The term eczema refers to a variety of skin conditions that lead to irritated and inflamed skin, often with severe itching, blisters and red rashes on the areas affected.
Eczema is particularly difficult to live with when it appears on the face. Other common areas for outbreaks include knee and elbow creases, wrists and ankles, chest, back, neck and scalp.
While scientists don’t seem to be certain on the exact causes of eczema, it is believed to be the combined effect of various dietary and environmental triggers, along with a genetic susceptibility leading to problems with normal skin barrier function.
Stress can also be an important factor. Additionally, a high percentage of eczema sufferers also have asthma problems, suggesting a common inflammation link in the underlying causes.
More than 2% of adults in America and around 10% of babies (though this often clears up past infancy) are affected by the condition, making it a widespread and growing health problem.
Research has shown that people suffering from atopic dermatitis (a common form of eczema) have skin with lower levels of important fatty acids. These fatty acids are responsible for improving skin’s moisture levels and helping to decrease potential causes of inflammation. This is where avocado oil can help.
Avocado Oil and Eczema
Avocado oil, both included in the diet regularly and as a topical treatment, can help supplement fatty acid levels in the skin. While it may not be a complete cure for the many potential underlying causes of eczema, the rich fatty acid content in cold pressed avocado oil can make it a useful treatment for reducing symptoms.
Recent studies have shown that omega-6 fats from processed vegetable oils like corn, safflower, cottonseed and soybean oil can react with the 5-LOX enzyme in the skin, creating inflammatory compounds called leukotrienes. It appears that the level of leukotrienes are elevated in the skin of eczema sufferers. Given this, reducing the amount and ratio of omega-6 fatty acids in the diet may well help reduce symptoms.
Reducing your intake of omega-6 fats is often not as easy as it sounds. Changing the oil you cook with to avocado oil is a good first step (see more reasons why this is so important in avocado oil, cooking and the smoke point of cooking oils).
Unfortunately cheap polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acids have been added to a huge variety of processed foods. It is not much of an exaggeration to say the majority of packaged supermarket foods are now potential sources of excess omega-6 fats.
Keep in mind the importance of the ratio of omega-3 fatty acids versus omega-6. Experts generally recommend a ratio of 1 to 5 for omega-3 to omega-6 and some suggest closer to 1 to 2.
The average American is more likely to be over 1 to 20 in favor of omega-6 fatty acids. People with a diet high in processed foods may even have a ratio higher than 1 to 50 towards inflammatory omega-6 fats.
If cutting out omega-6 fatty acids is difficult in the modern diet, the next best thing (and important regardless) is balancing out the ratio with a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed oil can help for vegetarians, but the best source of beneficial EPA and DHA omega-3 fats is fish oil.
The eicosapentaenoic acid in fish oil has also been shown to be of benefit in counteracting the inflammatory effects of leukotrienes throughout our bodies, including our skin. See omega-3 fatty acids in inflammation and autoimmune disease for the science behind why taking a good fish oil is so important to balance out the over-abundance of omega-6 fats in our modern diets.
Please see a knowledgeable heathcare professional if you have a serious case of eczema. While it is not contagious, scratching eczema outbreaks can make it worse and lead to long term skin damage. Prescription medicines and creams, while useful for some, are not the only answer and rarely help treat the underlying causes.
Other prime areas to consider when treating eczema include making sure your digestive system is functioning well; reducing stress levels; eliminating environmental allergens; minimizing chemicals on the skin in cosmetics; and commonly, specific food allergies that lead to outbreaks.
It is beyond the scope of this page to examine all of these in detail, but if you’re interested in an treatment that doesn’t rely on prescription creams and medicines, the Beat Eczema site has a diet based solution for treating the various different types of eczema effectively and dealing with the underlying causes.
Coming up next is another serious skin condition in using avocado oil to treat psoriasis. This page also has a method for using avocado oil and fish oil as a topical treatment that may reduce the symptoms of both psoriasis and eczema.
Photo credit with thanks: nate steiner