Eczema in Australia:
It is estimated that 1 in 3 Australian children and over 1 million Australians in total have eczema. In fact, Dermatologists have suggested that Australia has one of the highest incidences of eczema worldwide! In clinic it is one of the most common skin complaints we see, particularly in our paediatric patients.
Living with eczema, as a child or an adult can have a profoundly negative impact on day to day life. The affected areas of skin can be excessively itchy and can drive the sufferer to distraction. Severe itching, which can be especially common in the evening, can cause the subsequent problems of insomnia and chronic fatigue, both of which substantially affect sleep and in turn quality of life. Where excessive scratching of the skin causes bleeding, this can sometimes even lead to secondary infections.
Infantile eczema will generally occur in the first 6 months of life. This typically improves as the child ages and is often significantly better by the age of 5.
Childhood eczema may be the progression of Infantile eczema or can first occur between 2 and 4 years of age. Irritation is usually found in the ‘nooks and cranny’s’ places such as behind the knees, in the elbows, creases of the ankles, around the neck, behind the ears and in patches on the face. Childhood eczema once again often improves with age.
Young children will often experience some sort of skin complaint during childhood. Children with persistent eczema will often outgrow the skin complaint by puberty. Some do however carry on symptoms into adulthood where the body can be more resistant to treatment. As children are often highly responsive to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment, I always recommend treatment early is optimal. This way we can identify triggers and support the body to regain balance before they develop more ingrained patterns and the barriers to health that some adults can have.
Adult eczema can occur seemingly randomly. Sometimes after a life event or illness. Its placement is similar to that of children with the irritation mainly finding its way to the elbow creases, wrists, neck, ankles and behind the knees. It can be very red, inflamed, and itchy. It can result in a roughening of the skin and in some areas thickening.
This article will explore Eczema in detail, topics covered include:
· What is Eczema?
· How can Eczema present?
· Eczema Triggers
· Resolving imbalances that result in Eczema with TCM
· Traditional Chinese Medicine Dietary Therapy
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a term given to chronic inflammation of the skin and may itself cover a variety of skin complaints which can be quite unique to each individual. Clinical presentation of eczema can vary on markedly from one person to another. Some may experience oozing skin lesions whilst others may have raised red and dry sensitive areas. It can also vary on an individual occurring in different locations and with different appearances depending on age, stage or trigger of the complaint.
As the common name for a group of conditions, eczema may include atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and stasis dermatitis.
How can Eczema present?
Dry, sensitive skin
Red, inflamed skin
Dark colouration to patches of skin
Rough, leathery or scaly patches of skin
Oozing or crusting of the skin
Swelling / inflammation of the skin
A sufferer may experience all of the above symptoms or only some. It is common for eczema to fluctuate and for individuals to experience periods of remission and flares in symptoms. For some the tendency towards eczema may have been present from birth and for others it may have first occurred later in life, sometimes after an illness.
Eczema can be triggered by a variety of external and internal factors. It is quite common for an eczema sufferer to also have other allergy responses. Other allergies that go hand in hand with eczema are hay fever, asthma, food allergies and dust allergies. You can read more about Paediatric Asthma on our blog 'Does your child suffer from Asthma'
Common allergic triggers for eczema include
Pets / Pet Hair
Dietary allergic triggers for eczema include:
Finally, we do often also find that there is also a strong genetic component to the experience of eczema.
Resolving imbalances that result in Eczema with TCM:
As always TCM treatments aim to find the root cause of any disharmony. In the case of eczema and other skin disturbances we see these as a physical manifestation or symptom of an underlying imbalance. Common examples include:
Poor gut health:
Generally, these include signs of internal dampness which are most likely related to poor diet and over-consumption of sweet, oily, or processed foods. Our western diet full of dairy, carbohydrate and convenience foods is the main culprit here.
Weakness of Lung Qi:
In TCM Five Element Theory the lungs look after the health of the skin. As the health of one connects so closely with the other a patient with eczema is likely to also present with asthma and other associated Lung conditions due to this weak Lung Qi.
Deficiency in the Wei Qi:
The Wei Qi or defensive qi serves to protect us from virus, invading pathogens, and bacteria. It might be more well known as forming a crucial component of our ‘immune system’. A robust Wei Qi is dependent on strong Lung Qi and optimal digestive health. Deficiency of Wei Qi leaves the body weak to external pathogenic invasions and as such allergic triggers. Wei Qi is also connected to the lungs.
Eczema can present differently, and each presentation can reflect specific TCM patterns
Three common TCM presentations:
Wind: Wind-induced skin conditions tend to appear suddenly and have acute itching.
Heat: As the name suggests heat conditions physically manifested with red hot skin, a burning sensation, and swelling.
Damp: Skin irritation showing signs of damp can have a puffy and bloated appearance.
The use of Shonishin (needle free acupuncture) for children or Acupuncture for adults along with Tui Na and a range of other TCM therapies works to repair underlying deficiencies, improve Lung Qi, resolve damp and clear heat and wind.
Although the health of the skin is largely influenced by the Lung often the experience of eczema and other skin conditions can be linked to a deficiency in the blood cleansing actions of the Kidneys and Liver. When these organs are not functioning optimally toxins can then be excreted through the skin.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Dietary Therapy:
In almost all cases diet will play a huge role in long term recovery and our assessment in clinic will involve in depth investigation of potential suspected dietary triggers. The food we eat will either place additional strain on an already taxed system or support it to find balance.
Traditional Chinese Medicine views food to hold energetic qualities of heat and cold. This is not related to the temperature of the food but rather the way the food’s energy is distributed throughout our body. You may have noticed this yourself when eating a spicy curry, the way the food ‘heats’ your system or perhaps enjoying a cooling watermelon or cucumber snack in the heat of summer. The reason this understanding of the energetic nature of foods is important is because if you are experiencing eczema due to heat and consume foods that further warm the blood you will likely experience a flare in your symptoms.
Below is some lists of common triggers and supportive foods. Bear in mind however that each individual will have different dietary requirements as we all tolerate and process food in our own unique way. This is why it is important to explore the triggers in your specific environment.
Foods that can commonly aggravate skin conditions include:
Acidic foods such as pickled vegetables and tomato
Alcohol, Coffee and Caffeinated Beverages
Citrus fruits such as lime, lemon, grapefruit
Common allergens such as shellfish – oysters / shrimp
Foods that can be supportive for healthy vital skin can include:
Foods rich in Omega-3 such as sesame seeds can help remedy poor fat metabolism
Beta-carotene / Pro vitamin A foods are extremely helpful. These include carrots, winter squash, pumpkin, and leafy greens such as kale, chard, and water cress.
Deep blue-green micro algae such as spirulina are great. Greens in general are rich in chlorophyll which assists in purifying the blood of toxins.
Seaweeds are also cooling and detoxifying in nature.
Cooling fruits include watermelon, pear, and apple.
Herbs such as peppermint, dandelion, chamomile and cilantro can be cooling.
Visit our other pages to learn more about the various Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments at Red Bridge Family Acupuncture. Read about Paediatric needle free treatments on our blog ‘Paediatric Acupuncture – Shonishin Explained’
More questions? That is fine we love to chat! Check out our FREE 15 MIN Health Assessment
Ready to make a change? Get in touch on (03) 5906 1494 or via our contact page and get started today.