Eczema 101

What is Eczema?  Eczema is a medical condition in which patches of skin become rough and inflamed, with blisters that cause itching and bleeding.

What Are the Causes of Eczema? 
While medical science isn’t sure about the exact causes of eczema, there are factors that are thought to be contributors to this condition. The following factors have been shown to cause and/or trigger the symptoms of eczema:

  • Genetics
  • Abnormal functioning of the immune system
  • Environmental Factors such as extreme cold or dust mites
  • Sensitivity to chemicals and environmental toxins
  • Defects in the skin barrier that allow moisture and germs in
  • Food allergies
  • Stress

Treating Eczema Naturally
Eczema can be a very frustrating condition. Many times, causes and triggers of eczema vary from person to person making it nearly impossible to formulate a one-size-fits-all treatment. There are some great natural remedies for treating eczema, but most likely you’ll need to experiment with these to learn which ones work best for you. Here are a few usual suspects to explore if you are struggling with eczema:

1.    Combat Cold Weather: Extreme cold can cause eczema symptoms to spike due to excessive dryness. Ideally, try to avoid spending too much time outdoors in the winter and boost your humidity levels indoors with a humidifier. Optimal humidity levels indoors are 45-55%. Using an emollient, natural skin moisturizer (coconut oil is an excellent choice) is also essential for eczema sufferers throughout the winter months.

2.    Replenish the Friendly Bacteria in Your Gut: Many health experts believe that eczema is linked to an over-production of bad bacteria in the gut. The best way to rebalance this bacteria is to replenish the flora (aka. good bacteria) in your gut, which can easily be accomplished through the use of probiotics. The 2 most commonly used (good) bacteria in studies that have successfully proven the benefit of using probiotics in the treatment of eczema are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacteria species. If you are treating eczema, look for a probiotic containing one or both of these strains and incorporate it into your daily supplement regimen.

3.    Make Your Home Chemical Free: Toxic ingredients in cleaning supplies and laundry detergents can cause eczema symptoms. Replace your cleaning products and laundry detergent with natural, fragrance-free alternatives, which can be found online or at your local health food store. In addition, avoid wearing clothing or sleeping in sheets that are made of synthetic fibers and instead opt for clothing and sheets that are made from 100% cotton (preferably organic cotton).

4.    Reduce Your Stress Load: The large amount of stress hormones and free radicals produced by your body during periods of stress can exacerbate eczema symptoms.  While its nearly impossible to completely eliminate stress, there are many ways in which you can reduce stress and combat its effects.  Some very simple, yet effective ways for managing and reducing stress include gentle yoga, deep breathing, being held by a loved one, taking a walk in nature, soaking in a warm bath and laughing.

5.    Watch What You Eat: Food allergies are linked to eczema symptoms, especially before the age of 1.  The most common allergens that cause eczema flares include dairy products, eggs, soy, nuts and seeds and wheat.  If you suspect that a specific food makes your eczema worse, try eliminating that food for 5-7 days and then slowly adding it back in and observing the effects. 

6.    Swap out Chemical Cosmetics for Natural Alternatives: Typically those who suffer from eczema have super sensitive skin. These days most mainstream cosmetics contain fragrances, alcohol, preservatives and chemicals that can irritate your skin and trigger eczema symptoms. If you suffer from eczema (and even if you don’t) it’s best to avoid using products with harsh ingredients, fragrances and toxic chemicals. Instead opt for natural alternatives, which can be found online at websites like and or at your local health food store. Luckily natural cosmetics are becoming increasingly easy to come by and even mainstream stores such as Target and Sephora are now offering cleaner and healthier options. 

Keep in mind that learning about what makes your eczema better often requires a period of trial and error. Things that may work well for someone else with eczema, may not impact you at all and vice versa. Be patient, go slow and observe carefully to notice any positive changes in your skins condition.