- Eczema flare-ups are extremely uncomfortable and the scratching makes it worse.
- Skin becomes inflamed and scaly only after the scratching starts.
- There are ways to get rid of the itch and prevent triggers. Read on to find out what you can do.
If you ask those who suffer from eczema what they really want, the answer will be an instant relief for eczema itch. The incessant itching is impossible not to scratch which just makes the skin worse causing inflammation and even breaking the skin.
In this article, I will be giving you all the information you need to stop the itching, both temporarily and permanently. Here is what you need to know about eczema.
What is Eczema
Eczema is a skin disease that causes irritated, red, scaly skin and itching that can be unbearable. This happens because the skin lacks a protein called filaggrin which results in impaired ability to retain moisture properly and stop irritants and toxins from entering the skin. Simply put, the immune system and skin barrier don’t work correctly.
It often occurs because of genetics, usually in families where there is a history of allergies or eczema. Eczema is most common in children and is outgrown by the age of 5. It can continue into adulthood. But this isn’t always the case. You can sometimes develop eczema as an adult, usually, this will be due to allergies. If any adult develops Eczema, I always say its really time to start working on your immunity.
There are seven types of eczema. It is important for you to know the exact name of your eczema you might have, which will help you to self treat if you are a biohacker like me.
When symptoms appear, don’t ignore them for too long because our skin is the first defense mechanism to various pathogens and bacteria we encounter on daily basis. When our skin is inflamed, the opened skin can catch viruses and bacteria more easily and a severe infection can result.
What Eczema Actually Is
While there are many types of eczema, the most common types of eczema are atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis is very common in children, especially babies, but can develop at any age. There are periods of inactivity, if triggers are avoided, years can go by without a flare-up. The skin is usually still quite dry during the inactive phase and requires daily moisturizing. The active phase is a flare up and needs to be treated with creams to stop the itching and reduce the inflammation.
If you developed eczema as an adult, it’s most likely contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is either caused by an allergic reaction to something (allergic contact dermatitis) or because something irritated your skin (irritant contact dermatitis). It can take up to 72 hours after exposure to the symptoms to show.
- Cracked skin
- Bumps on the skin
- Oozing or leaking
- Dark discoloration (usually a brownish-gray)
- Thick, leathery skin
- Can occur anywhere, but mainly occurs on the back of the knees, inside the elbows, neck, face, scalp, hands, or feet.
Temporary Ways to Soothe Eczema Itch
- Saltwater compress: This is a temporary solution but very helpful. Soak a cloth in warm water and preferably Himalayan salt solution and apply to the affected area as a compress. This will soothe the itch. Putting Himalayan salt in your bath water will also help to draw any toxins in your skin out.
- Neem (Indian lilac): Neem has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also a natural painkiller. It does this without all the side effects that steroid creams may have. You can find it in lotions (avoid harsh chemicals), as a paste, in oil form, or you can use the juice from crushed neem leaves to apply to your skin for relief. Dilute the oil or juice in a carrier oil like coconut oil first.
- Turmeric: Tumeric has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties when applied to the skin. One simple way to use it is to wash the affected with a mixture of water and half a spoon of turmeric. You can also combine turmeric with neem paste to apply to your eczema.
- Aloe vera: Aloe is very moisturizing and soothes itching and inflamed skin. It also helps to prevent infections from occurring. You can find natural extracts in many health stores and lotions with aloe extract too. But avoid chemicals and alcohol in the lotions and extracts. You can even cut a leaf from the aloe plant, squeeze out the gel and apply it to your skin.
- Keep your skin moisturized: Use a fragrance and colorant-free lotion within 3 minutes of showering or bathing. Applying the lotion to skin that is still damp will trap the moisture. If you wait too long to apply the lotion, it can make the problem worse. You can also use oils like extra virgin olive, almond, coconut, and sesame oil before and after a bath or shower.
- Oils: Almond, coconut, and sesame oil are great for skin. They are moisturizing and without harmful chemicals. Almond and sesame oil contain omega 6 which when applied to the skin is particularly beneficial. Coconut oil has antibacterial properties too. Olive oil can also be used. Essential oils like lavender, chamomile, fennel, and thyme soothe the skin and should be diluted in a carrier oil like coconut oil before applying. The best thing is to do a rotation with the oil because each have their own benefits.
- Barrier creams: Barrier creams contain fatty acids like omega 6, cholesterol and ceramides which form a barrier that retains moisture and prevents irritants from entering the skin just as the healthy skin would. Apply it just to the affected skin. These creams are usually prescribed by a doctor but can also be bought over the counter.
Permanent Ways to Stop the Eczema Itch
Permanent solutions are not easy and the results are not seen in a week or so but they heal the body from within. These basically point towards not finding a band-aid to your wound but to find the answer to the cause of your itch. This basically means to be your own doctor and it is definitely worth it.
