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A Holistic Approach to Dermatitis

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With a one-in-thirty chance of experiencing dermatitis every year, it's time to get on top of stress

Krystle Shapiro, Touchstone Massage Therapies (208/290-6760)

This month the Sandpoint Wellness Council is addressing the common condition many people experience called Dermatitis. This skin irritation can take on many forms. Infants may experience “cradle cap,” adults may experience dandruff, rough itchy skin, dry flaky skin, redness and tenderness, or have oozing lesions. Causes can originate from contact with irritants and/or allergens, such as poison ivy, metals, cleaning products, dyes, and often latex, thus causing a reaction by the immune system. This is considered “contact dermatitis.” Systemic or internal causes are brought on by an overreaction of the immune system to such things as a bacterial infection or other existing conditions such as cellulitis or psoriasis. What happens is that mast cells in our body release histamines, dilate the vessels, and bring on inflammation in response to the irritant. A person may respond to prolonged exposure to irritants such as working in water or with harsh chemicals that create a response. Eliminating these exposures oftentimes eliminates the response. Other times exposures to ingredients in soaps, perfumes, preservatives in lotions, and sunscreens may create an allergic reaction when the person is exposed to sunlight.

Research has been revealing that stress brings on a wide variety of skin conditions as our bodies work hard to eliminate the chemistry of stress, our skin being one of our pathways for emitting toxins, especially through sweating. Diet plays an important role as well. Many people suffer from food sensitivities and/or allergic responses to certain foods or ingredients in processed foods, such as dyes, preservatives, and chemical flavoring additives.

Many remedies continue to be researched to address all the underlying reasons for the varied responses. Oftentimes treatments with chemicals known to reduce inflammation may in turn create other sensitivities. Many of us have experienced added challenges in the side effects of the remedies we take. The body is wise and really seeks out natural sources for returning to balance. As I research solutions as a holistic nutritionist in training, I find reason in seeking stress reduction and diet enrichment as a primary focus in addressing many symptoms we experience. “The Textbook of Natural Medicine,” by Joseph Pizzorno Jr. and Michael Murray, offers suggestions to seek naturopathic advice as this approach seeks to understand the underlying causes often found in the digestive system as this is a foundation for our well being. Disturbances and imbalances in the nutrition we provide our bodies affect all systems keeping us healthy. A topic on everyone’s mind lately focuses on our need to have adequate fatty acid intake, especially Omega 3s found in fish and fish oils. Ingesting healthy oils is critical to proper functioning and detoxifying. I find the following excerpt from their textbook important and may be useful information in helping us reduce or eliminate our responses to such irritating skin conditions.

“Effective management requires relief from and prevention of itching while treating the underlying metabolic abnormalities. The food and environmental allergens must be detected and controlled.” When looking at diet, they suggest “limit[ing] animal products and add[ing] fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and halibut” as a positive beginning to effectively managing symptoms of dermatitis.

Following are some ideas from our council members.

Robin Mize, Quantum Biofeedback (208/610-9997)

Dermatitis is a general term that describes an inflammation of the skin. It is a stress response caused by an allergen or irritant introduced to the body. There are different types of dermatitis, including seborrheic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis (eczema). Though the disorder can have many causes and occur in many forms, it usually involves swollen, reddened and itchy skin. Many times it leads to oozing.

Even though dermatitis is not considered life threatening, it is a reaction from the body that I believe deserves concern. Our bodies talk to us if we are willing to listen, and I believe the skin is a huge communicator. It is our largest detoxification organ and I believe when we have a response like dermatitis or any type of a rash we should listen. There is a battle going on and it can weaken us.

Again, the beautiful part of the Quantum Biofeedback program is that there are over 10,000 frequency signatures imprinted in the program and many of them are the well known allergens, food stressors, and environmental stressors.

When hooked up to the program the computer’s fast speed asks the body to react to the signatures of these frequencies. When the program is done with the assessment, it gives the practitioner the feedback of their highest stressors. It also automatically trains the body to react to the stressor. Then the person is able to stay away from the allergen.

So if you have dermatitis please don’t ignore it. This is your body talking to you. It is your opportunity to get to know your body at a deeper level. Remove the stressor and the body heals itself.

Penny Waters, Your Relaxation Destination (208/597-4343)

The skin is the largest organ in the body with numerous responsibilities, including protecting us from harmful invaders and eliminating unwanted elements such as toxins. When the skin shows signs of irritation and inflammation, it is revealing that it is overburdened in its tasks of protection and/or elimination.

