Eczema (& skin rash)
Our skin is the largest organ in our body and operates as an important alert system for imbalances in our digestive, endocrine and immune systems, as well as allergies and hormonal regulation.
For doctors and practitioners of natural medicine, skin conditions such as eczema can be seen as a potential “red flag”. The body is telling us that something is not quite right.
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 characterized 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.
Anything from the skin products that you use, to what you wear or the weather can cause sensitive skin to flare up. Your entire day can easily revolve around the distraction of painful itchy skin, avoiding potential triggers to lessen the likelihood of further skin eruptions.
Eczema can also make sufferers feel self-conscious or embarrassed, especially if people stare mistakenly thinking the condition is contagious (even though it isn’t)!
The intense heat and humidity in Hong Kong can aggravate exacerbate eczema, as excessive sweating can make your skin itch uncontrollably. Many people develop eczema for the first time after moving to Hong Kong, or find their pre-existing condition becomes worse. High pollution, humid weather, increased stress and poor nutrition from imported foods also aggravate eczema.
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
At IMI, we take a natural approach that investigates the various problems that are triggering your illness, 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.
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.
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.
Normally, testing for food intolerances and allergies is initiated at the first appointment. The results from these tests will help your naturopath develop a personalized 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.
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