Health & Wellness

How to Get Rid of Eczema (+ 10 Natural Remedies)

When my youngest child was born, his skin would react to everything. Rashes would appear after he was in the pool, anytime we used a new detergent on his clothes, if we switched his diaper brand, and often for no apparent reason at all. He was itchy and miserable—and he was constantly slathered in 100 percent shea butter. (His name happens to be Shea, and once he was old enough to communicate, thinking it was named after him, he would say, “I need my butter!”) So, what was the culprit? Well, he had eczema.

In our search to determine how to get rid of eczema and give him some relief, we found links between his eating gluten and these unknown rashes. I also withheld dairy from his diet until he was 5 years old, only introducing it occasionally. We also switched our pool to salt water, as the chlorine would causes intense rashes. Thankfully, by age 5, he had outgrown these rashes and hardly gets them anymore (unless he eats too much sugar at a friend’s house!).

If you’re wondering how to get rid of eczema, you’ll be relieved to discover that there are actually many natural remedies. And, like always, it requires you to get to the root cause. While eczema is treated as just a skin disorder, the underlying fact is quite the opposite: Eczema comes from within your body. It’s actually the result of an immune response—and your gut health may be the key in resolving it for good!

 

What Is Eczema?

If you have eczema, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Or maybe you know how uncomfortable it is for your child. And not only is it uncomfortable with the constant itching, but it can also be embarrassing. If you’re prone to eczema breakouts on your face, neck, or arms, you know how embarrassing it can be to walk around with large, red patches for all to see. And the constant scratching only draws more attention and worsens the itch. It’s a vicious cycle.

Eczema causes your skin to turn dry, red, and itchy. Sometimes eczema patches may also blister. These eczema blisters are pus-filled sores that ooze, which is known as weeping eczema.

But what is eczema exactly? Eczema is basically a blanket term for itchy skin, also commonly known as atopic dermatitis. Think of it as a skin reaction to something irritating your body … like your skin’s way of communicating with you that something’s amiss.

A lot of times eczema starts in childhood, but it can be chronic and last into adulthood—or even start in adulthood.

Eczema Causes

There isn’t any one known cause of eczema because it’s varies from person to person. There’s often a genetic connection, and it’s commonly connected with other conditions such as asthma and allergies, such as hay fever. [1, 2, 3]

In fact, there appears to be a relationship between these conditions because about 80 percent of kids with eczema will later be diagnosed with food allergies, allergic rhinitis, and asthma—and often in that order (this is sometimes called the “atopic march”). [4] And this makes sense, as all of these conditions cause irritations due to certain “triggers.” Think of it like this: If eczema is a sign of a possible allergic/intolerance irritation, then you need to find the trigger and eliminate it. Doing so will help to soothe your irritated skin.

Eczema usually doesn’t cause symptoms all the time; they can come and go. Times when symptoms become more severe are called eczema flare-ups.

Now, even though there isn’t one known cause of eczema, there are many eczema triggers. Maybe you’ve noticed that your eczema gets worse in the winter. That’s because a lot of times, cold, dry air can cause eczema to flare up.

Or maybe since you tried a new laundry detergent you’ve noticed some inflamed, itchy patches on your skin. Sometimes a reaction to things like laundry detergent and soaps, or allergens like pet dander and dust mites, may cause a flare-up. In the case of my son, it was chlorine, detergents, and many foods. His body was adjusting to these items, and it needed more time before introduction. Now, at age 8, he can swim in chlorine-based pools, eat gluten in small moderations, and has no reaction to rotating natural detergents. The shea butter sits in our drawer more than it used to!

Besides allergies and dry air, stress, nutritional deficiencies, and other health conditions can all be eczema triggers. For example, you may be surprised to learn that problems with digestive health can trigger an eczema flare-up. And maybe not so surprised to learn that stress is a big trigger. The more you understand about your eczema triggers, the more you can be empowered to improve your health.

