Even though atopic eczema, contact dermatitis and psoriasis have very different causes these avenues of natural treatment will help keep flare ups to a minimum in all three conditions:
We formulated our Calendula Cream with this approach in mind, Made with 100% natural oils, it contains a broad range of natural fatty acids, anti-inflammatories antioxidants and is completely devoid of chemical irritants. If you suffer from eczema or psoriasis understanding why we made these choices will help you manage your condition. Our Calendula Cream is now available in a trial size for just £1.99
The lipid barrier is our first line of defence against the outside world. It is the outer layer of the epidermis also known as the stratum corneum. It is absolutely vital to eczema and psoriasis sufferers that this defence is properly maintained at all times (even when you don't have any symptoms). Weakness in the stratum corneum allows invasion by pathogens and allergens and loss of moisture. The resulting inflammation and scratching causes further damage to the barrier allowing further invasions, perpetuating a vicious cycle.
The fatty acids that our skin mixes with sebum to create the lipid 'cement' in the lipid barrier are exactly the same fatty acids found in many natural oils. Topical application of these fatty acids will greatly strengthen that outer barrier.
This is why the best emollients are made from natural oils and fats. These emollients don't moisturise, they bolster the lipid barrier preventing water loss, which is why it is also important to drink enough water - you skin needs to be hydrated to function properly. You cannot actually add moisture to you skin topically, the water comes from within and the stratum corneum keeps it within.
Essential oils penetrate deeper than fatty acids. The essential oils we use in our Calendula Cream regulate sebum production and the generation of cells that form the 'bricks' in the lipid barrier, further strengthening it.
Sufferers of eczema and psoriasis often have essential fatty acid imbalances, deficiencies or problems metabolising essential fatty acids, leading to breaches in the lipid barrier, so this treatment is particulary important for them.
Eczema and Psoriasis sufferers have very sensitive skin. Unfortunately many topical creams made for them contain irritants that exacerbate the problem (that's why creams from the chemist sometimes sting) . Any cream with a water content requires emulisfiers and preservatives.
Cosmetic preservatives are actually anti-microbials. They are necessary to prevent the inevitable growth of bacteria in the water part of the cream, they are by nature harsh as they are designed to kill cells and they often cause skin reactions.
Emulsifiers seriously compromise the stratum corneum by allowing water to mix with the vital inter-cellular lipids. (an intrinsic flaw with water based moisturisers). Choosing an emollient made only from natural oils, such as our Calendula Cream avoids these problems.
Synthetic detergents are also very bad news for eczema and psoriasis sufferers and their delicate lipid barriers. It's not just the soap you wash with, your shampoo, hair conditioner, washing up liquid and washing powder and fabric conditioner can all aggravate your skin. Seriously consider completely natural alternatives (and that doesn't mean something nasty wth a 'herbal essence' chucked in) These products can be difficult to source and a little more expensive, but they are worth it. Becoming ingredient savvy will be of great benefit. (watch this site for further information). If you have to use an irritant product, avoid skin contact as much as possible, wear rubber gloves when washing up and rinse your hair over the bath with a shower etc.
Whether you have Eczema or not avoiding chemicals that are known to cause sensitivity is a good idea, many chemicals accumulate in your system, react with other chemicals and have been shown to be carcinogenic, hormone disrupters and, ironically, bad for your skin.
Eczema and Psoriasis sufferers are usually prescribed quick-fix anti-inflammatories with renowned side effects. Since our love affair with pharmaceuticals blossomed in the fifties people have forgotton the myriad of natural anti-inflammatories available.
Plant sterols (phytosterols), cinnamic acid, flavonoids, (especially quercetrin) saponins and triterpenes are all potent anti-inflammatories, there are many more. By formulating using natural ingredients, a broad range of anti-inflammatories can be incorporated into one treatment. These natural compounds are absorbed to differing degrees depending on the size of the molecule, some work in the epidermis, some the dermis and some are taken right into the blood stream. They work with your bodies own anti-inflammatory systems and are safe without side effects. Lyonsleaf Calendula Cream contains a range of natural anti-inflammatories.
Antioxidants protect, and significantly reduce inflammation. Topical application and ingestion of antioxidants will fortify your skin and boost it's natural coping mechanisms. Cold pressed and unrefined fats and oils obtained from plants are bursting with antioxidants. These fats and oils deliver their antioxidants into the epidermis whilst strengthening the stratum corneum. Herbal extracts and essential oils also contain many antioxidants. Their molecules are much smaller and are absorbed into the dermis and bloodstream. Our Calendula Cream contains a range of natural antioxidants.
