When those painful, itchy patches of eczema and psoriasis erupt, doctors of natural medicine ask, ‘what is causing this condition to present at this time?’ The Greek translation of eczema means “to boil out,” so the question makes sense: holistic physicians look for the underlying root causes that bring about these skin eruptions. Although they create similar discomforts for the people afflicted, psoriasis and eczema are different in important ways.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that results in an overproduction of skin cells. As the dead skin cells build-up, they form thick, scaly white patches that are visible on the skin’s surface. The skin itches terribly and is inflamed.
Eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) also can be chronic, but it tends to come and go in response to certain triggers (e.g., weather changes, irritating cosmetics, or an allergic reaction). Eczema is common in infants and children, and may even go dormant for a time. Some people, however, suffer terribly throughout their lifetime. When eczema is active, skin is inflamed, dry, peeling and may blister.
From the natural medicine perspective, root causes of eczema and psoriasis include:
- Food sensitivity/ allergy
- Deficiency in one or more minerals
- Low-quality diet (high in saturated fats, processed foods, sugar, etc.)
- Poor gut health/ Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Emotional/ Mental Stress
- Exposure to toxins and/or inadequate ability to detoxify
Conventional treatment plans typically use steroids to simply manage symptoms (i.e., itching); however, there are harmful side effects, such as suppressing overall immunity, that must be considered. Natural therapies, on the other hand, work to correct the underlying imbalance that caused the body to react in the first place, offering relief without the unwanted side effects of steroid treatments. One or more of the following natural therapies may be part of an individualized holistic treatment plan:
- Dietary changes to include more nutrient dense, clean foods
- Remove foods from the diet that cause inflammation
- Nutritional supplements to restore balance or deficiency (e.g., zinc, vitamin D/ E/ A)
- Balance gut flora using probiotics and other approaches
- Increase intake of Essential Fatty Acids, which are important to skin health
- Provide support for mental/emotional stress
- Identify and minimize toxin exposure
- Support liver function, the body’s detox organ
Additionally, to temporarily soothe symptoms, holistic physicians may recommend nourishing the skin with herbal salves and essential oil baths specific to individual needs. Some common botanical ingredients are calendula, lavender, chamomile, rose, Manuka honey, tea tree, among many others.