Therapies for Chronic Itching:
Symptoms & Solutions

It is perfectly natural to reach out and scratch the occasional itch. Within moments, the itching sensation is gone. This is the simple solution from Mother Nature to alleviate the otherwise serious and annoying problem of chronic itching! Unfortunately, sometimes scratching only seems to make the itching worse, and if the unique condition is bad enough, some people will scratch to the point of bleeding. This can cause serious pain and not even permanently resolve the itch. If the area then becomes infected, it only exacerbates the problem.

In my opinion, chronic itching is not discussed often enough as a symptom of destructive issues in our bodies. I therefore fondly dedicate this blog post to all of my itching clients, family, and friends. (Smile)

Primary Causes of Chronic Itching

I quote below from the Mayo Clinic. These areas of interest may help you detect the origins of your chronic itching:

  • Skin conditions: “Examples include dry skin (xerosis), eczema (dermatitis), psoriasis, scabies, parasites, burns, scars, insect bites and hives.”
  • Internal diseases: “Itching on the whole body might be a symptom of an underlying illness, such as liver disease, kidney disease, anemia, diabetes, thyroid problems, multiple myeloma or lymphoma.”
  • Nerve disorders: “Examples include multiple sclerosis, pinched nerves and shingles (herpes zoster).”
  • Psychiatric conditions: “Examples include anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression.”
  • Irritation and allergic reactions: “Wool, chemicals, soaps and other substances can irritate the skin and cause rashes and itching. Sometimes the substance, such as poison ivy or cosmetics, causes an allergic reaction. Also, reactions to certain drugs, such as narcotic pain medications (opioids) can cause itchy skin.”

The Mayo Clinic adds the following caution: “If the condition persists for three months despite treatment, see a dermatologist to be evaluated for skin disease. It may also be necessary to see a doctor who specializes in internal medicine (internist) to be evaluated for other diseases.”

Ongoing Studies on Chronic Itching

In researching this unique condition, I found that there are thousands of inquiries into chronic itching. This nerve-wracking condition can affect anyone of any age. Causes include the lack of exterior or internal cleansing, certain drugs or prescriptions, allergies, nervous disorders, liver or kidney disease, anemia, diabetes, thyroid problems, multiple myeloma, or lymphoma. If you experience consistent itching for a month or more, consider a thorough health exam. Perhaps discuss this article with your doctor to make sure you are tested for more than a skin form of dermatitis.

The NIH has investigated the causes of chronic itching and new advances for treating it. I paraphrase some of their findings below. The article discusses ongoing studies that indicate three pathways related to chronic itching. I recommend reading it in full to learn more about promising medical solutions.

Nerve Cells: Itch First Responders. Unlike much of the research that focuses on immune triggers like histamines, Diana Bautista, PhD, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, examined a protein (TSLP) produced by damaged skin cells that had previously been linked to chronic itch associated with eczema, or atopic dermatitis. Her research suggests that the nervous system plays a larger role than previously thought in promoting the sensation. She theorizes that blocking TSLP activity could halt the inflammation and itching caused by eczema.

Itching from Borrowed Pain. A study led by Zhou-Feng Chen, PhD, director of the Center for the Study of Itch at Washington University in St. Louis, focuses on a protein called BRAF, which may “convey pain signals from sensory nerves in the brain to the to the skin.” After injecting an active version of this pain molecule in mice, the team was surprised to discover it caused continuous itching rather than the expected signs of pain. Chen concludes that this mouse model can be used by other scientists to test experimental drugs related to itch.

Itch-Inducing Bacteria. It is suspected that 90 percent of people with eczema have the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus on their skin. Gabriel Núñez, MD, a professor at the University of Michigan Health System, found that this bacteria stimulates mast cells, causing them to “quickly discharge their histamines in response to the bacterial protein mixture.” In future research, he plans to focus on ways to curb the effects of a molecule called delta toxin, a bacterial protein found in Staphylococcus aureus that may be implicated in symptoms of eczema.

Major Drugs Prescribed for Chronic Itching

According to WebMd.com, a substantial number of drugs and medications are prescribed for chronic itching. As a result of my own research on what drugs are currently being prescribed for this condition, I was rather surprised to find that many of them range from topical ointments to sleeping and/or relaxation aids. However, I did not delve into the fact that some of these topical ointments contain steroids. This is an area of special caution as steroids can have a negative impact on your health if you take them over long periods of time.

Holistic Therapies

I discovered an interesting article from the Selene River Press Historical Archives that focuses on pruritus ani, a particular itching condition that I am frequently asked about. Titled “The Commoner Forms of Pruritus Ani Considered Eutrophically,” by N. Phillip Norman, MD, it offers the most thorough, correct explanation of this issue I have found. Though it is a lengthy read, it is well worth your time if you or a loved one has chronic anal itching (a condition that is more frequent in men than in women).

Supplements for General Chronic Itching

The great news is that you can find a variety of concentrated food supplements from Standard Process that address the three most frequent types of itching: anal, scalp, and skin (including crawling sensations on the skin). Though there are too many variations to try to list in this blog post, rest assured that your Standard Process practitioner can readily test you to determine the cause of this condition and then tailor an individual protocol to address it. Any type of chronic itching is definitely not natural!

How Diet Affects Itching

After a through physical examination to rule out any serious health issues that may be causing your chronic itching, it would be wise to consider your diet as another lifesaving measure. Chronic itching can be a life-threatening issue that you should address before it leads to more serious disorders.

Please take the time to look at the following resources that may help: Ask your practitioner about the Standard Process Detox Balance Program. This can be a major component to helping rid yourself of this condition. Find a local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation. These people are trained to teach you the how-tos of transitioning to a whole organic food diet. Remove excessive inflammatory foods from your diet. Cutting down on these pain-producing poisons is essential.

In closing, I also want to recommend that you immediately add at least 3–4 tablespoons of coconut oil to your daily diet. Coconut oil is one of the many other good fats (such as lard, butter, and tallow) to start taking while getting rid of all types of vegetable oils. For a treasure trove of other suggestions and recommendations, browse my previous blog posts.

Afterthoughts from the Traditional Cook

This constant itch
Is quit the –

I just want to give in
To what I shouldn’t even
Think, but I do day in and out
So I hold in this piercing shout

Oh just to give in to it
But lives would turn to –
So I hold on by my fingernails
While my insides wail

Oh this constant itch
it is quit the –
—James Jean, “Itch,” December 1019

Disclaimer from Maria Atwood, CNHP: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional (CNHP) not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor or health practitioner prior to following any recommendations I make in my blog posts or on my website.

Images from iStock/Pheelings Media (main), Madrolly (woman rubbing her eye), vaaseenaa (food). 

Maria Atwood, CNHP

Maria Atwood is a semiretired Certified Natural Health Professional and Weston A. Price Chapter Leader in Colorado Springs, CO. Visit her website at TraditionalCook.com. Also check out Maria’s Cook Your Way to Wellness DVD (also available as an e-learning course) and be sure to follow her Tips from the Traditional Cook blog.
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