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The largest organ in the body is the skin. It weighs from six to nine pounds and would cover twenty square feet if stretched out. It grows faster than any other organ. This flexible protective covering for the body serves as our largest organ of elimination.
Problems with the skin generally reveal chronic problems with other internal organs such as the colon, liver and kidneys or imbalances in the glandular function. There are many types of skin disorders. Two of the most common and often difficult to treat are eczema and psoriasis.
Both eczema and psoriasis greatly affect a person's appearance, self esteem and quality of life. They may cause pain and discomfort. Medically, there is no cure for either problem, although treatments are available that reduce symptoms.
Eczema is a common skin condition that affects people of all ages. The word eczema comes from the Greek and literally means "boiling over." This disease is actually a chronic inflammation of the skin. Acute inflammation of the skin is known as dermatitis and usually occurs when the body comes in contact with an irritating substance (such as poison ivy). The substance irritates the skin and the tissues react via the inflammatory process.
All inflammatory diseases happen in the same manner. Toxic substances damage cells which release histamine and bradykinin into surrounding fluids. This causes capillary pores to dilate allowing fluid and protein to enter the tissue spaces. Tissues become red, swollen, hot and painful. In both eczema and dermatitis, the skin becomes irritated, resulting in red and itchy skin.
In eczema, the skin is repeatedly irritated and inflamed which causes the upper layer of the skin to thicken as skin cells multiply rapidly. This creates a scaly effect on the surface of the skin. Oil glands become obstructed and the skin becomes dry. The scaly skin inhibits elimination through the skin, causing toxins to become trapped under the skin. This causes itching, which leads the person to scratch. Scratching breaks the upper dermis layer so the skin develops a broken and cracked appearance.
Eczema is caused by the body being hypersensitive to certain irritants, so it is closely related to allergic asthma, hayfever and food allergies. In all of these conditions, irritants are creating inflammation on surface tissues of the intestinal tract, respiratory tract or skin. . These conditions are caused by a healthy immune system that is over burdened with toxins. The body is being over whelmed by more toxins than it can effectively handle.
This may explain why children are extremely prone to eczema. Almost thirty percent of all newborn babies may develop this condition, which affects about one in eight young children. It often occurs on the scalp or the cheeks, but can spread over other parts of the body, making children itchy and miserable. About 75% will "outgrow" this condition by their mid-teens. We wonder if this isn't occurring just because their immune system's become too depressed to manifest it. Adults who had eczema as children will remain prone to dry skin in later years and to occasional flare-ups of skin inflammation.
In traditional herbal medicine, the solution has not been to suppress the immune response but to reduce exposure to irritating substances and improve the body's eliminative and detoxification functions. This works on the root causes of eczema.
Psoriasis comes from eczema because it involves rapid skin growth and appears to be an autoimmune disorder, like multiple sclerosis or lupus. Like all "itises" (arthritis, tonsillitis, etc.) are the same inflammatory process taking place in different tissues, so all autoimmune disorders are the same basic process affecting different parts of the body. In each type of auto-immune disorder, the immune system is confused and is mistaking some of the body's own tissues as invaders. This triggers a hyperactive immune reaction that causes damage to the affected tissues.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune reaction that primarily affects the skin, but in about 10% of the cases the joints are affected. Research suggests that psoriasis is triggered when certain T-cells reproduce very rapidly, which starts an inflammatory reaction that causes skin cells to multiply seven to twelve times faster than normal.
Because this hyperactivity of the I immune system creates a form of inflammation, psoriasis has symptoms that are similar to eczema. The skin is often itchy and dry and frequently cracking or blistering. There are many forms of psoriasis. The most common, plaque psoriasis, is characterized by inflamed lesions that may be covered with white or silver scales. Other forms of the disease include guttate psoriasis, inverse psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis, pustular psoriasis and nail psoriasis.
The disease affects about 5-6 million people in the United States and about 80 million people worldwide. There appears to be a genetic factor in psoriasis, as 30-50 percent of the people who have it have relatives with the disease. It appears that environmental factors like damage to the skin, infections, stress, medications, dietary factors, climate, alcohol and smoking can trigger flare-ups of psoriasis.
The solution in alternative medicine is not to directly suppress the immune response, but to balance the nutrition and biochemistry of the body. Many of the same products that alleviate eczema will help the body heal psoriasis, but there are some important differences.
Skin pH and the Acid Mantle
Our skin has an acid mantle with a pH between 4.2 and 5.6 with variations from one part of the body to the other. This mantle is formed from a combination of oil (sebum) secreted by oil glands and perspiration, secreted by sweat glands. These secretions form a barrier that protects the skin and renders it less vulnerable to damage by environmental factors like sun and wind. It inhibits the growth of microorganisms like bacteria and fungus. This layer helps keep the skin moist.
When this acid mantle is removed and the pH of the skin becomes more alkaline, the skin is more easily damaged and irritated. Acne, eczema and other problems may develop as a result.
The soaps most people are using are highly alkaline and remove the acid mantle and protective lipids, which dries the skin and increases risk of skin infections and diseases. Sunshine Concentrate is a natural soap that helps maintain the proper pH and acid mantle on the skin. Bathing with Sunshine Concentrate and using it as your laundry soap can lessen skin irritation and reduce symptoms.
