Natural Treatment of Allergies (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015), by Ramón Rosello and Anna Huete, offers solutions to those suffering from allergies and includes tips on common reactions such as asthma, hay fever, dermatitis, and dietary intolerance. Rosello is a doctor and acupuncturist who has written about natural health topics for over thirty years and has several books published in Spain. Huete is a writer and editor with experience covering natural health issues. The following excerpt discusses allergic dermatitis and suggests natural treatments to resolve it.
Allergic dermatitis, also known as “eczema” or “atopic dermatitis,” is a skin disease that affects a large number of people.
Atopic dermatitis is common in small children. Children tend to overcome their symptoms over about three years, but if it persists into adulthood, it is difficult to find a solution.
Dermatitis often accompanies asthma, hay fever, and other allergic diseases, and visibly worsens when the patient goes through a time of emotional stress. The person suffering from dermatitis is usually very sensitive and the body expresses stress and negative emotions through the skin.
The skin is the largest organ of our body and is not only subjected to external factors, such as allergens or environmental pollution, but also is particularly influenced by everything that happens in our mind and body.
What causes allergic dermatitis?
As in the case of asthma and allergic rhinitis, conventional medicine ignores the root cause of this disorder on skin and the condition can become chronic.
Atopic dermatitis is an extreme skin sensitivity that people who have a history of allergies in your their own person or family tend to develop.
Many babies suffer from atopic dermatitis, especially in the face and the area in contact with the diaper. They often overcome it by adolescence. However, there are children who suffer from these ailments into adulthood. Allergy tests can confirm the diagnosis of eczema in most cases, although there are types of dermatitis that share symptoms with eczema but are not allergic reactions.
There is also contact dermatitis, where the allergic reaction is much more limited and is caused by contact with the allergen. The most common allergens are usually certain metals, latex, synthetic garments, chemical products such as formaldehyde, wood, chlorine, or detergents.
If you have very dry skin and suffer from any allergies, or if a family member has it, you’re very likely to suffer outbreaks of dermatitis or eczema throughout your life.
Even if you have a predisposition to allergies, your skin will stay healthy if you keep away from the allergen that causes you to have a reaction. However, it is not always possible, as in the case of mites or pollen, and we also do not always know which substance will cause the reaction.
Is atopic dermatitis an allergy?
Conventional medicine proved years ago that atopic eczema was not really an allergy, but rather a hypersensitivity, because there was no relationship between IgE antibodies and dermatitis, and there were no mast cells (cells related to IgE) found in the skin.
The scientific community found that the allergens that usually cause asthma, rhinitis, or digestive problems also have the ability to trigger an eczema outbreak.
This was until 1986, when the Dutch scientist Carla Bruynzeel-Koomen discovered the cause of atopic eczema. They are Langerhans cells, which devour foreign substances found in the skin.
The study showed that the skin of patients with atopic dermatitis has a disproportionate number of Langerhans cells that are loaded with IgE antibodies. These cells “capture” the allergenic proteins and other immunological cells that trigger the dermatitis.
This discovery earned Bruynzeel-Koomen an award from the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in 1987.
How does it manifest?
In atopic dermatitis or allergic skin, a response is often pervasive. The skin becomes dry, and dander is caused by the inflammatory process. The most obvious symptoms are redness, itching, formation of vesicles, and exudation of them. The affected area becomes itchy and inflamed, causing the patient to scratch the area which, in turn, makes the skin become swollen and leathery.
Continuously scratching the inflamed area can also provoke an infection and make the symptoms more complicated. These areas are often on the face, ankles, knees, and elbows, but can appear anywhere in the body.
Although eczema is considered a benign disorder, sufferers often have sleeping problems due to intense itching. This strains the body and causes nervousness, irritability, and fatigue.
First, given that there is a higher rate of dermatitis in small children, we should address any relation to breastfeeding. Of course, the best thing you can feed a baby is breast milk. It is an excellent preventive treatment for allergies in newborns. It has been shown that children who breastfeed tend not to suffer atopic dermatitis. In addition, among mothers who do not drink cow’s milk, the percentage of children free from eczema is much higher.
