Eczema ‘Cure’ Series – Home Remedies

If you’ve been following this blog, you’d know I don’t jump into eczema (miracle) cures. I still don’t.

But as I read journeys of how eczema sufferers are cured, I realized that there are common approaches they take. These may not be THE (or even an) eczema cure but I think there’re certain situations which they may help improve eczema. I hazard a guess and this series is more about a holistic approach to controlling eczema – I suppose you can call it a cure if one approach singularly works well for you!

Many eczema sufferers are wary of chemical and steroids. I agree but am also wary of going into extremes of attributing everything bad to chemicals and steroids, especially given that eczema is a condition that comes about from many factors (so would focusing on just one aspect be over-simplification?). But I’m definitely supportive of home remedies that work – if they work without side effect!

Eczema home remedies

Home Remedy #1 – Moisturize

Moisturizing is one approach that most would agree is beneficial. It’s accepted that eczema patients (adults and children) have defective skin barrier and a moisturizer have various functions to

  • Protect skin from drying/ losing too much moisture
  • Protecting skin from irritants
  • Absorbing water into the skin
  • Filling up the ‘holes’ in the skin or restoring the skin lipids (that help keep the skin cells together and prevent infection, learn more from dermatologist Dr Cheryl Lee in this Over-Alkaline skincare interview)

See also the research on moisturizing where it had been shown to reduce steroid usage and preventive effect on babies with high risk

Watch the video on how to moisturize baby’s sensitive skin.

Home Remedy #2 – Don’t Moisturize (with Irritants)

There are also sharing by eczema sufferers that their eczema improved after STOPPING moisturizer use. My guess is that there could be ingredients in the moisturizers that they have been using that are triggering the eczema, a form of contact dermatitis. There is a test to determine which ingredient in skincare product that you could be sensitive to, known as patch test (interview with Laura Verallo Rowell, CEO of VMV Hypoallergenics).

There are indeed individuals whose skin are sensitive to many common ingredients and therefore, it would make sense for this selected group to stop moisturizer use. Not for general population with dry skin though.

To be safe, start off with a moisturizer that doesn’t contain the top irritants, compiled by dermatologist Dr Verallo Rowell with alternative names to these irritants.

Home Remedy #3 – Keep the Skin Moist

I wouldn’t really call it a ‘home remedy’ as clothing products that are able to trap moisture close to the skin and studied to improve eczema usually have invested money into the technology behind the clothing. One such technique is Wet Wrap which had been shown to help eczema and if you’d like to know more about what goes into the wrap and how to use it, read here. My national (Singapore) eczema support group also runs regular wet wrap session, do sign up at the top right box of my blog to be kept posted!

Home Remedy #4 – Ways to Kill Staph Bacteria

Staph bacteria is a common cause for eczema where increasing research showed that eczema skin is colonized by this bacteria which produces toxins that can worsen skin inflammation. There are ‘natural’ ways to kill the bacteria, for instance swimming or bleach bath or shower with a chlorhexidine-based bath wash.

If you don’t like the idea of bleach, read this interview with dermatologist Dr Cheryl Lee on vinegar spray.

Home Remedy #5 – Oils

Though no conclusive research, there are eczema patients whose skin improved after primrose and borage oil (see dermatologist Dr Cynthia Bailey’s comment in the post) and virgin coconut oil (see this very informative interview with dermatologist Dr Verallo Rowell on different types of coconut oil – make sure you get the right type!)

Home Remedy #6 – Anti-Inflammatory Natural Ingredients

There are also quite a few natural ingredients that have anti-inflammatory properties like honey, lavendar or able to protect skin like colloidal oat (interview with dermatologist Dr Claudia Aguirre).

Personally, I feel that the biggest home remedy is to avoid triggers. Logically it makes sense to identify these triggers because no treatment or remedy can be helpful if the skin is under constant ‘attack’. After which, I do believe in moisturizing and as for using natural ingredients, I’m all for it as long as it’s not something that irritate you (beware that natural does not equal no hypersensitive reaction) nor past expiry (as a home-made product may be less stable so the expiry date matters more).

Eczema News – Honey and Eczema : Is it Effective?

