Eczema is a difficult and often disfiguring skin disease, in which the complexion becomes inflamed or irritated. As many as 10 – 20% of children, and 1 – 3% of adults around the world suffer from the condition, which can develop into other allergic disorders, such as asthma and hay fever. A number of medications are used to treat eczema, ranging from corticosteroids and emollients to antihistamines and PUVA therapy, which combines ultraviolet radiation with psoralen, a natural medication. In some cases, patients may even be treated with immunosuppressants, which are otherwise saved for organ transplants and autoimmune disease. However, the success of a center in France is suggesting that the best treatment may simply be spring water.
Located in a town in southern France that bears its name, the Avène Hydrotheraphy Centre is the world’s first hydrotherapy clinic dedicated to dermatology. Open from March to November, the center treated 3000 patients in 2013 over the course of a mere three weeks. Research from the Pierre Fabre Group, which owns the clinic and manufactures products for the Avène line, has shown that the variety of minerals in spring water, such as calcium and silicates, can soothe skin with anti-bacterial and ant-irritating qualities. Accordingly, the center uses Jacuzzi-style baths, fine mists, high-pressure showers, scalp showers and massages to treat a number of skin diseases, including atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, burns and cancer.
Recently, three children from South Africa were among the latest to test the Avène center’s treatments: Alisha Naidu, 12, Matthew Ketcher, 7, and Nirvana Barrageiro, 8. All of the children have severe eczema and were recommended for treatment by their dermatologists after years of different, ineffective approaches. After three weeks of treatments, the therapy was found to be extremely effective: Alisha, for example, saw her skin improve between 44% and 62%, as her active lesions disappeared, her itching reduced and her complexion grew softer.
The Avène line, made from thermal spring water, was recently made available in South Africa, meaning that many more people could benefit from the therapy. However, for those who don’t have the option of soaking in a thermal bath in France, there are other methods of managing this difficult disease. The first, naturally, is talking to a dermatologist and discussing the various benefits and side effects of different treatments. But diet can also have a huge impact on eczema symptoms: typically, this means eating healthy foods to decrease inflammation and promote skin repair.
Typically, this begins with vegetables like green onions and mung bean sprouts, which are histamine-lowering, anti-inflammatory and alkalizing. Potatoes, buckwheat and rice milk can also have a positive impact for these reasons, in addition to the presence of fiber, Vitamin C and potassium. Bananas are also high in potassium and Vitamin C, making them a healthy choice for anti-inflammation. Eczema sufferers are also advised to try chicken or beef broth and cold-water fish, which contain the amino acid glycine and omega-3 fatty acids, and are known to have a healing effect on skin. To test these foods, patients are advised to stop eating these products for 14 days and reintroduce them one at a time. If any side effects are noted, the food that has been added is not safe and should be stopped immediately. If a healthy diet has no effect on the skin condition, patients should speak to their doctors about alternative methods, like the spring water therapy mentioned above.