Breastfeeding is essential for strengthening the immune system of the child and it is advisable to nurse the child as long as possible. Within the body of the mother lays the secret of good health, and breastfeeding is a responsibility that all mothers should assume, unless there is some medical impairment that does not allow for it.
As far as the treatment of the disease is concerned, in atopic and contact eczema it is critical, as in all diseases of allergic origin, to try to avoid any contact with the allergen and maintain a positive mental and emotional attitude. Stress and negative emotions are almost as harmful as the most potent allergen.
Also, you should follow some basic rules to eliminate any agent that can irritate your skin. You must take them into account in the case of contact eczema in areas of your skin that touch clothing.
It is best not to use wool or synthetic materials, because people with dermatitis do not usually tolerate these well. You should instead wear silk or cotton clothing. Sometimes clothes are 100 percent cotton but the seams have been sewn with synthetic thread and can cause allergies. You can identify them because they look clearer. In addition, you should wash clothing several times before wearing them to remove the chemicals that are used in the factory, and it is very important that you do it at home because the dry cleaner also uses chemicals that tend to produce irritation. You should use neutral soap or soap flakes because regular detergents, including biological ones, often cause reactions. If you are allergic to cotton clothes too, this could be due to textile dyes.
Shoes can also produce skin reactions in people. The leather undergoes several processes with chemicals. In addition, the other footwear materials use formaldehyde, which can easily provoke contact eczema in people who are sensitive to the chemicals. The solution is to wear thick socks to insulate your feet from the leather or plastic.
It is also important that you use cotton bedding rather than wool blankets or quilts. The best choices are a mattress or futon made from plant material and a cotton blanket.
Tap water can produce itching due to chlorine and other additives. As it is difficult to wash with spring water in the urban environment and using bottled water can be expensive, it is best to take showers that are as short as possible and only on alternate days. Avoid all cosmetics except those that are completely free of perfumes and chemical additives. Consult your dietary center on products according to your situation.
One of the most common causes of contact dermatitis is latex. You must be especially careful if you have children, because the pacifier or nipple of the bottle may cause a breakout on their face. The same can happen with teethers or toys.
Another common cause of atopic dermatitis is the chemicals that are used for making furniture, such as formaldehyde. If you have neutralized possible allergens but continue to show symptoms, it could be perhaps due to these products.
Conventional medicine treats the symptoms of the disease, rather than the origin. Doctors will often prescribe hydrocortisone creams to relieve skin inflammation, antihistamines to relieve itching, and antibiotics in cases like eczema that has been complicated by infection due to scratching.
Apart from the drawbacks of the side effects from these drugs, treatment with corticosteroids and antibiotics may alleviate symptoms, but the relief will only be temporary.
Doctors may also prescribe sleep aids, as certain symptoms may cause insomnia.
Doctors typically reserve drugs for severe cases, advising patients to use home treatments to relieve itching. They usually recommend natural or oat-based soaps, or soap substitutes, or a warm bath with two heaping tablespoons of oatmeal added to it can help soothe the skin. Take short showers, and pat the skin dry gently with a towel. Apply a natural, hypoallergenic moisturizer such as calendula ointment or vitamin E, while the skin is still damp.
If you still feel very itchy, apply ice or onion juice to the affected area.
In some cases, atopic eczema is triggered by allergens such as dust mites or pollen, but statistics show there are many cases of dermatitis caused by food allergies. In the case of a food allergy, it is most effective to avoid the food triggering the reaction, and to follow a healthy and balanced diet.
However, there are other cases of atopic dermatitis that have no clear origin and that many therapists say often cover up a food intolerance. Nutritionists recommend an elimination diet.
This type of diet should not be used along with any other treatment for skin conditions, not even a natural therapy. The aim is to observe the symptoms that manifest themselves. If you are suffering from a food intolerance, your skin will heal and stop itching. These results can be quite dramatic in children.
