Self Help for Eczema and Itchy Skin

April 20, 2008 by Dr. Nicole Sundene  
Filed under Eczema, Skin Rashes

Recently quite a few readers have been asking me about natural home remedies for eczema and other general itchy skin problems.

The most common culprits of itchy skin are eczema, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis.

Although this article is mainly about eczema, most of the tips will benefit all types of itchy skin as we “treat the cause” and “remove the obstacles to cure” in true nature cure fashion.

Now most people with itchy skin will improve if they just start drinking more water and taking fish oil. Dry skin is not hydrated skin. Good fats from fish or flax oil are needed to maintain a solid healthy barrier to skin. Nutrient deficiencies such as zinc, selenium, biotin and most B vitamins are also common causes of dry and itchy skin. More extreme cases of eczema though will require more extreme measures. Remember that for each year that you have had a problem, it will typically take a month to permanently resolve through natural means.

Eczema can be “contact dermatitis” or “atopic dermatitis”. Contact dermatitis is pretty simple to to cure because we just need to find the chemical or other substance that is irritating the skin and remove it. With that being said I would suggest that all sufferers of chronic skin conditions switch over to hypoallergenic laundry soaps, bath soaps and other personal care products. Avoid contact with chemicals such as bleach and other harsh cleaners whenever possible. Also switch to a Whole Foods Diet to eliminate as many chemicals from your diet as well. Getting off sugar is key. Sugar is a chemical in our diet that just makes itchy skin that much more unbearable.

Consider the possibility that your itching is from a food additive or preservative. Aspartame, MSG, sodium benzoate, and yellow food dyes have all reportedly caused skin rashes.

The word “atopic” means allergic, and 80% of eczema sufferers have elevated IgE levels, which means that their immune system is over-reacting to some kind of food or environmental substance. You can easily see an allergist and have skin testing done to test for environmental allergies. Food allergies and intolerances are a bit more difficult to detect as the Gold Standard is a Food Allergy Elimination Diet which is difficult for many people to comply with. Blood testing for allergies is only about 60-70% sensitive and specific.

Most people that I see with eczema either have a problem with wheat or dairy or both. Most children with eczema will improve when their favorite food is taken away. If your child is obsessed with bananas it is probably bananas. I am not trying to be the bad guy, I have just noticed that kids tend to form “addictions” to the food that is causing the problem. Keep the food out of the house. Tell your kid that you are “all out of____ food” deal with the crying that should ensue around that food for a few days, and then they will usually forget about it. If it is not in the house and no one else is eating it, there is less of an energy battle over it. Once the food that is causing the symptoms is removed and the child is feeling better, they tend not to even like that food anymore. Kids heal quick, and usually improve after four days without the irritating food, adults usually take a week or two.

Just because a food is causing a symptom does not necessarily mean you have to avoid it for life, it just means that temporarily it should be eliminated while the body does some healing, and then in most cases it can be rotated back in.

Identifying and eliminating the food sensitivity is only half the battle. We need to treat the reason why it developed in the first place. The main reasons are typically stress and intestinal dysbiosis from frequent antibiotic use and/or lack of cultured foods in the diet.

Getting a handle on stress management is key for eczema. Stress causes food allergies because we do not properly digest our food when we are stressed. Betaine HCL is a well researched alternative treatment for itchy skin, that simply increases our stomach acid (which stress suppresses). Stress coincidentally is also a leading cause of itchy skin. Stress is commonly accepted to exacerbate both psoriasis and eczema.

The over use of antibiotics kills off all the healthy bacteria growing in our intestinal tract. These friendly bacteria are necessary for breaking down our food as well as producing certain vitamins.

I put everyone with eczema and most skin conditions on a course of probiotics like acidophilus. Be sure to only purchase acidophilus that passed the independent laboratory test at www.consumerlabs.com; always keep it refrigerated, and if on a course of antibiotics take at a two hour separate window to ensure they do not get killed off. Enzymatic Therapy, Jarrow and Kyodophilus are brands that passed the test and are available over the counter.

Temporary herbal solutions for itchy skin are topical products that contain calendula, chickweed (Stellaria media) gumweed (grindelia spp), comfrey(Symphytum officinale NOT to be used internally), impatients, and plantain (plantago spp). You can make an herbal infusion (a strong tea that you allow to steep at least 15 minutes) with these herbs and then freeze in dixie cups. Peel back the paper and apply the “herbal ice” to the itchy area. This is also a great trick for kids itching with chicken pox. Calendula ointment or succus (juice) is well worth trying to temporarily calm down the itch while we address the above causes.

