Proven Alternative Treatments for Eczema
Eczema (Atopic dermatitis (AD)) is most commonly recognized by its itch and can affect patients of all ages. The impact on the quality of life of those with Eczema is enormous, with unrelenting flares causing anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, attention difficulties, and social withdrawal, to name a few. While still not fully understood… What we do know is that Eczema is a multifactorial disease involving skin barrier dysfunction, immune dysregulation, microbiome imbalance, as well as a neuro-behavioral component.
While there are numerous conventional therapies, both topical and systemic, the side effects are leading an increasing number of patients to seek alternative and complementary therapies.
So here are a few alternative evidence-based treatments you might want to try…
- Cold Pressed Sunflower Oil contains constituents that can improve the skin barrier and yield anti-inflammatory effects. Used topically, cold pressed sunflower oil has direct emollient and barrier repair properties, it improves skin hydration, preserves skin integrity, and reduces skin redness.
- Cold Pressed Coconut Oil has both emollient and antibacterial properties, making it an appealing topical therapy for Eczema.
- Colloidal oatmeal is a “skin protectant,” effective for alleviating dryness, itching, and discomfort caused by certain skin conditions, including Eczema. Colloidal oatmeal can be used for baths or wet packs to relieve dry, itchy, irritated skin caused by Eczema. Oats contain hydrophilic carbohydrates that enhance moisture uptake and retention, as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Bath Therapy (Balneotherapy), is the ancient practice of immersion in mineral water baths or pools. For centuries, the healing powers of the Dead Sea have attracted people with a wide variety of ailments. Dead Sea salt solution has high magnesium content and bathing for 15 minutes in a solution containing 5% Dead Sea salt may improve skin barrier function, enhance skin hydration, and reduce skin roughness and inflammation.
- Wet Wraps are a common short-term treatment for Eczema that can improve the skin barrier, increase water content in the skin, and act as a physical barrier from scratching. The concept of wet-wraps includes applying topical medication and/or moisturizer to damp skin, then applying a damp layer of clothing or gauze, followed by a dry layer of clothing or gauze and leaving it in place for at least several hours.
- Bleach Baths have been recommended for decades by dermatologists in the relief of Eczema symptoms, through a combination of antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antipruritic effects.
- Cannabinoids without psychoactive effects, when applied topically, may reduce itching, improve dryness, lichenification, scaling, and redness.
- Phototherapy is thought to be anti-inflammatory by a number of mechanisms. NB-UVB is often considered the first-line phototherapy, owing to its efficacy, availability, ease of administration, and minimal side-effect profile.
- Cooling the skin by application of ice, gel packs, cool compresses, or cold water can temporarily reduce itch and redness.
- Chinese Herbal Medicine has a long and successful history of treating both chronic and acute Eczema symptoms. Medicines are tailored to the individuals specific symptoms as well as any underlying health conditions.
- EPA/DHA Omega 3 Fish Oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory which has been shown to not only reduce symptoms of inflammation (aka. Itching), but also improve symptoms of depression and improve quality of life.
- Vitamin B5 encourages wound healing by inducing skin proliferation and increasing glutathione antioxidants in the skin.
- Topical Vitamin B12-barrier cream (0.07%), applied two to three times per day for 12 weeks has been shown to improve Eczema severity, decrease itching, and help prevent Eczema flares.
- Vitamin C has antioxidant benefits, and topical Vitamin C has been used to fight free radical damage, increasing collagen synthesis, and decreasing hyperpigmentation. Daily application of vitamin C-zinc oxide complex cream may reduce proinflammatory cells.
- Oral Vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels are correlated with more severe Eczema, so a vitamin D supplement may improve immunity and skin barrier integrity.
- Chamomile has anti-inflammatory effects, reducing redness and itching.
- In addition to its antioxidant properties, green tea also has anti-inflammatory properties. Bath therapy with extracts of green tea three times per week for four weeks may also improve Eczema inflammation.
- Melatonin. Eczema patients often have poor sleep quality and sleep disturbances that perpetuate symptoms. Addressing sleep disturbances should be an integral component of your treatment plan. Supplementation with Melatonin has been shown to be beneficial in improving sleep quality and reducing symptoms.
- Gut Barrier Repair. Inflammation in the gut due to food sensitivities or an imbalance of gut bacteria may compromise the gut barrier leading to the passage of the pathogens to the underlying tissues and the bloodstream, resulting in activation of the immune response. Taking a probiotic with specific strains of bacteria have been shown to have a positive effect on Eczema sufferers.
- Acupuncture/Acupressure. Acupuncture has been shown to significantly reduce itching, redness, and inflammation, as well as benefit mental health and sleep disturbances of Eczema sufferers.
- Stress and anxiety have been shown to play an important role in worsening Eczema symptoms. Vicious cycles can form when stress and anxiety from Eczema can lead to further scratching and itching, which can lead to more stress and anxiety. If you are particularly susceptible to stress, anxiety or any other mental health issues, it is important to adopt stress management techniques to reduce stress associated flares.
- Massage therapy has been shown to significantly improve redness, scaling, lichenification, excoriation, and pruritus by increasing peripheral blood flow and relieving anxiety associated with Eczema.
TO SUM IT ALL UP…
Eczema manifests differently in each patient, and it’s important to remember that Eczema treatments are not a one size fits all. Eczema management does not rely on a single treatment modality, but encourages those experiencing Eczema symptoms to explore a variety of therapies to offer relief.