Turns out, you may not need to suffer much longer: Holistic nutritionists say you can heal this inflammatory condition through better diet and lifestyle choices, starting today.
Our outer appearance is certainly a reflection of the wear and tear our bodies are subjected to by the environment around us, but it’s also a result of what’s going on deep inside. One of the most obvious ways this manifests is our skin’s condition: If we’re getting too much sun, we may end up with hyperpigmentation and early-onset wrinkles, and if we’re on yo-yo diets that cause weight fluctuations, we may end up with loose, sagging skin.
But what about when our skin becomes inflamed with dry, scaly patches and red rashes? Eczema, an inflammatory skin condition, is surprisingly common in its many forms, with 1 out of every 10 people struggling with the chronic condition at some point in their lives. What’s more, eczema may actually affect as many as 25% of children. The prevalence of this skin condition has left many, including myself with my infrequent flare-ups, curious to know if it's actually treatable or if we all just have to grin and bear it.
When I saw this Instagram Reel by @healthy_healer showing just how severe her eczema had been before she effectively reversed her symptoms through the healing powers of proper nutrition, I knew I needed to learn more about the holistic ways I could transform my skin. So, I got in touch with Registered Holistic Nutritionist Kaleigh Erin Mason (@nutrition.elements), who has been working in the alternative health industry for almost two decades and now shares her wealth of knowledge online. Read on to discover how you too could heal your body from the inside out!
What’s the Root Cause of Your Flare-Up?
Since eczema rarely lands sufferers in the hospital, a lot of people who struggle with this skin condition tend to write it off. Though it may not be life-threatening, eczema can still significantly decrease a person’s quality of life by becoming the victim of bullying to developing general body image and self-esteem issues. Researchers have found that eczema can affect a child’s psychosocial development and even significantly increases the chances that an adult will skip work to avoid being seen during a flare-up.
There are a few reasons why instances of eczema may be on the rise. First, it’s worth noting that evidence recently emerged indicating that children exposed to phthalates may be at higher risk of developing the skin condition. Phthalates – usually found in plastics and adhesives for many common household items such as toys, food packaging, cosmetics and toiletries, and much more – are more common now than ever before. We ingest them, inhale them, and our skin comes into contact with them. They’ve been found to contribute to respiratory symptoms, neuro-developmental disorders, and of course, endocrine disruption.
You heard that right, hormonal imbalances (a result of endocrine disruption) have been found to significantly influence our body’s development of eczema. Though it’s in your best interest to find a trustworthy allergist, immunologist, or endocrinologist if you feel you’re dealing with hormonal imbalances, there are holistic best practices you can try out free of charge.
Eating Eczema-Friendly Is Actually Quite Delicious
“The best sources of omega-9 are pork lard, beef tallow, and duck fat. Olive oil is also high in omega-9,” Mason said. “Every restaurant in town seems to use canola oil – or in some countries, sunflower oil – so people are just not getting enough omega-9 to create a good fatty acid balance in the lipid layer of their skin.”
Indeed, omega-9s are vital to our health: They increase our “good” cholesterol, decrease our “bad” cholesterol, alleviate issues with insulin, increase our energy, enhance our mood, improve our memory, and boost our immune system. Yet many of us may be deficient since our culture has stigmatized many of the most nutritious sources of these fatty acids.
Selenium is critical for a healthy reproductive system, thyroid function, and DNA production.
Just how much selenium we need varies based on our age and whether or not we’re pregnant or breastfeeding, but the trace element is critical for a healthy reproductive system, thyroid function, DNA production, and protecting our body from infection and free radicals.
“Selenium prevents oxidation of that lipid layer and regulates inflammation,” Mason said. “The highest food sources for selenium are seafood, pork and red meat, eggs, and organ meats. A lot of people have been fear-mongered against eating these foods for a variety of false reasons.”
Some people may look to treat skin flare-ups through elimination diets, like the ketogenic diet or the carnivore diet. Though both low-carb diets have been rising in popularity, cases like psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson and his daughter Mikhaila Peterson asserting that their carnivore-style elimination diets turned around their health have served as an inspiration for others experiencing chronic conditions. However, Mason said that we would be better off by adding in those “old-fashioned animal foods” that contain nourishing doses of omega-9s and selenium.
“Elimination diets or nit-picking every little thing you eat can sometimes lead to orthorexia, or unhealthy behaviors towards foods. It has worked for my clients to just start eating more traditional animal foods to heal the skin,” Mason said.
You’ve probably noticed, however, how difficult it is to find a meal at a restaurant that isn’t cooked using highly inflammatory ingredients. Some people have found it so frustrating to eat out and not be subjected to seed oils that they’ve created entire databases for seed oil-free restaurants, like Local Fats or the Seed Oil Scout app.
But, we all end up in situations where we’re invited out for a meal and have no choice in the location. If you’re looking to avoid inflammatory ingredients in these instances, Mason said you actually do have a choice in the matter.
“Order steak and ask them to cook it in butter. This will give you a nice balance of omega-9s, or saturated fatty acids. Beef is high in omega-9 and selenium,” she said. “You can also ask restaurants to cook in olive oil. Request better fats, and most of the time they can accommodate. Building up the fatty acids in the skin is the most important healing avenue for eczema.”
So we’ve tackled what’s going on inside, but what about when we still inevitably have that infrequent flare-up? Even if you try your best with proper nutrition, you can only control so much. In the instances that you’re struggling with a few eczema patches here and there, you may not want to reach for an over-the-counter topical product. Instead, Mason suggests trying out beef tallow-based products.
The favorite for Mason’s clients is beef tallow with frankincense, which is an anti-inflammatory astringent that The Zoe Report once called “liquid gold” for your skin. I’m keen on the family-owned small business Clara & Fritz, which sells a variety of tallow products from moisturizers to balms to zinc oxide sunscreens to night creams and more.
If your interest is piqued to start your own holistic health journey, Mason’s biggest piece of advice is to focus on the healing avenues that make you feel good, satisfied, and connected with your body.
“Relax, don't add any more stress to your poor body,” Mason said. “Do somatic exercises to release cortisol. Focus on fun, happiness, and pleasure. Work on eating more protein and the foods you enjoy; never starve, diet, or torture yourself with detox kits and other health scams.”
If you’re prone to eczema, you may not be able to prevent a random flare-up from occurring in the future, but there are certainly smart, holistic ways you can set yourself up for success to be less likely to suffer from them and heal when they do arise. Topical eczema prescription and over-the-counter drugstore treatments have the ability to mask symptoms, but it’s in our best interest – no matter what the ailment – to figure out how we can fix the root causes.
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