Honey Eczema Manuka Honey had been covered briefly in this blog 3 years ago when my child had Hand-Foot-Mouth-Disease. It is sometimes applied on the skin for its anti-inflammatory and skin repair properties. Is it effective as a moisturizer or as a topical treatment for eczema? Today’s eczema news look into the recent studies on honey’s impact on atopic dermatitis.

What Honey are we talking?
Ηoney is made up of sugars (mainly fructose), water, vitamins (B complex and C) and minerals (calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, chromium and zinc). It also contains amino acids, antibiotic-rich inhibine, proteins, enzymes and antioxidants (flavonoids).

According to WebMD, honey is tested in the lab (not on humans) to fight bacteria (including staph bacteria common on eczema skin) and food-borne pathogens like E.coli and salmonella. However, as you’d see below, controlled trials on honey and eczema are very few and efficacy not proven. Notwithstanding, honey is often used for infected wound healing.

Raw or unprocessed honey is not to be taken orally for infants for risk of botulism as their immune system has not yet fully developed to withstand the botulism bacteria.

Clinical trials/Studies on Honey
I found the below studies on PubMed:

1. Randomized controlled trial in New Zealand on Kanuka Honey – The control is aqueous cream, with 15 adults participating who were all non-allergic to honey, with eczema lesions and not using corticosteroids or antibiotics. There is no evidence of efficacy over aqueous cream, which represent a negative control as it is not recommended as eczema treatment.

2. Partially controlled study on honey mixture – this mixture contained honey, olive oil and beeswax with varying proportion of corticosteroid ointment vs Vaseline in control group. 8 out of 10 patients (out of 21) patients showed improvement after 2 weeks. However, due to the honey being mixed with other ingredients, it did not present a solid case for use of honey.

I read in this article for the choice of the honey mixture, namely:
Honey for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that help to decrease pain and the appearance of scars, faster wound healing. Manuka honey is reported to have the highest bacterial compound methylglyoxal to fight bacteria.

Olive oil for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties

Beeswax for its anti-inflammatory properties
Olive oil and Honey – Contain flavonoids that inhibit allergic reactions

Have you bought any skincare products with honey? How did it work out on eczema skin? Do share in the comment!

Eczema News – Bioresonance : What?

Bioresonance_eczema

The Bioresonance companies must be doing a good job marketing (in Singapore), via Google ads or other channels, because more parents are asking about this and whether they should try it. Offhand, I think the picture I chose says my first thought – I mean, seriously, cells give off vibes? But as always, I approach a topic methodically, by looking at information over the web and also at Pubmed. Let’s first find out what bioresonance is:

Abnormal Waves

Bioresonance is on the basis that certain medical conditions give off abnormal aka unhealthy waves, and a device is used to detect these ‘sick’ waves and then normalize the waves and sent back to treat the person. It is on the basis that a sick person likely has something (bacteria, allergens) that disrupt the normal electromagnetic oscillations of the cells. Diseases that bioresonance purport to treat include allergies, eczema, cancer, arthritis, liver problem and chronic fatigue. You can read this article on Healthxchange for more info.

Evidence?

If you search Pubmed, you’d see it being associated with many health conditions and to me, it seems strange how a ‘treatment’ can purport to treat so many varied conditions. I looked through the articles on Pubmed and those that support the efficacy of bioresonance are from bioresonance practitioners and limited to case studies. Other independent articles show:

Articles citing bioresonance as inappropriate test for allergy, here or unproven here.

Citing bioresonance as not proven treatment for eczema, here and here.

Medical sites like WebMD and Dr Weil also take the stand that it’s not medically proven.

My take?

I don’t think it’s medically sound but I understand that parents would want to try anything especially when the child is suffering from severe eczema, with bleeding, weeping/oozing skin with tears of pain and anguish. I don’t know if the bioresonance therapist will ask for patients to stop the conventional treatment – if they do, I would say no. Otherwise, if there’s no side effect (i.e. you still continue the treatment advised by your doc), then likely it may be money spent (and wasted).

Any parent has tried it? Is the consultation fun? I’m just thinking maybe if a child likes it, he/she will scratch less during the consultation time and be more aware not to damage the skin after but moisturize diligently? Do share your take in the comment!

