Atopic dermatitis - eczema
Eczema is a chronic allergic skin disorder that may begin between the age of one month and one year, often subsiding by the age of three, but flaring up again at any age. Eczema typically manifests on the skin of the hands, scalp, face, back of the neck or skin creases of elbows and knees. Affected skin is very dry, itchy, inflamed and scaly. Scratching or rubbing may lead to darkened, hardened areas of thickened skin with accentuated furrows, most commonly seen on the front of the wrists and elbows and back of the knees.
CAUSES of Eczema:
Eczema signals an immediate allergic response, with 2/3rd of eczema sufferers having a family history of eczema. Many eczema sufferers also develop hay fever and asthma. Many eczema sufferers improve with a diet that eliminates common food allergens such as milk, eggs, peanuts and, to a lesser extent, fish, soy, wheat, citrus and chocolate. Environmental allergens may also trigger eczema, including wool clothing, skin lotions and ointments, soaps, detergents, cleansers, tanning agents, dyes, topical medications.
Immune system abnormalities
Specialised white blood cells called mast cells have abnormalities that cause them to release higher amounts of histamine and other allergic compounds (which cause the itching in eczema) than the mast cells of people without eczema. There is also a defect in the activity ‘alternative complement pathway’ (a mechanism for destroying bacteria and foreign particles) in eczema sufferers.
Essential fatty acid (EFA) metabolism abnormalities
Studies have shown that the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 essential fatty acids are significantly lower in people with eczema. This imbalance leads to a greater tendency to inflammation and allergies because omege-6 EFAs are used to produce pro-inflammatory prostaglandins (hormone-like compounds), while omege-3 EFAs are used in the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins.
An overgrowth of the common yeast, candida albicans, in the gastrointestinal tract has been implicated as a causal factor in many allergic reactions, including eczema. Elevated levels of anti-candida antibodies are common in atopic individuals and the higher the level of these antibodies, the more severe the eczema.
Stress can provoke and aggravate itching in people with eczema.
DIET AND LIFESTYLE:
Identify and eliminate food allergens – eating allergenic foods damages the lining of the intestinal tract, resulting in a permeable ‘leaky gut’, a condition that allows allergens and other toxins to leak into the general circulation. This puts the immune system in a state of continuous alarm, significantly increasing a trigger-happy response to other foods and the chance of developing additional allergies.
Add brown rice and millet to your diet.
Avoid eggs, peanuts, soy foods, wheat and dairy products – numerous studies have shown that people suffering from virtually all skin disorders do better if they eliminate foods containing gluten and all dairy products from the diet.
Also avoid sugar, strawberries, citrus fruits, chocolate, white flour, fried foods, and processed foods (artificial colours and additives are often highly allergenic in eczema sufferers).
Do not eat foods containing raw eggs (mayonnaise etc), as these contain a protein that binds to biotin and prevents it from being absorbed. Biotin is needed for skin and scalp disorders.
Avoid rough-textured clothing, wear clothing made of natural, non-irritating fibres such as cotton.
Use cotton-lined rubber gloves for household cleaning tasks.
Massage tea tree oil antiseptic cream into the skin after contact with water or irritants.
- critically important for the epithelial cells (which line the gastrointestinal tract, lungs and airways) and mucosal tissues, beneficial in the treatment of skin and gastrointestinal disorders. Dosage – 5000iu a day.
- a powerful antioxidant. In the treatment of eczema, vitamin E plays an important role in protecting vitamin A and increasing its storage. Dosage – 400iu a day.
- a co-factor in numerous enzymatic reactions, zinc is required to create delta-6 desaturase, the enzyme responsible for converting omega-6 essential fatty acid into GLA, a type of anti-inflammatory prostaglandin. When zinc levels are inadequate, omega-6 is converted to arachidonic acid, which is used to produce pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. Dosage – 45-60mg a day.
- contains several unique molecules that block the effects of ‘platelet activating factor’, a key chemical mediator in eczema. Dosage 80mg three times a day.
Omega-3 essential fatty acids
- levels of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are used in the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, are often significantly reduced in people with eczema. Dosage – 2g a day.
- a useful anti-histamine and anti-allergy compound. It not only inhibits the release of histamine, it acts as a powerful antioxidant and actually inhibits the formation of histamine and other allergic compounds. Dosage – 400mg 20 minutes before meals.