Women with darker skin eczema depicting is eczema an autoimmune disease by The Healthy RD

Is Eczema an Autoimmune Disease? Natural Eczema Treatment

Is eczema autoimmune? Are many skin conditions autoimmune? I sought to find out the answers because it is an extremely stubborn and uncomfortable condition. I know first-hand.

Skin conditions can be very difficult to identify and treat.  Why?  The skin is our first line of defense from the rest of the world and is exposed to thousands of substances a day.  These substances come from both from the inside of the body and out. One rash can look almost identical to another kind as well!

The skin is also like an immune mirror; it reflects our diet, our digestive health, and more. One important note about eczema; our bodies are all very different, so finding your best individualized plan may take some time.  I find that my skin doesn’t like repeated applications of any substance, so I alternate between the following healthy products that I use topically.  A diet with a variety of foods is also important too.  I will explain a lot more as we go.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is also known as dermatitis.  The most common type is atopic dermatitis.  For a very long time, there was no known cause. Luckily, now experts agree that eczema is autoimmune, just like many other chronic illnesses.  Why is this important?  Because we know a lot about autoimmune conditions now and ways to get to the root of these conditions! What other proof do we have to determine if eczema is an autoimmune disease? Eczema autoimmune ties are strong.

  • Auto antibodies are found in patients with atopic eczema. Auto antibodies are the hallmark identifier of autoimmune conditions. These are proteins that attack “self” or your own tissues.
  • Researchers also recently found that atopic dermatitis was present in 18 of 32 autoimmune disorders examined in adults and 13 of 24 examined in children. These autoimmune disorders included those of the skin, endocrine, gastrointestinal, blood, and musculoskeletal systems.

Is eczema autoimmune? This research adds to the growing body of evidence that many autoimmune disorders, even skin conditions, are related. This is not bad news, but good news because that means that many of the same healthy lifestyle habits can work for all of the conditions.

Types of Eczema

According to the National Eczema Association, there are 6 types of eczema.  These include:

  1. Atopic dermatitis
  2. Contact dermatitis
  3. Dyshidrotic eczema
  4. Nummular eczema, also known as discoid eczema
  5. Seborrheic dermatitis
  6. Stasis dermatitis

I have nummular eczema, contact dermatitis, and atopic dermatitis. It is not uncommon to have one or more types of eczema because allergic types, such as atopic, are more likely to also develop dyshidrotic or nummular eczema. The immune system can get heightened due to eczema, and can increase sensitivities to just about anything. In other words you have an overactive immune system to certain substances.

  • Stasis dermatitis is more likely related to circulatory conditions, such as peripheral artery disease, diabetes, and varicose veins [R].
  • Seborrheic dermatitis is not very well understood, but often has colonization of  a yeast called Malassezia on the skin [R]
  • Dyshidrotic eczema often occurs on the hands and feet.  It is often very painful and can blister, according to WebMD [R].
  • Nummular eczema is an allergic type of eczema that is discoid, or shaped like a coin.  It often shows up on the legs, feet, and top of the hand [R].
  • Contact dermatitis can be caused by a skin irritant or allergen that is due to exposure of chemicals, or metals like nickel [R]. Chemicals can cause a reaction on anyone’s skin, but is more likely for people who have autoimmune tendencies.
  • Atopic dermatitis is the most researched type of eczema and is related to allergic responses.  It can appear anywhere on the body [R]. The Honest Company

Is Eczema Autoimmune Due to Genes?

Autoimmune disorders are genetic, but genes don’t always determine fate. Just like other autoimmune disorders, autoimmune disease eczema symptoms can be partly or completely managed by protecting the skin and reducing inflammation in our body.  How? Our foods and nutrients can more or less “mute” these really awful genes.

  • Our skin and digestive exposures also can affect eczema’s fate in your body. One good example of a nutrient that can help mute autoimmune diseases is vitamin D3.
  • Skin conditions, including psoriasis and vitiligo, are helped greatly with vitamin D3.  Incidentally, these are also all autoimmune skin conditions. Other autoimmune skin conditions include:
    • lupus
    • scleroderma
    • dermatomyositis
    • bullous pemphigoid
    • lichen planus
    • pemphigus

Celiac disease, another autoimmune disease, has a genetic component that is also linked to eczema.  Gluten sensitivity and other food sensitivities are triggers for skin conditions as well. Eczema continues to increase in the number of people who have it. This is a sure sign that genes are only a small part of what is going on; our lifestyles play a big role in why we may end up with symptoms.

Symptoms of Eczema

Symptoms of eczema can vary widely based on the type of eczema.  There is one common theme among them all: inflammation. Eczema can create many symptoms, including:

  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Redness and inflamed skin
  • Darkened patches
  • Itching
  • Cracks
  • Oozing
  • Periods of improvement followed by worsening in a somewhat cyclical pattern.