Photo Credit: AlicePopkorn via Compfight cc

Eczema Research News – Does Homeopathy work?

Does Homeopathy Work for Eczema?

Does Homeopathy Work for Eczema?

This is part of a quarterly round-up of some of the recent eczema-related studies, so that we can be aware of possible treatments and their efficacy (and I can also keep myself updated with the latest eczema research!)

Today’s topic is on Homeopathy, does it Work? Firstly, I have to say I haven’t tried homeopathy on my child with eczema and secondly, there’s no blame or guilt meant to be placed on any parent for trying an alternative treatment. I’ve had quite a few moms who told me that they have tried or are trying homeopathy for their child, some remarked it seemed to work, or seemed to work for a while, or did not work. Similar to last week’s topic on antihistamine, let’s have a grasp on some basic information first before we look into the studies.

What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy involves understanding a person’s health and history, including physical, emotional and psychological areas. A tailored treatment is recommended for each patient, and the substances provided in tablet form are usually highly diluted with the aim to trigger the body to heal itself naturally.

How does it Work for Eczema?

There are various ways to apply homeopathy, for instance choosing different substances to treat different appearance of eczema (ie. Blisters versus rashes). These can be applied topically in the form of creams or ointments, for instance that of calendula, sulphur, urtica urens and rhus toxicodendron. Recommendations on nutrition and lifestyle are also provided.

Are there any side effect of homeopathy?

There appears to be no known side effect, although the eczema may worsen if the conventional treatment is withdrawn in place of the homeopathic treatment.

What’s the studies on homeopathy’s impact on eczema?

Based on this study in January 2013, there is no significant difference between using homeopathic treatment versus conventional treatment, thus implying that the higher cost of homeopathy is unjustified. Similar conclusions in other studies at PubMed, here, here, here, here.

Have you tried homeopathy for your child? Is it effective? Do share in the comments, thank you!

TCM Series – Understanding Eczema from TCM’s Perspective

TCM Physician Lau Kiew Teck with Raffles Medical Group

Many parents have asked me “What about TCM?” while others have suggested that I explore TCM as an eczema treatment option for my child. I’ve looked into TCM briefly in this archive post, but felt I didn’t know enough to evaluate it. For this TCM Series, I’ve the privilege of interviewing TCM Physician Lau Kiew Teck of Raffles Medical GroupRaffles Chinese Medicine Clinic, whose special interests include respiratory conditions, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetes and digestive system disorders.

Refer to the first part of this interview here and the second part here.

Understanding Herbal Bath & Cream

MarcieMom: I read that herbal bath and creams are also prescribed by TCM physicians. What are the ingredients of the herbal bath & cream? Given that there is so much transparency being pushed for in labeling ingredients of skin care products, are ingredients in TCM products fully labeled?

Physician Lau: In my practice at Raffles Hospital, our products are fully labeled and certified by Singapore Health Science Authority.

MarcieMom: Moisturizers, bath oil, bleach bath and steroid topical creams are treatment prescribed by western medicine. Is herbal cream, herbal bath similar? (as in have properties to repair the skin barrier, kill staph bacteria and reduce inflammation)

Physician Lau: As the properties are different between the western medicine and the herbal cream, we are unable to compare. The herbal bath definitely helps in reducing the inflammation thus creating an environment for the skin to recover. Repairing of skin largely depends on the individual body’s nature.

MarcieMom: Acupuncture is also a treatment option used for eczema; how does acupuncture treat eczema and is it recommended for children?

Physician Lau: As mentioned previously, TCM focuses on the holistic approach where a combination of treatment of acupuncture and herbs are used. For instance, if you are suffering from eczema due to weak digestive health, TCM, be it herbs or acupuncture or both, is administered to treat the indigestion problems and subsequently, through the holistic approach, it will speed up the recovery of eczema. I will not recommend acupuncture for children.

MarcieMom: Also, where are TCM medicine produced in? How can a patient check the harvesting of the herbs (whether using insecticide), the manufacturing facility (use of chemicals) and the packing facility?

