Natural Treatments for Dermatitis and Eczema

By Scott J. Banks, Joe Kraynak, J. J. Virgin

Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin, which typically causes the skin to be red, dry, and itchy. There are several forms of dermatitis, including contact dermatitis (for example, poison ivy), atopic dermatitis (such as eczema), and seborrheic dermatitis.

The first step in treating dermatitis is to identify and remove whatever’s causing it. If you’ve been playing in a patch of poison ivy, you probably know the cause. If not, you need to do some detective work. Several factors are known to contribute to various skin conditions, including dry skin from extended baths or showers, stress, soaps, wool clothing, tobacco smoke, air pollution, food allergies, leaky gut, and essential fatty acid deficiencies.

Throw yourself a tea party. In one study, a majority of participants who drank oolong tea saw improvement in their symptoms within a few weeks. Drink a liter of tea daily — steep a 10‐gram tea bag in 1 liter of boiling water for five minutes.

Retooling your diet

The standard American diet (SAD) is the root cause of many health conditions, including those that affect the skin. Remove all sugar, dairy, and wheat products from your diet for a minimum of three weeks and note any effect on skin inflammation. If you notice a difference, either remove these items from your diet permanently or reintroduce them slowly, one at a time, to determine which one is causing the problem, and then eliminate that item from your diet.

Exploring the food allergy and sensitivity connection

A large body of evidence indicates that many patients with atopic dermatitis benefit from identifying and removing symptom‐causing foods.

Food challenges — that is, eliminating and then reintroducing suspected problem foods — may cause severe reactions in highly sensitive individuals. If you’re at risk for severe reactions, either conduct food challenges only under the close supervision of an experienced practitioner in a setting that’s properly equipped to deal with severe allergic reactions, or don’t conduct food challenges. Anaphylaxis (a life‐threatening reaction) is uncommon, but it has been reported when reintroducing trigger foods.

Considering nickel and fluoride as possible contributing factors

In certain people, ingesting nickel or fluoride may trigger dermatitis. Nickel occurs naturally in certain foods or leaches into food from stainless steel cookware. Foods that often contain nickel include wine, beer, chocolate, herring, tomato, onion, whole‐grain bread, carrots, and peas. Leaky gut is common in people with dermatitis and may be the reason why nickel absorption appears to be increased in certain people.

Several studies identify fluoride as a contributory factor. Try using only fluoride‐free toothpaste and water.

Eliminating trans fatty acids

Trans fatty acids, a common ingredient in processed foods, are a “Frankenfood,” an artificial food that has no place in the human diet. By ingesting trans fatty acids, you displace healthy essential fats from the cell membranes; these essential fats are key to preventing dermatitis.

If you see “partially hydrogenated oil” on a food label, you know that you’re holding a food that contains trans fatty acids. Even some foods that claim to have zero trans fats may contain trans fatty acids, because the government allows any food that contains less than 0.5 mg trans fatty acids to be labeled as having no trans fatty acids — a practice that is harmful to your health.

The only way to avoid trans fatty acids is to consume only real, whole foods and to not deep fry with most vegetable oils.

Taking in good fatty acids

The majority of evidence indicates that fatty acid supplementation helps individuals with skin conditions. Prior to supplementing your diet with fatty acids, ask your healthcare provider to order a fatty acid profile, which shows you which fatty acids, if any, you’re deficient in. If you find that you’re deficient, here are some general dosage guidelines:

Fatty Acid Dosage
EPA 2 g daily
DHA 1.5 g daily
Evening primrose oil 2 g twice daily
Flaxseed oil 10 to 30 ml daily (2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons)

Supplement long‐term use of essential fatty acids with 400 IU vitamin E in the form of mixed tocopherols.

Supplementing your diet

Additional supplementation may help with various types of dermatitis. Try adding the following supplements to your diet:

Supplement Dosage
Colostrum 10,000 mg daily
Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate
and beta‐carotene)
2,500 IU retinyl palmitate and 2,500 IU beta-carotene
daily
Vitamin C (mineral ascorbates) 1,000 mg two to three times daily
Vitamin D3 2,000 to 10,000 IU daily, depending on blood levels
Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) 400 IU daily
Coconut oil (organic) 1 teaspoon one to two times daily (Tip:
Swallowing a teaspoon of thick oil isn’t the most pleasant
experience, but you get used to it. If you can’t get used to
it, try adding your daily dose to cooked vegetables or rice.)
Apple cider vinegar 2 teaspoons daily (Tip: Mix it into a warm cup of
water and add honey to make a palatable tea.)

In addition to these supplements, take pancreatic enzymes, betaine HCL, and probiotics to stimulate digestion.

Boosting your zinc intake

Zinc deficiency has been linked to dermatitis. Ask your healthcare provider to order an RBC zinc test on a blood sample to determine whether you have a zinc deficiency.

Alternatively, you can perform the following at‐home test: Place 2 teaspoons (about 2 mg) of zinc sulfate in your mouth. If you taste the distinctive flavor of zinc, your zinc level is probably okay. If you don’t taste anything or have a delayed taste perception, you’re probably deficient in zinc.

If you’re deficient in zinc, supplementing your diet with zinc may help clear up your dermatitis. Take up to 20 mg zinc glycinate chelate twice daily. Supplement long‐term use of zinc with 1 mg copper for every 10 mg zinc daily.

Soothing your skin

To reduce inflammation and soothe your skin, try one or more of the following topical treatments (avoid coconut oil or oatmeal if you’re allergic to these foods):

  • Apply warm coconut oil (not too hot) to the affected areas before bed.

  • Mix 1 cup of oatmeal in your bathwater and soak in it daily for several weeks.

  • Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with 1 part water and apply the solution to your skin twice daily.

  • Apply aloe vera gel to the affected skin several times daily until the ­dermatitis is healed.

  • Combine equal amounts of manuka honey, beeswax, and olive oil. Heat the mixture in a double boiler to make an ointment and then allow it to cool. Every day for several weeks, apply the mixture to your skin, allowing it to remain there for several hours.