Eczema (also known as Atopic Dermatitis) is a condition where patches of skin become inflamed, itchy, cracked, and rough or have the appearance of a rash. It is very common, can be anywhere from mild or severe and can start at any time, but most often begins before the age of five.
The signs and symptoms can vary greatly from person to person and can appear in different areas of the body at different times. Typically, the following symptoms are present:
· Itchiness. This may be more severe at night
· Dry and sensitive skin
· Raw and inflamed skin from scratching
· Red or brownish-gray patches that can show up in many places. A lot of times it will appear on the feet, ankles, hands, wrists, upper chest, elbows and even the eyelids
· Cracked, leathery, scaly skin
· Small raised bumps that leak fluid and crust over
Eczema- The Conventional Approach:
The cause of eczema it not fully understood in conventional medicine. Eczema is commonly thought to be caused by an overactive immune system that is responding aggressively when exposed to an irritant. Additionally, it is also thought that it can be because of an abnormal response to proteins found in the body. The body loses the ability to tell the difference between the protein in the body and attacks it like the protein of an invader, such as a virus or bacteria.
In conventional medicine, eczema is typically addressed with medications, cortisone creams and ointments, low-potency steroids like hydrocortisone, oral corticosteroids as well as topical, oral antibiotics or immunosuppressants. Most of these medications can have adverse side effects with long term use, which is often required for care.
Eczema- The Holistic Approach:
And now, here is the real deal about eczema…
Typically, eczema is not a skin issue. Yes, this is where the imbalance is manifesting, but the underlying imbalance causing the inflamed skin is not the skin itself, it is an internal imbalance expressing itself on the skin. In most cases, the root imbalance that must be addressed to clear up the skin is actually the gut!
One of the main reasons eczema is so difficult to treat in conventional care is because eczema (and most dermatological issues) is viewed only as a skin problem. This perception is totally missing the mark. Conventional care typically will recommend some type of topical cream or steroid to help decrease the severity of the eczema. While this may have some benefit at reducing the eczema and possibly even help it go away, somehow the eczema always mysteriously shows up again. Apply more topical medications and it may go away, then comes back. Repeat cycle again and again. We, unfortunately, see this same pattern repeated time after time with the approach conventional care takes with most pathologies.
Of course, this cycle of imbalance continuously repeats itself because most medications are only dampening the manifestation of the imbalance and doing nothing at all to address the underlying factors causing the issues.
It is my experience that the most effective way to eliminate eczema is to address what is happening in the gut. There is an expression in Eastern Medicine that the state of the skin is reflecting the state of the digestive system. It is not coincidental that those with eczema may also experience digestive issues. Often there are undiagnosed food allergies or other imbalances constantly inflaming the gut and as a result, inflaming the skin.
The most effective step in healing eczema is to detect and eliminate foods and other factors that are adversely influencing the gut. When the taxation on the digestive system is relieved, you can shut off the inflammatory processes aggravating the gut and skin. It is my experience, careful observation and functional medicine testing can offer this necessary insight. Only when this is accomplished can the body start to recover and heal.
The blending of Eastern Medicine and Functional Medicine allows for both the diagnostic means to accurately understand the internal imbalances causing the eczema, as well as offers the healing modalities required to overcome eczema…for good! Often this is achieved with the combination of dietary changes, lifestyle recommendations, mitigating the negative effects of stress and emotions, nutritional supplements, acupuncture and Chinese medicinal herbs. This holistic approach enables the healing of the digestive and immune systems resulting in healing of the skin and the elimination of eczema.
Conventional medicine cannot make this claim because no one truly has eczema because they are lacking the steroids that come in tube or pill.
We know it may be challenging to think outside the box of what we have been taught. How is a skin problem not really a skin problem? I know… it can be confusing. It is our experience that when one thinks different and starts to do different, they inevitably will get different. So, if you are currently experiencing eczema or suffer with chronic flares of eczema or other skin issues, I invite you to consider a different approach to get different results.
We invite you to give us a call and we can talk about your specific needs and answer any additional questions you have.
Article by Quinn Akira Takei, Doctor of Oriental Medicine(NM), Licensed Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist, and Holistic Health & Wellness Coach. The Center: Natural Health Specialists, 8404 Six Forks Road, Suite 201, Raleigh, NC 27615. (919) 848-0200. www.TheCenterNHS.com