Other herbs such as burdock root (Arctium lappa) and dandelion root (Taraxicum officinale) are helpful for detoxing the system. Most patients I see with skin problems resolve when we gradually support the liver’s ability to detoxify. For most patients a light diet, digestive support, liver support and repletion of nutritional deficiencies will quickly clear up the annoyance of itchy skin.

Be sure to work with your physician to establish a proper diagnosis for the cause of the itchiness before self treating.

References: “The Textbook of Natural Medicine” by Murray and Pizzorno, “Medical Herbalism” by Hoffman

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen table!

~Dr. Nicole Sundene

Photobucket Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD is a licensed Naturopathic Medical Doctor at Fountain Hills Naturopathic Medicine 16719 E Palisades Blvd, Suite 205, Fountain Hills, AZ 85268.

She believes we should utilize natural medicines to treat the root cause of disease rather than just treating symptoms, as symptoms are a message of imbalance sent from the body and will persist until they are properly addressed.

For appointments please visit http://FHnaturopathic.com for more information about Naturopathic Medicine services.
©KitchenTableMedicine.com, LLC ™

Comments

55 Responses to “Self Help for Eczema and Itchy Skin”

  1. Justin on April 21st, 2008 8:37 am

    Thanks for posting this Doc. My skin usually clears up if I can keep dairy out of my diet. I was not aware of the problem with sugar.
    Stress certainly agrivates it though I don’t think its the root cause.

  2. Dr. Nicole on April 21st, 2008 9:06 am

    Jusin- Anything for my #1 fan! You have serious entitlements around here being my top commenter and all. Yep you just nailed it right there…dairy, sugar, stress. You get those things out and itching should be gone…

  3. Kathleen on April 21st, 2008 9:08 am

    You’re the best. There are so many frustrations regarding eczema treatments that work. My mother developed eczema a couple of years ago, and as usual, nothing helped her.

    I had her start on fish oil capsules, and green tea in the morning. She is a bit set in her ways, so I had to go easy to even get her to do that, but it did clear up. She continues her green tea and fish oil with no further skin problems.

    I hope everyone hears what you say when you reference nature’s intelligence – that connection has far reaching implications for personal as well as planetary health.

    Thanks!

  4. Dr. Nicole on April 21st, 2008 9:52 am

    Hi Kathleen- the healing power of nature, is what we refer to as “the vis” in naturopathy, and it’s powers have never ceased to amaze me. Many MD colleagues will be frustrated by patients and just drop them off with me and say…”ok Nicole, they are all yours…do whatever voodoo it is that you do…”

    So my voodoo is this: Clean up the diet, improve sleep, manage the stress, support them during this process….and sit back and watch them get better. When you think about it, I am not really even doing anything. I am just “removing the obstacles to cure” so that the body can do it on it’s own. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment, hopefully that will serve as some good motivation for others!

  5. Jennifer on April 24th, 2008 12:11 pm

    Dr. Nicole, this was an amazing article! I just went to the dermatalogist last week. I sure wish I had read this first. I got some steriod creme which has been wonderful in clearing it up almost completely, but I expect it to come back when I stop using it.

    Diary, sugar, and stress. Wow! How do I live without them. I’m working on my stress level now, with much improvement. Dairy and sugar…. those will be tough for me. I have dramatically cut down my sugar intake over the last year or so, but all together – that will be a challenge.. Dairy, I intake a lot! Cheese is my favorite food – maybe that means I should cut it out. :) What alternatives do you recommend?

    The most amazing parts of this aritcle to me are the amazingness of our bodies AND how it only makes sense to treat the causes for something in order to really make it better. That’s so true for anything in life!! All to often we just look at the surface and treat symptoms without going deep enough to find the root causes of problems. That is the only REAL solution. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately.

  6. Heather (A Mama's Blog) on April 27th, 2008 9:58 pm

    Dr. Nicole,

    Thanks for your comment on my blog regarding adding Vitamin A for Keratosis Pilaris. I liked this article too, and added your site to my reader. What a great site. I LOVE it, and will be back often. Thanks again!

