Holistic advice for inflamed skin conditions

Holistic advice for inflamed skin conditions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany people find that certain skin conditions become worse in the Winter time. This can be due to a number of factors - central heating dries the air and skin, we suffer from a lack of sunlight (and therefore Vitamin D), plus some of us tend to drink less water and eat considerably less fresh fruit and veg.

Inflammatory conditions in general are often caused or exacerbated by acidity in the system – the body's natural pH balance being disrupted. Many practitioners of Natural Medicine believe that degenerative disease and premature ageing is caused by heightened levels of acidity. Many aspects of modern life contribute to this – i.e. stress, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, refined foods and lack of exercise.

As with all “dis-ease” in the system, skin conditions often require a multifaceted approach to resolve or reduce the issue – and there are certain elements that can be relevant to various inflammatory skin complaints. The key is to work with a holistic approach – looking at all the elements that may be playing their part:

Nutrition/deficiencies 

Different skin conditions – whether it's Acne Rosacea, Psoriasis or Eczema – have similar nutritional issues. Essential Fatty Acids are often deficient (Omega Fish Oils and Evening Primrose may be the best options).  Zinc Citrate, Vitamin Bs, C and E are all important too. With Acne there is often an imbalance in the micro-flora in the gut (consider a quality Bio-Acidophilus supplement) and constipation that can worsen the condition. If your diet has been poor, or your alcohol/caffeine intake high – the herb Milk Thistle can help as a Liver Tonic. It is also important to increase fresh fruit and vegetables – especially leafy green veg, blueberries and kiwi fruits – which are rich in Vitamins and Bioflavonoids.

Allergies

Remember your skin is the largest organ of your body, so it can be reacting to what you are putting on it. Avoid skincare products containing alcohol, and try to chose products that are as pure as possible. Making up your own base products and adding appropriate carrier and essential oils could be a much more appropriate option for you. Try and test your deodorants, hair products, perfumes/aftershave, lotions and toothpaste too – anything you use regularly can cause a reaction. Look at your make up as well. The other classic is your washing powder and fabric conditioner. Dry cleaning chemicals can also cause issues.

Food intolerances

Food allergy testing or Applied Kinesiology can really help identify if anything you are ingesting is causing your skin to react. The classic intolerances are: dairy products, wheat/gluten, citrus fruits (especially orange juice), colourings, flavourings and preservatives found in refined foods. Refined sugars can really cause problems – as they add to inflammation in a variety of ways – promoting bacterial growth on the surface of the skin – and causing candida albicans proliferation in the gut. Applied Kinesiology is one of the best and most gentle non-invasive ways of identifying food allergies/intolerances, and in some cases can also correct them, or reduce the reaction. It is also worth noting that many people who have inflammation in relation to their skin or joints can find the Paleo diet very useful.

Stress

If your skin condition is, at least in part, related to stress, Aromatherapy can be a huge boon. Firstly, regular aromatherapy massage can have a powerful effect on reducing the response to stress, therefore helping reduce the physical tension. Secondly, as the impact of stress and tension is reduced, the acidity levels will reduce too – helping to reduce the inflammatory reaction. As a third bonus – certain essential oils can:


  • have an antiseptic, antibacterial action if some of the skin response is related to yeast, or if the inflammation has become infected.

  • have a directly cooling, calming, anti-inflammatory action.

  • stimulate the production of healthy skin cells.


In addition to this, certain highly nourishing and enriching vegetable base oils can be added to the massage blend to help feed the inflamed skin cells - some of which also have an anti-inflammatory action too.

Digestive issues

Many people ask why they should suddenly react to foods that they have eaten with no reaction all their lives. That’s precisely the point – certain foods are over-eaten in the Western world, and the body can build up a reaction over time. Often, increasing the variety in your diet can make a big difference. Identifying any foods causing the reactions is important, but if you are experiencing a lot of wind/bloating after you eat, and your immune system is low (particularly in relation to thrush and cystitis) then a strong pro-biotic supplement could be indicated. (You could be experiencing “Leaky Gut Syndrome”).

In addition, drinking peppermint/chamomile tea regularly can help – and if your whole system is inflamed, a Slippery Elm supplement, taken 20 minutes before you eat, may help line/calm the digestive tract.

Constipation can be linked to skin conditions, as the body is not detoxifying itself efficiently – toxins are therefore reabsorbed back into the system due to the slow transit. Aromatherapy can be particularly helpful here – both in the choice of “digestive” oils, but also by focusing on abdominal massage, and stress relief - stress can contribute to the likelihood of constipation. Always go to the loo as soon as you get the urge, as waiting can create problems. Also remember to chew your food to a pulp before you swallow it, and drink 2 litres of water daily.

Lifestyle issues

Smoking, a diet high in fried foods and chocolate, a lack of exercise - all these issues can exacerbate skin conditions. The key is identifying which are the contributory factors for you – which is why a holistic approach is essential. A medical approach is more likely to focus on a medicated solution only, and can create serious problems in some cases. Steroid creams are often prescribed which thin the skin over time, especially on the face where the skin is so sensitive. Some of the drugs prescribed for acne have extremely powerful side-effects. So a natural holistic approach is often a more positive long term solution. You are also then addressing the key fundamental reasons for the condition, rather than merely suppressing the symptoms. Remember a combined approach can also work well in some instances, it doesn't have to be a choice between one approach or the other.

Please do remember however that some forms of medication can be the cause of certain skin conditions.

Aromatherapy Recipes

Safety note: As with all sensitive skin types we recommend a skin patch test before liberal application of the following blends.

Eczema Gel:
100ml Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel, 5ml Red Carrot Oil, 5ml Evening Primrose Oil, 10 drops Lavender essential oil, 6 Geranium and 4 German Chamomile. Mix well and apply regularly.

Psoriasis Mousse:
Take 20ml Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel, add 5ml Jojoba and whisk well with a small hand whisk. As the oil is combined, add another 10ml Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel, 5ml Argan Oil, 2 drops Roman Chamomile essential oil, 2 Patchouli, 2 Neroli and 4 Yarrow. Mix well and apply regularly.

Dermatitis Cream:
100ml Organic Moisturising Cream, 20ml Aloe Vera & Seaweed Gel, 5ml Red Carrot Oil, 5ml St John's Wort Oil, 4 drops Tea Tree essential oil, 4 German Chamomile, 10 Lavender and 10 Bergamot. Mix well and apply regularly.

Bath Oil (for very dry skin):
Mix 100ml Luxury Bath Oil, 5ml Jojoba, 4 drops Rose essential oil, 4 Benzoin, 4 Frankincense, 10 Lavender and 10 Geranium. Use twice weekly.

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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