For me, the pattern of eczema is always the same.  A long winter season brings on the itching!  By the end of winter, my skin is very itchy and challenging to deal with.  By early summer, my eczema is basically gone. Other people see a big flare up with menstrual periods or shifts in diet.

Is Eczema Autoimmune Due to Inflammation?

Eczema is a symptom that is caused by the breakdown of skin barrier, resulting in inflammation and discomfort.  Here is your first clue to answer the question “is eczema an autoimmune disease?” All autoimmune diseases are inflammatory. The following causes can all be happening to make the skin weaker:

  • The outer layer of skin protects from losing moisture.  In eczema, the skin loses too much moisture. Eczema patients can have defects of both the outer layer barrier and the antimicrobial barrier of the outer layer of the skin.
  • Autoimmune genetic defects can reduce the fat amount of the skin, allowing more moisture loss. Patients with the FLG gene (fillagrin) are 3 times more likely to get eczema than those who do not have this gene.

Is Eczema Autoimmune Due to Environment and Diet?

  • Environmental factors, such as soaps and drying skin products, and chemical cleaners, further dry out the skin.  This can cause inflammation and irritation in the outer layer of skin.
  • Cathelicidin deficiency in the skin is known to be associated with atopic dermatitis.  Cathelicidin is an antimicrobial is made by vitamin D! Vitamin D deficiency is a risk factor for eczema.
  • Inflammatory foods can further worsen the skin’s health and cause drying.
  • Hormone shifts can aggravate symptoms, especially in women.
  • Poor circulation makes it challenging for the body to deliver nutrients to the skin.

As you can see, eczema has a lot of potential avenues for treatment as well.  If we care for the inside of our bodies as well as the outside, we are well on our way to healing. There are many triggers that we CAN control.

What Lifestyle Factors Trigger Eczema

Here are some questions you should ask yourself before deciding what the best treatment options are. There are things that have helped me along the way and I’m so grateful to have identified these triggers so that I can change my lifestyle for the better.

  • Does stress seem to make it worse?
  • Is it better if I am somewhere sunny and warm?
  • Does dry air make it worse?
  • How is my diet? Does my food intake seem to affect it?
  • How is my digestion? Do I have bloating, pain, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel?
  • Do my family members have itchy skin or dermatitis too?
  • Was I exposed to a lot of antibiotics as a child?
  • Do I have poor circulation?

For me, I can answer yes to all of these questions! Because of this, I need to use several approaches for treatment, not just one. Autoimmune diseases are hard to diagnose and treat, no doubt. Yet, many practitioners largely ignore the digestive tract, which is considered to be at the root of many of the triggers of these debilitating diseases.

The list of autoimmune diseases is at least 80 in total and continues to grow. Many autoimmune diseases present with similar symptoms and yet may never get a diagnosis that is certain.

Medical history, as well as life-event history and everyday habits,  are critical to determining the biggest triggers for eczema. You can find out about how to follow an autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet and AIP recipes here.  AIP eczema treatment can be very successful if using an individualized approach.

Treatment for Eczema

Can you reverse autoimmune diseases like eczema? Eczema may seem daunting to treat, but once your dermatologist or doctor determines that you have a type of eczema, you can be on your way to healing.  Please be patient. You may need to apply numerous approaches at once to treat this challenging disorder.

The type of eczema you have may respond differently to medications.  For example, seborrheic dermatitis patients often respond to antifungal medications while atopic dermatitis patients may respond to anti-inflammatory medicines. A person with stasis dermatitis may benefit from things like compression and plant extracts that support circulation, such as pycnogenol.

Hint: steroid creams are not the only answer for eczema! Regardless of the type of eczema you have, a good natural treatment plan should include a healthy diet, stress management, and addressing sleep issues. This will improve the quality of your skin, your sleep, your stress, AND your circulation. {Please note that this post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.}

Functional Nutrition for Eczema

Is eczema autoimmune?  We have more proof of this when we think about how diet can cause the immune system to over-react.

Diet can be a more challenging aspect for many people because there can be many factors at play.  A consult with a functional medicine practitioner, including a functional nutritionist like me can help you sort this out. Common triggers can be dairy, gluten, eggs, or soy. Your body also may not be making enough enzymes.

Consider this: your medicines may actually be making your digestion worse! You will be assisted with ways to improve all aspects of your health by getting to the root causes of your digestive issues.

You may not even be aware you have digestion issues until the issues are resolved.  This is because most people don’t really know what healthy digestion is.  It’s not like people talk about their bowel movements with their doctors!  It is often not discussed at all, but it needs to be. You may want to also consider adding more foods that help the body detoxify, such as broccoli sprouts.

Minimize Sugar and Processed foods

These foods are inflammatory and will ramp up inflammation everywhere, including your skin. Be aware of how much sugar is in your cereals, beverages, entrees and more.  Watch out for the daily flavored lattes too!