The first step in an elimination diet requires about five days of completely avoiding the foods suspected of causing the reaction. Limit your diet to a few foods that certainly do not cause allergies, such as rice, for example. To effectively pursue this treatment, it is essential to count on the advice of a nutritionist.
After spending five days on a basal diet, patients often see a remarkable improvement in the condition of their skin. Next, they should begin to reintroduce the foods they had eliminated, watching for any reaction in their skin. If one of the foods causes an intolerance, the eczema will flare up again. It may happen after a few minutes, or after a day or two. These results will help the nutritionist design a healthy diet plan for you that will keep your skin clear of inflammation and itching. Some indications that your skin is healing include changes in coloration (the skin going from a deep red to a bluish red) and a change in texture caused by the shedding of the old skin to make way for the new, healthy skin.
You can also help identify a food intolerance by taking an allergy test. Being tested for the 120 most common food allergies can help narrow down your list of “forbidden foods” and find solutions to your atopic problems. Another factor to keep in mind when following a balanced diet is your vitamin intake. Make sure to consume fruits and leafy greens, brewer’s yeast, and whole grains, all of which contain high levels of vitamins B and C and calcium. Vitamin B is also found in eggs and milk, but we recommend that you avoid these products because they are also highly allergenic.
Marine and freshwater algae are great natural sources of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. These aquatic plants provide us with a wealth of very important minerals in a much higher concentration than other natural foods. They are an important part of your diet, but should be introduced in moderation because of their strong, unique flavor. They also help the body eliminate metals and toxins from its system, and keep your skin in good condition.
Sunlight is the source of life, helping to synthesize vitamins and activating and strengthening the skin — in moderation, of course. If you live in a sunny climate, you can benefit greatly from a walk in the sun each day. In summer, it is best to take a walk around ten in the morning, rather than early afternoon when the sun’s rays are too strong. In winter the procedure is reversed and there is nothing better than a walk in the midday sun. You must gradually increase exposure ten minutes at a time, building up to an hour over the course of a few weeks.
If your lifestyle and the climate of your region do not allow you to sunbathe, you can always use sun lamps, which provide artificial sun that has similar benefits to those of natural sunlight. However, do not give up the former if you can.
If you decide to pursue a sun treatment, it is best to choose a location near the beach. Sun in the high mountains is also very beneficial for conditions such as respiratory diseases. In addition, sunlight stimulates the metabolism, improves appetite, and boosts your immune system. However, environments by the sea are particularly suited for helping to fix skin problems, due to the higher moisture level, constant temperature, and the interaction of ultraviolet rays with iodine.
Obviously, if you suffer from sun allergies you should not follow any of these therapies, except very gradually and under the strict control of a specialist.
Dermatologists and therapists have noted that atopic eczema improves with exposure to sunlight and the symptoms of cutaneous dryness, scaling, and itching, are relieved. This is because the sun activates blood circulation, giving you a greater supply of oxygen and nutrients to the skin. It also stimulates melanin, which also strengthens the skin.
The sun stimulates the secretion of important hormones as it reaches the hypothalamus through our eyes. As you know, this gland is the control center for many functions of our body and mind, so sunlight also provides us important benefits.
Atopic eczema can be improved significantly thanks to constitutional remedies, so it is essential you choose a good homeopath who can make an accurate diagnosis, not just to help discern the appropriate constitutional remedy, but to avoid a major “homeopathic aggravation” that could impair the health of your skin early in treatment.
Phytotherapy and poultices
Herbs can also help you to try and overcome dermatitis. Also, they not only provide benefits in the form of infusion, but they can calm your itching and reduce inflammation if you apply them topically, that is, directly on the affected area. Herbal poultices have anti-inflammatory, emollient, antibacterial, and antipruritic effects, due to their active ingredients.
Your herbalist will know how to advise you on which different species can improve your condition and how you should prepare the herbs for treatment.
Nettles: Reduce itching.
