Dandruff affects about 3 percent of the U.S. population, ranging from infants and teenagers to adults with oilier skin.
Also known as seborrheic dermatitis, the relapsing, chronic and usually mild inflammatory skin condition can flare with stress or cold weather, and can be caused by fungal organisms such as those in the genus Malassezia.
Dandruff can manifest as dry or greasy, slightly itchy patches of skin with some white or yellow flaking. It occurs often on the scalp, eyebrows, forehead, the nose and lip areas, behind the ears, on the chest or in other folds of the body.
Although the cause for dandruff is not always obvious, naturopathic medicine often finds that problems in the skin are related to problems with digestion. For instance, in a 1971 study of 187 infants with the version of seborrheic dermatitis called cradle cap, 157 had symptoms clear completely within a week after allergenic foods were removed from their diet. All of these infants had recurrence of cradle cap lesions after the allergenic foods were reintroduced. To treat cradle cap today, breast-feeding mothers often are advised to avoid eating foods their babies are allergic to.
Dry scalp can also be related to food sensitivities, such as gluten intolerance, essential fatty deficiency or inadequate hydration. It can also be an early sign of dermatological conditions such as psoriasis or eczema.
Conventional treatment includes the use of topical corticosteroids and over-the-counter shampoos and gels, such as those with 2 percent ketoconazole or 1 percent metronidazole. However, if you're looking for natural ways to avoid or treat dandruff or dry scap, vitamins A, D, B and zinc can help, along with the following tips:
— Eva Kozura, ND, RD, LAc, naturopathic physician and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University.
Dr. Brendan Smith, ND, discusses the more holistic approach to diabetes and cardiovascular care that the Bastyr Clinic for Natural Health offers patients.