  7. online fitness health on May 11th, 2008 10:29 pm

    Thanks for the information, but can i ask if this is a possible cure for Psoriasis? My friend who had this really suffering from itchy , she scratched a lot and almost tear her skin like ecsema?

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  8. online fitness health on May 11th, 2008 10:30 pm

    Thanks for the information, but can i ask if this is a possible cure for Psoriasis? My friend who had this really suffering from itchy , she scratched a lot and almost tear her skin like ecsema?

  9. Melli on June 12th, 2008 6:53 am

    I was wanting to know more about how to treat the flare-ups without using steroid creams. I have a 4-month old who has had a continual line of flare-up ons his body for 2 months. He is primarily breastfed (only having formula at daycare when they have run out of beastmilk). I have eliminated milk out of my diet and once I re-introduced organic, grass-fed milk nothing seemed to change.

    I have been using Emu Oil to treat the flare-ups and it completely took away everything on his face, but his elbows and the bottoms of his legs are still deep red rashes that weep every now and then.

    I feel so horrible as a mother that I can’t do anything to help me more than I already have and I don’t want to use steroid creams (when he was first diagnosed the doctor gave us a steroid cream to use and it made it all worse and almost gave his face a burn – it looked SO bad.) and I don’t want to get close to them anymore. But he needs more help than I know how to give naturally.

    What I’ve been doing: Emu Oil lotion 3-4 times a day with Emu Oil concentrate applied directly to the flare-up areas, Neem Tree Oil soap for a 10 min. lukewarm bath each night.

    Thanks!

  10. Ginger M on June 24th, 2008 11:07 pm

    Thank you for the link to this article. I think for the cause of my mother’s flare up is probably due to the copious amounts of cheese she’s been consuming. Her skin is improving now that we’ve eliminated that from her diet. She’s also started taking cod liver oil.

  11. loligram on August 17th, 2008 1:15 pm

    Has anyone had success with an oily itchy scalp? It started suddenly abt 8 mos ago, and is irritating beyond description.

    I use tree tea oil before shampooing and Dr Bronners castile soap shampoo, nothing else. I’ve been to allergist and he says it is not yeast or psoriasis; just calls it suborrehic dermatitis and gave me steroid cream.

    It helps some to avoid wheat. Then recently I got a systemic reaction to 4 yellow jacket stings. I wonder if I have allergies that are connected?
    How do I prevent another systemic reaction?
    Thanks!

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    [...] Glucosamine, Chondroitin or MSM? What is the best alternative to using plastic water bottles? Flax seed Oil or Fish Oil? What to do for eczema and itchy skin? [...]

  14. Jackie on November 28th, 2008 12:17 am

    For itchy oily scalp, you can try washing your hair with baking soda. I have been using it for months now because I was having trouble with itchy scalp. I wet my hair and apply handfuls of baking soda until I have some all over. I add a bit of water and rub it to wash the hair. I rinse it out and use just a small amount of conditioner. It has been working good for me for 6 months now. I have to be careful of what products I use, I seem to be allergic to alot of then.

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  16. Detox Diet Recipes on March 12th, 2009 8:46 pm

    Wow, now that I think about it my skin did always get itchy when I would eat milk.. lol i mean drink milk… with my breakfast that day.

    Thanks for the article, now i’ll be able to get my work done rather than scratch sores into my skin! :)

  17. JoeFirstknight on March 28th, 2009 2:21 am

    Recently, the mercury levels in fish have led people to worry about eating fish. Some people do not like swallowing liquid fish oil directly from the spoon,because it taste terrible! If you don’t like the taste of it, fish oil capsules comes to the rescue! Fish oil capsule is a good solution if you do not like fish, while at the same time you want the benefits of EPA and DHA in your diet.

  18. Barneby on March 30th, 2009 2:33 pm

    hi,

    thx for this post. it helps me alot for my study.

  19. amanda on May 10th, 2009 6:22 pm

    thanks alot i found this article while doing some searching i have had ezcema for 5 years now on hand and recently have it cover most of my entire body going on 6 month also at the same time my 8 year old has it too now for 6 months its so sad to see a child go through all thsi they give her the steroid creams lots of lotion different creams for scalp face its begining to get ridiculous !!!! i am going to try to cut some of the dairy products out of her diet see if that will help at this time anything worth a shot .. i did read another article somewhere about wheat soy peanuts and eggs to start with someof them to see if any of those are triggering her constant flare up ..