Processed foods also throw off hormones that help protect our body as well. The insulin surges from these foods are highly inflammatory!

Manage your Stress

Stress is a big challenge for many.  We have increasing pressures on our time and our mental energy can’t always keep up. Stress increases inflammation in the body and ramps up an imbalance of hormones in the body. Take time for yourself and find ways that you can really relax at least once a day. Find ways to cope.

Two of my favorite stress-relievers are lavender and self-hypnosis, a deeper, more effective, form of meditation than most [R]. Diffuse a couple of drops of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils.  Many clinical trials show that essential oils are effective at reducing the stress response in the body.  You can find those oils here.

Heal your Digestive Tract

Most inflammation in the body starts in the digestive tract.  Why?  Our digestive tract is home to most of our immune system, which can send danger signals (inflammation) to the rest of the body when our digestion is out of balance.

It should become clear that eczema is an autoimmune disease when you  feel so much better using this approach! The 4 functional medicine approaches to healing the digestive tract include:


Remove allergens, intolerances, and processed foods. These foods can make the inflammation of autoimmune diseases worse. At this point, some food sensitivity testing is available but isn’t 100% reliable. The only way to know if you are sensitive to food for sure is a 3-4 week complete elimination of that food.

Foods that trigger anxiety should also be minimized or removed.  For example, coffee and eczema may not go well together, but it is best to cut back gradually to avoid caffeine withdrawal. Common food triggers can include:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Legumes

Before embarking on an elimination diet, have a plan and discuss how to best do this type of meal plan with a registered dietitian first.


You may benefit from replacing digestive enzymes and replace a normal pH with healthy foods and apple cider vinegar.  Lack of digestive enzymes is common due to chronic inflammation. I find many clients benefit from simply adding in these couple of tricks. Terrazymes is a good choice for enzyme supplements.

Replace nutrients in your diet that you need. This can involve micronutrient testing and careful diet assessment by a functional nutrition professional.

Test for Nutrition Deficiencies

Your skin is the biggest organ and it needs a lot of nutrients.  The only way to know for sure if you are low in nutrients is to get tested. Adequate nutrients can mean a stronger skin barrier.

Common nutrients that are low include magnesium, choline, vitamin D, vitamin A, zinc, and omega 3 fats. After testing, a great whole food supplement for you may be the Lifelong Vitality Pack.


Repair the digestive tract with nutrient supplementation described below. Certain plant compounds like nettles, marshmallow root, slippery elm, ginger, and cinnamon can be really helpful. I found this great stomach powder at a local herb shop called Meadowsweet Herbs.

All you need is half teaspoon in water twice a day. The combination may sound strange, but it is actually a very pleasant tasting drink. You can also get marshmallow root on Amazon here.


Another point that helps answer the question “is eczema autoimmune?”  Leaky gut creates autoimmune symptoms in the body.  This may be alleviated by gut healing supplements.

L-glutamine is an amino acid that is an important fuel source for digestive cells. More glutamine may be required by the body in the following situations: stress, food allergies, alcohol, antibiotics use, digestive disorders, and malnutrition.  Supplemental glutamine reduces intestinal permeability or leaky gut.

L-Glutamine may help heal the digestive barrier for people with autoimmune issues. No direct research has been looked at to determine if glutamine is effective for eczema. However, logic suggests it may help.  Why? Glutamine is the amino acid in the highest amount in the body.

We are unable to make glutamine during stressful conditions like trauma and infection. Glutamine is fuel for intestinal cells, immune cells, and helps our body maintain balance in protein and blood sugar. You can find high-quality L-glutamine by Thorne here.

For Stasis Dermatitis


Stasis dermatitis is daunting in its own way.  Circulation can be challenging to treat.  A substance that has shown benefit for circulation is called pycnogenol, or pine bark extract.

  • Pycnogenol is a type of antioxidant that has been shown in clinical research to improve circulation and also help stabilize collagen and reduce deep veinous thrombosis [R]. It also may improve vein tone [R].
  • Pine bark extract also reduced venous stasis ulcers, pain, and edema, in clinical research [R] [R]. Doses of up to 450 mg per day are given orally with minimal to no side effects. You can find pycnogenol here or pine bark extract here.

Pine bark extract tends to be cheaper because it isn’t patented. I personally like both equally.  Always check with your doctor before starting pine bark extract or pycnogenol.

Horse chestnut

Horse chestnut is another option for venous insufficiency, and a review of over 1083 patients showed benefit [R]. According to WebMD, horse chestnut is likely effective for this condition.

Do NOT eat raw horse chestnut.  Use only supplemental preparations and always check with your doctor before using. You can find horse Vitanica chestnut here. The most cost effective way is to get horse chestnut in bulk from Bulk Supplements here.