Physician Lau: Patients can check the manufacturer’s label to see where the medicine is produced in. It is impossible to check on the harvesting of the herbs with the looks of it. Such assessments have to undergo testing.

MarcieMom: I understand that in skincare products, there is a lot of emphasis of choosing a reliable company that conducts clinical trials and ensures no contamination in its manufacturing and not using ingredients that are common allergens such as preservatives, fragrance and parabens. Do TCM’s herbal cream have the same emphasis on these?

Physician Lau: Based on the guidelines of Singapore Health Science Authority, all TCM products dispensed in Raffles Hospital are certified.

MarcieMom: Thank you Physician Lau for helping us understand a little more on TCM in the treatment for eczema for the past three weeks.

TCM Series – Understanding Eczema from TCM’s Perspective

TCM Physician Lau Kiew Teck with Raffles Medical Group

Many parents have asked me “What about TCM?” while others have suggested that I explore TCM as an eczema treatment option for my child. I’ve looked into TCM briefly in this archive post, but felt I didn’t know enough to evaluate it. For this TCM Series, I’ve the privilege of interviewing TCM Physician Lau Kiew Teck of Raffles Medical GroupRaffles Chinese Medicine Clinic, whose special interests include respiratory conditions, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetes and digestive system disorders.

Refer to the first part of this interview here.

Herbal Medicine & its Compounds & Prescription

Herbs such as Flos Lonicerae (Jingyinhua), Herba menthae (Bohe), Cortex Moutan (danpi), Rhizoma Atractylodis (Cangzhu) and Cortex Phellodendri (hungbai) are herbs commonly prescribed by TCM physicians for eczema. They have anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory and reducing itchiness effects.

MarcieMom: Physician Lau, could you explain to us what compounds are made up in the herbs that you commonly prescribe to eczema children? (Compounds meaning containing which Vitamin or which carotenoid)

Physician Lau: These compounds are extensive and it is not possible to list them all down.

Marcie Mom: I searched for studies on TCM and effects on atopic dermatitis and it appear that studies which indicate positive results (meaning lower severity of eczema or less reliance on cortisteroids) have relatively small sample size (see here and here). In this review article, the authors from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Pediatrics and Institute of Chinese Medicine departments, concluded that the “beneficial effects of Chinese medicine on children with atopic dermatitis have not been consistently demonstrated”. I would think this is due to limited studies, both in number of studies and the sample size of studies, which led to inconclusive results and the ambivalence of non-TCM practitioners to recommend their patients to explore TCM.

MarcieMom: Physician Lau, do you know of any conclusive large-scale study of TCM on eczema?

Physician Lau: Not that I know of.

MarcieMom: I also read that the TCM prescription is individualized and not standardized across eczema patients. Why is it not possible to be standardized? Would prescribing the common herbs for eczema and in a standard dosage makes it easier for studies to be conducted and also for greater transparency in TCM medicine?

Physician Lau: Each patient requires different attention and treatment and TCM does that. It customizes the treatment for the patient so patient can recover speedily.

MarcieMom: Related to the above, the individualized treatment characteristic of TCM makes it scarier for parents, what if their TCM physician prescribes the wrong potency or frequency? I’m thinking about western steroid creams, a mom would easily google the strength of the steroid and know if it ought not be used daily. Can you advise (1) what questions a parents should ask their TCM physician about the medicines given to their child and (2) what are the common dosage and length of taking these meds?

Physician Lau: Each consultation differs from patient to patient so there is no common dosage or length of taking these medications. The most frequently asked question is “are they safe?” Yes, they are safe and there are no known side effects.

MarcieMom: I read quite a few studies preparing for this interview and found that all of them measure the toxicity level in kidney and liver (and most conclude no toxicity effect). Why is this mentioned in the studies of TCM? Is there a risk of toxicity because the compounds in the herbal medicine are too potent?

Physician Lau: In fact, all medications including western medicine measures the toxicity level in the kidney and liver as these are important and immediate organs that has reactions to the medicine. All medication concoctions follow this benchmark.

