The root causes of eczema - why is your skin so red, itchy, and stubbornly inflamed?
It can seem bewildering indeed, trying to understand the causes of eczema, the rhyme and reason behind its often-dramatic symptoms. Patients who come to my Herbal Skin Clinic always ask, "what is causing this...?"
There are four main causes of eczema:
1. Poor digestion and absorbtion
The lining of the intestines, when healthy, is the first immune defense of the body against allergens. When this lining becomes inflamed, or the good bacteria that live there decrease in number, the patient may react to foods such as wheat, eggs, milk, nuts and shellfish. These reactions may be contributing to the causes of eczema, in particular of weeping and blistering eczema.
Poor digestion is often a cause of eczema in babies and young children, but it can exist in adults as well. If you have eczema or dermatitis, and also suffer from symptoms of poor digestion such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain and nausea, your treatment with Chinese herbs would focus on both problems in order restore the skin as well as the digestive system to health.
An important note: there is a great deal of confusion between food allergies and food sensitivities, and about how to accurately test for them. There is also a lot of controversy about the role that these play as causes of eczema.
Click here to read Are food allergies and sensitivities the causes of eczema?
Stress can be a cause of eczema, especially of nummular eczema and pompholyx (a type of hand eczema).
Many patients report that their eczema was triggered by an extreme period of stress. Stress can be a cause of eczema or dermatitis through the inflaming effect it has on the liver. Chinese herbs often treat these types of eczema by detoxifying and cleansing the liver and gall bladder.
3. Environment and allergy
Science has shown that the incidence of allergic eczema increases proportionately with industrialization.
In other words, the more developed a country becomes, the more eczema, severe nut allergies and asthma appear. Currently 15 - 20% of kids in the developed world suffer from these conditions!
This strongly suggests that various factors in the environment cause eczema. These factors could include pesticides, food additives and household chemicals, which irritate and finally overwhelm the immune system.
But did you know that Chinese herbs can effectively treat all of these allergic conditions: asthma, eczema and allergies? In fact, even the life-threatening peanut allergies have been shown to respond to Chinese herbal treatment, in a stunning study done at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Read about the study here in a new window
Sometimes eczema, especially atopic eczema/dermatitis, runs in families. This suggests that genetics are another cause of eczema.
But we have to remember that genes only give us the POTENTIAL to develop a disease. Genes always interact with factors in the environment, such as lifestyle, diet, pollutants and stress. Genes can get "turned on", as well as turned back off when changes are made.