Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Living with Eczema

Recently I had an email from a Greensong client who has a 6 yr grandson with eczema. She was distraught because he had scratched his rashes into weeping sores that had become infected with staph and she wanted to know if there was something natural that she could use to treat him with that would be ok for a 6 yr old.

 I have to say this is probably the most common question I get - how to deal with eczema. So instead of writing about processing lilikoi, which is what I was going to write about, I thought I would share my response to her question here in case there is anyone else out there who might benefit from this information. Next time I swear I will tell you all about the lilikoi.

Dear Jami,
Having suffered pretty much all my life from eczema I can totally relate and sympathize with your grandson and the distress it causes you both. Once staph has become involved it may be necessary to bring in antibiotics in some form, either orally or with neosporin or some other antibiotic ointment, for the staph infection as it is not something to take lightly. Some of these ointments also have things to decrease itching which can help bring quick relief in the short term. Then, I use a cortisone cream to kick back the rash. This is what I do if I am in the middle of a flare up. It is hard to treat the eczema when it is in the middle of an angry flare up so I first kick the symptoms back and then work on the situation from a holistic framework.

I will say that I have had some success treating staph using a tincture called wild indigo root, also called Baptisia tinctoria, though it may be to strong an herb to use for a 6 yr old. It is often combined with myrrh and echinacea but again these may be too much for a small child. And this addresses the infection not the eczema.

Eczema, as I am sure you are learning, is not a simple thing to treat. There are many things that cause it to flare up and this varies from person to person. For me - my skin is super dry - so anything like water, soap, my own sweat, heat all can make me break out in a rash. Then there are countless things I am allergic to that can cause problems as well. I'm sure you also know that there is a very strong emotional component to eczema. Extreme emotions can trigger a flare up and being stressed makes it all worse. So, I do my best to keep my body temp cool, and to calm myself with breathing and meditation when I have rashes or if I'm feeling a systemic reaction come on  after being exposed to any of the things I have mentioned above. It is important to figure out which things trigger a reaction in your grandson and to stay away from those as much as possible. It can be food things, plants, animals, or like for me - water, and soap, and dry skin.

Being fully hydrated all the time is something that has made a huge difference in my experiences with eczema. As soon as I learned about this and started keeping myself hydrated everything turned around. For me this meant drinking 3 liters of water everyday along with whatever else I was drinking until I was fully hydrated. This took about a month as I was apparently severely dehydrated when I started this process and had been for years. Then a maintenance level of 2 liters per day, everyday, forever.

For a child of 6 it looks like 1.5 liters a day is what is recommended. This can include juice and herbal teas also but not soda. It helps to put a little bit of juice with the water so the cells are more inclined to take it in. This one simple thing has made the biggest difference in reducing the flare ups for me.

Nettle is a helpful herb that acts like a natural antihistimine. I drink nettle mint tea often for all my allergies. Mixing it with a little licorice root makes it sweet and the licorice is helpful for the adrenals which are overactive when there are allergies. Use only a little licorice though as it is strong. And, it may be necessary to keep his skin nourished and moist with lotions and creams. I don't know if dry skin is an issue for him but it can be a factor. Lubriderm may work, it does for many people. I had to try many lotions before I found ones that worked for me and it is not one in the commercial market it is something I mix for myself. If this is an issue I can direct you to the stuff I am currently using or your pediatrician or dermatologist may have something that works for you.

Next look at the situation overall. Our skin is our biggest organ of elimination so there is a relationship between outbreaks on the skin and the liver which is the organ that detoxes things for us. Supporting the liver is very helpful. One sort of fun way to do this is to make a root beer because many of the roots in root beer are liver herbs. I will put a recipe at the end of this email. Teas and tinctures of these roots are simpler to use but may not be so tasty and appealing to a 6 yr old.

Beyond the things I have already mentioned building a strong immune system helps to keep the body in balance and keep flare ups from happening as much and when they do happen they heal faster. This means making sure there is a balanced diet with enough vitamins and minerals. Not always and easy thing to do with kids. Probiotics in some form are very beneficial to the digestive system which helps everything else in the body. Incorporating probiotics into the diet at an early age will make a tremendous difference in overall health for the rest of his life. There is a lot of evidence that most allergic responses are caused by incomplete digestion which can result in things ending up in the bloodstream that shouldn't be there and then the body getting over reactive. So probiotic foods,- kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha or there are probiotic capsules as well. I always think it is best to get as much from your foods as possible, if it is possible.

I find that 1 Emergen- C a day is very helpful. I think they have a kids version of that. So high amounts of Vitamin C and E, adequate intake of B vitamins and extra EFA's. I used evening primrose oil, fish oil and borage oil for years. I took them in capsules everyday multiple times a day. If you can find some source that your grandson will take these are also very important for reducing reactions and incidence of flare ups. Here is an article I was looking at talking about various different options for kids How_to_Choose_an_Essential_Fatty_Acid_or_EFA_for_Children. I guess there was something to that cod liver oil that used to be pushed on us. Cod liver oil is great for us it's just a bit hard to get down.

In general don't use any harsh soaps on the skin. Super gentle soaps and use them minimally as soap dries the skin out and reduces it's own ability to protect itself.

I'm really sorry I don't have a quick and easy answer for you. I have been going to dermatologists and doctors for this my whole life and I never really found them to be of any help. So how to live with eczema  has been a lifelong quest for me. These are the things I have learned over many years of research, trial and error. I don't think it is possible to be cured from the condition but it is possible to live pretty peacefully with it. I  rarely have flare ups these days and haven't for many years after doing all of the things I've mentioned above but I also minimize my contact with things that cause me to flare up. I drink 2 liters of water every day (my water bottle is my constant companion). I keep my immune system strong. And I try to keep myself pretty peaceful and calm. If I would have known all this when I was 6, my life might have been very different. So maybe working with your grandson and helping him to develop these things as healthy habits will help him have a life that is relatively clear of the misery of eczema. Here is the root beer recipe

For this root beer syrup you will need:
  • 2 Tablespoons sassafras root
  • 2 teaspoons sarsaparilla root
  • 2 teaspoons burdock root or dandelion root
  • 2 teaspoons licorice root
  • 5 or 6 tongues of astragalus root (or small handful of cut/sifted if slices not available)
  • 1 gallon of filtered water
  • 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar (remember this is a syrup to which you will add seltzer water when you drink it)
  • a gallon jar and a large pot
Put 1/2 gallon of filtered water in a large pot. Add your roots. (Feel free to add different roots or omit any of these you don’t enjoy. This is just a recipe to get you started.) Bring the water to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in your sugar or other sweetener. Turn off the heat.Continue to steep for about 4 hours.
Taste what you’ve created. Does the root beer taste seem strong enough? If not maybe you want to  add more roots or steep bit longer. (This is not an absolute process.) When you are happy with the flavor strain it out.

Pour this liquid into a  jar and keep in the fridge. Add a couple of tablespoons to a glass and fill with sparkling water. Adjust to desired taste. You can get the herbs you need to make this at Mountain Rose herbs if you like. They are a good source that I use regularly or you may have a favorite herb store in your area. Drinking this root beer is beneficial for the liver, blood and immune system in moderate amounts as it is a lot of sugar.

 I hope this is helpful to you. I know it is a lot and not what you were expecting probably. But it is the reality with eczema there is no easy fix or pill you can take to make it all go away. I so wish there was.

Let me know how it goes and if there is anything else I can help you with,