MarcieMom: Thank you Physician Lau for the reply. Next week, we’d explore herbal bath and cream treatment options.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Series – Understanding Eczema from TCM’s Perspective

TCM Physician Lau Kiew Teck with Raffles Medical Group

Many parents have asked me “What about TCM?” while others have suggested that I explore TCM as an eczema treatment option for my child. I’ve looked into TCM briefly in this archive post, but felt I didn’t know enough to evaluate it. For this TCM Series, I’ve the privilege of interviewing TCM Physician Lau Kiew Teck of Raffles Medical Group, Raffles Chinese Medicine Clinic, whose special interests include respiratory conditions, dermatology, pediatrics, diabetes and digestive system disorders.

More on Physician Lau: Physician Liu Qiao De graduated from Singapore College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 1977 and has been practising TCM since. In the early 90’s, Physician Liu pioneered a Quit Smoking programme using auricular acupuncture. Physician Liu’s special interests include treating skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis. In pediatrics, he specializes in treating asthmatic conditions.

Eczema – A Multi-Factorial Condition

Eczema is a condition which is contributed by multiple factors like genetics, over-active immune system, damaged skin barrier, allergy, environment and persistence of staph bacteria residing on eczema skin. It is also a chronic condition, meaning treatment options are meant to manage the eczema instead of curing it.

From what I’ve read on the web, eczema is due to weaknesses or imbalances in body organs, in particular, the spleen, the lungs and the stomach, which leads to skin with eczema rash. Thus, various TCM options, such as herbal medicine and acupuncture, are ways to detoxify and strengthen these organs, specifically to (1) clear heat, (2) remove dampness and (3) remove wind.

Marcie Mom: Physician Lau, is this also TCM’s stand on eczema – that it is multi-factorial and chronic? Kindly help us understand the factors (from TCM’s perspective) that contribute to eczema and whether TCM is a treatment option to manage or to cure eczema. Can the factors/ causes of eczema be reconciled between TCM and western medicine?

Physician Lau: Eczema is both multi-factorial and chronic condition that is contributed by genes, immune system, damaged skin, allergy and environment. TCM focuses on the holistic approach where a combination of treatment of acupuncture and herbs are used. Patients can choose to use either TCM or western medicine or both to treat eczema; we don’t enforce any specific arrangement.

Foods to Avoid for an Eczema Patient

I read from the web that food and beverage such as alcohol, coffee, sugar, spicy food and deep-fried food are to be avoided. Also for fruits deemed “heaty” such as durian, mango, longan and lychee. Foods that are “cooling” such as green beans are encouraged.

MarcieMom: Physician Lau, can you help to explain “heaty” versus “cooling” food? Most of us in Asia are familiar with the use of “heaty” and “cooling” but it’s seldom heard of by our readers in US, UK and Canada.

Physician Lau: Food only becomes heaty or cooling when your body reacts to the food. In general, the food in its nature is heaty or cooling based on its properties.

MarcieMom: Above foods such as alcohol and spicy food are top triggers of eczema, while sugar and deep-fried food are inflammatory (further explained in this post). Green bean is an anti-inflammation food, featured in this post. Anti-inflammatory foods include those that contain anti-oxidants, Vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoids, quercetin and kaemferol that can reduce oxidation, fight free radicals and inflammation.  Can I then understand the “heaty” food that TCM recommends to avoid as being inflammatory and those to have more as having anti-inflammatory compounds? 

Physician Lau: Fried and spicy food and alcohol in general.

MarcieMom: Thanks Physician Lau for replying to these questions – TCM still seem to be a complicated topic to understand and hope to learn more in next week’s interview.

Friday Dr Q&A with Prof Hugo – Alternative Treatments

Prof Hugo Van Bever

Prof. Hugo Van Bever is the Head of National University Hospital’s Pediatric Allergy, Immunology & Rheumatology Department. He is also an active member of the board APAPARI (Asian Pacific Association of Paediatric Allergy, Respirology and Immunology) and has published more than 250 papers in national and international journals. His main research interest areas are paediatric allergy and paediatric respiratory infections.

Marcie Mom: Thanks Prof Hugo, and welcome back to our Friday Dr Q&A. Lots of parents are looking for a way to manage their child’s eczema (though a reminder that eczema is chronic, no miraculous cure) and may be willing to try ‘alternative treatments‘.

