Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Effective Treatment for Baby and childhood Eczema - A Holistic Paradigm

by Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
Effective treatment of eczema needs to be holistic. This approach is gaining momentum in the community as parents become frustrated with the narrow scope of conventional medicine in treating chronic disorders like eczema.  Holistic treatment can provide excellent improvement in your symptoms while importantly addressing the underlying causes of eczema. Lets explore how this approach can provide you with the long lasting results you're looking for.

Conventional treatment has clear limitations.  In his book General Practice John Murtagh suggests using soap substitutes along with either aqueous creams, sorbolene or paraffin based preparations as a first line approach.  If this fails cortisone therapy begins.  It is used in varying strengths to match the severity of the condition.  If the condition continues to worsen internal steroids are prescribed.  Apart from the long-term health concerns of cortisone there is nothing more conventional medicine can offer for eczema.  It does not consider your personal involvement in eczema or the role of dietary, lifestyle or toxicity in the condition.  The scope of conventional treatment in chronic eczema is narrow to say the least.

Eczema is a complex multi-system problem not just affecting the skin.  There is good quality literature supporting environmental, dietary, immune and digestive involvement as drivers and sustaining causes of chronic eczema.  Effective treatment needs to be thorough and consider what your mind-body needs to help resolve the condition.

A good naturopath will be interested in your story.  When did the eczema arise?  Is there a family history? Does anything make it better or worse? In this way we begin to see the blueprint of how your eczema developed.  For holistic treatment to be effective it must address the underlying causes.

Without an holistic approach treatment will only be temporary with little hope of complete resolution.  Without addressing the physiological drivers of eczema the likelihood of it turning into Asthma or Allergy increases by up to 60%.  We want you to clear up your skin, not push it deeper into the body where the inflammation attacks other systems.

It is important to consider pre and postnatal events in the case of children.  For example, atopic disease is more likely in C-Section babies especially when there is a family history of allergy, asthma or eczema.  Eczema is also more prevalent in non-breast fed infants or in children or babies displaying signs of food intolerance or sensitivity.

Diet plays a major role in eczema and is a cornerstone of any successful treatment strategy.
We need to look at your diet as a whole.
           What you eat
                 Where you eat
                       How you eat.

This is about being aware of the effect of meal environments and ensuring adequate and quality food groups are accounted for.  Your body needs the following food groups in the right ratios.

  • Water
  • Proteins 
  • Carbohydrates
  • Lipids
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals
  • Trace Elements 

The clinician needs to evaluate your diet looking for any obvious deficiencies or excesses.  A lack of essential fatty acids is common in eczema for example and highly refined foods such as sugar and wheat can make skin conditions worse.  Food sensitivity testing may be advantageous in identifying multiple food intolerances or sensitivities.  A good practitioner will always try to enhance nutrient absorption.

You aren't what you eat, you are what you absorb!" - Bernard Jensen

Poor digestive function can cause and prolong eczema.
Children's digestive tracts don't resemble that of an adult until about the age of 10.  Up until this time the immaturity and sensitivity of this system can significantly influence nutrient bio-availability.  If your children suffer from eczema it would be worthwhile to have a qualified naturopath of nutritionist assess their diet and digestive function.  It is important for your body to access the fuel it needs.  In many cases, diet adjustment alone can be enough to clear up eczema.  Sometimes however other factors can be the cause of eczema.

Environmental factors can aggravate some types of eczema.  Contact dermatitis for example. It can be a good idea to do a household audit of the chemicals you use.  For example cleaning products, harsh detergents, synthetic fibres, dusts, moulds and other toxic substances can irritate your skin and compromise your immunity.

A patient of mine who lived in a damp and mouldy apartment was always in a state of poor health, no matter how many herbs or nutrients were used.  Their condition never fully resolved until they moved house.  Take the time to assess your immediate and local environments for unwanted toxicity and "sick building syndrome".

In this article I have set out to convey the virtues of holistic treatment for eczema.  Your skin condition or your children's eczema is likely to stem from multiple causes and as such treatment should be multifaceted.  By identifying the causes you can resolve eczema in a way that will support and strengthen your whole body.  The benefits of an holistic approach are likely to ensure long-term relief with good quality overall health.

Holistic treatment is a great option for those who wish to try an alternative to steroid therapy.   Remember, there is growing scientific literature to support various natural medicines in the treatment of eczema. If this article has ignited a spark I strongly encourage you to seek out a qualified practitioner who can provide you with comprehensive holistic treatment.

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