Eczema (and skin rash)

Eczema is a common condition but if the symptoms worsen it can disrupt your sleep, make it difficult to concentrate; you may even become self-conscious and embarrassed, especially if people stare or mistakenly thinking the condition is contagious – though it isn’t!

At IMI, we see eczema as a potential red flag: the body telling us that something is not quite right. Because our skin is the largest organ in our body, it operates as an important alert system for imbalances in our digestive, endocrine and immune systems as well as allergies and hormonal regulation. So, we like to take a look at what is going on inside the body, in particular, the digestive system and liver. We take a closer look at your diet as well external factors such as irritants in everyday products, environmental pollution and germs.

We take a natural approach and investigate what may be triggering your eczema, which if adequately removed can result in a cure or at least significant relief. We aim to manage eczema without needing to use steroid creams.

Our naturopaths lead the integrative approach to eczema at IMI. They can investigate the underlying triggers for your condition, including food intolerances, allergies or other digestive problems. They can also prescribe natural remedies to manage your itching, cure any infections, and identify and remove toxins from your system.

Eczema is a non-specific term for many types of skin inflammation and can refer to different categories of eczema, such as allergic, contact, irritant and nummular eczema. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema.

Eczema is characterised by itchy red skin and rashes and may involve small isolated areas or cover the entire body in more severe cases. The itching and scratching can lead to stress and difficulty concentrating or sleeping. The physical damage to the skin barrier creates an increased risk of infection and inflammation. The main symptoms of eczema are:

  • Dry and / or irritated skin
  • Red or brownish-grey patches, especially on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, inside the bend of the elbows and knees, and in infants, the face and scalp
  • Small, raised bumps, which may leak fluid and crust over when scratched
  • Thickened, cracked, scaly skin
  • Raw, sensitive, swollen skin from scratching

The specific cause of eczema is unknown, but it is believed to develop due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

People have been known to have developed eczema for the first time after moving to Hong Kong, or found their pre-existing condition worsens because of high pollution, humid weather, increased stress and poor nutrition from imported foods.

Three main factors make you susceptible to developing eczema:

  • a genetic predisposition to the condition (it’s in the family),
  • intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut), and
  • environmental triggers such as stress, infection, allergies, food intolerances, and hormone and nutrient imbalances.

Normally, testing for food intolerances and allergies is initiated at the first appointment. The results from these tests will help our naturopath develop a personalised nutrition program and advise you how to avoid potential triggers. He or she may also prescribe some natural medicines for immune support, and to ease your inflammation and itching.

Natural treatments then proceed to reduce any intestinal infections, or an excessively inflamed and permeable intestine (a “leaky gut”). Correcting these is a crucial part of treatment of eczema in most cases. For adults, it can take several months to resolve the infections and several more to heal the leaky gut and establish the correct probiotic levels if that has occurred. Normally for children the process is simpler.

Full resolution of chronic eczema may sometimes need a thorough detoxification program, particularly for adults with chronic skin and health issues. The cause for this is usually a genetically determined sluggish detoxification system in the liver, lungs and skin. Identifying this through simple a DNA test - and prescribing the natural therapies to overcome it - are the forte of naturopathic medicine.

Several studies have shown that eczema may be exacerbated with emotional stress and anxiety, such as conflicts at work or in a key relationship. Mind-body techniques such as meditation, tai chi, yoga, psychotherapy and stress management may be helpful. We will include them in your treatment plan where appropriate.

Homeopathic remedies can be effective for the more resistant cases of eczema. Infants and children in particular respond wonderfully to the correct homeopathic constitutional remedies.  We also recommend homeopathic remedies to reduce the inherited and constitutional aspects that lead to flare ups under particular conditions, such as humid weather or when you are feeling anxious.

We may also recommend you see an osteopath for lymphatic drainage and relief for the digestive issues usually associated with eczema.

What to do next

We suggest that you consult one of our naturopaths in the first instance. Call 2523 7121 or submit an enquiry for an appointment.

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