Dermatitis is a skin condition which may appear differently depending on where it is on the body. It usually appears as an itchy, red, irritating rash. This condition is commonly called eczema, but this is only one type of dermatitis. Millions of people the world over suffer from some type of dermatitis.
Types of Dermatitis
There are three common types of dermatitis:
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is an itchy, red rash appears on the skin in different places, as early as infancy. It usually appears where the skin flexes most – between the creases of the elbows, knees, groin, etc. It usually begins as small red bumps, but can ooze and then crust over. It may appear periodically, disappear, and then reappear again.
Contact dermatitis is caused by environmental toxins or other substances which come into contact with the skin and cause irritation. It is essentially an allergic reaction which causes the skin to break out. Think of poison ivy, reactions to certain personal care items like soap, moisturizer, or shampoo. The rash can be mild or extreme causing burning, itching and even blisters.
Seborrheic dermatitis can be long-term form of skin rash which appears scaly and red. It can appear on the face, the upper chest and back, most commonly, however it is possible if can form anywhere. In infants, this condition is known as cradle cap.
What Causes Dermatitis?
Dermatitis can be caused by many things, but the underlying problem is inflammation in the body. The skin is one of the first places we will see inflammation occur, as it is one of the largest organs of detoxification in the body. When the internal organs cannot handle chronic inflammation, it will start to “bleed out” into the skin in the form of rashes, dryness, scaliness, etc. If the condition persists, the skin can blister, weep (ooze) and repeat this cycle. Those with an autoimmune disease may notice that they are more prone to dermatitis as well.
Though things in our environment can trigger dermatitis, they usually only indicate a weakened immune system. Therefore, babies often develop eczema or cradle cap, because their immune systems are not fully formed until they are at least two years old.
Irritants and allergens can trigger the skin rash, which is just an immune response that normally occurs in the body. Soaps, perfumes, gluten, dairy, chemical additives in foods, heavy metals perfumes, cosmetics, rubber, adhesives, dyes and resins found in our clothing, and cortisol-based creams are just some examples of toxins that can cause a dermatitis flare up.
Eczema, for example is a version of hypersensitivity to food allergies to milk, gluten, fish, tree nuts, eggs, or other environmental allergens. People with asthma or a family history of eczema are more prone to this type of dermatitis because their immune systems may not function as they should.
Another type of dermatitis called herpetiformis is due to celiac disease, which is a gut condition. Celiac disease makes people very sensitive to wheat, rye, and other grains, however, the underlying issue, once again is a weak immune system and poor gut health.
Dermatitis Treatment Options
Allopathic Cures for Dermatitis
- Cortisol creams, hydrocortisone steroids
- NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) ointments
- Pimecrolimus and tacrolimus(non-steroidal) creams (which the FDA has warned against)
- Drugs that suppress the immune system
With the exception of phototherapy, all of these drugs have severe side effects, including:
- Damage to healthy gut flora, a key component to a healthy immune system
- High blood pressure
- Kidney and liver damage
- Blurred vision
- Stomach upset
- Heart attack
- Allergic reactions
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Leg and throat swelling
- And more
Natural Cures for Dermatitis
Comparativly, natural cures for dermatitis do not cause side effects, and tend to health the body from the inside out, instead of the outside-in such as with the creams and steroid shots most commonly prescribed by allopathic doctors.
These are also commonly inexpensive and simple to administer. You can try:
- Coconut Oil – this is a natural anti-viral, antibacterial, and antifungal oil that can help sever eczema with daily topical use. You can also consume coconut oil to help reduce inflammation in the body.
- Probiotics and Prebiotics – These can help improve gut health which will calm an over-active immune response to allergens and environmental toxins. Prebiotics act as food for healthy gut bacteria and probiotics make sure that bad bacterial colonies don’t’ form as easily in your intestinal tract.
- Magnesium/Sea Salt Spray – for people who are suffering from oozing or weeping dermatitis, a simple spray made of sea salt, water, and magnesium, applied topically several times a day can help dry out the weeping wounds in the skin so that coconut or other natural balms can be administered. Magnesium used alone is also a great immune booster and inflammation suppressor.
- High Levels of Omega 3 Fatty Acids – One of the many things a healthy gut loves is healthy fats. Ditch highly-processed fats and make sure to get Omega 3s in the form of help, flax, and camelina oils. You can use fish oils, but just steer clear of those which may have antibiotics (as is used in farm-raised fish) or high mercury levels.
- Bathe in Magnesium Flakes or Oil – Magnesium is a great salve for itchy, dry, oozing, red, irritated skin. Many health food stores sell magnesium bath salts that can be added with essential oils for skin relief.
- Use Essential Oils. Many essential oils such as lavender, bergamot, rose, and frankincense are extremely healing to stressed out skin. Be sure to try a small area first before applying the oils, and if they are too strong, add them to a carrier oil like coconut or Vitamin E to aid in absorption.
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Dermatitis
The prevalence in dermatitis has grown in recent years, likely due to the increased incidence of poor gut health, and environmental toxins.
The Chinese Medicine treatment of dermatitis generally involves arriving at the appropriate TCM diagnosis or pattern. This pattern within the individual is what treatment is based on not the general condition (see treating the cause and not the symptoms).
The following patterns may represent the underlying contributing factors for the development of dermatitis:
- Liver Wind
- Liver and Gallbladder Damp Heat
- Spleen Yang Deficiency
- Kidney Yang Deficiency
- Kidney Yin Deficiency
- Liver Yin Deficiency
- Heat in the Blood
The aforementioned imbalances can be treated with acupuncture, moxibustion, and TCM herbal remedies which can include herbs like Feng Guang Shen, Fu Ling and Shan Yao.
Yoga and Meditation for Dermatitis
Another commonly overlooked remedy for skin conditions is stress reduction. Stress is very closely tied to immune system break downs, and thus skin eruptions and dermatitis flare ups. By lowering stress with a regular yoga and meditation practice, you can teach your body to stop creating excessive cortisol and adrenaline (stress hormones) which further deplete the immune system and can contribute to chronic inflammation.
There are also specific yoga postures which aim to balance the energy of the body, improve digestion, and purify the blood.
Lifestyle Changes to Help with Dermatitis
Additional lifestyle changes can make a big difference in the management of dermatitis. If sufficient changes are made to the diet, exercise, stress-levels and toxicity exposure, dermatitis can even be eradicated for good. Concentrate on making the following positive changes in order to reduce dermatitis, chronic inflammation, and immune system weakness:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables (make sure they organic so that you don’t increase your body’s toxic burden)
- Foods high in sugar (simple carbohydrates, as well) and saturated fat can spur inflammation. Try to reduce these. They cause overactivity in the immune system, which can lead to joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the blood vessels, along with skin eruptions.
- Add anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric, rosemary, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, ashwagandha, etc.
- Get moderate exercise every day. This not only reduces stress in the body, but it also increases circulation which can help remedy skin conditions.
- Meditate and practice yoga or other stress reduction methods. Try walking in nature, laughing at funny movies, spending time with friends, or just slowing down to recover from life’s stress.
- Reduce environmental toxicity by getting regular colonics, drinking plenty of water, getting 8-9 hours of sleep every night, and getting rid of chemical toxins in your home – such as personal care items, paints, etc.
- Add tart cherries to your diet, they are extremely good for reducing inflammation.
- Drink more water. It is naturally detoxifying and keeps your blood alkaline.
No matter what remedy you choose, your dermatitis can be managed with natural remedies, diet changes, and lifestyle adjustments. By curing the underlying issue – chronic inflammation and a compromised immune system – skin conditions no longer need to be an ongoing concern.