Contact dermatitis causes various eruptions, irritations and inflammations on the skin because the skin comes in contact with some kind of external irritant or allergen. Once the offending agent is discovered, ongoing dermatitis can be eliminated. Building a stronger immune system may actually eliminate the dermatitis response to this agent, if the client is interested in taking this preventative approach.

The kidneys, liver, lungs, and immune system are designed to cleanse our blood by tackling offending elements which enter our body via food, breathing, absorption, and body fluids. The skin also supports elimination of toxins every day by ‘breathing out’ toxins in the form of vapors we cannot see.  A signal that our body is exposed to more toxins than the internal organs can handle is dermatitis. The problem is an internal one and must be handled with internal support. Oftentimes a chemical ingredient topical ointment will only send the toxins back into the sickened body adding to the toxic overload and creating a toxic response somewhere else. This is the classic seesaw between asthma and eczema. A more natural topical support, such as an ointment made with olive oil, calendula, comfrey and chickweed, can really help calm the dermatitis and return the skin to health more quickly. Such natural ingredients are more readily recognized by the body and what is drawn in provides additional internal support.

Cleansing the internal organs will require a food and herb program that supports healthy organs and blood. Fresh vegetables, fruits, broths, with little meat is a good start. Minimal or no dairy, alcohol, or sugar is also advised. Herbs that are known as alternatives include milk thistle, dandelion, red clover and cleavers and would be recommended for their healing abilities. Alternatives are cleansing as they breakdown toxic elements, neutralize inflammatory responses, and promote elimination. I also have a bowel formula in capsule form that is usually essential for returning the client and their skin to wellness.

Reflexology encourages elimination of toxic material, absorption of nutritional food, and balance to all organs and glands to ensure that the body can return to health. After all, the good food and herbs in the world can do little if the organs and glands are not functioning well enough to take full advantage of them.

Owen Marcus, Rolfer (208/265-8440)

As a Rolfer, clients don’t generally come to me because of dermatitis, but over the years some of my clients have had it. And I’ve learned something interesting: often the cause of chronic dermatitis is beneath the skin.

Contact dermatitis occurs after exposure to an external irritant. Most chronic dermatitis, however, is caused by something the body is producing. In a response to stress or through the body’s attempt to detoxify itself through the skin, the body creates—or releases—a toxic substance that irritates the skin from the inside.

Occasionally during a series of Rolfing sessions, a client will go through a short period of pimples or have a little rash as the body releases whatever toxins were stored in the tissue. For years studies have shown the body stores toxins such as DDT in its tissue. When circulation is returned to an area that was tense, the blood flushes out what was stored there. If our primary detoxifying organs—the liver, kidneys and spleen—can’t handle the load, other organs such as the lungs, large intestine, and the skin try to help.

You may not even realize that your body produces its own toxins. Even that natural survival response, stress, produces its own potentially toxic chemicals. With minor stress continuing over time, the body tenses and accumulates the by products of stress. Ever heard of a “stress rash”? Now you know what causes it; the skin is trying to release the stress-caused toxins that the other organs can’t handle.

As an emotional organ, the skin reflects our stress and emotional state. We live in such a stress-filled culture, it’s no surprise that one in 30 Americans experiences dermatitis every year.

Eliminating chronic dermatitis usually means detoxifying the body through herbs, bodywork, sweating, and nutrition. By strengthening the primary detoxifying organs and the body’s general level of health, the burden is off the skin. Teaching our bodies how to better deal with stress is always important. And, as always, breathing always helps.

Skin problems are not usually life threatening, of course, but if you suffer from dermatitis, you want to get well. Many years ago, the top dermatologist in Arizona was one of my clients. We repeatedly spoke about how stress was a huge cause of skin problems. He really cared about his patients, and he was often frustrated he could not fully heal them because he couldn’t reduce their stress levels. This demonstrates the importance of helping ourselves and helping those who help us by determining the causes of our stressors, work to reduce them, and ultimately heal ourselves.

Please visit sandpointwellnesscouncil.com to read other articles by The Sandpoint Wellness Council members, add your comments and suggest topics of interest you would like us to address in future articles.

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Sandpoint Wellness Counci Sandpoint Wellness Counci The Sandpoint Wellness Council is an association of independent, complementary wellness practitioners located in Sandpoint dedicated to holistic health care. Pictured are: Owen Marcus, Penny Waters, Robin and Layman Mize, Ilani Kopiecki, Krystle Shapiro and Mario Roxas

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