Our skin is our largest organ and one that can become the most irritated at times. Since our skin is subject to both environmental and internal irritants, there are many problems that can manifest through our skin in our lifetime. Often if something is out of balance in our bodies, we have an unhealthy diet, or we are subjected to an allergen, our skin takes the blunt of the problem. Symptoms of these irritants can appear through skin rashes, sores, or inflammation. With so many factors at play, it is often hard to pinpoint the source of skin irritation. Eczema is no exception.
I personally am someone who has suffered from eczema for many years. It’s that annoying skin irritation that seems to pop up sporadically during the drier winter months and lingers for a few months before disappearing until the following year. Other people experience eczema year round.
At first when I went to the doctor to figure out what this ugly dry, patchy rash was on my legs, the doctor told me that it was from taking too hot of showers and not moisturizing properly afterwards. While this may definitely be the case considering it only appears in the winter for me and I like my showers just below the point of scalding, over the years I’ve started to wonder if my diet has been coming into play. After all, I did have my largest flare-up during my freshman year of college when my diet basically consisted of ramen noodles, pizza rolls, muffins, and energy drinks (yikes, that’s embarrassing to admit!).
As it turns out, there are many factors that may influence someone experiencing eczema, and diet may be one of them! Luckily, there are also some known natural treatments of this irritating condition that may provide you (and me) with some relief!
What the heck is eczema?
Eczema is a type of dermatitis (derma-: skin; -itis: inflammation), or inflammation of the skin that is characterized by dry, itchy patches (2). Eczema can appear anywhere on the body, and it often becomes exacerbated during periods of dry weather or from scratching or rubbing of already irritated skin. While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, below is a list of suspected irritants that may pose a problem for people prone to this condition.
Suspected causes of eczema:
- Not enough essential fatty acids in the diet
- Food allergens and intolerances
- Processed foods, fried foods, and added chemical ingredients
- A diet high in sugar which can increase inflammation in the body
- Dry air and environmental conditions
- Irritation from certain types of soaps, fabrics, and lotions
- Artificial fragrances
So you have eczema… what can you do about it? Are you destined to suffer through it for your entire existence? Absolutely not! Below are some natural remedies that can help relieve the irritating symptoms of eczema. Although your symptoms may disappear, it’s still important to try to pinpoint what the culprit behind the eczema outbreak may be, since chances are your body is trying to tell you something is wrong. Try and tune in to your body and document any changes you may see through consumption of certain foods, application of body lotions or soaps, or other daily habits.
Natural remedies for eczema
- Argan oil is the oil from the Moroccan argan tree that contains antioxidants, vitamin E, and essential fatty acids that make it a great nourishing addition to the skin regime.
- Apply topically to irritated skin.
Cold pressed, organic, extra virgin coconut oil
- Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a relatively uncommon type of fatty acid found mostly in coconut milk, coconut oil, and even in breast milk. Our bodies use lauric acid to combat viruses, bacteria, fungus and other microorganisms.
- When applied to the skin, this oil is deeply penetrating and moisturizing while protecting the skin from environmental and free radical damage.
- Apply topically to irritated skin or consume with foods.
- Burdock root has a cleansing effect on the skin due to its blood purifier properties. It also helps to normalize sebaceous glands, allowing the skin to return to normal oil levels (2).
- Take 1 ml of burdock tincture with each meal, or consume as a decoction (longer-steeped tea).
Evening primrose oil or borage oil
- Evening primrose and borage oils contain Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid our bodies aren’t able to produce on their own. When consumed, they may act as anti-inflammatories for the skin (1).
- They are also deeply moisturizing oils that can calm irritation and protect your skin from further damage.
- They can be taken internally as a supplement or applied topically as an oil.
Essential fatty acids from wild caught fish, krill oil supplements, flaxseeds, or chia seeds
- Fatty acids help with skin healing and moisture retention in the body while also combatting inflammation.
- A study comparing the bioavailability of krill oil to fish oil showed krill oil to be more bioavailable in the body, but further trials are needed to confirm this (5).
- Clinical trials determined that it may take up to 6 months to see improvement in skin from fish oil supplements (4).
- Consume regularly.
Probiotic-rich foods such as Kombucha, kefir, yogurt, fermented vegetables, and/or probiotic supplements
- Probiotics support a healthy gut environment, which in turn supports the functioning of your immune system which can impact the health of your skin and other body organs.
- Wondering how to make kombucha? Check out my article on how to brew this delicious probiotic drink to reap its benefits!
- Consume probiotics daily through food, drinks, or supplements, aiming to consume at least five billion probiotic organisms daily (1).
Essential oils with cell-rejuvenating and skin nourishing properties such as:
- Rosehip seed
- Mix one or more of the above oils with a carrier oil such as jojoba, argan, or even coconut oil. The raw plant parts such as flowers may also be steeped as a tea and applied as a compress to the skin.
- Apply topically.
The above essential oils are known to promote cell-regeneration that helps to heal and soothe irritations of skin (3). A few of the oils such as chamomile and lavender also have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin.
Skin conditions can be really irritating and make you self conscious! If you suffer from eczema, consider giving some of these natural remedies a try. If they work for you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
- Balch, James F., Mark Stengler, and Robin Young-Balch. Prescription for natural cures: a self-care guide for treating health problems with natural remedies including diet, nutrition, supplements, and other holistic methods. Third ed. Nashville, TN: Turner Publishing Company, 2016.
- “Eczema.” Dermatitis. Atopic Dermatitis. MedlinePlus. Accessed January 24, 2017. https://medlineplus.gov/eczema.html.
- Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 2003.
- “Skin Conditions.” National Institutes of Health. September 23, 2016. Accessed January 24, 2017. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/skin-condition.
- Ulven, Stine Marie, and Kirsten B. Holven. “Comparison of bioavailability of krill oil versus fish oil and health effect.” Vascular Health and Risk Management, 2015, 511.