Identifing and redressing any other dietary dificiencies can work miracles. However, this is easier said than done. Learning as much about your condition and how your skin and body works can be really useful. Below are a few starting points, Trying one sort of supplement at a time and noting results is one approach. There is lots of more detailed information out there. If you are struggling yourself a herbalist can help you.
Many sufferers of eczema and psoriasis have a deficiency or imbalance of essential fatty acids (also known as Omega 3 & Omega 6). Specifically, they are often lacking in gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is normally metabolised from linoleic acid, but there seems to be a problem with this process in eczema and psoriasis sufferers. The body's own anti-inflammatory mechanisms depend on the correct balance and metabolism of essential fatty acids. GLA is certainly a key step that is often missing. Taking a daily supplement of GLA in the form of evening pimrose oil (9% GLA) or borage oil (22% GLA) can be of great benefit.
It is also important that Omega 6 and Omega 3 is in balance in the body. In the western world we tend to consume far more omega 6 rich food and this causes the omega 3's to become inactive. This leads to many problems including inflammatory skin disease. Taking and Omega 3 supplement often improves cases of eczema and psoriasis as it redresses the balance.
B vitamins, zinc, magnesium and selenium are all vital in the conversion of linoliec acid to gamma linolienic acid. Eczema and psoriasis sufferers may be lacking these nutrients. Most people think a simple vitamin or mineral can't be the answer, but I urge you to investigate and consider this route carefully. A simple deficiency can cause untold problems and be so simple to fix if you can work out what it is.
As mentioned above antioxidants are important in diet as well as in topical creams. Vitamins A C and E are the obvious ones, but a diet rich in fruit and vegetables will supply a broad range. Brightly coloured or deep green is a good sign when it comes to vegetables. These will be rich in flavenoids caretonoids and other goodies. The baddies are predictable. sugar, cows milk and gluten often trigger flare ups. Feeding these foods to babies too early often cause life-long food intolerances and are linked to adult eczema and asthma.
Many therapists now believe that eczema and psoriasis (and many other immune system disorders) are caused by leaky gut syndrome.
The theory is that breaks in the delicate gut wall allow food particles and toxins into the blood stream. This is very plausible because the gut wall is vey thin and is surrounded by blood vessels the absorb nutrients from the food we eat. It is thought that simple problems like an overgrowth of yeast (eg candida) in the gut, which anchors itself to the gut wall can cause gaps in the wall. An imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut can also cause leaks and any inflammation of the gut could also allow foreign particles to get through.
Once the immune system detects these foreign invaders in the wrong place it makes antibodies to fight them. This can cause allergies to food that should be acceptable, or the body can confuse food proteins with proteins that are found in the bodies own tissues, and so the body starts attacking itself. This is the dfinition of an auto-immune disease.
Because the blood that absorbs nutrients from the gut goes straight to the liver, if that blood cotains excessive toxins and foreign particles the liver will become overworked and may start to fail. This in itself may be implicated in eczema and psoriasis.
Leaky gut can be improved by using certain amino acids, probiotics and by eating a healthy diet high in fibre and low in gluten. The liver can be healed by avoiding toxins and taking liver boosting supplements. Your doctor can test you for candida, but be aware there are other parasites and yeasts that cause the same symptoms that they will not test for, so if you suspect you have candida, don't take a negative test as the end of the story.
There is much information about symptoms and treatments of these issues available, so you can do your own research, but a qualified and reputable nutritional therapist will be able to diagnose and treat these sort of issues safely and effectively. The NHS do not treat or recognise leaky gut.
Finding information about the dangers of using topical steroids and topical steroid addiction is difficult. The drug companies certainly don't acknowledge the problems and doctors seem to carry on prescribing steroid creams even when patients claim they are doing more harm than good.
Using natural anti inflammatory emollients like our Calendula Cream can help reduce regular steroid use by keeping the day to day condition at bay so that steroid creams can be reserved for severe flare-ups. Many sufferers find they do not need to use steroid creams at all once they start using herbal alternatives.
Here are some links to information and blogs that deal with topical steroid problems
Helpful links with a lot more detail
Read Abby Lai's amazing, first hand record of exactly how she overcame severe eczema when doctors said there was no cure. Her blog 'Prime Physique Nutrition' has lots of helpful information
Eczema (and any other skin condition) can be really hard to deal with emotionally especially if it affects your face. It can knock your confidence and stop you living life to the full. We love this blog because it is a real inspiration and positivity, check out Becky Bose.
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