  20. Anxiety Remedy on May 19th, 2009 6:44 am

    My baby girl (3) months old is experiencing hair lost , dry scalp along with rough skin except for her covered area with the diaper. Redness in the creases of her neck and arms. I will try some of these methods. Thanks.

  21. Giuseppa Brown on May 29th, 2009 2:00 am

    Do you get any sleep at all? This is a well written article on this subject and must of taken you hours to write

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  24. Tani on August 2nd, 2009 12:02 pm

    Hi. Tani here from the Philippines. I suffer from eczema. The dermatologists I’ve been to are quick to prescribe me with clobatosol cream and never even suggested alternative ways how to relive me from the itch. Thank you for this post. Your site is very informative. I linked it up in my blog.

  25. sunilkumar on September 10th, 2009 2:21 am

    sir, i am suffering from itching, please help me

  26. carol on September 13th, 2009 9:32 am

    The Made from Earth Pure Aloe Skin Treatment is GREAT for dry and/or sensitive skin. I used to get eczema-like rashes on my face during winter time. This cream has solved the problem completely. It is absorbed by the skin very quickly, there’s no greasy residue.

    If you are prone to acne breakouts this cream will also work for you since the aloe has astringent properties. My sister who is prone to acne used it for her dry skin, and her skin looked AMAZING. Its amazing what a bit of pure aloe can do for your face. I recommend this from the Made from Earth product line.

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  29. Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls on September 30th, 2009 5:45 am

    Thanks a million for your post. I have tried alot of stuff, gone to dermatologists and my eczema has never gone away. Will be sure to try this.

  30. Nicole on October 2nd, 2009 11:50 am

    My son who is 20months old has had Eczema since he was 3months. Weve tried EVERYTHING! (Oatmeal, olive oil, Wet dressings, steroids, every cream you could imagine) Is there anything else?
    Also hes allergic to: Wheat, Egg white (can we give him the yellow?), corn (can we give him corn starch, high fructose corn syrup, ETC), tomatoes, soybean, cats, dust mites, chicken, apples, oranges and peanuts. Which makes it extremly hard to find food for him! Were currently trying to get an appt with an allergist, just wanted some more info now =]
    He doesnt sleep AT ALL and its driving me insane!
    Please help!
    Nicole.

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  32. Wright Moore on October 28th, 2009 3:33 am

    Cut out Hight Fructose Corn Syrup, Sodium Benzoate, BHT and MSG. It will help.

  33. jeffery i. gongora on October 31st, 2009 1:54 pm

    Good Morning just thought i will let you know that i also had a issue with your blog appearing blank also. Must be gremlins in the page.

  34. Dr. Nicole Sundene on November 7th, 2009 5:10 am

    Hi Jeffrey thanks for letting me know, this is one of THE most popular pages on this 600 page archive…if not THE most popular….so it errors occasionally, let me know if you are still having probs. Thanks….a lot of people with itchy skin I guess.

  35. Dr. Nicole Sundene on November 7th, 2009 5:23 am

    AMEN!!!

  36. Dr. Nicole Sundene on November 7th, 2009 5:51 am

    Wow this would drive me insane too….you poor thing!!!! Fussy babies with food allergies are really tough. Are you still Breast feeding or did you stop at a year? If so you should eliminate the foods he is allergic to. He has more than allergy’s he has leaky gut inflammation that will just result in more allergies. I would read my article on food allergies and then visit a local pediatric naturopath to get him on a gut healing regime that should include bifidum bacterium… the baby form of acidophilus. Dip your finger in water….then in the powdered bifidus and let him suckle on your finger….or mix it in to his food. Also check out the hypoallergenic section here to see what kinds of recipes you can come up with. Someone needs to make a 1-900 # for people with food allergies….it is tough to find stuff to eat. Best thing to do with kids is keep the foods they can’t have OUT of the house….or hidden when possible. Less tantrums that way.

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  38. Brian on December 22nd, 2009 3:53 pm

    I really enjoyed this article, I have suffered from seborrheic dermatitis since I was a teenager , I was wondering if you could suggest something herbally to help combat this condition. Which foods should I avoid? and which ones would help?

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  40. John on January 20th, 2010 10:38 pm

    Useful and helpful information.