Many alternative treatments, including using natural remedies are marketed for eczema. Personally, I prefer sticking to moisturizing and appropriate use of steroid under doctor’s instruction. However, I understand the anxiety parents have when their child’s eczema hasn’t responded well to their doctor’s treatment.

What advice would you give a parent when deciding if they should try out a natural remedy? What is safe for them to try and what should they be wary of?

Prof Hugo: Only use treatment that has been scientifically proven to be safe and effective. Many alternative treatments are available, without any study and without prove of effect: don’t try them out!

Marcie Mom: Thanks, my two cents is also to check up internet, ask other parents or eczema community on twitter such as @eczemasupport, @eczemasociety, @talkeczema, @marciemom and of course, ask your doctor.

Alternative treatment – TCM for child eczema

TCM uses herbs, acupuncture and cream for treatment

You may have been asked by your friend to explore TCM (“Traditional Chinese Medicine”) treatment for your child and wonder if it is viable. I wondered the same and read whatever I could online on it. The information is sparse and prescriptions seem to differ based on the TCM doctor’s interpretation of your child’s condition after examining his skin, tongue, pulse and asking questions about his urine, stools, behavioural and sleep patterns. There is therefore no standard prescription and as a result, there is much less research on the effect of the treatment. Below are whatever I understood based on reading online.

TCM Treatment

The treatment is based on that the skin is affected by the ‘inside’ of the body and thus, herbs or acupuncture may be used to treat your child’s kidney, spleen or liver. The treatment is usually to remove toxins, phlegm, dampness and ‘heat’ in blood. Acupuncture for kids may use the Japanese system sho-ni-shin which does not involve puncturing the skin. Herbs, of up to 15 types, may be prescribed for you to boil and give your child. Cold compress using herbs, oatmeal bath, moisturizing herbal lotion may be prescribed too.

Versus Western Approach

There appears to be many similarities such as moisturizing, soaking in bath oil and control of allergic food. Diet control seems to be prescribed without conducting a skin prick test, and generally food such as cow’s milk, sugar, addictive, food colors and preservatives are to be avoided. I came across an article that suggested not having the child vaccinated as vaccination has toxin (I think vaccination is important and unless supported by strong medical evidence, we should not be excluding vaccination for our child).

So is TCM Safe?

I always think it is safer to consume something when the side effects are known then to consume something with no known side effects (since no one tested it)! The herbs that TCM prescribe may be anti-inflammatory, antihistaminic or immunosuppressant. The improved results may not take place at all or from 2 weeks to 8 months from what I’ve read on other parents’ forum posts or blog or research. The biggest question obviously is we know oral steroid works very fast but we know it is not for long-term use (in fact, my baby Marcie’s doctor said strictly once for Marcie), is it possible then for a TCM medicine to work equally fast and yet so safe that no side effect is known? So far, there are people online that sent their TCM medicine for lab analysis and found to contain steroids (equally, you will find others saying TCM doesn’t contain steroid), people who stopped the TCM medicine and the rashes came back or others who continue with steroid application while undergoing TCM treatment.

As mentioned earlier, the research is too little on TCM and for children, I personally won’t risk it, unless I have access to a lab and can test everything the TCM doctor gives my baby.

Alternative treatment – Udder Cream as Moisturizer for Eczema

Udder Creams

Udders are mammary glands

Lately, I came across a recommendation by a mom that using udder cream has helped with her child’s eczema. Udders are mammary glands and the care and hygiene of the udders are important in milking. Udder creams are developed to soothe the chapped skin of the udder, prevent infection and irritation during milking. Somewhere along the line, the udder creams have been re-formulated to a less greasy form, and sold to adults and infant for eczema treatment, marketed with the following points:

  1. Natural skin care
  2. Skin repair properties
  3. Anti-inflammation
  4. Anti-fungal
  5. No paraffin oil

Over in forums, some moms have feedback it worked while a few others lamented that like other natural creams they have tried on their children, it irritated their skin. I haven’t tried it or on my child, but seems like most of these udder creams are not sold over the shelves but instead through stockists or online; like Moogoo and Dr Hess.

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