It’s not easy! There is a lot of information out there. Some are good, some are not so good, and some are just not suitable for you. In this article, I will be highlighting some of the common mistakes that people make when treating eczema to get you on the right path of healing your skin.
Thinking that eczema is just a skin condition.
Absolutely not. The skin is not the root cause, but it is the outcome of something else that is going wrong inside your body! Depending on the type of eczema you have, whether it be contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, or dyshidrotic eczema, you will have a different root cause. For example, seborrheic eczema, or cradle cap for infants, is caused by fungal overgrowth on the skin. However, susceptibility to fungal infection is usually related to imbalance in the bacterial environment in the gut, along with immunological issues that allows the fungus to overgrow. You can also look beyond your body. Take a look at your home environment. Are there molds on your window sills, curtains, carpets, or bathroom surfaces? If so, you are likely to experience flare ups during the time you are at home. Other types of eczema may be caused by dysfunction in the gut and the liver, which may force your body to detoxify through your skin, rather than through your stools and urine! This is why treating eczema as “just a skin condition” never works. It is not to say that topical applications are bad. But it is important to treat eczema topically AS WELL AS the complex interplay that the rest of the body has with the skin.
Slap on that vaseline!
Although Vaseline is great for keeping the moisture in your skin, it may not necessarily assist the healing of eczema, and sometime it can even worsen the irritation. Vaseline is made from petroleum (yes that’s right, it is a byproduct of what we use to make our cars run), and it is water-resistant. Even though it gives the sensation of feeling moisturized, it is actually clogging your pores and does not allow your skin to breathe. This means that whatever your skin is trying to push out of your body gets trapped at the surface, which can worsen the eczema. It can further aggravate the irritation by trapping dirt and heat. To top things off, the components of petroleum can be, depending on the purity of the product, carcinogenic (cancer causing). Although it is usually considered safe, I would recommend using more water-based creams or natural balms containing anti-inflammatory, anti-itch and skin healing herbs such as aloe vera, liquorice, kawa kawa, calendula and/or chickweed.
The elimination diet
First of all, I am not saying that elimination diet is bad. In fact, it is the gold standard in finding out your food intolerances, which can certainly contribute to your eczema flare-ups. I am saying that, very often, it is not done properly. Many people believe that elimination diet is as simple as cutting dairy out for 2 weeks, and then cutting wheat out for 2 weeks while going back on the dairy. No, no, no, it’s not that simple. In order to do the elimination diet properly, you must cut out all common allergenic foods and beverages (Dairy, wheat, sugar, nuts, eggs, alcohol, coffee, soy, corn, additives and preservatives, etc) plus any other foods you feel like you are reacting to for AT LEAST 3 weeks. This is because it is believed that antibodies that your immune system makes when it negatively reacts to certain foods are generally cleared after 3 weeks. Then each eliminated food groups must be reintroduced individually, 1-2 weeks at a time. If you feel any symptoms from a certain type of food, you must eliminate it again to see if you feel better. So you see, it can be a very tedious process, and the majority of people are not following these steps correctly, which then becomes a waste of time! If you do not have the time to going through this process, I recommend having a food and environmental intolerance test to help identify your intolerances without too much fuss.
Too much hopping around
Skin is the last place to heal, so you need to have patience! For a small child, it can be as quick as 3 months to see some great improvements coming through. For adults, however, it can take much longer. This is because as adults we have more complex issues to deal with, such as alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, stress, time constraints, social obligations, etc. Sure, kids may also experience some of these things (hopefully not alcohol, smoking or coffee!), but we can all agree that children will be exposed to such issues to a much lesser degree. Adults have also lived much longer, which means that it took them X number of years to get to the stage of health they are in now, and therefore it’s not going to be an overnight fix. Nonetheless, I have seen many patients hopping from one treatment to another before coming to see me, maybe a month at a time, expecting to find the miracle cure. If this is you, I’d advise you to be patient, and stick to certain treatments for 3-6 months before you try something new.
One size does not fit all
There are many of you who have researched extensively over the internet about ways to improve your skin. Some are successful, some are not. And because there is so much information out there, it often feels like you are just aiming in the dark, crossing your fingers that you will come across something that will help to relieve the itch. This is because the information provided on the internet are rather generic, or specific success stories about something that has worked for someone else. The trouble is, that person is not you. It is like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. If you are struggling to bring your eczema under control, and you feel like you have tried everything, I would recommend you to consult a qualified naturopath. We are trained to look at you as a unique individual, and provide a comprehensive treatment plan that is completely personalized. It takes much of the guesswork out, so that you do not have to pull your hair out trying to find the right treatment for you.
Qualified Naturopath, Medical Herbalist, Advanced Hemaview Practitioner