Skin itch (pruritus)

Itchy skin (pruritus) can be caused by a number of factors. Generally it is either a local skin irritation or a disorder of the nervous system. Itching sensations can be experienced as skin irritations, crawling skin, inflammation, rashes or minor irritations.

Common causes of itchy skin

  • skin inflammation due to allergies, ezcema, dermatitis
  • heavy metal toxicity or poisoning
  • environmental allergies
  • bacterial or viral infection
  • jaundice, gall bladder/ bile obstruction (cholestasis)
  • nervous irritations
  • allergies or food intolerances
  • skin rashes
  • Shingles
  • hives

Lifestyle factors for pruritis

  • Take a soothing bath. Put some chamomile and oats in a muslin cloth or stocking and tie it over the bath tap and let the warm bath water run through it. Chamomile is very calming to the skin and oats contain mucopolysaccharides which are anti-pruritic to soothe and heal the skin and reduce the itch
  • Use fragrance free moisturisers, shampoos, creams, soaps and deodorants (especially because the rash is present under the arms). The common irritants to the skin contained in most body and face care products are sodium lauryl sulphate or any of its derivatives, benzenes, petroleum based products, aluminium, chlorhexidine, dioxins, Ethylenediamide tetraacetic acid (EDTA), parabens and hydrazines
  • See a dermatologist to determine cause of what you are reacting to or have an blood and/ or allergy test. This may also help to determine whether the chemicals in your spa are contributing to your condition
  • Avoid exposure to the allergen as much as possible; avoid chemicals and extreme temperatures which can worsen symptoms
  • Manage stress which can trigger or worsen flare-ups

Diet tips for pruritis

  • Increase oily foods in your diet to provide better moisture to the skin and a barrier to help soothe irritations – raw unheated olive oil, flaxseed oil, nuts, fish and avocados
  • Reduce inflammation within the body by alkalising the blood. Foods which are alkaline are sprouts, fish, miso soup, millet, vegetable broths and juices, water, lemon juice and green barley powder. Reduce inflammation causing/ heating foods such as wheat, sugar, dairy, alcohol, soft drinks, preservatives, processed and refined foods and red meat
  • Ensure that you are well hydrated
  • A food challenge can also determine whether a specific food is triggering a skin inflammation reaction. The suspected food is removed from the diet and then gradually added back into the diet and skin changes noted

Natural therapies to soothe skin itches

  • Evening Primrose – the Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) from Evening Primrose oil is a nutrient specific for the health of the skin and is also an anti-inflammatory
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus may be effective for treating Itching associated with eczema
  • Use a topical cream to help reduce the irritation, herbs such as Aloe vera, Calendula, Lavender, Rose, Chamomile, Chickweed, Witch Hazel, Sage or Tea Tree oil may help
  • Rub a base oil into the affected area to provide relief from dryness, some beneficial oils for the health of the skin are Jojoba, Sweet Almond oil or Avocado
  • Aqueous based creams (water based, non-perfumed) with herbs added such as calendula, lavender, aloe vera, chickweed, vitamin E when applied to the skin may reduce the itch and help the skin to heal
  • Fish oil capsules provide more essential fatty acids to the skin and reduce inflammation. Fish oil provides moisturising and lubricating action on the skin to decrease skin sensitivity. Pruritis often occurs due to a deficiency in essential fatty acids (fish oil)
  • Use apple cider vinegar topically over the area of skin irritation to rebalance pH skin levels
  • Some herbs which may help to reduce inflammation and the body’s resistance to the irritants, such as Licorice, marshmallow, bupleurum, ginger, chickweed, pinellia, skullcap, albizzia, siberian ginseng, golden seal and chamomile. A naturopath can tailor make a herbal supplement to your needs
  • People with inflammatory skin conditions are usually deficient in anti-oxidants such as Zinc, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E and Selenium