Dry itchy skin that’s discolored or reddish looking can mar your appearance and be extremely exhausting to deal with. Unfortunately, for the millions of people living with eczema in the United States alone, this is a reality that they know all too well. Which is why alternative therapy including the use of therapeutic foods and herbal remedies can go a long way in improving the condition, easing symptoms, and making life more comfortable for those with eczema.
What Is Eczema?
Swelling on the skin, known as eczema, can result in itchiness, rashes, and dryness. You’re likely to see this problem affecting the skin on your face, behind your knees, on the inside of your elbows, as well as on your feet and hands. And unfortunately for you, when you scratch the itchy skin, it just worsens the swelling making you itch more than before!1
Eczema And Your Diet
While there are some treatments like medication, topical creams, and even light therapy that you could use to soothe it, diet too plays a role in controlling the problem.
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids, the kind found in fish oil, fish, nuts, and seeds, may be one way to treat eczema naturally. These fatty acids are said to help due to their anti-inflammatory properties and because they stimulate the growth of new skin, allowing your body to shed the layer that is inflamed and itchy from a rash. Researchers noted a significant improvement in patients with eczema who took a 1.8 gm dose of fish oil daily, after just 12 weeks. The only caveat here is that due to its blood thinning properties, you may need to consult a doctor if you plan to take fish oil every day. Also be mindful of the total quantity of vitamin A these foods pack in, taking care to stay within daily recommended levels to avoid a toxic effect on your system.2
2. Green Tea
Research shows that green tea extracts, and the polyphenols in green tea taken as a drink, can help act as an antiseptic agent. The tea helps inhibit S. epidermidis, microorganisms that have been linked to eczema.3
3. Citrus Fruits And Vitamin-C Rich Foods
Ensuring you get in lots of vitamin C through citrus fruits as well as berries, papayas, mangoes, and kiwi fruit can help you build immunity. According to some experts, the vitamin can possibly act as a natural anti-histamine, preventing allergic flare-ups of rashes and eczema. However, additional research is needed to substantiate this further. Vitamin C from green leafy vegetables, cabbage, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, and red and green peppers are an easy way to up intake of the nutrient too.4 Berries are doubly good because the flavonoids in them are anti-inflammatory too.
4. Oolong Tea
Oolong tea polyphenols can relieve symptoms of eczema like itching. In one study in Japan, patients who had severe symptoms were given a liter of oolong tea brewed from 10 gm of the tea leaf to consume through the day in three servings after each main meal of the day. Within just a month, 63 percent of all test subjects showed improvements in their symptoms. What makes it even more promising is that 54 percent of patients had sustained this easing of symptoms as much as six months after treatment began.5
5. Fermented Foods And Yogurt
Probiotics can help give your immune system a boost, helping prevent and control atopic eczema.6 As you improve the balance of good bacteria in your gut or intestinal tract, you should see inflammation subside. Research suggests it can help counter inflammatory responses beyond the intestine as well.7 As a result, your system won’t overreact when exposed to allergens, bringing a more measured response and less likelihood of eczema. So stock up on that yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods like pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
If you enjoy the distinctive sweet tanginess of a pineapple, you’ll love the fact that this fruit can also help your eczema (as long as you aren’t allergic to it). The enzyme bromelain, found in the fruit, is known to help cut inflammation. Just be careful to check with your doctor if you’re already on blood thinning medication because high intake of bromelain may cause increased risk of bleeding. It could also interact with certain drugs.8
7. Brahmi Porridge Or Tea
Gotu Kola or Centella asiatica is used in Ayurveda to treat eczema as well as asthma, among other things. The phenolic compounds in it are what make it a good remedy for the skin condition. Sri Lankans whip up a nourishing porridge with the herb, used as a nutritious snack for preschoolers in particular. Alternatively, you can sip on a herbal tea made by brewing tea from the herb with water at 100°C.9
8. Topical Application Of Edible Oils
Sometimes certain foods can be beneficial not as foods, but when used as topical treatments for eczema. The National Eczema Foundation suggests using virgin/cold pressed coconut oil on your skin to limit the staph bacteria on your skin, cutting the risk of an infection. Simply apply the oil to damp skin for best results. Another edible oil, sunflower oil, can also help the skin due to its anti-inflammatory properties. As with coconut oil, be sure you’re using a pure form of the oil that’s additive-free. Both oils can help retain the moisture in your skin by acting as a natural barrier between the air and your skin. This reduces dryness and helps cut the itchy feeling so typical of eczema. You can safely use these oils twice a day, but only if you aren’t allergic to them.10
What You Don’t Eat Is Important Too!
Since atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, is triggered by allergens, you may need to look at foods to skip. This approach is dubbed an “Elimination Diet” and essentially requires you to cut out all possible food allergens. While eczema in children aged 4 and under is quite common, many outgrow food allergy linked eczema as they grow up. Some research suggests that a large number of these kids do still experience the problem as adults. And if that’s true of your condition, being careful about not eating foods that you are sensitive to is important.
|↑1||Eczema. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2, ↑4, ↑8||Eczema. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑3||An, Bong-Jeun, Jae-Hoon Kwak, Jun-Ho Son, Jung-Mi Park, Jin-Young Lee, Cheorun Jo, and Myung-Woo Byun. “Biological and anti-microbial activity of irradiated green tea polyphenols.” Food Chemistry 88, no. 4 (2004): 549-555.|
|↑5||Uehara, Masami, Hisashi Sugiura, and Kensei Sakurai. “A trial of oolong tea in the management of recalcitrant atopic dermatitis.” Archives of dermatology 137, no. 1 (2001): 42-43.|
|↑6||Lorea Baroja, M., P. V. Kirjavainen, S. Hekmat, and G. Reid. “Anti‐inflammatory effects of probiotic yogurt in inflammatory bowel disease patients.” Clinical & Experimental Immunology 149, no. 3 (2007): 470-479.|
|↑7||Isolauri, E., Tl Arvola, Y. Sütas, E. Moilanen, and S. Salminen. “Probiotics in the management of atopic eczema.” Clinical & Experimental Allergy 30, no. 11 (2000): 1605-1610.|
|↑9||Ariffin, Fazilah, Shio Heong Chew, Kaur Bhupinder, Alias A. Karim, and Nurul Huda. “Antioxidant capacity and phenolic composition of fermented Centella asiatica herbal teas.” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 91, no. 15 (2011): 2731-2739.|
|↑10||Managing eczema with natural therapies. National Eczema Foundation.|