1. Avoid Food Allergens
If you can avoid the things that trigger your eczema flare-ups, you can prevent them from happening. That’s why it is so important to know the trigger of your eczema. It could be food it could be an external irritant. If you don’t know where to start from, you can start with food.
My trigger was for example nuts. Every time I eat nuts or dark chocolate I get an eczema flare-up on my hands.
Common Allergenic Foods:
Remove these foods from your diet one at a time for a few weeks. If your symptoms disappear, this could be the trigger. If you add the food back into your diet and they come back this is a food that triggers your eczema.
2. Gut skin connection: Probiotics
Your gut health affects your overall health, even that of your skin. Probiotics help improve the immune response to allergens and improve your skin barrier to toxins and irritants as seen in this study. Probiotics also lower inflammation and help to get rid of toxins like heavy metals and chemicals in the body. This lowers the incidence of eczema and helps to relieve the itch.
The health of the gut can be affected by eating unhealthily, by toxins and bacteria like H.Pylori. Antibiotics also kill all the bacteria in the gut, the bad and the good. Read about alternatives to antibiotics here. Feeding the good bacteria in your gut or reintroducing healthy bacteria in your gut will get your health back on track. This is where probiotics come in.
You can up your probiotic intake through foods or you can use a supplement.
- Pickles or gherkins (when fermented in salt water, not vinegar)
- Certain cheeses (cheddar, gouda, mozzarella)
Prebiotics are also very important for your skin and health in general. Foods like garlic, onion, asparagus, artichokes, sweet potato, and carrots contain insoluble fiber which feeds the healthy bacteria by fermenting in your gut. This type of fiber also sweeps your intestines clean and helps to lower excess cholesterol levels.
3. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is often an ingredient in face and body lotions. It helps to soothe inflammation when applied to your eczema but when taken orally it has some amazing benefits too, especially for your skin.
Vitamin E helps to block leukotriene which is one of the things responsible for the formation of eczema and other disorders caused by inflammation and strengthens the immune system which also reduces allergic reactions.
It doesn’t happen overnight, but the results are well worth it as this study shows. The study was done over the course of 3 months. Up to 400 IU per day can be taken safely as a supplement. The recommended amount is 15 mg (22.4 IU) per day. You can also get vitamin E in foods.
Foods High in Vitamin E:
- Cooked spinach (6.7 mg per cup)
- Raw avocado (4 mg per 1/2 avo)
- Cooked beet greens (2.4 mg per cup)
- Raw red pepper (2.4 mg per cup)
- Cooked collard greens (2.1 mg per cup)
Don’t take more than 800 IU in total per day. Speak to your doctor if you are using blood thinners or are pregnant before taking a vitamin E supplement.
4. Omega 3 for Eczema
Omega 3 fatty acids lower inflammation. They also help to keep your skin moisturized from the inside. Just like vitamin E, omega 3, specifically EPA (a form found mainly in fish and some types of algae also reduces leukotriene.
If stress, anxiety, or depression is what triggers your eczema, omega 3 helps to regulate hormones and improve blood flow in the brain that may contribute to these conditions, particularly depression.
Foods High in Omega 3:
- Wild salmon
- Leafy greens
- Hemp seeds
- Flax seeds
ALA is the form of omega 3 in plant foods (except for the types of algae that contain EPA and DHA). While some of it is converted into EPA and DHA (animal forms), it’s important to note that the conversion isn’t very efficient. Supplementation may be necessary if you don’t eat animal products.
5. Avoid Other Triggers
Dust, pollen, pet dander, and mold are common triggers around the home. These can be hard to avoid so an antihistamine may be necessary, but there are other helpful steps that you can take:
- Vacuum your house, preferably with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter and wipe down surfaces with a damp cloth to get rid of dust.
- Wash your bedding and curtains weekly. Only a warm wash will get rid of dust mites which are often the actual trigger in the case of a dust allergy.
- Using a Himalayan salt crystal or lamp in your home can help to purify the air. The aloe vera plant also helps to purify the air.
- Keep the windows closed during the day in seasons where there is a lot of pollen.
- Clean mold naturally using hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. Read more about getting rid of mold naturally here. This will lower your exposure to harmful chemicals. Molds continously releases harmful gases, this stuff can create a wrack in your biology.
6. Hidden Chemicals in Our Daily Care Products
Chemicals are present in our personal care products, cosmetics, household cleaners, furniture and even our clothing. Phthalates, parabens, and fire retardants among others can all irritate the skin. Here are steps you can take to reduce your exposure:
- Use fragrance and colorant-free products.
- Use natural cleaners like lemon juice and vinegar instead of chemical-based cleaning products.
- Use fire retardant-free products and when you buy new furniture, make sure they are fire retardant-free.
- Vacuum your home regularly as chemicals can bind to the dust and become airborne.
- Wash your hands, especially before eating, to get rid of chemicals.
