Essential fatty acids
Those with eczema tend to have altered EFA metabolism, resulting in high levels of
linoleic acid, but low levels of GLA and omega 3 fatty acids; a scenario that is
consistent with inflammation and allergy. Supplementation with GLA (from
borage/evening primrose oil) and fish oils has resulted in marked improvements in
several scientific studies. Flax oil may be of some value, but conversion of the essential
fatty acids into the more valuable longer chain fatty acids such as GLA and DHA may
be impaired, resulting in limited benefits.
Zinc and Vitamin A
Vitamin A is also necessary for proper health and integrity of skin tissue. A deficiency
can lead to symptoms of eczema such as excessive skin thickening. Zinc is needed for
proper skin healing and for the proper metabolism of the fatty acid GLA. Deficiencies
in zinc are common in cases of eczema. Adequate zinc is also necessary for proper
vitamin A utilisation in the maintenance of skin integrity.
The bioflavonoid quercetin reduces inflammatory and allergic processes by inhibiting
the production of leukotrienes and the release of histamine from the mast cells.
Allergies, especially to foods, are a major factor in the development of many cases of
The herb burdock has a long history of traditional use in chronic skin disorders. It may
be of great value in eczema treatment due the anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and
immune system benefits of its active compounds.
Eczema is often a result of allergic reactions which are triggered by the absorption of
incompletely digested food proteins. The activity of hydrochloric acid and pancreatic
protease enzymes is often deficient in those with food allergies. Stomach acid is
required for the vital first step of protein digestion, therefore hypochlorhydria, or low
stomach acid, is implicated in the development of allergies, where the immune system is
triggered by incompletely digested proteins. Similarly, a lack of pancreatic enzymes also
contributes to incomplete protein digestion and the potential for allergies. Support of
stomach acid production and pancreatic enzymes is therefore a priority for those with
Nutrient/Herb Typical intake range
GLA (from borage oil or EPO)1 150 – 300mg GLA per day
EPA/DHA (from fish oil)2 700 – 2800mg EPA/DHA per day
Zinc3 15 – 30mg per day
Vitamin A4 5000 – 10000IU per day
Quercetin5 500 – 2000mg per day (away from food)
Burdock extract 500 – 3000mg per day
Betaine hydrochloride/pancreatin6 As per manufacturer’s directions
Identify and eliminate food allergens
Trans fats/hydrogenated fats
Fruit (especially berries)
Nuts and seeds
Identify and address potential food allergens.
Minimise exposure to environmental toxins
Use only mild soaps and detergents on clothes
1. Some reports suggest GLA is contraindicated in epilepsy. Epileptics should use only under
2. Do not take in conjunction with anticoagulant medication
3. May cause nausea on an empty stomach. High doses (>100mg per day) may suppress the immune
system. Ensure sufficient copper and iron intake with zinc supplementation.
4. Do not use more than 2500IU during pregnancy. Long term high doses may result in toxicity.
High levels not suitable for those with kidney disorders.
5. Possible potentiation of anti-diabetic medication and calcium channel blockers – concurrent use
under medical supervision only.
6. Do NOT use betaine hydrochloride if you suffer with stomach or duodenal ulcers, except on the
advice of a physician. If you experience irritation after taking, reduce amount at next meal to a
level where this does not occur. Intake may need to be altered based on the amount and type of