Here are the supplements that are advisable for managing eczema.
Omega-3 fish oils (3,000 mg a day);
Antioxidant-dose vitamin C (1,500 mg a day);
Antioxidant-dose vitamin E (400 IU a day);
Vitamin D (2,000–4,000 IU a day); and
Aloe Vera (in gel form, for applying on the skin).
Quercetin (500–1,000 mg a day); and
A good multi-mineral derived from natural sources.
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Eczema is a fairly common skin condition that affects twenty percent of small children and one percent of adults. In this article, we will look at the use of supplements for eczema mainly for adults.
Eczema is the general term used for many types of skin rashes. The most common type is called Atopic Dermatitis. Atopic means an allergic reaction involving an exaggerated immune response. Dermatitis means inflammation or swelling of the skin.
In eczema, the skin becomes dry, red, and scaly. It is very itchy and may turn swollen and raw on scratching. The itch may worsen at night. One may also get raised, leaky bumps. In adults, eczema is typically on the inner surfaces of the knees and elbows.
Eczema is not contagious; you cannot get it by touching the skin of an afflicted person. Sometimes, it runs in families but that is not because of contagion.
It is a long-lasting condition, with doctors saying that it cannot be cured. But, the symptoms come and go, with occasional flare-ups.
In some people, eczema can go away permanently. But science does not know why. Since eczema symptoms wax and wane, it is possible that in such people the symptoms go away long enough that eczema may appear cured. With supplements, we will endeavour to achieve the same result.
I don’t want to repeat the information that is widely available on the internet about eczema symptoms, risk factors, dietary and lifestyle interventions, as well as treatment modalities. I have given links to many articles from authority websites at the end of this article. Kindly go through them to learn more.
I will restrict myself only to the supplements for eczema. Kindly note that the final word on that is not said yet. New research keeps appearing in scientific literature. To that end, I will discuss the latest eczema information that will help us prepare our supplementation regimen. It is my wish that instead of just seeking names and dosages of supplements, you understand my thought process about the strategies for eczema management.
Causes of Eczema
Science does not know what exactly causes eczema. It seems to be due to 4 possible factors, which should give us hints to managing it.
Some things in the environment around you, such as air pollution, different smokes, harsh soaps, dust mites, pollen, and some fabrics such as wool can irritate the skin.
Low humidity may lead to dry and itchy skin. On the other hand, high humidity can lead to sweating in hot weather and worsen itchiness.
Immune System Factors
Eczema is an overreaction of your immune system to allergens. Scientists are increasingly focussing on this issue. Somehow, in eczema, the top layer of the skin gets weakened and the allergens seep inside. The immune system rightly identifies them and attacks them, causing inflammation. Too much of this skin inflammation leads to eczema.
Read a bit about autoimmune conditions, which have a similar kind of immune response inside your body. Can we use some of the supplements that help in autoimmune conditions?
A family history of eczema predisposes you to the same. Similarly, people with a history of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and hay fever also have a higher likelihood of developing asthma.
A protein called filaggrin or filament aggregating protein keeps the top layer of the skin hard and smooth. But a mutation in the gene that helps produce filaggrin can make the skin layer weak allowing easy entry of allergens. Read here: Scientists Think They Finally Know What Happens in The Skin When You Have Eczema.
Stress can cause or worsen eczema. We don’t know why. But we also know that stress is linked to autoimmune conditions.
Stress hormones such as adrenaline hyperstimulate our immune system and raise the production of certain toxic chemicals called cytokines. These chemicals help destroy invading pathogens. But the body suffers some collateral damage, which is acceptable for a short while. After all, a war will cause losses on both sides. But if the toxic cytokines are produced all the time due to stress, the damage will keep accumulating. Perhaps, this mechanism may be leading to eczema due to long-standing stress.
There is another possible way through which stress triggers autoimmune conditions. Read this: Could gut bacteria explain the link between stress and autoimmune disease?
Finally, is it possible that eczema is not just similar to autoimmune conditions but rather is an autoimmune condition? Some researchers are saying exactly that. Read: Is eczema an autoimmune disease?
Why is this important? Well, if it is indeed an autoimmune condition, a supplementation regime that helps autoimmune conditions should help eczema, too. No harm in trying that, right?
How Does Eczema Develop
In eczema, somehow the top layer of the skin becomes weaker. It lets many chemicals seep into the skin. They trigger the immune system to react and destroy them. But under certain conditions, the allergens amongst those chemicals overstimulate the immune system causing inflammation and eczematic rashes on the skin.
At this stage, science cannot confirm if this is actually the case but it appears to be the most likely one. So our supplementation strategy should try to protect the body in each step of this sequence.
Principles of Supplementation for Eczema
Supplementation in eczema relies on 4 pillars:
- Repairing Damaged Skin:
The damaged skin needs to be gently exfoliated. A way to increase moisture and hydration of the dry skin will be necessary. Nutrients that strengthen the skin will be useful for repair.
- Preventing Further Skin Damage:
Nutrients that reduce the inflammatory response will prevent further damage to the skin. Anti-inflammatory supplements will help.