Keep reading to learn more. I’ve also included tips on how to get rid of eczema symptoms using some natural remedies for eczema.

Gut Health and Eczema

When someone has symptoms of eczema, I always evaluate their gut health first. The skin is the largest detoxification organ, and often, if it has a symptom, then there is a problem linking back to the digestive system. Evidence continues to grow that there is a strong link between gut health and skin health. This is called the gut-skin axis. [5]

Problems with digesting food and absorbing nutrients can sometimes show up as eczema. If the flora (bacteria) in your digestive tract is out of balance, that can also cause skin problems. Also, if your liver is overburdened, your body may be trying to let you know by sprouting those red eczema patches. This rings true in infants as well, meaning perhaps something in breastmilk or their formula isn’t properly digesting.

I’ve included more details below on how all of these are related. It’s possible that some changes in your diet could improve your eczema symptoms. Or, maybe you need to be checked out for a digestive concern or possible food allergy (think gluten and dairy).

1. Digestion

When it comes to eczema and digestion problems, a lot of times I’ll find that an adult patient has stomach acid that tends to be low, and this results in poor digestion and nutritional deficiencies.

Studies have shown that patients with eczema often also have gastrointestinal comorbidities like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and food allergies, among other conditions. Research has also revealed that children with eczema may also have gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting.  [6, 7] I often find that eczema can be associated with constipation as well.

2. Malabsorption and inflammation of the small intestine

Patients struggling with digestive malabsorption often experience eczema, including weeping eczema. Typically, the eczema clears once the malabsorption has been treated effectively. Research has also shown a connection between small intestinal inflammation and eczema. [8]

A study on children with eczema and small intestinal inflammation showed that supplementing with probiotics could help improve the intestinal integrity and lessen gastrointestinal symptoms in these cases. [9]

If your body isn’t properly breaking down nutrients, it becomes overloaded with waste. Your body runs off vitamins and minerals and can’t properly clear toxins without them. Your skin is a great way to purge, and eczema is a common symptom of this toxin release. In addition, your skin needs nutrients to maintain its structure and function, including proper hydration, which is key to eczema relief.

3. Flora

Your body is teeming with billions of bacteria, which is also called a microbiome. That may sound gross to think about, but the balance of bacteria, or flora, is important to your overall health. These bacteria live in your gut and on your skin.

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is affected by the balance of flora in both your gut and skin. [10, 11, 12]

Your body’s digestive flora or bacteria makes an impact on how well you digest and absorb food. Certain foods canpromote flora to grow or die. Some of this flora is helpful and some of it is not. Not surprisingly, you want to eat foods that encourage the “good” bacteria.

This relationship between healthy gut bacteria, or a healthy gut microbiome, also relates to the gut-skin axis. [13] Human and animal studies have shown improvements in atopic dermatitis through the use of probiotic supplements, which are good bacteria. [14]

4. Liver function

When I’m reviewing a patient’s gut health, I also look at their liver function. I check to see if they are consuming things that are “bogging down” the liver. This doesn’t just include alcohol or medications; it could also be dairy products or gluten. Or they may have other food allergies that they’re not aware of that are causing inflammation. [15]

Also, if the patient has poor digestion, they may not have the necessary nutritional cofactors being absorbed to help them detoxify the liver (liver support and potentially some nutrition support depending on malabsorption level).

Stress and Eczema

It’s no secret that constant stress causes all sorts of physical symptoms. From trouble sleeping to digestion issues, stress finds ways to express itself in the body. This includes skin problems, too.

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it is threaded with nerves that are constantly sending signals and transporting neurotransmitters and hormones, which allows it to communicate with the rest of your nervous system, plus your immune and endocrine systems. Research has shown that this ability for your skin to interact with all of these systems also allows it to be impacted by and to show signs of stress, including eczema flare-ups. [16]

Knowing how much stress impacts all of us and is so often at the root of health conditions, I always like to check with my patients to see if there might be any lifestyle problems or sources of chronic stress that could be aggravating their eczema.

