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Lets talk ECZEMA – with Belinda Kirkpatrick, Naturopath and Nutritionist

With Eczema Awareness week from 3-10 May, we are focusing on raising awareness of this skin and immune condition which affects so many Australians.

Treating eczema and atopic dermatitis and preventing flare-ups can be confusing and overwhelming. That's why it’s important to find doctors and healthcare providers who can answer your questions, offer recommendations for avoiding triggers and easing symptoms, and prescribe treatments if needed.

We spoke with Belinda Kirkpatrick the author of ‘Healthy Hormones’, and expert Naturopath and Nutritionist with over a 15 years of clinical experience. 

Belinda specialises in women’s and children’s health and is especially passionate about hormonal health, fertility management, miscarriage prevention and menopause. Belinda is known for her extensive knowledge of natural and conventional treatment in addition to her evidence-based approach to integrative healthcare. 

See an extract below or watch the full interview here

Question: I think myself or my child may have Eczema. Should I see a Dermatologist or a Naturopath?

Naturopaths and Dermatologists look at Eczema in different ways and we can work really beautifully together. I've got a dermatologist that I work with, and I think when we each understand what we've got to offer, we can provide the best patient care for the individual.

So a dermatologist is a specialist doctor specialising in skin conditions and they can be really fantastic for diagnosis. So if it seems like it's more than just Eczema, or you're not sure if there is something else going on, or it seems a little bit different to what you might understand, as the normal kind of dry skin, itchy, red kind of eczema, that's where often a dermatologist can be really useful to be able to tell the difference between different types. If the Eczema has been getting infected, and that person does need antibiotics or steroids, that's where you need the dermatologist. There’s no doubt that sometimes things such as steroids can be useful to put the fire out, so to speak, while you then work on those other underlying causes. But I wouldn't say that they would be my recommendation as a first line of treatment.

What a naturopath is going to be able to do in contrast to a dermatologist, is looking at the underlying causes of why that Eczema is happening, what could be exacerbating it, what can we change in the diet, the lifestyle, the immune system, the microbiome, the topicals of what this baby/ child/ person is being exposed to. And looking more at those underlying causes and trying to improve that person’s ability to counteract irritated inflammation, but also be able look at treating it and hopefully putting it into remission.


Question: Why is it important to get to the root cause of the skin condition? – for example, look at diet, environmental factors, stress etc

It’s really important to look at the root cause of the condition. So with Eczema, it's one of those genetic conditions. Things like asthma, eczema, hay fever, sinusitis, they're very hereditary. If you've got a parent or both parents with one of those conditions, your child is more likely to have one of those kinds of conditions. You can't change your genetics, but you can help your body to cope a little bit more.

Diet is really important. It’s not about food allergies necessarily, but there's so many kinds of people who might have intolerances that flare up, and or foods that that can cause these flare ups. Probably the biggest ones are unfortunately dairy, gluten and sugar. They're fairly widespread in the diets of many little people. But working with a naturopath or even a nutritionist can be useful, because we've got so many suggested beautiful foods and alternatives now that even little people can manage and not be put off by so we're really lucky in the last 5 or 10 years that there's been so much movement in terms of specialised breads, different milks and things like that. When you're cutting big foods out of little people's diets, it’s really important to be looking at working with a professional because for instance, if your baby or child is better without dairy, you still need calcium for healthy bones. So these factors need to be balanced correctly.

Environmental factors are massive – sleeping in polyester sheets, wearing non-breathable fabrics and fibres, using commercial washing powders or fabric softeners, bath oils and maybe even essential oils could be aggravating your skin. As you would know, there's so many products full of toxic ingredients that are being sold in the baby aisle, even well-known brands specifically formulated for babies that have been used for decades, could have ingredients that can be inflammatory for the skin. Washing powders and soaps can be irritating for certain babies’ skin. So it’s super important to be looking at each every one of those things and using proper low-tox/ no-nasties products and maybe even no essential oils if the baby's skin is quite inflamed.

I was riddled with Eczema as a child but I haven't had Eczema in 20 years. However when I put on that first jumper of the cooler season I’m like, oh, here it is! And it is obviously dust mites. So many people are allergic to dust mites and also cockroach poo which we have everywhere, particularly in Sydney and probably many other places. It's all about completely getting rid of all those things.

Nutritional deficiencies are a key factor as well. A lot of babies, children and adults don't get enough protein in their diet which is really important for their immune system. Also very important is a good gut biome. When babies are born vaginally, they get a big gulp of mum’s vaginal flora on the way out. And that's either good or not so good as Mum’s gut bacteria may not be amazing either! Babies born by C-section however, don't get that big gulp, which often means that they're born a little bit more sterile. So looking at gut bacteria is really important. Also looking at essential fatty acids like fish oils can help too - even adults and children that regularly eat fish often don't get enough. Going dairy free would probably be a good place to start with. A naturopath can work with you to get to the desired outcome.

Stress can have a big impact on Eczema. Stress affects every part of the immune system. And I think the thing is that Eczema is an immune issue, it's your immune system overreacting. So when we get stressed that can deplete our immune system, and then we'll come out with whatever else that is the weakest link. Some people might get asthma, some people get diarrhoea and bloating, some people get anxiety and sleeping issues.