It is wise to limit your contact with things that irritate the skin. These may include household cleansers, detergents, aftershave lotions, soap, gasoline, turpentine and other solvents. Wear protective gloves when working with irritants.
Eczema can flare up when you are under stress. Stress reduction techniques can help. Changing your activities to reduce daily stress can be helpful.
Natural Help for Eczema
Problems with eczema aren't just skin deep. The skin can only become irritated and inflamed when toxins are present. In order for those toxins to be present, they must be in the blood, which means we must look deeper to discover the source of the irritation and the internal organs and glands that are not functioning optimally
Skin problems typically begin in the digestive tract and liver, where toxic substances are absorbed into the blood stream, so natural care for eczema starts with avoiding irritants in the diet. Chemicals, food additives, pesticide residues and the like should removed from the diet as much as possible. Foods that trigger allergic reactions or produce excessive waste acid should be avoided,
A good place to start is to avoid foods that are incompatible with your blood type. Some of the common allergenic foods that may contribute to skin irritation include wheat, dairy, corn, orange juice, coffee, black tea, soda pop and sugar.
Essential Fatty Acids
Oils help to keep the skin moist and protected. People with eczema are frequently deficient in essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. Good fats can help reduce inflammation, while hydrogenated fats can increase inflammation. Margarine, shortening and fried foods should be avoided.
Use olive oil for cooking and salad dressings and supplement the diet with appropriate essential fatty acids. Omega 3-EPA and Vitamin A&D are very beneficial. Other good choices include Super GLA, Evening Primrose Oil and Flax Seed Oil
Healthy fats won’t do the body any good if they aren't being digested and metabolized properly. People with eczema often have problems with organs that process fats in the body, such as the liver. Lipase enzymes (found in Hi-Lipase and Proactazyme) will help the body break down fats in the digestive tract.
Burdock helps the liver process fats and deliver them to the skin. Toxins can get trapped in the fatty layer under the skin, causing itching. Chickweed helps break up body break up and metabolize fats and is helpful for itching when taken internally. When used topically (in the form of fomentations, baths or poultices) it reduces itching and irritation.
The thyroid gland is important in metabolizing fats and maintaining skin health. When the thyroid is low Thyroid Activator or Thyroid Support should be added to your program.
Eczema is often treated medically with corticosteroid drugs which mimic the anti-inflammatory action of the adrenal hormone cortisol. People with eczema often suffer from adrenal exhaustion. This explains why excessive inflammation is present and why eczema can flare up under stress. Stress depletes the adrenals.
Herbs that support adrenal function and have a cortisol like action may be helpful. Licorice Root and Yucca have this effect. Licorice should be avoided with weeping eczema. Other adrenal enhancing remedies are Adrenal Support and ENERG-V may be of benefit.
Enzyme Spray contains enzymes that help tissue healing and reduce inflammation. It can be sprayed on topically.
Trace minerals Zinc, Copper (in Chlorophyll caps) and Silica (in HSN-W) are important to skin health and are lacking in most diets of people with eczema. Ionic Minerals and Skeletal Strength are helpful in replenishing mineral reserves.
Natural Helps for Psoriasis
Many of the products that help eczema will help psoriasis. The major difference is that psoriasis is an autoimmune reaction that involves an excessive proliferation of skin cells. Remedies are need that balance immune function rather than stimulate it.
As with eczema, essential fatty acids are very important in the treatment of psoriasis. In particular, it is the omega-3 essential fatty acids in Omega-3 EPA. Flax Seed Oil and Super GLA may be helpful, but it is the Omega-3 EPA oils in particular that help to reduce tissue irritation. A reduction in animal fats in the diet may be helpful.
Diet is important in the effective treatment of psoriasis. Fasting and vegetarian diets have been shown to reduce symptoms. Eliminating gluten bearing grains like wheat has benefited some sufferer. Consider foods compatible with one’s blood type, as food allergies are contributing factor to psoriasis.
Incomplete protein digestion and bowel toxemia may be underlying factors in psoriasis. Proactazyme or Protease Plus taken between meals will help break down undigested protein and detoxify the colon.
Detoxifying the liver is important. Two good products for doing this are Milk Thistle Combo and All Cell Detox. Combined with Nature's Three or Psyllium Hulls Combo fiber formulas will help to gently cleanse the bowel to get rid of the gut derived toxins that may be involved in this disease.
Nutrients that have been reported helpful for psoriasis include Vitamin A&D in large doses, Vitamin E w/Selenium, B-Complex and in particular Vitamin C, Zinc, Chromium and sulfur (MSM). Other products reported to be helpful with psoriasis include Sarsaparilla, Licorice root, Chamomile and Aloe vera. Feverfew can be used both internally and topically to ease psoriasis. The polyphenols in Green tea can help reduce irritation of the skin and ease psoriasis.
Herbs applied topically to reduce itching:
Herbs and products to reduce inflammation (topical or internally):
Essential fatty acids (taken internally to keep skin moist:
Alternatives taken internally to cleanse toxins from the body:
Other useful products: