Eczema is the most common pediatric conditions that I treat in my Chinese medicine practice. It's no surprise so many patients are seeking to heal eczema since over 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from this skin condition. Most of these cases begin before the age of five.
For years, I was personally plagued with dishydrotic eczema – itchy blisters on my fingers and hands that started from years of bar tending. Both of my children developed eczema as babies – my daughter is pictured above.
Eczema can range from annoying to debilitating with itchy patches of red, irritated, rough and even scaly or oozing skin. When left untreated or suppressed, many of these patients will eventually develop allergies, asthma, or other autoimmune conditions.
Unfortunately, dermatologists and other western doctors have no cure for eczema. Their best treatments usually involve topical steroid creams that – often ineffectively – suppress the skin inflammation.
The good news is that Chinese Medicine can identify the root cause of eczema and offers safe, natural treatment that I have seen work time and time again.
Backed by research
Medical research supports what Chinese Medicine practitioners have known for centuries: Chinese medicine can alleviate and heal eczema – both the symptoms and the root cause.
In a preliminary study done at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, 14 children suffering with eczema were treated with herbal tea, herbal creams and acupuncture. Patients with severe symptoms saw improvements in as little as three months of treatments, and after 8 months, symptoms were reduced to very mild.
Results of a study conducted in Japan on adult patients has also yielded strong positive results for Chinese medicine and improvement in eczema symptoms. 87% of patients were symptom free after 3 to 4 months of treatment, and 12% were substantially improved.
How Chinese medicine does it differently
Chinese medicine is a true holistic medicine, meaning that it looks at the whole picture of a condition and addresses all of the component parts.
Eczema, like most skin conditions, is usually a reflection of an imbalance occurring INSIDE the body. This may be occurring even if you seem otherwise perfectly healthy.
Chinese medicine identifies several key patterns that typically come into play with eczema…
In Chinese medicine we refer to digestive weakness as ‘Spleen Qi deficiency.' Common symptoms may include gas, bloating, digestive allergies or sensitivities, constipation, diarrhea, poor appetite, fatigue, brain fog, or excessive worrying.
When it comes to eczema and other skin conditions, I almost always have found there to be a significant digestive component – even in the absence of digestive symptoms. This is because healthy digestion is at the epicenter of good health. In fact, it's been shown that the skin, gut, and brain all come from the same embryonic cells. (source) Eczema can act like a canary in a coal mine, letting us know that the digestive system could use some support.
It's also interesting to note that children are born with relatively “weaker” digestion, and are therefore more susceptible to conditions such as colic, reflux, food allergies, and eczema from birth. Add factors that further upset their delicate balance such as antibiotics or conventional formula, and their bodies are practically inviting eczema.
How to address digestive weakness to heal eczema:
- Avoid antibiotics which can obliterate healthy gut flora
- Supplement with high quality probiotics and probiotic foods (especially for babies who are formula fed)
- Consume plenty of homemade bone broth, which can help to heal and strengthen digestive function
- Avoid large amounts of cold, raw foods (smoothies, ice cream, and even salads) which can further weaken digestive function
Suppressed immune function
In Chinese medicine we refer to a weak immune system as ‘Wei Qi deficiency', which essentially means that the body's defensive energies are not working optimally.
We see this weaker immune function with eczema because the body is both hyper-sensitive to triggers (whether from food or the environment) and is also ineffectively responding to these triggers resulting in heat and dampness trapped in the skin (red and oozing rashes).
How to support healthy immune function to heal eczema:
- Healthy immune function starts in the gut, so follow the tips recommended for healing digestion, also apply to immune health.
- Determine triggers such as food allergies/sensitivities, environmental irritants, and synthetic skin products which can overwhelm an already taxed immune system.
- Avoid processed, packaged, and fake foods.
- Eat plenty of high quality, saturated fats such as coconut oil and ghee or butter.
- Supplement with a high quality fish oil which contains omega-3 fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in all the cells in your body.
Trapped heat and dampness
The red skin and oozing blisters typical with eczema are described in Chinese Medicine as trapped heat and dampness.
The way to resolve this imbalance is by choosing foods and herbs to drain and vent heat (without damaging the digestion by consuming too many cold, raw foods).
From a dietary perspective, bitter foods like dandelion and other dark, leafy greens are fantastic for clearing heat and toxicity.
Chinese herbal formulas are particularly helpful, because the multiple herbs in a formula can clear heat and dampness without creating more imbalance in your body.
Stressed nervous system
Especially for adults but also for kids, stress (a.k.a. ‘Liver Qi Stagnation') plays a significant role in exacerbating eczema.
The simple answer to this is to not be stressed. But a more practical solution is to implement a stress management plan that can include any number of de-stressing activities like acupuncture, exercise, or taking time each week to spend time with a friend.
The longer you suffer from eczema and other health conditions the more likely the stress and imbalance will start to take a deeper toll on your system, potentially leading to adrenal fatigue and more devastating health problems, so by addressing eczema from the root, you are investing in your long-term health.
How long will it take to heal?
The rule of thumb with using any holistic treatment is that for every year you've had a condition it takes about a month to treat. While this is only a loose guide, it will help you to set expectations.
While it is certainly possible to apply these principles through food and lifestyle, if you find that the healing process seems to stall-out, don't distress. Reach out to an experienced Chinese medicine practitioner who can help you to trouble-shoot your treatment plan and add herbal treatment to enhance your progress.
Get The Eczema Cure
I see and talk to so many folks that are completely distressed about eczema for themselves or their child. My heart goes out to each one, and I am so happy to be able to share the methods that have worked for hundreds of patients including myself and both of my children.
For more comprehensive information on healing eczema with food, supplements, and the principles of Chinese medicine, be sure to check out my ebook: The Eczema Cure where I guide you through a 4-part action plan to resolve eczema from the inside out.
What's helped you heal eczema? Or…What hasn't? Let us know in the comments below!