Atopic dermatitis, the umbrella under which eczema falls, is characterized by itching, and patches of dry, thickened skin typically on the hands, neck, face and legs. In children, it commonly appears on the backs of the knees and inside the elbows. To read more about adult eczema, please visit my eczema page by clicking here. In children, this pattern is called Si Wan Feng, or 4 Bends Wind, because of where it typically appears.
It is important to have a licensed practitioner determine the pattern of dermatitis you are experiencing. Most commonly, dermatitis/eczema often presents at Damp-Heat, Fetal Toxin and Blood Dryness/Blood Heat. Regardless of the pattern, it is important to use acupuncture and herbal medicine (internally and topically). It is also important to take an integrative approach to treatment of eczema/dermatitis by incorporating Western complimentary medicine. There is an article in Acupuncture Today that sums up these additional therapies quite nicely.
I’ll give you the highlights here. These are the things I recommend to my patients almost always.
- Fish oil. This must be obtained from a reputable supplier. My two favorites are Pharmax and Nordic Naturals. For adults, the standard recommendation is 1gram per day, moving up to 3-5grams (in severe cases, up to 7-10grams as prescribed by your licensed practitioner) daily.
- Probiotics. Research has shown that therapeutic effects are seen only when consuming probiotic supplements with greater than 20 billion organisms. Again, look to Pharmax and their HLC line. This should be taken daily.
- Changing your laundry detergent, fabric softener and bleach. You need to switch to a dye- and fragrance-free version of what you’re using. Look to Seventh Generation and Ecover.
- Explore food allergies. Look to gluten, dairy (casein and lactose), mushrooms, and strawberries. The best way to determine what you’re allergic to is an elimination diet. I prefer the one in Andrew Gaeddert’s book on digestive wellness. I don’t endorse the supplements he suggests, but the elimination diet at the end of his book is the best explained and most thorough version I have ever seen. Wellness begins in the gut. Look there first.
- Make sure you keep your skin moist. Use natural moisturizers, like Argan oil, and a humidifier/vaporizer like the ones offered by Air-O-Swiss.
- Diet. Depending on the pattern you have, dietary recommendations will change. Speak to your practitioners about this. It’s safe to assume avoiding shellfish will be a likely component of all dietary therapy.
An integrated approach to treatment of dermatitis/eczema is the best bet for getting resolution of symptoms like itching, redness, and thickened skin.