How to get rid of eczema - Dr. Pingel

 

How to Get Rid of Eczema: 10 Natural Remedies for Eczema

So, now that you have a better understanding of what eczema is, you probably would like to know more about how to get rid of eczema.

Often, the first thing recommended by your physician are prescription medications with potential side effects. These typically include steroids to help ease inflamed skin, and anti-itching drugs such as antihistamines. Allergies are triggered by an immune system response. Because of this, in severe cases of eczema, sometimes drugs that cause the immune system to be less aggressive will be prescribed. [17, 18]

Other prescription remedies or typical over-the-counter solutions include heavy moisturizers or hydrocortisone cream for mild eczema symptoms. However, many of these creams contain synthetic fillers, which can impact the health of your skin.

Instead of resorting to prescriptions, I want to give you a few tools to empower yourself to help ease your eczema. Below I’ve listed several natural remedies for eczema you can use to help relieve your eczema symptoms. These are home remedies that are easy and affordable. They are also intended to help address many of the root causes or triggers of eczema. Figuring out what triggers your eczema can help you to prevent flares and calm your immune system response.

Keep in mind that it’s still always a good idea to talk with your doctor or healthcare practitioner first before trying any new supplements, especially if you are taking other medications or supplements or if you have other health conditions.

1. Dietary changes

Because of the gut-skin axis, you probably won’t be surprised that making some dietary changes could help you in your search on how to get rid of eczema. Making the switch to a plant-based diet—even if you still eat some meat occasionally— that consists of a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds will provide a range of health benefits. A plant-based diet is filled with lots of anti-inflammatory compounds, not to mention a wide range of nutrients that your body needs. [19]

The skin’s primary fuel is glucose, which is the byproduct of carbohydrate consumption. Plants provide a fabulous natural source of carbohydrate as well as the minerals required for skin health. Skin hydration is maintained by a “fat layer” that traps in water throughout the skin layers.

Chronic dry skin is caused by disruptions in the fat layer. This can result from overdying agents used topically, such as detergents, different weather conditions, or from within (such as a deficiency in essential fatty acids). A properly executed plant-based diet involves intake of skin-hydrating healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, and seeds. Keep in mind that dry skin is also prone to further injury and damage more than hydrated skin. And this can cause more cell damage and inflammation.

It’s also important to go gluten-free and cut dairy. Both gluten and dairy are food allergens that are often associated with eczema. It’s very likely that by cutting these foods from your diet you will begin to see improvements in your symptoms. [20, 21, 22] Typically, you will want to eliminate these items completely (check for hidden sources in packaged foods) for at least three months.

Essential fatty acids are also critical to skin health and for maintenance skin hydration. In cases of significant eczema in adults, I recommend consuming at least 1 gram of the essential fatty acid omega 3 daily. Often, this can be tough to hit simply with diet, and a triple distilled, high quality fish oil or plant-based oil is recommended.

Keep in mind that when you’re consuming a large amount of fat that your digestion must be working properly to absorb it and not cause side effects. Often, supplementation with digestive support (enzymes, anti-inflammatory herbs, and probiotics) is also recommended.

2. Probiotics

Looking for more ways on how to get rid of eczema? Along with eating a plant-based diet rich in nutrients, you may want to consider probiotics for eczema symptoms. Research has shown that supplementing with probiotics, particularly the Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain, can help to alleviate symptoms of eczema. [23]

I always recommend that patients look for high-quality, multi-strain probiotics with at least 20 billion CFUs (colony-forming units, or micro-organisms).

3. Glutamine

Glutamine, or L-glutamine, is an amino acid that is important for building proteins in the body. It is critical to the immune system and intestinal health.