Antioxidants deactivate reactive oxygen molecules released by the immune system in eczema. They reduce the skin injury that these molecules cause.
- Controlling Allergy Symptoms:
A chemical called histamine is released by the white blood cells in an allergic reaction. Histamine is the main cause of itching. Anti-allergic supplements that control this histaminic reaction reduce itching.
- Preventing Eczema Flare-ups:
This will involve strengthening the immune system so that it does not get overstimulated by allergens. Nutrients that help in autoimmune conditions will also help in this aspect.
Supplements for Repairing Damaged Skin
- Aloe Vera: Contains salicylic acid that helps gently exfoliate the damaged skin cells. Contains lignin that helps other ingredients penetrate the skin better. Locks moisture in the skin. It has polysaccharides that help skin repair. Use as a gel—external application only.
- Vitamin C: Can stimulate ceramide production in skin cells. Can improve overall skin barrier function that prevents seepage of allergens into the skin. Collagen fibers that give strength to the skin need vitamin C for their production.
- Vitamin D: Helps regulate proteins that strengthen the skin barrier, which is normally damaged in eczema.
- Zinc: Low levels of zinc are associated with a higher risk of eczema. Keeps the cell walls stable. Heals the damaged skin by helping skin cells to divide properly as the new cells grow.
Don’t take a separate zinc supplement; a high intake of it may result in a reduction in copper absorption. Stick to a good natural-source multi-mineral supplement.
Supplements for Preventing Further Skin Damage
- Omega-3 Fish Oil: Omega-3 oils quench an inflammatory substance called leukotriene B4 that is produced in the eczema-afflicted part of the skin. Incidentally, this same substance is also found in the joints affected by knee osteoarthritis. No wonder fish oils help reduce pain and swelling in osteoarthritis, too. Here is a comprehensive write-up about this important nutrient: Omega–3 oils: A complete guide.
- Bromelain: It is an enzyme extracted from pineapple and is a very good anti-inflammatory nutrient. Reduces the body’s sensitization to allergens. Now, you may ask if it works in osteoarthritis, too. Well, it does!
- Vitamin D: Decreases various inflammatory chemicals formed in the skin.
Supplements for Controlling Allergy Symptoms
- Quercetin: It has anti-histaminic properties. Excellent anti-allergic supplement for long-term use. 500–1,000 mg a day.
- Vitamin C: High-dose vitamin C reduces allergy-related symptoms. Take 1,500–2,000 mg a day.
- Vitamin E: Strong antioxidant and helps control eczema symptoms. Take 400–600 IU a day.
- Aloe Vera: Contains a pain reliever called carboxypeptidase, which soothes the skin. Apply as a gel.
Supplements for Preventing Eczema Flareups
- Vitamin D: Helps promote something called regulatory T cells that keep the body’s immune response within limits. Without their proper functioning, the immune system can misfire, raising inflammation too high and leading to eczema flare-ups.
- Probiotics: These are cultures of healthy bacteria that improve immunity and help fight allergies. Unhealthy bacteria are found to reside in the intestines of people with low immunity. It is unclear if probiotics can prevent eczema flare-ups but they are used for improving autoimmune conditions.
- Prebiotics: These provide food for healthy gut bacteria. Take 4–8 g of supplemental fiber a day.
Long Term Complications
- If untreated, eczema can lead to skin infections (indicated by fever or pain) and possibly, permanent skin scarring.
- One-third of eczema patients get asthma; one-third of patients end up with allergic rhinitis.
- Eczema is linked to other medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. It is probably due to an unhealthy lifestyle that leads to all those conditions.
- I have seen this field closely for more than 25 years. These days, the amount of new medical research published daily is astounding. It is practically impossible for any practising doctor to keep up with that new information.
- Many supplements are simply food-grade nutrients and often help multiple systems of the body. So there is no harm in using them to see if they do help you, along with your medical treatment. As I like to ask, “what are your options, otherwise?”
- Instead of trying to find the best cure or supplement, my experience tells me that each of the treatment options gives you a certain amount of edge over your eczema. So a combination of them is always a better idea.
To Read More
- Cleveland Clinic: Eczema
- MedlinePlus: Eczema
- MedicalNewsToday: What to Know About Eczema
- Familydoctor.org: Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis
- Discover: The Cure for Eczema is Likely More than Skin Deep
- On this website: Are fish pedicures safe?
Articles in Supplementation Series
- Supplements for Various Age Groups
- Supplements for Type 2 Diabetes
- Supplements for Osteoarthritis
- Supplements for Hair Loss
- Supplements for Fatty Liver
- Supplements for Autoimmune Disorders
- Supplements for Anemia
- Supplements for Prostate Enlargement
- Supplements for Macular Degeneration
- Supplements for PCOS
- Supplements for Parkinson’s Disease
- Supplements for Gout
- Supplements for Eczema
First published on: 24th March 2022
Image credit: Itch photo created by Freepik
Last updated on: 7th July 2022