For Everyone

Fish Oil

Early research suggests that fish oil is helpful to reduce inflammation and eczema symptoms [R]. Fish oil is a major source of anti-inflammatory fats called omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Most people fall short in omega-3’s so it is a reasonable addition to any healthy lifestyle. Natural eczema treatment should always include fish and high omega 3’s in the diet to help reduce inflammation.
  • Use caution if you have allergy or sensitivity to fish. A fish oil supplement that I like is Thorne Research – Super EPA Pro. It is a concentrated omega-3 supplement and contains 650 mg of EPA and 100 mg DHA per capsule. You can find it here.
  • xEO Mega is another great fish oil that has research to back its effectiveness for inflammation compounds. You can find it here.
  • If you are sensitive or allergic to fish, a vegetarian omega 3 that is good is this one.

Drink Herbal Infusions or Herbal Teas

Many herbal teas can be healing and help dampen down inflammation in the body.  They also help to reduce cortisol and stress in the body. A tea I like is called Cool the Palette by Dragon Herbal Teas. It has calendula flower, catnip flower, hibiscus flower, lemon balm, marshmallow leaf, nettle leaf, peppermint leaf, and plantain leaf.

Calendula flower is very healing. In a rigorous clinical trial, calendula was able to reduce acute dermatitis caused by radiation treatment for breast cancer. You can find calendula oil here.

Another tea that I love is called Evening in Missoula tea.  It tastes amazing and contains healing herbs, including chamomile, rosehips, lemongrass, papaya leaf, peppermint, spearmint, blackberry leaf, raspberry leaf, red clover, alfalfa, star anise, wild cherry bark, lemon peel, wintergreen, natural & artificial flavor, lavender, stevia leaf. The great part about herbal teas is that you can drink them all day long and reap the benefits. You can find Evening in Missoula tea here.

For Atopic Dermatitis and Gut Repair

When we explore the question “is eczema autoimmune”, we can explore supplements that dampen down inflammation because this is always at the root of skin conditions.  These often coincidentally help with gut repair.


Quercetin is an antioxidant found in foods like apples and onions.  This powerful antioxidant is gaining popularity as a supplement because it works as a natural antihistamine in the body [R].

  • Atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis are inflammatory conditions that are related to food and environmental allergies.  The body’s allergic response is to release a lot of histamine into the body.
  • Quercetin in early research reduces atopic dermatitis by reducing an inflammatory compound called IL6 [R]. By reducing antibodies like IgE and antigen response, such as TH2, quercetin may be very helpful in eczema treatment [R].
  • If you have eczema, quercetin, taken in combination with vitamin C, may be very helpful for you. It is my go-to antihistamine. It doesn’t have any of the negative side effects of OTC antihistamines either.  There are no known side effects at all.

Here is the dosing regimen I use.  It is different than medicine dosing.  Start big and work your way down. Why?  You want to stabilize the mast cell histamine release and IgE response. Taking 1 gram every 2 hours is not too much if you have acute inflammation. That translates to 1 teaspoon every 2 hours.  Mix with 1/4 teaspoon vitamin C powder each time.  Add both to a cup of water in a shaker cup, shake, and drink.

Do this for a couple of days until your dermatitis symptoms start to subside. Continue to take daily, but you can decrease to twice daily.   *Do not try this if you are on warfarin. Here are the quercetin and vitamin C powders I like.


Is eczema autoimmune?  When we look at the microbiome, it appears that way.  For example, people with atopic dermatitis, or allergic eczema, have less diversity of bacteria in their gut [R]. Adding fermented foods help restore healthy bacteria.  Sometimes additional probiotics may be beneficial too.

Research in the area of eczema and probiotics are very promising. Make sure to add lots of vegetables, seeds, and fruits to provide prebiotics too.

Prebiotics support gut healing and a healthy microbiome and are great as part of natural eczema treatment.

The most commonly studied supplemental probiotic strains for eczema are Lactobacillus strains.  In a review study of almost 1600 patients, probiotics worked better than placebo for eczema symptoms.

Prebiotic foods are also helpful, such as kelp.  Read about Kelp Benefits for Skin.

Add Fermented Foods

For me, the biggest turning point in my eczema happened when I started eating copious amounts of fermented foods.  These foods are teeming with healthy bacteria! Personally, Eczema flare-ups don’t stand a chance when the gut balance is restored. I’ve been known to eat up to about a half-pound of sauerkraut in 24 hours if my eczema is acting up.

  • Be mindful that this does load you up on sodium.  To help get rid of excess sodium, make sure to exercise and break a sweat. Do not do this if your doctor prescribes a low sodium diet for you.
  • Fermented foods are rich in probiotics and this is good news for eczema.  Why? Clinical studies are showing some impressive benefits of probiotics for eczema.  In a clinical study, infants given probiotics were almost 3 times less likely to develop eczema than infants who did not get probiotics  [R].