  41. ferri7606 on October 24th, 2010 6:10 pm

    Most of the people i see with eczema have a problem controlling their itch. Condition always worsens at night when you are asleep. If you can find a way to not scratch when you are sleeping, you are on the way to solving it.

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  47. Carol E.H. on May 24th, 2011 3:57 am

    I am 67 years old and have suffered from eczema most of my life being especially bad on my hands and face. I have just completed your three week detox program and feeling my skin has improved a little.
    My questions are:
    May I now broaden my food intake with your suggested foods?
    What are the vitamin Bs that are helpful?
    Our local health food store manager is suggesting that I might have internal parasites and that I should try Green Black Walnut Wormwood Complex which is a liquid taken by an eyedropper. What do you think? He states that if I do have parasites this would be helpful for persons with my chronic condition.
    Thank you for your help already. I am feeling encouraged and look forward to your comments. Carol

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  49. Chan Kong Loon on May 30th, 2011 5:12 pm

    I have suffered from seborrheaic dermatitis for 30 years. Now I apply rice vinegar (the natural type) onto my affected skin everday and it works. You can also try an ointment called U – Closone cream or ointment.

  50. Samuel on August 21st, 2011 11:04 am

    I have a serious problem with itchy skin, and i have no way to get to a dermitologist. On hot days i itchy bad, after i have sugary drinks i itchy bad. So I’m going to do a test for the next two months. I’m not going to drink any sugar drink mix.

    From august 2011 to the last week of septemeber of 2011, i will not have any sugar at all, except that from natural fruit. So, i’m cutting out all sodas, fruit juices and drink mixes including tea.

    The only two drinks that i will drink for the next month or two will be water and milk. I never had this itching problem when i lived up north and i rarely itched, few times during the winter.

    Problem started in the 90′s when i moved to a warm weather state, warm most of the year. My itching problem is so bad, that when i turn my fan on, even the air from the fan causes my skin to itch.

    No one person should itch as frequently as i do. And by frequently, during the summer months, i mean less than every 5 minutes i am scratching. I need help. I have strong suspision that sugar and heat are the main causes of my itchy irritated skin. Have a nice everyone.

  51. Norene Lewis on August 27th, 2011 5:15 pm

    I have exzema on my face and it itches and flakes when I scratch. I can’t seem to find a moisturing cream that cuts the dryness. I also have red blotches on my face. What do you recommend for my problem?
    I appreciate your advice and thank you so much.

  52. kimberley on August 31st, 2011 11:12 am

    I my baby is 9 mos old and has developed excema on his cheeks about 2 mos ago. I am still breastfeeding and have started taking selenium 2 weeks ago. I also give it to him. I can not say for certain if any foods aggrevate it or not. I at one time thought dairy, eggs, his bedding. I had a prescription for cortisone which does almost nothing to relieve the flare-ups. Will acidophulis made into a paste and applied directly to his cheeks help? Or should I just give it to him orally? Anything else worth trying? The hazelwood necklaces just give a horrible rash around his neck/under his chin, but once taken off clear up in about 2 days. Thanks in advance

  53. kazzzaa on September 21st, 2011 4:51 am

    what would take away dry itchy eczema ?

  54. Vicky beaton on December 1st, 2011 4:57 am

    Just want to let you know my story so far. I had severe psoriasis as a teenager and in my twenties. The only thing that got rid of it was seeing a chinese herbalist. I was given herbs to boil and then drink moring and evening. It took three months to go, but it really went and hasnt come back! I have the occasional one but it goes. I am now 49 and have eczema that started on hands and now on arms and is driving me nuts. I have found a herbalist three weeks ago and on chinese herbs that i boil and drink in the eve and morning. As yet no change but i remember it took three months before. I have now started taking urtica urvens strength 30 that is a homoeopathic remedy for nettle rash, that my homoeopath prescribed. This is because when i itch, the skin reacts like a nettle rash. Hope this helps other sufferers.

  55. ishrath on December 1st, 2011 9:29 pm

    Hi Doc Nicole,

    Iam 29 years old and unmarried ,since some days iam developing itching around my breasts, underarms and legs and sometimes on my stomach.
    when it irritates i just start scratching due to which the area becomes red and painful .Is this a serious problem ?

    I mantain a healthy lifestyle and dont binge on junk foods or non vegetarian foods .

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