Our team of nutritionists and eczema specialists at Skin Friend will often receive this question...
"I have terrible eczema, what do I do, where do I start, please help me!"
Whether you are experiencing your very first eczema flare (awwwwww) or have struggled with eczema your entire life (it does come and go), figuring out how to manage your skin for the long haul can be the ‘triple 3’ - confusing, challenging, and complicated.
Having eczema can be a horrible experience. It can bring on many emotions - pain, stress, anxiety, frustration, and insecurity to name a few. It is not just your skin that if affected. Eczema has the power to make you feel helpless, insecure and alone. However, I am here to tell you, along with the wonderful knowledgeable and supportive team at Skin Friend that you can heal your skin, that you are not alone, and that you don’t have to settle for a life of suffering.
Eczema is an inflammatory condition, and has zero consideration for its victims, often bearing down at the worst times (hello stress flare). It is more than just physical, brought on by both external factors but an internal demon - our immune system becomes overreactive, feeding off what you put into your body with further triggers from our thoughts and emotions. I said it was complex!
I suffered from eczema for most of my life, and now that I have come out the other-side I feel thankful for my experience (I know this is a strange thing to say, but eczema has shaped my journey). It is easy to say this now since I rarely suffer from eczema anymore but I regularly practise gratitude and take something positive from every experience, even the ‘not so pretty’ ones. My Mum and I have been introduced to some amazing wellness communities and as a result my extended family lead healthier lives. No pre-packaged foods for us! Having chronic eczema has also made me a much more considerate, accepting, caring and grateful person. These days I feel thankful for ‘small’ everyday things including ‘itch free, eight hour slumber’ and wearing shorts in Summer. Most importantly, I am so grateful that now I get to help others struggling with eczema by sharing Karen's life changing research and education.
If only it was possible to reduce eczema to ‘one cause’ such as leaky gut but eczema is more complex than that. So here are my top tips on how to tackle eczema from all angles if you're just starting out on your healing journey.
Where to start?
Avoid the itchy dozen
When eczema warriors first contact us asking for help, the first thing we always tell them is to cut out the ‘itchy dozen’ worst foods for eczema.
People are always shocked to find that the itchy dozen includes many healthy foods, but not so healthy when your immune system is on high alert. You can find the full list of itchy dozen foods here.
If your eczema becomes increasingly severe and avoiding the itchy dozen isn't enough to calm your skin, it may be worth completing the Food Intolerance (FID) program from the Eczema Detox book. FID will help you work out your specific triggers. This is important for anyone with skin inflammation as allergy tests are often inaccurate. The FID Program will give you a clear indication of what types of chemicals and foods you are intolerant or allergic to - knowing your triggers is the key to clearing up your skin!
Calm down the nervous system
Eczema commonly worsens in stressful situations - an eczema flare was not exactly the companionship I was looking for after a relationship break-up! I also noticed that I would become obsessed with my skin - stressing about it, constantly thinking about it, and checking it every few minutes which of course made it much worse. The cycle continued!
What I have learned along the way from such wonderful figures in the wellness industry, is that reframing your perspective is important in stressful circumstances to calm down the body's nervous system and ultimately help your skin. Yes, the stress in life is enviable but there are things we can put in place to ‘keep calm and carry on’. As Karen says 'No matter how perfect your diet is, if you are over-stimulating your nervous system, you are preventing any profound healing from taking place.' This has been significant in my personal eczema healing journey.
This means making the time to relax, unwind and care for yourself. I enjoy meditation and use the Headspace app daily which I highly recommend. I also practise gentle pilates regularly as I find this very calming.
Other calming activities the nutritionists at Skin Friend enjoy include taking a bath, sipping herbal tea, journaling, long walks in nature, listening to music and cooking. We all enjoy different activities that ensure we feel good which helps us to be calm (my sister says hers is shopping)! So start searching for what calms down your nervous system, this might involve some trial and error, but whatever you find best suits you these activities will support you and of course your skin and provide the best chance to heal.
Start eating the best foods for eczema
Nourishing your skin by consuming the best foods for eczema is essential if you want to ‘ditch the itch’! So swap tomatoes, oranges, and heavily processed food for the safest foods for eczema which can be found right here.
Take skin loving supplements
Nutritionist and Skin Friend Queen, Karen Fischer notes that 'people with stubborn skin disorders need extra help to boost their nutrient intakes. The reason they have eczema and other skin rashes in the first place is often triggered by undiagnosed nutritional deficiencies. Supplements can speed up the road to recovery.'
Some of the best vitamins to supplement when you have eczema are vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin D, omega 3, vitamin D, biotin, zinc, taurine, calcium and magnesium.
If you have eczema, finding supplements that are free of tableting agents, gluten, soy, seafood, rice and other potential skin irritants is nearly impossible. So we recommend a pure powder supplement made specifically for people with eczema, called Skin Friend AM and PM. You can read more about them here.
Use the right products
Finding the right products when you have eczema can be a lot of trial and error. I cringe at the thought of how much money my parents spent on endless creams and treatments that only masked the real issues and at times actually made my skin worse.
A good rule to follow when looking for a good eczema cream is a natural product with minimal ingredients and no fragrances or harsh chemicals. It's important to keep in mind that some skin care brands may label themselves as ‘sensitive’ or ‘natural’… except when you investigate a little deeper, you’ll discover they are full of synthetics and chemicals that properly will inflame the skin. I always recommend doing your research on the ingredients in the product, don’t just read buzz words on the front of the box or be taken in by those pretty pictures.
For weepy/oozy eczema we recommend a zinc based cream. For super dry, flakey eczema skin we love our 24 Hour Rescue Balm that hydrates, smooths and softens skin.
If you're looking for more skin care tips and brand recommendations read our skin care blog here.
I hope these tips can help out a fellow eczema warriors embarking on their journey to healing.
Article by nutritionist Bonnie, who works with Karen Fischer at Skin Friend and Eczema Life.
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At Eczema Life, we recommend following a low food chemical program based on nutritionist Karen Fischer's 'The Eczema Detox' book. Along with our additive-free supplements for skin health and wellbeing.
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