Mullein: Prevents infection. Boil the leaves and wash the area with the infused water.
Borage: Tones the skin. You can take it orally or apply an infusion topically after bathing.
Laurel: Prevents infection and regenerates the skin. Macerate in olive oil and apply to your skin, or add leaves to your bath water.
Malva: An emollient applied with a cold compress soaked in an infusion of leaves and flowers.
Elder: Has anti-inflammatory properties. Apply a poultice of young leaves to your skin.
Amica: Has analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. You can take it in an infusion, use in baths, or apply poultices to your skin.
Guava leaves: Topical application improves eczema due to antibacterial and astringent qualities.
Hops: Its soothing effects aid in sleep and prevent itching that could wake you up. Also, it is very suitable for the external treatment of eczema because of its high zinc content.
Clover: Has astringent and healing properties that help restore your skin’s appearance. Apply it to your skin in a poultice.
Evening primrose oil is extracted from the primrose flower. This substance has many uses in herbal medicine, including treating atopic or contact eczema. Applying primrose oil to affected areas for three to four months can relieve the itching and dryness in your skin. Its active ingredients can be equated to the anti-inflammatory creams and ointments that use corticosteroids or immunomodulators, providing a highly effective natural solution for troublesome symptoms of dermatitis.
The ancient healing technique of acupuncture considers disease to come from a problem with the flow of vital energy that runs through the body, and works to rebalance and restore health to the sick.
This therapy, which helps your body on the path to self-healing, is used to treat multiple disorders and diseases. Allergic contact dermatitis and is one of them.
By stimulating the appropriate acupoints, the acupuncturist helps hydrate your skin, helps reduce inflammation and itching, and helps you feel more relaxed. Acupuncture also strengthens your immune system, which helps prevent it from responding in an exaggerated way to harmless substances.
The acupuncturist will also recommend other traditional Chinese treatments, such as diet or a particular use of certain medicinal herbs that act synergistically with acupuncture and help improve your condition.
Allergic dermatitis is considered by conventional medicine to be a chronic disease. Acupuncture will not provide immediate results, but through weekly sessions you will find as you check on your skin that your symptoms will go away naturally and permanently.
People with atopic eczema or contact dermatitis often have a low level of trace elements in their bodies. Although diet can provide most of these, an extra dose can help kickstart your recovery.
Important trace elements that keep your skin healthy are zinc, magnesium, selenium, and manganese. You should always consult an experienced therapist who can advise you on proper dosage.
Although we sometimes overlook this fact, the skin is the largest organ in our body. And as such, it can be treated with reflexology to help control eczema.
This Chinese therapy works well to activate blood circulation, strengthen the immune system, and improve the emotional state through massaging pressure points in your feet and hands. The goal of reflexology is to regulate your body and skin and allow them to begin to self-heal with their own tools. Check with your therapist about the number and duration of sessions, and feel free to give yourself foot or hand massages to help relieve your eczema.
At first glance it may seem that a therapy based on movement, relaxation, and breath control cannot really help when it comes to a skin problem. However, nothing is further from the truth.
Our body and mind form a unit and are in constant communication. Everything that happens on an emotional level will reflect physically, and eczema is one of the most representative cases. And, in fact, our negative emotions, stress, nervousness, or depression can, and indeed do, exacerbate episodes of allergic dermatitis. Therefore, it is very important to learn to relax, take care of our self-esteem, nurture our positive vision of life, and work and practice loving ourselves and others.
If you practice yoga on a daily basis it can rebalance your body so that it works better. It is a comprehensive tool that boosts your immune system, frees your body, and teaches you to breathe deeply to get oxygen into every last corner of your body. It is also a philosophy of life that provides serenity and inner harmony with its teachings on meditation and relaxation. All these factors can help you recover balance between your emotions and immune system.
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Excerpt published from Natural Treatment of Allergies: Learn How to Treat Your Allergies with Safe, Natural Methods by Ramón Rosello and Anna Huete with permission from Skyhorse Publishing.