Vitamin E Effective Treatment for Eczema
Children and adults suffering from eczema may find relief by taking supplemental vitamin E, according to a new study in the International Journal of Dermatology (2002;41:146–50).
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes scaling, reddening, and thickening of areas of skin. It may also appear as tiny blisters (called vesicles) that rupture, weep, and crust over. The most troublesome and prevalent symptom of eczema is itching. Eczema is commonly associated a personal or family history of asthma and hayfever. The exact cause is unclear, although some research suggests that it may be due to overstimulation of the immune system. Conventional treatments for eczema may include oral antihistamines, antibiotics, or oral or topical steroids. Although these treatments are helpful in many cases, they may also have adverse side effects. Vitamin E, on the other hand, is essentially free of side effects.
Researchers evaluated 96 people between 10 and 60 years old with moderate eczema. Participants received either 400 IU of natural vitamin E per day or a placebo for eight months. Those who received the vitamin E had significantly greater improvement compared with those who took the placebo. In the vitamin E group, 60% reported "great improvement" or near remission of their eczema, while only 2% of those taking a placebo reported similar improvement. Blood levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), a measure of immune-system stimulation, also decreased in those taking vitamin E, whereas no change in IgE levels was found in the placebo group.
Other studies have shown that food allergy is a major cause of eczema in many individuals. Some doctors recommend an elimination diet, followed by individual food challenges, to identify foods that may be contributing to a person's eczema.
Essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency may also be an underlying cause of eczema. Studies have shown that people with eczema sometimes have decreased levels of EFAs in the blood and that the eczema improves shortly after supplementation with EFAs has begun. Various studies suggest that gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and fish oil are useful in the treatment of eczema. GLA is found in relatively high amounts in borage oil and evening primrose oil. Some physicians recommend taking 1 to 3 grams of either evening primrose oil or fish oil per day, although higher amounts may be necessary to achieve the desired results. Please consult a physician or nutritionist to determine what amount may be right for you.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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