The term ‘Eczema’ is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘to boil’. It refers to an inflammation of the skin which results in the formation of vesicles or pustules. It is the most common and most troublesome of all skin diseases.
Eczema is essentially a constitutional disease, resulting from a toxic condition of the system. The disease covers a wide variety of forms, the majority of them, being of a chronic variety.
The skin is one of the excretory organs of the body through which large quantities of toxic matter are easily eliminated. Because of its large surface, it can effectively eliminate waste matter which other organs of elimination - namely the kidneys, intestines and lungs - do not have the capacity to handle.
Eczema, in its acute form, is indicated by redness and swelling of the skin, the formation of minute vesicles and severe heat. If the vesicles rupture, a raw, moist surface is formed. From this, a colourless discharge oozes, which forms skin crusts when it accumulates. The disease is usually worse at night when the heat of the body is retained by the bed-clothes.
The skin itches at all stages. In the wet stage, it may become infected with bacteria. Healing of the condition is affected by scratching in response to the irritation. Scratching not only spreads infection but also lengthens the stage of drying and scaling.
Allergies play an important part in causing eczema. Some women get eczema on their hands due to an allergy to soap or detergents used to wash clothes or dishes. Some persons develop it around the fingers when they wear rings because of allergy to metals. Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Centre at San Antonio, in a recent study of children with atropic eczema, found that 75 per cent were allergic to a number of foods. The most common triggers for sensitive persons are eggs, peanuts, chocolate, wheat, cow’s milk, chicken and potato.
The real cause of eczema is the failure of the human system to excrete the poisons from the various orifices of the body. Waste matter is excreted from the rectum through stools, from the bladder through urine, from the lungs through breath and from the pores of the skin through sweat. Sometimes the pores of the skin are over- worked as waste matter is not properly eliminated from the other orifices. If the pores are not given the chance to perform their normal function, the sweat will be full of toxic matter and this will give rise to skin diseases like eczema, acne, boils and other eruptions.
Eczema can also be caused by stress. The skin is recognised as the release organ for built-up tension. Senior executives who have often to face labour problems or carry out time-bound assignments fall prey to the skin disorders known as tension or stress eczema. It manifests itself on hands and feet and behind the neck through circular oozing lesions. The condition can also be brought about by a nagging spouse, jealousy, frustration and a host of other emotions. Other causes include faulty metabolism, constipation and nutritional deficiencies. Suppressive drug treatment of former diseases is also a most potent subsidiary causative factor in many cases.
Skin applications to cure eczema may give temporary relief. If the exudation is suppressed, some other more serious disease may develop. The best way to deal with eczema is to cleanse the blood stream and the body.
The treatment should start with a fast on orange juice and water from five to ten days, depending on the severity and duration of the trouble. Juice fasting will help eliminate toxic waste from the body and lead to substantial improvement. In some cases, the condition may worsen in the beginning of the fast due to the increased elimination of waste matter through the skin. But as fasting continues, improvement will manifest itself.
Fruits, raw or steamed vegetables without salt, served with whole meal bread or chappatis may be taken after the juice fast. Coconut oil may be used instead of ghee. After a few days, curd and milk may be added to the diet. Carrot and must melon are particularly beneficial. The patients may thereafter gradually embark upon a well- balanced diet of three basic food groups namely, seeds, nuts and grains, vegetables and fruits. A large proportion of the diet should consist of raw foods. Seeds and beans such as alfalfa, mung and soyabeans can be sprouted. This diet may be supplemented with cold-pressed vegetable oils, honey and yeast. Juice fasting may be repeated at intervals of two months or so, depending on the progress being made. In chronic and more difficult cases of eczema, the patient should fast at least once a week till he is cured.
The patient should avoid tea, coffee, alcoholic beverages and all condiments and highly flavoured dishes. He should also avoid sugar, white-flour products, denatured cereals like polished rice and pearled barley and tinned or bottled foods. He should eat only pure and wholesome foods.
Raw vegetables juices, especially carrot juice in combination with spinach juice, have proved highly beneficial in the treatment of eczema. The proportion considered helpful in this combination are carrot ten ounces and spinach six ounces to make sixteen ounces or one pint of juice.
The patient should get as much fresh air as possible. Restrictive clothing should not be worn. Two or three litres of water should be taken daily and the patient must bathe twice or thrice a day. The skin, with the exception of the parts affected with eczema, should be vigorously rubbed with the palms of the hands before taking a bath.
Coconut oil may be applied to the portion with eczema. It will help the skin to stay soft. Walking or jogging should be resorted to in order to activate the bowels. Sunbathing is also beneficial as it kills the harmful bacteria and should be resorted to early in the morning, in the first light of dawn. A light mudpack applied over the sites of the eczema is also helpful. The pack should be applied for an hour at a time. Repeat twice or thrice a day.
Eczema as a result of dyspepsia, gout or diabetes can be cured only after these diseases have been successfully treated. Children suffering from eczema due to insanitary bottle feeds can get relief if kept on fruit juices or water with a teaspoon of honey added.