Wellbeing: HOPE for managing eczema
There’s nothing good to say about eczema. It’s painful, tricky to treat, incurable - and unsightly. As Jade Jagger, a longtime sufferer, told me recently, ‘I could cope with people seeing it on my hands but when the red itchy patches went all up my legs, they looked so awful I fled to Spain.’ I caught up with Jade when she supported fellow sufferer Camille Knowles at the launch of her book, called The Beauty of Eczema.
That seems an unlikely concept, to say the least. But Camille, now 26 and lovely-looking, says her aim is to get the millions of others with this inflammatory skin condition to stop hating it - and by extension themselves - and see the potential for transforming their lives as she has.
Camille was affected by eczema from the age of six. At 21, it covered her top to toe. When we met, she showed me a photo of her face at its worst. The swollen, pustule-speckled skin with eyes like peepholes was unrecognisable - and deeply distressing. She vowed then to find a way through and make her life’s purpose to share that journey with fellow sufferers. If that sounds a bit Pollyanna, you just have to meet her and experience her warmth (she flings her arms round everyone at the launch), sweetness and determination.
Through all the misery of growing up itching, scratching and feeling ugly, her mum who studied naturopathy never gave up on finding the right treatment - or combination in Camilla and Jade’s cases as with most people (including me).
For Jade, who has been hospitalised at times, homeopathy and traditional Chinese medicine were the most helpful treatments (she emphasized the need to search out reputable TCM practitioners) plus yoga, ‘which took me away from everything and stopped me scratching’. Identifying the triggers is key too. ‘Mohair’, we chorused in unison, shuddering at the thought. Humidity, stress, some foods, and conventional cleaning/washing products, particularly in the bath, could set the itching off too.
Consultant dermatologist Dr. Tim Clayton, who supports the book wholeheartedly and wrote the foreword, emphasised how individual a condition it is, and that what works for one patient may not work for another. Some patients benefit from supplements such as probiotics or Omega-3 essential fatty acids, or avoiding certain foods such as dairy; for others it made no difference. Jade confessed that her homemade olive oil and salt rub was deeply painful at the time but the relief justified going through it.
Now a trained health coach, Camille has devised a programme based on the principles of H-O-P-E, which she explains in her book and online programme. The acronym stands for Home, Optimism, Purpose and Pampering, Eating well, Exercise and Ecotherapy. It’s an engaging and easy read, in which Camille touchingly explains her vulnerabilities and the steps she has taken to overcome them and thus her eczema. She still suffers occasionally, mostly on her hands, she says, but undoubtedly her approach works for her and many others. Importantly, it can do no harm and nothing but good.
Buy a copy of The Beauty of Eczema/£14.99, from Camille’s website, thebeautyofeczema.com, or direct from Amazon.
Summer’s gone and with it the sunshine on our skin that stimulates the production of vitamin D from cholesterol. At least one in five people suffer from low levels of this fat-soluble vitamin (strictly speaking a hormone), which can affect energy, our ability to fight infections, mood and weight. Vitamin D deficiency is also a factor in multiple sclerosis and may be implicated in irritable bowel syndrome.
The long association with vitamin D and bone density is currently being challenged but many scientists are sticking with the old paradigm, which is supported by government bodies. There is also an emerging link between low vitamin D and sepsis, particularly in people with serious illness.
Although vitamin D3 (the sort we need) is found in some foods – oily fish, egg yolks, red meat, fat, liver and some fortified foods – we would have to eat huge amounts to get enough. So the simplest most effective remedy is to take a supplement.
The recommended supplementary amount of vitamin D3 from the age of one to 70 is 400 IU (10mcg) and 320-400 IU for babies. However, many experts believe 1,000 IU or higher is more appropriate for adults. For people with diagnosed vitamin D deficiency, the recommended maintenance therapy (after testing to ensure an optimal level has been reached) is 800 to 2,000 IU daily.
If you’re looking for an evening/night light, do consider the Westlab Himalayan salt lamp/£25. It looks like a charming pink standing stone (well, rock) and emits the cosiest glow – not enough to read or sow by but fine for late night washing face or dishes (or leaving on at night to light the way to the loo). And of course there’s no sleep-disturbing blue light. The lamps are carved individually from pure crystal Himalayan rock salt – your own mini-Stonehenge.