Remember, as in anything, functional nutrition is an individualized approach. Start slow, 1 tablespoon per day and work your way up. If you notice any side effects, do not continue.  Most importantly, listen to your body.  No two people are the same, so each autoimmune disease is different too.

Here is a fermented foods list for you. Choose dairy free if you are sensitive to dairy.

Adding fermented foods help restore healthy bacteria.  Sometimes additional probiotics are beneficial too. Research in the area of eczema and probiotics are very promising.

Make sure to add lots of vegetables to provide prebiotics too. The most commonly studied supplemental probiotic strains for eczema are Lactobacillus strains.

In a review study of almost 1600 patients, probiotics worked better than placebo for eczema symptoms. Personally, I find adding in copious fermented foods is very helpful at managing flare ups of eczema.  I’ve been known to eat about a pound of sauerkraut in 24 hours.  Be mindful that this does load you up on sodium.  To help get rid of excess sodium, make sure to exercise and break a sweat.

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kimchi
  • Fermented pickles
  • Kombucha
  • Puerh tea

  • Kvass
  • Natto great probiotic, but caution with warfarin
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Injera bread

  • Aged cheeses
  • Buttermilk
  • Sour cream
  • Cultured cottage cheese
  • Fish sauces

Best Probiotics for Eczema

I fully believe that eating fermented foods is the best way to get probiotics.  However, if the idea makes you squeamish, here are some good brands of probiotics that contain lactobacillus rhamnosis, the best researched strain of probiotic for eczema. Keep in mind, the bigger the diversity of the gut, the better.

When choosing a probiotic, make sure to find those with a bigger diversity of bacteria strains.  A general rule of thumb: get at least 10 strains of bacteria.

Natural ways to treat eczema by The Healthy RD

Lock in Moisture

Eczema reactions occur largely due to loss of moisture from the skin.  You need to find ways to lock the moisture back in! Some types of moisturizers work well and others only minimally help. Coconut oil is not a good option. Many experts actually see that coconut oil can make eczema symptoms worse. Research is limited, but some studies show that emollients are helpful, including:

You will want a moisturizer that is deeply penetrating and nourishing to provide the most relief. Personally, I don’t like the idea of petroleum on my skin so I sought out other emollients [R]. These can include:

Zinc for Eczema

Zinc has long been used in creams to ease rashes, including diaper rash and dermatitis.  For eczema treatment, use of zinc plus a steroid called clobetasol worked better than clobetasol alone for treatment of eczema and reduced recurrence better than drug treatment alone.

Zinc is important for proper immune response in the body and helps dampen down inflammation as well. Additionally, zinc deficiency and atopic dermatitis share very similar symptoms.

Zinc is a great tool to have around as eczema natural treatment option. Personally, I find zinc creams very soothing and notice they do help keep down the itch and inflammation alone. They work great as an ear eczema natural treatment too.

Buy Zinc Cream

Zinc cream can be found here.  Natural sunscreen with no chemical additives use zinc oxide for sun protection and also can be healing.  Zinc for eczema baby creams are available as well, but aren’t just for babies.

Baby Bum is a brand I like and you can find it here. Keep in mind, zinc creams and sunscreens will be thick and make your skin white-ish color.  It really is worth it.

Humectants for Eczema

Humectant definition: substances that draw moisture from the air to the skin. The two most common types of natural humectants for eczema are glycerin, sometimes spelled glycerine, and urea.

Hygroscopic is another term used for substances that pull water towards it.  Honey moisturizes the skin in this way as well.

Glycerin Reduces Atopic Eczema Symptoms

Glycerin is a humectant that draws water in from the air, or hygroscopic. This is important for eczema sufferers because the cornerstone of the issue is lack of moisture. It is also nontoxic and hypoallergenic.

In a rigorous, small trial, a 20% topical glycerin applied twice daily was better than its carrier placebo group for improving the stratum corneum hydration and epidermal barrier function [R].

Another clinical study found that a cream with 20% glycerine helped with skin dryness in atopic dermatitis better than carrier cream.  It worked equally as well as urea for atopic symptoms, such as itchy skin [R].

How to Use Glycerine for Eczema

Glycerine is best used on skin that isn’t at open wound stage. You can use it on your skin to hold in moisture, but it may cause skin irritation on skin that is oozing or bleeding. It is easy to use glycerine because it is water-soluble; you can simply add it to a moisturizer you like or dilute in water in the following recipe:

Moisturizing Glycerine Spray

Add ingredients to the bottle and spray wherever you need more moisture on your skin. I use glass only because I don’t want the hormone-disrupting chemicals of plastic bottles.

Buy Glycerin Cream

A brand I like is Aura Cacia Skin Care Oil – Organic Vegetable Glycerin Oil.  It is important to get humectant products that are organic. Why? They are sustainably harvested from vegetables and is 100% pure botanical ingredients.

