Healing Eczema and Psoriasis with Naturopathic Medicine

When those painful, itchy patches of eczema and psoriasis erupt, Naturopathic doctors ask, ‘what is causing this condition to present at this time?’ The Greek translation of eczema means “to boil out,” so the question makes sense: Naturopathic doctors look for the underlying root causes that bring about these skin eruptions. Although they create similar discomforts for the people afflicted, psoriasis and eczema are different in important ways.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that results in an overproduction of skin cells. As the dead skin cells build-up, they form thick, scaly white patches that are visible on the skin’s surface. The skin itches terribly and is inflamed.

Eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) also can be chronic, but it tends to come and go in response to certain triggers (e.g., weather changes, irritating cosmetics, or an allergic reaction). Eczema is common in infants and children, and may even go dormant for a time. Some people, however, suffer terribly throughout their lifetime. When eczema is active, skin is inflamed, dry, peeling and may blister.

From the naturopathic medicine perspective, root causes of eczema and psoriasis include:

  • Food sensitivity/ allergy
  • Deficiency in one or more minerals
  • Low-quality diet (high in saturated fats, processed foods, sugar, etc.)
  • Poor gut health/ Leaky Gut Syndrome
  • Emotional/ Mental Stress
  • Exposure to toxins and/or inadequate ability to detoxify

Conventional treatment plans typically use steroids to simply manage symptoms (i.e., itching); however, there are harmful side effects, such as suppressing overall immunity, that must be considered. Naturopathic therapies, on the other hand, work to correct the underlying imbalance that caused the body to react in the first place, offering relief without the unwanted side effects of steroid treatments. One or more of the following natural therapies may be part of an individualized holistic treatment plan:

  • Dietary changes to include more nutrient dense, clean foods
  • Remove foods from the diet that cause inflammation
  • Nutritional supplements to restore balance or deficiency (e.g., zinc, vitamin D/ E/ A)
  • Balance gut flora using probiotics and other approaches
  • Increase intake of Essential Fatty Acids, which are important to skin health
  • Provide support for mental/emotional stress
  • Identify and minimize toxin exposure
  • Support liver function, the body’s detox organ

Additionally, to temporarily soothe symptoms, Naturopathic doctors may recommend nourishing the skin with herbal salves and creams that are specific to your individual needs. Some common botanical ingredients are calendula, lavender, chamomile, rose, Manuka honey, tea tree, among many others.

Psoriasis and Eczema can quickly become chronic and severe and the wrong treatments can make things far worse. Consult with your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor to identify the appropriate therapies for you or your loved one.

References
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Essential Fatty Acids for Brain Health

The omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are classified as “essential” nutrients for the human because they cannot be made by the body. Hence the term, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Since the body cannot make EFAs, we have to acquire what we need from food and nutritional supplements. While EFAs are important to overall health, in this article we highlight their importance to brain health. Fatty acids nourish and protect brain cells and help reduce inflammation. Scientists are actively investigating the role EFAs play in preventing and managing age-related cognitive decline.

When we consume EFAs, the body will use what it needs and then stores the rest for future use. Brain tissue is especially rich in EFAs where it is important for protecting connections between nerve cells. So, a diet deficient in these fats deprives the brain and nervous system of a crucial nutritional substance. Scientists believe DHA protects against Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and dementia. Adults with insufficient intake of DHA show poor performance on cognitive tests as well as increased risk for age-related cognitive decline. In studies using an EFA supplement, there have been positive changes in memory related functions for individuals with very mild AD.

Because we must get EFAs from food or nutritional supplements, it’s important to understand what our bodies need. Most Americans get a daily average of only 130 mg EPA + DHA – far below the 1000-2000 mg recommended for optimal health and cognitive function. We also need the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid. Too little omega-3 and too much omega-6 can result in increased inflammation. Eating a variety of EFA rich foods plus a supplement is a good option for many people.

People who have a high intake of fish consumption show a decreased risk for dementia and AD. Foods abundant in EFAs include salmon, chunk light tuna, halibut, sardines, and krill, as well as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. Be mindful of the source of your fish, since some are high in mercury. Look for organic, wild caught options. Your La Mesa naturopathic doctor can help you with dietary options and EFA supplements that best meets your needs.

References
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A Potent Berry for Liver Health: Schisandra chinensis

With its sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter flavor profile, it’s no surprise the Chinese call Schisandra chinensis “the five flavored fruit,” or wu wei zi. Regarded as the most important herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the schisandra berry might more aptly be called the “fruit of life.”

Schisandra belongs to a unique class of herbs known as adaptogens, which enhance the body’s ability to adapt to, and recover from, stress. The source of the stress could be emotional, mental, environmental, or physical, such as when you become sick. In addition to supporting the body across physiological systems, it provides protective benefits for the liver, the body’s engine for detoxification. Studies show schisandra reduces inflammation, keeps hormones in balance, helps regenerate liver tissue, and lowers levels of an enzyme associated with liver damage.

Traditional Chinese physicians have long used schisandra to:

  1. stimulate the immune system and support adrenal gland function
  2. enhance recovery from illness or surgery
  3. reduce inflammation and fatigue
  4. improve blood circulation and enhance detoxification

Dried schizandra berries can be made into powder, capsule, tincture, tonic, tea and even wine. Schisandra is safe for most people, but precautions must be used if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have epilepsy, or reflux disease. Your La Mesa naturopathic doctor can identify the type of schisandra supplement that is best for you.

References
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Elderberry: Medicinal Elixir for the Whole Family

For millennia, physicians, and herbalists have found medicinal uses for all parts of the elder tree, including its wood, leaves, flowers and berries. Leaves were used in ointments to heal skin. The flowers and berries were made into infusions as a common treatment for colds and rheumatic conditions. Today, herbalists and holistic physicians commonly recommend elderberry for the wide variety of properties that can support the health of the young and old alike.

European (Black) Elder (Sambucus nigra) is the species safely and most commonly used for botanical medicines. Note that the berries should not be eaten (or used) raw. They must be dried first or properly cooked at the peak of ripeness.

Elderberries are rich in Vitamin C and flavonoids that act as antioxidants that protect cells in the body from damage and can help reduce inflammation. They have been used in preparations to treat colds, flu, and bacterial sinus infection. In studies, syrup prepared from the juice of elderberry has been shown to help decrease the duration of flu symptoms, including swelling in mucous membranes and congestion. Other studies have shown that elderberry extracts have antiviral properties and appear to have a role in inhibiting the replication of viruses.

Elderberry can interact with other medications including those used to treat diabetes, asthma, and drugs that suppress the immune system. Before using an elderberry product for an adult or a child, check with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor to verify the integrity of the product and appropriate use.

References
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