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12 Feb 2014

The Cure For Eczema

Eczema is affecting more and more people each year with around 20% of us in the western world scratching at flakey red patches on our bodies. There are hundreds of creams, oils, lotions and potions all claiming they're the cure but if you're a sufferer you'll know that nothing the doctors prescribe and
nothing you can find in the isles of Boots eliminates it. Sensitive creams like E45 only seem to enflame it whilst stronger steroid creams like Cortizone only partially reduce the symptoms, often leaving a red ring behind.

My Story
I suffered a lot in my teenage years with eczema on my lower legs. Wearing trousers irritated it and exacerbated the problem, wearing tights was pure torture and going bare-legged was not an option. I would tessellate between moisturising with one of the seemingly infinite amount of creams I was trying and leaving my eczema to be as flakey and dry as it wanted. The creams and moisturisers only ever made my legs itchier and redder whilst not using them left them dry, flakey and hot (there was such a feeling of internal heat under the skin!). After a few years of honing my eczema regimen, only using very specific products that seemed to do the least amount of damage and, most vitally, swapping shaving for epilation, the eczema vanished from my legs. Sadly it reappeared on the inside of my elbows (if you are suffering from eczema as a teenager, it's important to remember that it is currently at it's very worst and will get better). Over the years I tried everything from specialised topical ointments and serums to more invasive treatments like deep exfoliation and acupuncture. Nothing was working. Until I found the cure.

Think that's a rash declaration (excuse the pun)? I haven't suffered from even a single raised red bump in over 3 years. Zero signs of eczema. Nada. My skin is as smooth and itch-free as it was the day I was born. And no remaining marks, you'd never suspect I had it.

What the doctors don't tell you is that battling it topically (from the outside) is only treating the symptoms. It starts from something much deeper only to be made visible once the symptoms hit, exposing their ugly, painful little heads. The only way to rid yourself permanently of eczema is to find out what's causing it and treat it from the root. Of course everyone is different and each body works and expresses itself to it's individual need. However, the body's expression of eczema is down to 2 major points:

What you put in your body is what comes out. We often think of eating as something that we do to comfort ourselves, fill our stomaches when we feel the pangs of hunger, to give us enough energy to get up and fulfil our days requirements. But this is the most basic and uninformed definition of what food is used for. Our bodies react to what we put in them. Take a drug the size of a penny, a pain-killer for example, and you'll feel almost instant effects. The same goes for everything we consume. Our bodies recognise the natural foods, the organically grown* fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, beans,  nuts... you get the point. They know what do do with them. Slip down something that's not naturally occurring or evolutionarily bazaar and the body becomes confused and distressed. Of course we are not so fragile that we can't deal with something like white bread or boiled sweets every once in while, but because we deal with it doesn't mean it should become a frequent treat. We already know that actions create consequences. That's why we notice the extra pounds after a week of chips and an energy boost after a homemade green smoothie. 

Eczema is the body's cry for help.

It's telling you that something isn't right. It's having to deal with something it doesn't like. In fact,  being intolerant to certain foods is often where it beings. Being bottle fed as a child is often a factor that contributes to the likelihood that you'll develop eczema later on.

Avoid animal protein and saturated fats (red meat and dairy) as they encourage inflammation and irritation. Avoid caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, soda, juices from concentrate) as they stimulate the adrenal glands and encourage the stress response... just drink more water!

Eat more natural proteins (pulses, beans, lentils, seeds, nuts, alfalfa, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, carrots...). Have more yellow, green and red vegetables for their antioxidant properties, fats from seeds, fibre from organic* fruits and whole grains to help your digestive system and gut (this will alleviate internal and external sensitivities all around!).

Here are some easy things to add to the shopping cart and a great addition to any diet.

Vitamin C
Organic* citrus fruits, sprouted seeds (this is so easy to do and adds great texture to salads, soups and bakes) and tomatoes

Vitmain E
Seeds, nuts, avocados, spinach, brocoli and squash

Whole grains, spinach, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, peas

Essential fatty acids
Nut and seeds

Kombucha tea, pro-biotic yogurt with live cultures

We think of stress as an emotional problem alone, but it is as physical as anything else. Increased stress will bring with it increased toxins that will affect your body from internal organs to skin, hair and nails.

Identify areas of your life that bring you stress from more obvious things like going through a break up or losing your job to the less-obvious like missing your train or forgetting your keys. Each stress, even minor ones, contributes to your overall health. Stress often manifests itself as rashes, itches, bumps or breakouts. Take notice of how your skin reacts when you've been under stress and learn balancing habits like breathing excursuses and listening to calming music. It's also important to remember to treat yourself. Reward yourself with a hot bubble bath and an episode of your favourite show after a long day at school or work and remember to focus on positive things in your life and forget the worries from your day. Leave your troubles at school or work, don't come home and bombard people with what went wrong or trivial gossip, instead talk about what you enjoyed and what you are thankful for (even if there seems to be nothing at first, think about the smaller things like someone offering you a seat on the train or even that you are wearing new underwear).

Here are a few things I do when I'm feeling under stress:

Take time to decompress and re-evaluate things

Take a long bath with all the added frills (bombs, bubbles, oils, salts, candles)

Go for a run - the rhythm of cardio helps the brain function and process with clarity

Yoga - breathe, stretch, positivity

Eat fresh, organic, raw fruits and vegetables - calms and revitalises the body and mind

What do you to do unwind and de-stress?

*I specify organic because the chemicals used on non-organic foods will further irritate your skin. The pesticides that are absorbed by the foods are poisons potent enough to kill so just imagine what that's doing to your body, let alone your skin!

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