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Hunting down the cause

MagazineMay 1994 (Vol. 5 Issue 2)Hunting down the cause

Finding the source of eczema, like many other chronic diseases, appears to be a matter of persistent detective work

Finding the source of eczema, like many other chronic diseases, appears to be a matter of persistent detective work. Don't get discouraged if your first approach doesn't work keep looking until you find one that will.

First suspect drugs that you are taking for other conditions. (see box, p 2).Hunt down potential dietary or airborne allergenic causes. Many of our panel members say that eczema can be treated successfully once the offending substance is located and nutritional deficiencies corrected. In a double blind trial treating eczema with diet, nearly 14 of 20 children placed on a diet excluding eggs and cow's milk improved (The Lancet, 25 February 1978). Dr Leo Galland finds that problems usual derive from food containing milk, yeast and moulds, and Dr Keith Mumby adds potatoes to the list. Other possible offenders are eggs, wheat, corn or fish, fermented foods, such as vinegar, soya sauce and alcohol, chocolate or caffeine. Just as asthma can be caused by something you eat, so eczema can be caused by something you inhale. Avoid red meat which is high in arachidonic acid and has inflammatory properties; animal fats in general can exacerbate the problem.

Look to essential fatty acid deficiencies or malabsorption. Dr Galland recommends that you give toddlers two 500 mg capsules of primrose oil per day by cutting the capsules open and rubbing the oil on the skin (the insides of the arms or thighs). Increase up to four per day if you don't see improvement (eight per day for adults and half the dosage with blackcurrent oil). Other necessary co-factor vitamins for this type of eczema are vitamins A, B, magnesium, zinc and iron.

Homeopathy, acupuncture and other alternative treatments report good success in treating certain types of eczema.

If you or your child get better when you travel outside the city, suspect environmental pollutants and consider moving out of an urban area.

Look to Chinese herbal medicine if your symptoms are severe and all causative treatments have failed. But if you do go this route, make sure to work with a highly experienced practitioner who will explain the properties of the herbs and monitor liver and kidney function tests every month or two.

Zemaphyte is trademarked by Phytopharm, a product of the Great Ormond Street and Royal Free hospital trials (and based on formulae brought to the UK in 1981 by Dr Ding-Hui-Luo from Guangzhuo, Canton). Bear in mind that it is is a long term treatment, not a cure. Your eczema will probably return once you stop taking the herb decoction.

Don't use any cream unless the product is properly labelled with a full list of ingredients. It is illegal for anyone to prescribe creams containing potent steroids unless they are medically qualified.

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