Frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitiser does seem to be doing an excellent job of reducing infection rates but it also come at a cost for many people’s skin.
So what are your options? Well conventional wisdom would suggest that moisturising is the solution however most creams really only provide a barrier. Its also not really practical to moisturise every time you wash your hands and it may remove some of the benefits.
Focussing on skin quality needs to be addressed from two perspectives topical and internal. Topical options can include lotions, creams, ointments or oils. There are advantages and disadvantages to each however first up make sure that the ingredients include water, glycerol and natural oils amongst the first five ingredients. Glycerol or glycerin is important to keep the moisture in the skin.
The major difference between each of these different types of cream is the water content. Lotions have a high percentage of water with a base that helps it emulisfy. Creams are a lower percentage of water, ointments much less and oils usually just contain an oil in an appropriate base. People with oilier skins benefit from lighter lotions or creams, however in the case of cracked dry skin ideally you need to start with a more dense cream or an ointment or oil.
For healing dry and cracked skin you want to choose a product that has a reasonable oil content as well as having therapeutic ingredients. Weleda make a range of creams based on Calendula and the research shows that at abou 0.9% content it can reduce redness and cracking. It will also assist in wound healing and can be invaluable in replacing the natural protective barriers in the skin. The only caution with Calendula topically would be if you are sensitive to the Asteracae plant family. To minimise the risk I would always recommend patch testing a small spot before widespread use.
Very dry skin might really benefit from the therapeutic use of plant oils such as Carrot or Sesame which are naturally high in Carotenoids and Vitamin E. The oil will assist in holding moisture in the skin and it would be ideal to use it at the end of the day to maximise the benefit.
The other critical aspect is the support of the skin membrane. Ideally you need to ensure that to repair good quality skin your diet is rich in essential fatty acids and you maintain water intake. Each cell is composed of a bi-layer of essential fatty acids and without adequate intake of fats its not possible to repair already damaged skin. Look at your diet including good quality fish, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado and nuts and seeds. If your skin is very dry chances are you are not consuming enough or you are not breaking it down effectively. People with low bile acids often have difficulty with absorbing fats and there are several ways to support digestion to address this.
Christine Pope is a Naturopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health at St Ives. Currently available in person at the clinic or by audiovisual means if you are self-isolating. You can make appointments on (02) 8084 0081 or online at the clinic website at www.elementalhealth.net.au .
For many years skin problems were one of the more difficult conditions that I saw in clinic. Whether it was tinea, rashes, acne or excema often treatment can be lengthy and involve significant dietary change. Also I find it can often flare up as you are detoxing and this requires careful management.
Skin is the largest organ of the body and performs an important role in detoxification, so if you are eating badly it will show up on the skin. Even when you improve your eating patterns it may take 4-6 weeks to show changes as it takes time to work through your system, to reduce inflammation and ultimately to heal.
So what you say, I have a really good diet but I still have skin problems ? Well fabulous that you have sorted out diet but ideally this comes down to identifying the underlying triggers for your skin issues. Usually I find it comes down to one of the following ;
“My excema is always bad when I am stressed ” In this case stress hormones are hijacking your system and simply addressing the skin isn’t going to be enough. Often the strategy here is to use lifestyle interventions to manage the stress – yoga, meditation, reframing exercises as well as using appropriate supplements to support the adrenals and manage the skin. People who are stressed are usually more acidic so alkalising nutrients such as lots of vegetables work well or supplements with magnesium and potassium.
My skin it so itchy but I really don’t know why? It doesn’t seem to matter what I eat or what products I use on it! Two big areas here – one in exposure to foods or external triggers which are incompatible with your system. In this case I usually look at the Intolerance testing to identify potential triggers and determine what is causing the reaction for that person.
The skin problems only seem to happen at a certain time of year ??? Yes it could be a particular stressor (like a big family Christmas) but in this case its important to be an environmental detective. Even in dry winters its possible that the house has underlying damp and mould and this can create havoc for people who are sensitive. However it could also be a seasonal intolerance to a particular plant – apparently although wattle gets blamed for a lot of hayfever its not usually the suspect as the particles are too big. Apparently grass and dust are more common allergens. If mould is the underlying issue its important that it be treated appropriately and there are specialists in its detection and removal.
My tinea flares up whenever I drink a lot! This is often related to an underlying candida overgrowth which feeds off sugar – alcohol is literally liquid sugar in many cases. Apart from sticking to spirits with lime and soda and not lemonade or coke (which is not very good naturopathic advice but it does help) its important to treat the underlying fungal picture. Foods which are good sources of anti-fungal compounds include coconut oil and garlic, however I usually find a combination of approriate herbs and essential oils is faster at cleaning up the tinea.
Not only do I have rashes constantly but I am also really anxious or down. This can be related to an excess of copper in relation to zinc which reduces your ability to break down histamine and mount an appropriate immune response. In my first consultation I always include my inhouse minerals analysis tool – Oligoscan – and this can detect these imbalances. The other option is hair tissue minerals analysis which does take a little time.
My baby is completely breast fed and yet he still has excema? Well unfortunately this means Mum is probably consuming something that doesn’t agree with her system and bubs is reacting. It probably started with a colicky whiny baby and has now progressed. If this is the case its essential for Mum to eliminate any foods she reacts to and monitoring the impact this has on bubs. Usually within 2-4 weeks you can expect good resolution if you know what your triggers are. Occassionally it may be the baby care products that could be causing a reaction but its much more common that it’s Mum’s diet. Its always a bit tough since a new breastfeeding mother has a large appetite and probably not a lot of energy for lots of cooking as well as all the other chores she now gets to enjoy, however longer term it makes for a much happier baby and Mum!
The first suggestion I would make is to ideally keep a food diary for a week and track your reactions to what you are eating. Record not only what you are eating and drinking but also whether you feel tired or energised afterwards. Keep note of what is happening with your stomach as well particularly if you have urgency or constipation after a particular meal or are suffering bloating or reflux. Note how your mood is impacted by what is happening as well. Over a week you should start to see patterns emerging that will help you detect which foods are a problem for you.
If that doesn’t shine any clarity on it for you take your food diary to a naturopath or nutritionist and ask them for help. My clinic is at St Ives in Sydney and you can make appointments on 8084 0081.