You can find Aura Cacia Organic Vegetable Glycerin Oil here. I also like Organic Vegetable Glycerin by Sky Organics.  It is USDA Organic, Kosher, Non-GMO, Cold-pressed and Chemical-Free.  You can find it here.

Urea Reduces Atopic Eczema Symptoms

Another humectant moisturizer is called urea. While the term urea may make people squeamish, it is not derived from the urine. As above, urea improved eczema dryness as much as glycerine and was well tolerated in a clinical study [R]. Urea cream at 10% reduces itching symptoms as well [R]. Urea has been used extensively for other dermatology concerns, including:

  • ichthyosis and onychomycosis
  • xerosis
  • contact dermatitis
  • radiation-induced dermatitis
  • psoriasis
  • seborrheic dermatitis
  • tinea pedis
  • keratosis
  • pruritus
  • dystrophic nails

Urea also works to increase the effectiveness of other creams and medications. Irritation can occur, but usually happens at higher concentrations.  Urea is also nontoxic. A related substance is known as arginine hydrochloride at 2.5%. It also had good effects on skin dryness in atopic eczema and aging skin in an open-label study [R].

Buy Urea Cream

A good urea cream that is 10% urea is called Atrac-Tain Superior Moisturizing Cream and you can find it here.

For a more concentrated, 20% urea cream, PurSources Urea 20% Healing Cream is effective and you can find it here.

I was not able to find a cream that specifies the arginine HCL concentrations; most of the creams available on the market for arginine are used for sexual enhancement purposes.  My advice would be to try arginine hydrochloride for skin issues if the urea doesn’t work for you.

Manuka Honey Eczema Benefits

Honey is another type of humectant that may be helpful for atopic eczema symptoms. A small clinical study had patients apply manuka honey on one side of the body with eczema for 14 days.  The side that was treated with manuka honey had clinical improvements in eczema symptoms compared to the side that did not receive the honey [R]. Honey has antimicrobial activity against harmful bacteria in early research.  It may help fight the following skin infecting microbes [R]:

  • MRSA
  • E. coli
  • Streptococcus pyogenes
  • Ringworm and other dermatophytes
  • varicella zoster virus

Buy Manuka Honey

A kind of manuka honey I like is Wedderspoon Raw Premium Manuka Honey KFactor and you can find it here. Another good kind of manuka honey called Manuka Doctor Bio Active Honey and you can find it here.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Eczema

Using apple cider vinegar in recipes can be a good way to get natural probiotic into the diet if unfiltered and unprocessed vinegar is used.  In fact, the probiotics in apple cider vinegar are numerous and complex, making it a great addition to any meal [R]. Apple cider vinegar is also used by many people to help with digestion and heartburn too.

Some websites suggest apple cider vinegar for eczema.  Not much research is available to suggest that apple cider vinegar baths work. A small mouse study suggests that vinegar cream or other acid creams reduced the development of atopic dermatitis [R].

My experience with apple cider vinegar baths, as recommended by some blogs, was quite negative; it made me itch and more inflamed!  We are all unique, but personally,my sensitive skin did not like this treatment.

Buy Apple Cider Vinegar Capsules

You can get apple cider vinegar capsules too.  A good one is Zeal Natural 100% Natural Raw Apple Cider Vinegar Pills. You can find it  here.

Desert Rain Salve

I needed help and I needed it now.  I reached out to Meadowsweet Herbs Missoula, Montana a local shop that has helped me in numerous ways throughout my life.  They make the best, most moisturizing salve I have ever found called Desert Rain Salve.

Apply it at least twice daily to help lock in the moisture in your skin. Lack of moisture in the skin is a major contributor to the skin breakdown of eczema! It has olive oil, plantain leaf, calendula flower, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil, neem oil, beeswax, Bulgarian lavender, German chamomile, frankincense, helichrysum, benzoin gum, and vitamin E. I recommend using this healing salve alternating nights with emu oil. Do not use this on an oozing or bleeding eczema sore.

Emu Oil Eczema Benefits

I personally really love emu oil for eczema on my skin along with the salve.  Although not as strong as steroids, it is clinically proven to work for eczema.

With NO side effects,  using emu oil for eczema is an obvious choice.  Bonus:  emu oil worked better than steroids for redness of eczema in a clinical study.

Emu oil also deeply penetrates the skin, so it works better than many emollients [R]. It also likely reduces inflammation on the skin when applied topically [R]. This is because it has a beneficial ratio of omega-3 fatty acids. Emu oil also reduces:

  • itching
  • scales
  • seborrheic dermatitis symptoms

How to Apply Emu Oil

Apply emu oil frequently throughout the day to keep the skin moisturized.  For me, applying every 2 hours or so is extra beneficial and brings down the discomfort and redness very quickly. I get mine from Montana Emu Ranch because it is GMP certified and NPA certified, which is a rigorous certification process for natural products. You can find it here.

