Natural approaches to acne, eczema and psoriasis
Column by Colleen Gagliardi
Many people struggle with these common skin conditions. When it comes to acne, psoriasis and eczema, as a Naturopathic Doctor and Acupuncturist, I often see that underlying imbalances in the body contribute to skin issues. Frequently I find that skin complaints are related to the body’s impaired detoxification ability, hormonal imbalances, inappropriate immune responses or digestive disorders.
Here are some of the tips and recommendations that I have found to be the most helpful for people dealing with skin issues.
• First is to tidy up the diet: Limit sugar, sweets and alcohol. Avoid fried foods. Eat plenty of organic vegetables and fruit, along with sufficient, healthy protein and whole grains. The old saying of “you are what you eat” (…and it shows) applies here.
• Identify and eliminate food sensitivities. Food sensitivities, I find, frequently contribute to skin issues. To evaluate this, I may recommend a food elimination diet, (eliminating the top foods that people most often react to: wheat, eggs, cow’s milk, fish, soy, peanuts, and shellfish). Or, I may recommend that a blood test be done, which measures two types of immune reactions, (IgG and IgE) to common foods. (more information can be found at: http://meridianvalleylab.com/food-allergy-testing/basic-foods-e-panel/ ). All foods that show a significant reactivity from the lab are then avoided for a period of time, in order to allow the body time to heal. Although the results from this type of testing are controversial in medical circles, I find great clinical results when people eliminate the reactive foods.
• Specifically for eczema and psoriasis, I may recommend that a Complete Digestive Stool Analysis be done (additional info at: (http://doctorsdata.com/test_info.asp?id=26) to evaluate whether imbalanced gut flora or Candida overgrowth may be contributing to skin symptoms. Based on the test results, we may support the digestive system with the needed form of “good” gut bacteria (probiotics), or use antimicrobial or antifungal herbs to clear the system of imbalanced or pathogenic gut bacteria. Skin health, I have found, is usually directly related to digestive health.
• Evaluate for environmental exposures: Eczema may be a result of a sensitivity to nickel, dyes, clothing materials, medications, chlorine in water, arsenic exposure, heavy metals, bath and laundry soaps, dryer sheets, and cosmetics, to name a few. Identifying and eliminating the cause of these skin reactions is important.
• Check your medications and supplements for additives, dyes, and fillers that could be potential allergens. Some supplements contain numerous nutrients and herbs (everything but the kitchen sink, sometimes!), which can be a challenge when it comes to eliminating potential reactivities. To illustrate this, I once saw a child in my office that was literally covered with oozing, seeping, itching eczema (he was really an uncomfortable little guy). A food sensitivity panel was done, and it indicated several food sensitivities; the worst of which appeared to be corn. Upon avoidance of the suspect foods, his skin started clearing somewhat. It was not until it was identified that the Vitamin C in his multivitamin was corn-derived, and was then eliminated, that we saw a great improvement in this child’s skin (he was a much happier guy then!).
• Skin repair nutrients: A good multivitamin is important which contains the nutrients needed for skin repair; such as Vitamin A, Vitamin E and zinc (please be mindful, however, that there are cautions on safe dosing of these nutrients – consult with your healthcare provider to discuss what is appropriate for you). Also for skin health include a good source of essential fatty acids – i.e. fish oil (which is a great anti-inflammatory support).
• Acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy can be very, very helpful in clearing skin. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has several pattern differentiations that are used to explain and treat different skin conditions based upon their appearance and corresponding symptoms. For instance; red, weeping skin lesions in TCM indicates that “damp-heat” is present. Specific acupuncture points and herbs can help to balance the underlying condition that is creating this damp heat, thus treating the skin condition at the same time.
• For acne conditions, I may recommend a detoxification protocol, including an appropriate diet and herbs to help balance hormones.
• Many topical applications, scrubs and herbal lotions from both the Naturopathic perspective and Chinese Medicine may be helpful at healing skin conditions. These should be specifically recommended for you by a qualified practitioner, and be based upon your particular condition and skin type.
• For red, itchy eczema, I sometimes recommend an oatmeal bath to help with the itching. Here are the instructions for an oatmeal bath: put 1 heaping cup of ground oatmeal into an old cotton sock and tie a knot in the sock to keep the oatmeal in. Hang the sock under the bathtub faucet so the water passes through the sock as the tub fills. The starch from the oatmeal will permeate the bath water and will create a soothing effect on the skin. Then, while in the bath, use the sock (still with the oatmeal in it) as a sponge to further soothe itchy skin.
• Correctly prescribed homeopathic medicines may also help to heal skin conditions.
• Make sure to get plenty of sleep – it will help your body to repair itself.
• Work on eliminating stress in your life. Too much stress affects the body’s ability to heal.
• Make sure to get plenty of exercise: it increases the oxygenation and health of all of your cells.
• Drink plenty of fresh water to help the body to cleanse.
In conclusion, there are many natural therapies that can help to improve the health of your skin. By addressing the underlying imbalances that contribute to skin issues, we can help you towards the goal of having clear, lustrous and healthy skin.
You may join Dr. Gagliardi for a complimentary discussion on treating acne, eczema and psoriasis at Whole Foods Market, (9366 S. Colorado Blvd, Highlands Ranch, CO 80126) on Thursday, March 15 @ 6:30PM. Space is limited. Please RSVP to 303-471-9355.