Question: Why is it best to avoid conventional skincare products on yours or your child’s sensitive skin?

It’s very important to understand what you are putting on yours and your children’s skin as we don't know all these toxins, we can't even say the name of half of them! Most people just trust that if it is on the store shelf then it must be safe to use. It is crazy to think that there is no regulation for skincare products, especially because there are so many ingredients that people react to. In addition, some ingredients are potentially linked to hormonal conditions, chronic diseases, and sometimes even cancers. There is a lot of what we call ‘greenwashing’ out in the market now, and even if something is labelled organic, it can still contain many allergens such as perfumes and essential oils. This makes it very hard for the average person to navigate the ingredients because they're not trained in what is safe to buy. It is important to be aligning yourself with companies and products that you can trust. Like you guys at Wotnot, where you have a real commitment to being non-toxic.

It is vital to understand what might be triggers and to align yourself with companies that disclose the full ingredients list.


Question: My child has developed a rash – what should I do?

Firstly identify what that rash is, so if they've been bitten by something or they're having hives or something, then it probably is best to speak to your GP to get that accurate diagnosis to understand what you're dealing with. If you think it might be Eczema, as it’s that dry, sort of diffuse red itchy skin and it looks like Eczema, you need to get moisture into that. Ideally look for something topical that contains zinc oxide or zinc (like a natural sunscreen or nappy balm etc) as these help with connective tissue healing, inflammation, and it's really important to keep the area moisturised.

Beware as a lot of products feel moisturising, but aren't – for instance, people ask me about coconut oil all the time which isn’t really moisturising or providing a barrier. Don’t let your kids be in the bath or shower too long, and don’t have it too hot because those things really do tend to aggravate eczema. Towels should be washed in a low-tox detergent and only pat dry the skin, don’t rub dry. If you have noticed itching, grab a bag of peas or an ice pack out of the freezer, and just put that on there to reduce the inflammation and get them into the habit of tapping it rather than scratching it. I haven't had eczema for 20 years however if I scratch there for a couple of minutes, I'd suddenly have Eczema! It's like it's just under there waiting for me to aggravate it and break that layer of skin.

If it's been going on for a little while and you've noticed it worsen, I would probably look at doing some fish oils and probiotics. I'd cut dairy out of the diet and or at least minimise it dramatically. Depending how old they are, and whether you've got advice around that. Then really increasing protein and vegetables and try to get some good nutrition there (not just honey or vegemite on toast). Ensure to keep the affected area really well moisturised, using low-tox/ non-tox products, always wear 100% cotton or bamboo clothing and bedding – steer clear of polyester.

Question: What are your best prevention tips?

It's all about trying to minimise those environmental factors like we mentioned earlier about the clothing and using natural fibres, clothing and bedding, and using toxin-free products including your washing powders. Making sure that you are moisturising enough, making sure that your person is getting enough water, lots of protein and vegetables that should the bulk of your diet and keeping breads and things like as an accompaniment to the meal rather than the basis of the meal.

If you know Eczema is in the family genes too, probiotics can be helpful at keeping it at bay and maybe look at vitamin D as a supplement. Most babies are born vitamin D deficient, mostly because they're born to vitamin D deficient mothers, as well as breast milk is very low in vitamin D. Baby formula has it in there. A lack of Vitamin D has also been linked to an increase in the incidence of Eczema and other immune issues too. If you know you were low in vitamin D in pregnancy or your baby's been having immune issues and then I recommend speaking to a Naturopath or a trained professional to see about getting a supplement and ensure you've got the right type and dose.


Question: Lastly, if there anything else you’d like to mention from your experiences of treating patients with Eczema?

With Eczema, I think it's about getting on to it early. Not just getting into that habit of using the steroid creams. Starting off moisturising with good products if you've got that opportunity is a great first step, and also look at the environmental factors that might be causing issues. No doubt there are people who are reading this already knee deep in the whole process. If you can part any of your knowledge onto others or gift them with great skincare or other products then that’s going to really help someone that might be experiencing the symptoms.


Receive a 50% discount when you sign up to Belinda’s online course 7-Day Nutrition Reset using the code WOTNOT using this link -

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About the author - Belinda Kirkpatrick, the author of ‘Healthy Hormones’, is an expert Naturopath and Nutritionist with over 15 years of clinical experience. 

Belinda specialises in women’s and children’s health and is especially passionate about hormonal health, fertility management, miscarriage prevention and menopause. Belinda is known for her extensive knowledge of natural and conventional treatment in addition to her evidence-based approach to integrative healthcare. 

Belinda is the creator of several online courses including the 7-Day Nutrition Reset, 14-Day IVF Support Program and Five Weeks to Fertility. These programs have been endorsed by senior Fertility Specialist, Associate Professor Dr Gavin Sacks from IVF Australia and are designed to support all women who are trying to conceive naturally or with IVF.

Belinda’s tertiary qualifications include: Masters of Reproductive Health, Bachelor of Health Science (Naturopathy), Associate Degree in Clinical Sciences and Advanced Diploma of Naturopathy.

Belinda is in clinical practice in Sydney, Australia; author of Healthy Hormones, creator of the Seed iPhone App; is a mother of two beautiful girls; loves yoga and meditation and feels like a full-time cook!

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