A note about topical essential oils.

Essential oils can be healing, but caution should be used when using it on eczema spots on the body.  Avoid oils that dry or irritate this very sensitive skin condition. I find that essential oils need to be very pure but dilute.

Never place essential oils on oozing or open skin. While essential oils can have healing properties, you can cause increased sensitization when not using them very carefully. You can use those oils and I encourage using those oils on less sensitive parts of the body, such as the bottom of the feet.

Want to find essential oil classes nearby in Missoula?  Reach out to me. Soothing and essential oils shown to help heal include lavender, frankincense, chamomile, and helichrysum. Even then, make sure to dilute to 0.5% and apply with a great protective salve and dilute.  People who have excema can develop sensitivities very easily.

Get Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade oils here. Avoid melaleuca topically on nummular eczema.  Do not use any oil that has strong antimicrobial effects, such as cinnamon, oregano, or thyme on this skin condition.

Turn on the Humidifier

Increase the humidity in your home if you have dry air. I recommend an evaporation type of air humidifier because the atomizing ones can leave a weird film all over your home. I have had an evaporative humidifier by Aircare and it has lasted me many years.

You can find it here.

Add some essential oils to keep the water clean, prevent mold, and to also add some relaxing aromatic compounds into the air. I love using eucalyptus, melaleuca, or rosemary. Be careful with essential oils.

Only use Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade.  You don’t want to be adding MORE chemicals into the air by using cheap, low-quality oils. I also use a humidifier daily to get more moisture in the air and to get some great essential oils in the air for stress relief.

Do NOT use chemical anti-bacterial either.  These chemical cleaners are hard on your lungs and your skin. Also, make sure you aren’t sensitive to any of the oils you diffuse.

Find Some Sun

Get some sun if at all possible.  This winter, this was futile; there is no sun in our cold climate! Vitamin D3 supplements help me, but it isn’t quite enough. Real UVB exposure is the answer in a lot of ways.

Unfortunately, in the north, the sun rays are predominantly UVA until mid-summer and they quickly dissipate by September. Consider a UVB lamp.

Watch out for tanning beds; they often give off the wrong type of UV! They often only have UVA rays, which serve only to tan, but harm skin tissue.

When to Use a UVB Light

If you live in a very cold, northern climate, a UVB lamp may be helpful.

  • UVB LIGHT- Uses UVB fluorescent bulbs that emit a proper balance of UVB rays onto your skin, naturally generate the benefits of the sun’s rays.  
  • Full spectrum lamps and bulbs aren’t the right kind of light for getting vitamin D
  • You can find a UVB Sunlamp here.

Make sure the lamp is UVB.  You will not get vitamin D benefits from a full spectrum or general “mood” light. As with anything, make sure you are moderate in your sun or UVB lamp exposure. If you buy a UVB lamp, make sure to follow package directions to avoid skin damage and burning. For sun exposure, mid-day sun gives the most vitamin D-rich rays.

A Note about Sunscreens

Sunscreens DO block your skin’s ability to make vitamin D3 in the skin.  Further, recent research in the Journal of the American Medical Association is demonstrating that many chemical sunscreens aren’t safe. One study showed that the level of sunscreen chemical that enters the bloodstream is 7 times greater than the amount of nicotine you might have in your blood after smoking a cigarette! Be mindful of your limits in the sun, avoid sunburns. You can find a nontoxic sunscreen brand that contains all-natural ingredients here.  

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Take Vitamin D3

Don’t assume that 1000 IU of vitamin D3 per day is enough. You need to be informed about blood levels and treat accordingly. A review of 21 studies concluded that supplementing vitamin D3 improved symptoms of eczema Children’s vitamin D deficiency in this study was related to the severity of their eczema symptoms as well. This also supports that eczema autoimmune connections are strong because of genes related to vitamin D3 and autoimmune disorders.

The clinical trials supplementing vitamin D3 were small but point to the fact that vitamin D3 can be a useful therapeutic option for people with eczema.

Doses used for children were 1000 IU per day and 4000 IU per day for children.  Adults usually require more.

I find it is important to tailor your dose to your blood levels. Around 75% of the population runs low, or insufficient in vitamin D3. A great resource for more information about vitamin D3 is Grassroots Health.

How Does vitamin D3 Improve Eczema?

By now, most healthcare providers are aware that vitamin D is important for health. Autoimmune conditions are receiving special focus in the research in regards to their benefits.  Eczema is no exception. Vitamin D functions as a hormone in the body and has over a thousand functions.  Some of the functions that vitamin D has to help the skin include:

  • Vitamin D has been shown to increase the amount of platelet-derived growth factor, which promotes wound healing
  • Increases TNFα promoting keratinocyte differentiation
  • Decreased inflammation compounds called IL-1α, IL2, IL-6
  • Vitamin D strengthens the permeability barrier in the epidermis
  • Helps promote immune tolerance. How? By increasing suppressor T cells; these are helpful in ALL forms of autoimmune disorders.
  • Increases protective antimicrobial content of the skin. This antimicrobial compound is called cathelicidin.