Not only can glutamine help to support intestinal integrity, which is key to healthy digestion, but research also shows that supplementing with it may help improve symptoms of severe eczema. [24]

4. Slippery elm

Slippery elm is an herb that contains compounds called mucilages. These compounds cause slippery elm to form a gel-like substance when added to water that can soothe both the intestinal lining and the skin. It’s available in supplement form as capsules or as a powder. [25, 26]. I typically recommend a powder in cases of skin disorders.

5. Aloe vera

Aloe vera can be used both topically and internally for eczema because of its anti-inflammatory

properties. [27, 28] But I recommend starting with topical application because if you use too much, it can result in diarrhea. So, start there first and speak with your physician before using it internally.

Aloe vera gel can also be a very soothing remedy to apply to eczema outbreaks.

6. 100 percent shea butter

This next tip on how to get rid of eczema is one of my favorites. Applying 100 percent shea butter to the affected areas of eczema flare-ups is a soothing remedy that I often recommend. It moisturizes and protects the skin. [29, 30, 31] When my youngest was little and suffered from eczema breakouts, I found that 100 percent shea butter always helped him find relief.

While I prefer shea butter (make sure it’s 100 percent), if you don’t have any on hand or you need an alternative, you can also use coconut oil for eczema. Coconut oil is still effective, but I find that shea butter works faster by providing a solid barrier from the outside elements while hydrating the deeper layers of the skin.

7. Apple cider vinegar (ACV)

You can use apple cider vinegar for eczema both topically and internally. When used topically it can help with itching; using it internally helps with digestion.

To use ACV externally, you can either apply it using wet wraps or soak in a bath containing 2 cups of ACV. To apply ACV with wet wraps, mix 1 tablespoon of ACV into 1 cup of warm water. Soak clean gauze strips or pieces of cotton cloth with the ACV and then apply them to the skin. Cover these dressings with dry cotton cloth. Leave the wet wraps on for 3 hours to overnight. [32]

For internal use, try sipping 1 to 2 tablespoons of ACV mixed in a glass of water about 30 minutes before you eat. ACV has probiotic properties that can help aid digestion and balance your microbiome, and, in turn, help to alleviate eczema symptoms. [33, 34]

8. Liver support and detoxification

Your liver works hard to eliminate toxins from your body. Taking steps to support your liver can also help limit your eczema symptoms by improving your body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients and eliminate toxins.

You can boost your body’s liver support by eating foods such as bitter greens like dandelion and kale. [35, 36] These greens make healthy and tasty additions to a salad. As a bonus, these are all part of a plant-based diet full of other nutrients and minerals essential for skin health. (You can also get these greens into your child’s diet in the way of a smoothie.) And for extra digestive help, you can make a quick salad dressing using ACV, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Another way to support your liver is by taking supplements such as dandelion or milk thistle. Milk thistle’s active compound is called silymarin, which has been found to have liver protective benefits. [37] (Note: Milk thistle isn’t recommended for kids, so use caution and only include for adult cases.)

9. Stay hydrated

It’s general knowledge that water is good for you and necessary for your body. Drinking plenty of water helps your skin stay hydrated and improves dry skin. So, not surprisingly, staying hydrated can help lessen the effects of eczema. [38]

10. Exercise

Getting enough exercise goes along with eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water as far as good advice for overall health and wellbeing. But regular exercise actually has been proven in both animal and human studies to help prevent and lessen eczema symptoms. [39, 40]

If you’re not already doing so, I encourage you take up some form of exercise that you enjoy. This can be something as simple as going for a walk on your lunch break. As always, check with your doctor first before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have any health conditions.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Eczema triggers can include cold, dry air, allergens, stress, and digestive problems.
  • Learning what triggers your eczema flare-ups can help you figure out how to get rid of eczema by addressing the root cause.
  • Natural remedies for eczema symptoms include making healthy dietary changes, supporting your liver, taking probiotics and supplements to support your digestive health, staying hydrated, and getting regular exercise.

 

You might also enjoy: Top 4 Breathing Exercises to Relieve Stress

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