Dr. Carolyn Chambers Clark, Award-Winning Author and Wellness Nurse Practitioner

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Eczema Wellness Approaches

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What is Eczema and where do you find it?


Eczema looks like a dry, scaly rash or weepy, oozing blisters. It is a type of dermatitis that literally means "inflamed skin." You'll find it mostly on the face, neck, scalp, arms, elbows, wrists, and knees. Ten percent to 15 percent of individuals start life affected by this condition; some outgrow it as they become adults, but many do not.


Types of Eczema


Contact eczema (contact dermatitis) occurs when an irritating substance comes into contact with the skin, such as a chemical; cosmetics; wool; lanolin; rubber shoes, etc. Nickel in jewelry is a common cause, as is poison ivy.


Atopic eczema is usually caused by inhaled or ingested allergens, such as foods, pollen, dust or animal dander. Some experts indicate that intestinal dysbiosis (disruption of the normal bacterial flora of the gut with a disproportionately high concentration of unfriendly bacteria) can promote atopic eczema. Taking probiotics (the "friendly normal bacteria") improves this condition.


Nutrition and Lifestyle Considerations


Avoid known dietary or environmental irritants or allergens by removing one food or food group at a time for a period of 1 week. Keep a food diary to see your reactions.


Reduce the buildup of arachidonic acid (a building block of inflammatory prostaglandin hormones) within skin cells by not eating


*high-fat meat (consider using more grass-fed beef instead of "store-bought" meats that have been processed through a feedlot prior to slaughter) and dairy products


*corn oil, sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil, and mixed vegetable oils


*alcohol, hydrogenated fats (e.g., margarine, commercial peanut butter, shortenings)


Eat More:


*chicken, turkey, fish, Cornish hen


*olive oil for salad dressings, to sauté vegetables or stir-fry


Important Supplements


*Cod Liver Oil and/or Fish oil in liquid, capsule form or eat salmon


*Flaxseed, a great anti-inflammatory. Grind seeds and use a quarter cup daily in cereals, soups, juice or water.


*Borage or Evening Primrose Oil contains Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) that has been shown to help in cases of eczema. Studies reveal that many patients with eczema lack delta-6 desaturase, the enzyme that converts linoleic acid to GLA, an important component of PG-1. Supplementation with an essential oil high in gamma-linolenic acid, such as borage oil (22 percent GLA content, whereas evening primrose oil is only 9 percent GLA content) has been shown to favorably affect cases of eczema.


*B vitamins (especially B6 and niacin) are necessary cofactors to speed up the enzymes that produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins in the skin as are vitamins C and E, magnesium, selenium and zinc. Consume a high-potency multiple vitamin and mineral that provides 50 mg B-complex vitamins, vitamin C (1,000 mg); vitamin E (400 IU, alpha tocopherols), selenium (100-200 mcg), zinc (15 mg); and magnesium (200 mg).


*Detoxification Nutrients and Immune Regulators: Milk thistle and indole-3-carbinol work in the liver to enhance detoxification and purify the blood of toxins and various allergens that can aggravate various skin conditions, including eczema. The silymarin flavonoid, found in milk thistle, and indole-3 carbinol, derived from cruciferous vegetables (broccoli; brussel sprouts; cabbage; cauliflower; and bok choy), have been shown to enhance the efficacy of phase I and phase II detoxification enzymes in the liver and epithelial cells of the intestinal tract . Astragalus is also a good liver detoxifier.


*Probiotics (daily.) Provide friendly bacteria needed by the intestinal tract.

For supplements and herbs, click on this line.




Bjorneboe A, et al. Effect of n-3 fatty acid supplement to patients with atopic dermatitis. J Intern med Supl 1989;69(4):359-62

Soyland E, Rajka G, Bjørneboe A, et al. The effect of eicosapentaenoic acid in the treatment of atopic dermatitis. A clinical study. Acta Derm Venereol (Stockh) 1989;144(Suppl):139.

Horrobin DF. Essential fatty acid metabolism and its modification in atopic eczema. Am J Clin Nutr Jan 2000;71(1 Suppl):367S-72S.

Fiocchi A, et al. The efficacy and safety of gamma-linolenic acid in the treatment of infantile atopic dermatitis. J Int Med Res Jan 1994;22(1):24-32.

Putisek N, Lipozencic J. Prostaglandins in dermatology. V acta dermatove nerologica, Croatia. ADC (Acta Dermatove-Nerol Croat) 2001 Dec;9(4): 291-8.

Bunker VW, et al. Selenium status in disease: The role of selenium as a therapeutic agent. British Journal of Clinical Practice 1990;44(8):401-404.

Farris GM, et al. The effect on atopic dermatitis of supplementation with selenium and vitamin E. Acta Derm Venereol 1989;69(4):359-62.

David TJ, et al. Low-serum zinc in children with atopic eczema. Br J Dermatol Nov1984;111(5):597-601.

Cardui mariae fructus (milk thistle fruit). Commission E monograph. Bundesanzeiger, no 50. Mar1986.

Worm M, Ehlers I, Sterry W, Zuberbier T. Clinical relevance of food additives in adult patients with atopic dermatitis. Clin Exp Allergy 2000;30:407-14.

Veien NK, Hattel T, Justesen O, et al. Dermatoses in coffee drinkers. Cutis 1987;40:421-2.

Broadbent TA, Broadbent HS. The chemistry and pharmacology of indole-3-carbinol (indole-3-methanol) and 3-(methoxymethyl) indole. [Part I]. Curr Med Chem 1998;5:337-52.

McDanell R, et al. Differential induction of mixed-function oxidase (MFO) activity in rat liver and intestine by diets containing processed cabbage. Food chem. Toxicol 1987;25:363-8.

Oelgoetz AW, Oelgoetz PA, Wittenkind J. The treatment of food allergy and indigestion of pancreatic origin with pancreatic enzymes. Am J Dig Dis Nutr 1935;2:422-6.

Isolauri E, Sutas Y, Kankaanpaa P, Arvilommi H, Salminen S. Probiotics; effects on immunity. Am J Clin Nutr 2001:73(Suppl 2):444S-50S.


This article is for information purposes only. For medical care, consult your health care provider.

Copyright 2006 Carolyn Chambers Clark



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