- Use natural laundry detergents or those made for sensitive skins. You can also make your own by grating an oil- based (for example, coconut oil) laundry soap, and mixing it with a cup of borax and a cup of washing soda. You can even add some essential oils (around 20 drops) for fragrance. Lavender is a relaxing scent and is an excellent choice. 1/2 cup of baking soda in the rinse cycle makes a great fabric softener.
Read more about chemicals and how to avoid them here.
Why You Should Detox to Avoid Eczema and Many Other Health Problems
A build-up of chemicals, waste products, and heavy metals all have an effect on your skin. As you saw with chemicals, they are everywhere. Heavy metals are also all around us, from dental fillings to the food we eat. Fish contains mercury and rice contain arsenic. Though not in levels that will kill you, they can still cause problems. The daily functioning of our body also causes waste products.
Eczema is a common sign that your liver might need a little help to get rid of these toxins. Your liver might not be functioning at it’s best because of a few things. Stress, unhealthy diet and lifestyle, drinking alcohol regularly, and even being sleep deprived all contribute to this.
To detox means to support the liver and other detoxing organs (kidneys, colon, skin) to perform their tasks well. People get surprised when they argue that they do not need detox and their liver is functioning properly and I tell them your blood tests will show a slow functioning liver only when it is affected more than 90%.
The Following Natural Things Help Your Body to Detox Gently:
- Milk thistle supplement (150 mg x 3 p/day for a few weeks and 50- 150 mg a day to maintain).
- Dandelion tea (3 cups of tea per day for a few weeks).
- Steamed broccoli.
- Add Turmeric to your meals.
- Exercise for 150 minutes (moderately) or 75 minutes (vigorously) per week.
- Eat organic fresh produce.
- Minimize or cut out sugar, alcohol and processed foods.
- Stop smoking.
- Keep your carbohydrate intake to no more than 40% a day and choose root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots over grains.
Other Solutions to Get Rid of Eczema Itch
- Vitamin D: Making sure you get enough vitamin D is important. Vitamin D boosts the immune system and helps to fight off pathogens. It also improves your mood and reduces stress especially when you get it from the sun. A vitamin D3 supplement can also be taken if you can’t get enough sun. Read more about boosting your vitamin D levels safely here.
- Light therapy: Light therapy (phototherapy) is the use of UVB or UVA rays or sometimes both UVA and UVB rays in combination to promote healing. It’s usually only done when other methods of relieving eczema have failed. Light therapy is an effective treatment, but there are risks such as burning, so it should be done under medical supervision.
- Short, lukewarm baths or showers: Hot water strips the skin of moisture as do lengthy baths and showers. Never bath or shower for more than 10 minutes.
- Remove toxins from the water: Chlorine and fluoride are commonly added to water. These are absorbed by your skin when you bath and can cause your eczema to flare-up. Add vitamin C to the water to neutralize the chlorine and bentonite clay to absorb the fluoride and any other toxins in the water.
An Alkaline Diet is Important
The body’s pH is meant to be between 6.5 and 7.5. A pH of 7.4 (more alkaline) is best for optimal health. Usually, the body is very good at maintaining its pH balance on its own but an unhealthy lifestyle, exposure to toxins, and certain health disorders can make it harder for the body.
An acidic pH can lead to eczema due to inflammation. Consuming a diet high in alkaline foods and lower in acidic foods can help.
- Vegetables (especially raw)
- Spirulina and other sea plants
- Lemons (they promote alkalinity when digested)
- Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV also promotes alkalinity when digested)
Lower Your Intake of or Cut Out Acidic Foods:
- Processed foods
Another great way to boost your alkalinity is drinking vegetable juice. Juicing also helps to detox the liver, especially green juices. Read about all the benefits of juicing for health here.
Eczema affects around 20% of children starting as early as 6 months old. If you have eczema it may pass to your children. Learn how to prevent that from happening or how to treat existing eczema in your little ones if they are struggling with it too.
- People with eczema lack a protein called filaggrin in the skin that helps to retain moisture and prevent toxins from entering.
- Eczema can be triggered by allergens in food or in your home and environment. Learning what your triggers are means that you can prevent flare-ups.
- Common triggers are eggs, dairy, wheat, gluten, soy, nuts, dust, pollen, and chemicals.
- Stress and anxiety can also trigger eczema.
- Include probiotics, omega 3, vitamin E, and organic vegetables in your diet.
- Lower your intake of grains, meat, alcohol, and dairy.
- Keep your skin moisturized. Coconut oil is a great antibacterial moisturizer free of chemicals.
- Only take short, lukewarm baths or showers.
- Neem, turmeric, vitamin D, and light therapy are other ways to treat eczema.
Do you have eczema? Have you found any other treatments successful?
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- Fend off Psoriasis and Eczema with Simple, Inexpensive Remedies
- Lichen simplex chronicus
- What Are the 7 Different Types of Eczema?
- Stasis Dermatitis: Diagnosis and Treatment
- Phototherapy for Atopic Dermatitis
- Could Fluoride be the Cause of My Child’s Eczema?