‘I had eczema as a child, but overcame it with dietary changes. In adulthood, I’m still prone to random flare-ups during periods of unusually high stress’
THE TREATMENTSI was allergy-tested as a child and cow’s milk came up through the roof. Once I cut that out, my eczema (and asthma) faded into oblivion. Recently, the link has been stress-related. I remember studying for finals at university and having an all-over body flare-up which surprised me. I had to use a steroid cream to calm it. The recent flare-up, on the palms of both hands (something I’d never had before), was unusually stubborn.
After six months with very little improvement, I met Dr Mervyn Patterson at Woodford Medical. His common-sense advice helped reinforce the changes I needed to make – and although I hate steroid creams, he said there was no harm in using them for several weeks until the eczema had abated, rather than holding out until things were impossibly sore, then using them as a one-off to bring down inflammation.
I was told to keep my hands out of water – tricky, given that we all need to wash our hands, but I tried to keep my palms dry while washing my fingers. He prescribed Epionce Medical Barrier Cream, £27.50, a science-backed emollient that helps skin regain and retain its ideal lipid ratio. I used this 20-odd times a day, religious about using it after steroid cream (to prevent skin drying out further) and after contact with water. I also booked in to see nutritional therapist Gabriela Peacock, to see if my healthy diet was lacking something crucial.
THE OUTCOMEThe cream helped bolster my sore skin and, within a couple of weeks, the redness had gone and flare-ups reduced. My hands started to feel soft again – also due, I believe, to the high doses of omega 3 fish oils I’d started taking daily. Peacock said: ‘When someone suffers with any atopic condition [eczema, hayfever or asthma] they have a defect of a specific converting enzyme, delta-6-desaturase, which means they can’t convert essential fatty acids found in vegetarian sources [pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds and sunflower seeds] into EPA and DHA (omega 3).’
Given that I’d always taken vegetarian-only sources, it was a revelation! ‘Fish oils, on the other hand, have already been prepared for immediate absorption into the body, so if someone suffers with an atopic condition, fish oil supplements, or oily fish, will be the only way to ensure enough essential fatty acids are being absorbed,’ Peacock adds. ‘Omega 3 eases the symptoms of conditions such as eczema.’ She put me on four capsules of MorEPA Platinum, a high-dosage omega 3 fish oil, for the short term to bring down inflammation. Once it cleared, I switched to a dose of one or two capsules daily. If I ate a lot of oily fish, I reduced the supplements accordingly. ‘Omega 3 is important for optimal brain function, but every cell in the body also has a membrane which consists of omega 3, so if you’re not processing enough omega 3, your cells are vulnerable to damage and degradation.’
It’s been a month now and I’ve definitely seen an improvement, not just with the eczema clearing, but in the health and suppleness of my skin in general.