there are other natural remedies to help alleviate the symptoms of eczema.
Common cause of eczema
"You are what you eat" has more implications than you may think, as processed and refined foods can cause excess acid production in the body. The body’s natural detoxifying system eliminates this acid via the skin, however it's during this process that conditions such as eczema can be triggered, causing the all-known symptoms of itchiness, redness, and discomfort.
To help you get some relief from the various causes of eczema, there are certain foods you can eat to help your situation and lifestyle hacks you can try, as well as understand what you should avoid, to help you from the inside-out.
Natural remedies for eczema
1. Drink lemon water as soon as you wake up
Drinking hot lemon water on an empty stomach first thing in the morning can help balance your body by inducing a more alkaline state. This in turn can help reduce inflammation, especially if you continue to drink mineral water throughout the day.
2. Aim for 80% plant-based
Try to eat a plant-based diet consisting of 80% nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, and legumes. Piling on veggies at every meal instead of hefty quantities of meat can help reduce inflammation in the body. Also, aim to make your diet 50% raw, which can be easily done by incorporating salads, juices, and smoothies to help keep you fuller for longer – and watch out for the excess sugar found in fruit which you can read more about below.
3. Add hemp seeds to your meals
Add hulled hemp seeds to your diet as they contain gamma-linolenic acid, which is great for dry skin. Incorporate them into salads, granolas, and smoothies, and if you’re feeling especially creative, blend hemp seeds with water adding a few drops of stevia and vanilla to make your own lactose-free milk!
4. Include fermented foods too
Fermented foods can help rebalance your gut flora which can improve your overall gut health. The 'brain gut' is where most of your health stems from, therefore including the list of popular fermented foods into your diet like sauerkraut, kombucha tea, kefir, pickles, miso, tempeh, natto, and kimchi can help.
5. Add alkalising green juices to your daily diet
The alkaline properties in the greens can help combat the excess acid produced in the body, even reducing symptoms like acid reflux. However, always consult a Nutritional Therapist should you suffer from heartburn or any other digestive issue.
6. Try to stay regular to avoid a build-up of toxins
Keep your bowels moving – irregular bowel motions can lead to a build-up of toxins in the body. Some popular ingredients to help clean the system include magnesium oxide. A Nutritional Therapist can help you find the right bowel cleanse for you should that be of interest.
7. Infrared saunas can help reduce toxins
Infrared saunas can be very effective for removing toxins and can be found in many gyms and spas. They are also a great way to feel the heat during those gruelling winter months.
Eczema triggers: Foods to avoid
1. Say no to sugar
Too much sugar in our diets can result in a yeast overgrowth, which produces potent allergenic compounds that spark a dramatic immune response – eczema. Try to avoid eating sugar in any form, including dry fruit, honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar, and beware of hidden sugars in processed foods. Instead, opt for low glycaemic sweeteners such as liquid stevia, yacon syrup, or xylitol.
2. Fruit: Stick to two a day
Fruit is high in fructose, also known as the "fruit sugar” and is also highly acidic. Try to stick to one or two pieces of low glycaemic fruit a day, such as apples, pears, or berries. Take note – lemon and lime, although acidic to taste, are actually alkalising as they contain alkalising minerals.
3. Opt for herbal instead of caffeinated drinks
Avoid drinking black tea, coffee, alcohol, or fizzy drinks when dealing with inflammation in the body and skin conditions like eczema. Instead, opt for herbal teas such as green matcha which is high in antioxidants, or even kombucha which is fermented and contains 40 strains of probiotics.
4. Avoid dairy
For many, cow’s milk protein is a common dietary trigger of eczema. You can try to substitute with goat’s or sheep’s cheese, and milk made from nuts or seeds.
Home remedies and products for eczema relief
1. Opt for organic and natural skincare products
Apply natural skincare and personal hygiene products, and where possible, buy organic or make your own. Use can try coconut oil to moisturise the body, argan oil for the face, and almond oil to remove make-up.
2. Ease the burn with salt and water
Use a saturated solution of Himalayan or sea salt and filtered water via a spray bottle or apply with a cotton pad to ease the pain of inflamed eczema. Another great option is a 50/50 solution of apple cider vinegar (raw, organic is best) and filtered water.
3. Apply a fresh piece of aloe vera to the affected area
Cut a piece of fresh aloe vera flesh, apply to a patch of eczema, and hold in place for 12-24 hours with an adhesive dressing. Fresh aloe leaves can be easily bought, or alternatively, pull out your green thumb and plant some at home!
4. Wear natural fibre clothing
Keep inflammations to a minimum by wearing clothes made of natural fibres such as cotton, silk, and linen.
5. Clean your home using natural products
The harsh chemicals in cleaning products can inflame skin at the best of times, let alone if you suffer from a condition such as eczema. Try to use natural cleaning products at home such as baking soda and white vinegar.
The impact and effects of stress on eczema
According to professor of clinical dermatology at Columbia University, Donald V. Belsito, stress can cause skin inflammations to increase – as a way to protect the skin from harm – therefore skin conditions such as eczema are worsened with increased stress.
Therefore, working on decreasing your stress can potentially help your eczema. Here are a few tips to keep your stress levels at bay:
1. Let go of anything or anyone who does not add value to your life or causes additional stress.
2. Disconnect from your phone/tablet/TV for a few hours every day – the sky will not fall in, I promise.
3. Get plenty of sleep and eat your last meal as early as possible, and keep it light – the body can't digest and sleep at the same time.
4. Breathe – 70% of toxins leave your body through your lungs. Try breathing in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, out for four seconds, hold for four seconds and repeat.
5. Namaste – try yoga or meditation. In particular, Kundalini yoga combines breathing, yoga asana, and meditation all in one.
6. Fresh air and nature heal the body and soul. Walk on grass or sand with your bare feet to absorb positive energy from the earth.
7. Be kind to yourself and others – kindness has astonishing health benefits!
So, if you have exhausted every ointment on the market, and have tried every washing powder available at the supermarket to ease your eczema, give these natural remedies a go. It is a great way to get to know what works for your body.