Our skin often reflects larger health dynamics. Eczema shows us this in several different ways.
We can understand eczema better by seeing that there are actually many different kinds of ashes (also known as atopic dermatitis). Sometimes they are red and weeping, sometimes very dry and itchy. Sometimes the rash appears mostly around knees and elbows, sometimes it is primarily on the head. Those are all different patterns and each gives a clue about possible causes and triggers. Different patterns relate to different underlying dynamics or imbalances.
One definite, universal dynamic that is true for everyone—our skin constantly meets the outside world. Our skin protects us from the outside world. It is a barrier organ. How well it can protect us depends on what it meets in the outside environment. It’s widely known and recognized that a dry environment makes eczema symptoms worse. That is why eczema is much more prevalent in a dry climate like Colorado where there is not much humidity. Helping the skin be better protected from outside influences marks a first important therapeutic step. Good hydration, limiting soaps (which remove protective oils in the skin) and adding in regular use of moisturizers all help reduce the effects of dry climate. Those are pretty standard counseling steps for eczema treatment. Further steps, like working to identify additional outer irritants—like harsh detergents, dyes, perfumes, chemicals, or other drying agents—should also be considered.
A holistic approach to eczema recognizes that there are other dynamics too. Our skin also reflects the balance of our inner world. An anthroposophic approach to skin diseases recognizes that many people’s eczema is strongly influenced by digestive and metabolic imbalance. That’s because the skin functions not only as a barrier organ, but also as an important detox organ. If your body is not happy with what you are eating, or your body is not able to properly break down the food you are taking in, your skin breaks out (related relationships between digestion and skin exist for acne and rosacea too). Identifying food allergies or sensitivities through elimination diets or blood testing provides additional information. Different eczema patterns can also point to specific organ imbalances—a liver imbalance tends to make skin more red and raw, a kidney imbalance more dry, itchy, irritated skin. Anthroposophic Medicine works to understand multiple dynamics.
Then, once we have created a multi-level picturing of your eczema pattern, a broad variety of natural medicines can be used. We routinely prescribe both topical treatments (like creams, lotions, or compresses with herbal teas) as well as oral medicines to address allergic, digestive, or metabolic patterns. Having many tools available allows for a richly individualized approach. Our goal for eczema treatment is really to heal the skin, not just suppress inflammation with a steroid cream.