Patients with skin conditions are extremely common, making up 15 – 20% of cases in general medical practice. The most common skin conditions include acne, eczema, hives, and psoriasis. Although there are many naturopathic options for treating specific skin conditions, even people without skin concerns can benefit from preventive methods to keep their skin healthy and functioning optimally.
The skin is responsible for approximately 10% of the body’s toxin elimination, operating in tandem with other organs of elimination such as the colon, kidneys, and lungs. Skin cleansing can be a significant part of any detoxification protocol, especially for those with a history of toxic exposure. However prevention is the first step in promoting optimal skin health, so synthetic skin products and cosmetics containing large numbers of chemicals should be avoided and replaced with natural or organic options.
Skin cleansing typically includes dry skin brushing, contrast showers, and dry heat saunas. Skin brushing simulates detoxification by activating the lymphatic system to excrete toxins through the skin. It promotes circulation and removes dead skin cells and debris that clog pores. Skin brushing can be done with a natural bristle skin brush or loofah sponge daily just before a shower or bath. It is recommended that the skin be brushed from the hands and feet towards the chest, avoiding any sensitive areas. Next, the contrast shower’s mix of hot and cold water stimulates blood circulation, increases detoxification, and boosts the immune system. A typical contrast shower is 3 minutes of hot water followed by one minute of cold. Lastly, dry saunas for 10-15 minutes a few times per week can increase circulation and help eliminate chemicals stored in the body’s fat cells. It is important to stay well hydrated during saunas and patients with heart conditions should consult their physician before any beginning any sauna treatment.
A common belief in naturopathic medicine is that the skin and digestive tract are closely connected. It is often seen in naturopathic practice that eliminating gastrointestinal imbalances such as constipation, candida overgrowth, parasitic infection, intestinal inflammation, digestive enzyme insufficiency or stomach acid deficiency assists in clearing chronic skin conditions. Assessing these digestive imbalances can be complex, requiring a detailed naturopathic history and appropriate laboratory testing before commencing treatment. In addition to naturopathic remedies to balance the digestive tract, other remedies that may be effective in treating skin conditions include fish oil, lactobacillus acidophilus (probiotic), vitamin E and zinc.2
Many clinical trials and case reports show a link between some chronic skin conditions and food allergies or intolerances, especially for eczema, hives and psoriasis.2,3 Consult a naturopathic physician if you are interested in any food allergy/intolerance testing or beginning a hypoallergenic diet.
As you can see above, there are many naturopathic options available in the pursuit of healthy skin!
1 Thrash, A. MD. Home Remedies, Thrash Publications, Seale, AB: 1981.
2 HealthNotes Clinical Essentials, Skin Conditions, Portland, OR, 2005.
3 Atherton, DJ. Diet and atopic eczema. Clin. Allergy 1988 18:215-228.