Eczema can be quite difficult to treat. People with this skin condition, also called atopic dermatitis, suffer with rashes, irritation and stubbornly dry patches of skin that may not clear up with moisturizer. One reader found that taking flaxseed oil helped control this chronic condition.
Can Supplements Help Eczema?
Q. Today I read your column about a person with eczema. I have had total body eczema my whole life until I started taking flaxseed oil capsules. They contain linoleic acid which we people with atopic dermatitis need.
My skin has been clear on flaxseed oil. It has had no side effects and it’s cheap.
Essential Fatty Acids for Eczema:
A. Flaxseed oil does contain some linoleic acid, but it is especially rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). These are essential fatty acids that play a crucial role in skin health (Horrobin, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jan. 2000).
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is an inflammatory skin condition that shows up as redness, itching, dryness and thickened sensitive patches. Research in mice that have a similar skin problem shows that fermented flaxseed oil can reduce inflammation and ease the symptoms of redness, swelling and itching (Yang et al, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Jan. 19, 2017).
Evening primrose oil and hempseed oil provide gamma-linolenic acid, which also appears to be helpful (Timoszuk et al, Antioxidants, Aug. 14, 2018; Calloway et al, Journal of Dermatological Treatment, April, 2005).
Can You Prevent Eczema and Allergies?
No one knows why allergies like hay fever and eczema have become more common in many industrialized countries. But some researchers may have an idea. Their research seems to support the “Hygiene Hypothesis.”
Could Early Antibiotics Increase the Likelihood of Allergies and Eczema?
An analysis of 22 studies conducted over five decades sheds some light on recent increases in allergies and eczema. Doctors have been enthusiastically prescribing antibiotics to children for ear infections, acne and other common conditions without understanding that this might change the ecology of the digestive tract. These bacteria influence the development of our immune system.
Children Who Get More Antibiotics Are More Likely to Develop Allergies:
Researchers in the Netherlands linked early use of antibiotics to a greater risk of eczema and hay fever. The more often young children received a prescription for antibiotics the more likely they were to have allergies later in life. They presented these findings in 2016 but have not published them.
Such associations cannot prove causation, but we are learning that disrupting the microbiome of the digestive tract may have unforeseen consequences. Other investigators have found that the microbiome has a significant impact on conditions such as atopic dermatitis (Ficara eta l, Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, Sep. 10, 2018; Slattery et al, Clinical Medicine Insights. Pediatrics, Oct. 9, 2016).
Since pediatricians are now striving to reduce antibiotic prescribing so as not to increase antibiotic resistance in the germs that make kids sick, there may be data in a few years to show whether this tactic also helps lower the probability of eczema or hay fever as the youngster grows up.