Avoid Drying Products on Your Skin

Some websites recommend using bleach on the skin for eczema.  For someone with very sensitive skin, as are most people with eczema, this really sounds painful.   Some people also try hydrogen peroxide eczema treatments. I have tried many things, but I will never try either of those.

I generally avoid bleach due to its harmful effects on lung health and skin health.  Both bleach and peroxide are very drying, so they may make eczema worse. Skin products that can break down your skin:

  • Harsh soaps
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Chemical cleaners
  • Scented laundry detergents and fabric softeners

Additionally, wear fabric that isn’t irritating to your skin, ideally cotton, and preferably wear loose-fitting clothes.

Eczema graphic showing the skin layers by The Healthy RD
Layers of skin, showing the breakdown of the outer layer in eczema


Steroids can be a tool to help with eczema.  However, be really cautious with steroids; they can cause thinning of the skin and ultimately the breakdown of skin if used incorrectly. They do reduce inflammation, but even topical steroids can have some negative systemic effects on the brain, mood, bone health, and more.

They can even cause pain in some people. Rebound effect can also happen from steroids, where inflammation returns worse than originally present.  This often happens for people who have been on topical steroids for a longer period of time, but can also occur with short-term use, in my experience.

When we ask the question, is eczema autoimmune, we need to understand that steroids only mask systems.  They do not get to the root cause of the autoimmune disorder for effective management.

OTC Options

Some creams that are not technically “natural” can help you get through some of the worst itching.  Cerave Moisturizing Cream for Itch Relief really does reduce the itching and works instantly.

Research demonstrates that Cerave Itch Relief is effective for reducing eczema itching.   The label claims that it provides relief for 100% of people. It contains ceramides and pramoxine hydrochloride, a numbing medicine. Sometimes, you need something that works immediately, and this delivers.  You can find it here:


Eczema is an autoimmune disorder that can be improved by healing the digestive tract, getting some sunshine, taking some vitamin D3, and testing for nutrient deficiencies.  Get some great probiotic-rich foods.  You may even want to consider soil-based probiotics. Sauerkraut eczema benefits can be great. Also, lock in the moisture in the skin with a great emollient and humidifiers.

Consider plants that support circulation, such as pine bark extract and horse chestnut extract if you need. My personal all-time favorite is also very inexpensive: zinc cream.  It works BETTER for me than any steroids ever worked and is much safer than steroids.

Relax by diffusing some lavender, essential oils, meditation, and learning hypnosis. Avoid toxins, chemicals, and perfumes, as well as harsh skin products. As with anything, consult with your healthcare provider before making any lifestyle changes. Want to get started on all-natural ways of cleaning?  Start with a Natural Solutions kit today.

The information on this post is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice.  All rights reserved.

33 thoughts on “Is Eczema an Autoimmune Disease? Natural Eczema Treatment”

    1. I bet it isn’t often, perhaps due to providers’ lack of time or training in that topic. Lucky for us, RD’s have that training! Thanks so much for reading my post! Heidi

    1. Thank you for checking out my post! Autoimmune conditions are challenging, but most often manageable with our new understanding of the gut-immune axis. Best regards, Heidi

  1. This is a great resource for people struggling with eczema. I really enjoyed how you incorporated nutrition solutions for managing the symptoms, as well as the importance of Vitamin D3. So many people don’t realize how much autoimmune diseases can be impacted by simple changes in their diets!

  2. Love how detailed this post is. So many people do not realize that eczema is tied to nutrition. I have a friend who suffers from eczema and will share this with them.

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  5. This is definitely an interesting read I didn’t expect much of it, which is why I have a question about it. Do you think using lotions from RainShadow Labs will do any help to treating the dry skin afflcting me?

  6. Thank you for this wonderful article! Although, I was wondering how you felt about RainShadow Labs because I already use them but I want to know if it would maximize my overcoming of eczema?

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  11. I’ve found your information the best, most comprehensive I’ve encountered and will implement. Is there any info on heavy metals triggering or impacting this condition, as well? Also, I have no apparent gut issues, eat/take regular probiotics & fermented foods. Is it still possible that food sensitivity is a factor? And how is that? I am so grateful for your post and hope you can direct me to answers on these questions.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments! Yes, heavy metals are definitely a concern for some people. Reducing exposure to them is important, such as choosing fish that is mercury safe, removing amalgam fillings when possible, and filtering water. Adding some chlorella and cilantro to the diet can be helpful to gently remove heavy metals from the body too. Hope this helps!

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