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Diabetes, Skin Conditions, Immune, Inflammation | April 30, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, Skin conditions, smoking, infection, diabetes


Cellulitis is a potentially series bacterial skin infection usually caused by Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph) and group A streptococci. It appears as a swollen, red area of skin that causes pain or tenderness.

Cellulitis can spread rapidly to other parts of the body, especially tissues underlying the skin. Usually the infection occurs on the lower legs in areas where the skin is damaged or inflamed. Anyone, at any age can develop cellulitis but you are most at risk if you smoke, suffer poor circulation or have diabetes.

What are the symptoms?

Cellulitis can range from mild to severe. Possible signs and symptoms include:

  • A red area of skin that tends to expand
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Tenderness
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Red spots or blisters
  • Weeping fluid or pus

Causes of cellulitis

Cellulitis occurs when bacteria such as streptococcus and staphylococcus enter through damaged skin.

Reasons for cracks or breaks in the skin include:

  • Trauma, such as an insect bite, burn, cut or abrasion
  • Surgical wound
  • Skin problems, such as eczema, psoriasis, athlete’s foot or acne
  • A foreign object in the skin, such as a splinter, metal or glass
  • Dry, flaky or swollen skin

Complications of cellulitis

Swollen lymph nodes in the throat, groin or armpit as well as fevers, sweats and vomiting are signs that the infection has spread to other parts of the body. It is important that you seek emergency medical care if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.


Antibiotics are commonly the first line of treatment for cellulitis and may be given orally or intravenously.

Even if you have been prescribed antibiotics natural therapies can be used in conjunction or as a treatment in milder cases.

In those that experience re-occurring episodes of cellulitis, certain preventative measures should also be considered such as maintaining a healthy weight, establishing an exercise routine, addressing diet and improving the management your diabetes.


If you are taking a dose of antibiotics, it’s important to replenish the good bacteria that can be wiped out during this process. Many people often make the mistake of waiting until you have finished the course of antibiotics but it is better to take them in conjunction— just try to separate the dose by at least 2 hours. Taking a probiotic at this time will help to boost the function of the immune system, while also avoiding digestive related side-effects such as diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. A healthy yeast, Saccharomyces boulardii can also aid in preventing these side-effects while improving the effectiveness of certain antibiotics. Taking probiotics or S. Boulardii can help prevent fungal infections—a common side-effect of antibiotics.


An important mineral to help combat infection and assist in wound healing. Taken at high doses, zinc sulphate was found to be an effective treatment for a rare form of cellulitis, dissecting cellulitis, that affects the scalp. Zinc sulphate (135-220mg), taken three times a day is being recognised as a new treatment for cellulitis and can be safely used in conjunction with other therapies. Zinc should be taken until the infection has cleared and swelling has reduced to normal, then the dose should be lowered to a maintenance dose. Zinc could also be combined with other antioxidants for skin health such as beta-carotene, selenium and vitamins C and E.

Essential oils

As antibiotic resistance is a common occurrence, new research has revealed that plant extracts are also effective in inhibiting common bacteria. Essential oils from thyme, clove and oregano were found in a study to possess a high inhibitory effect against a broad range of bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus. Melaleuca alternifolia oil (tea tree oil), has demonstrated promising efficacy in treating skin infections.Tea tree oil is both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. 

These essential oils can be diluted in a vitamin E base cream for topical application and a supplement in capsule form can be taken internally as well. However, it is important when taking these products internally you are taking a product designed for this purpose.


Omega-3 from fish oil can be useful for cellulitis. It can aid in circulation, reduce inflammation and improve wound healing. It can be particularly helpful for people who experience dry skin, especially if this has been the cause for their cellulitis. It can be taken in liquid or capsule from, even enteric coated for people who experience the fishy aftertaste.

Herbal medicine

Echinacea can be helpful in fighting off infection as well as stimulating the lymphatic system.

Recurrent episodes of cellulitis may damage lymphatic drainage and cause chronic swelling.

Grapeseed extract and gotu kola are other herbs that can be used internally to increase circulation and aid in wound healing.

Wound Care

One of the most important things for recovery is to rest at home. This gives the body a chance to fight the infection. Ideally, when resting, elevate the area of the body as high as possible to reduce pain and swelling and to help with drainage.

Gently wash the skin, especially any open wounds and cuts daily. Tea tree wash or soap can work well as a natural anti-bacterial and its cream can be used up to four times a day on the area. Make sure to wash your hands before and after cleaning the affected area. Creams or gels containing manuka honey, aloe vera and calendula can be applied to help accelerate healing and act as a natural anti-microbial. It’s also important to cover the wound with a gauze or band-aid to prevent the bacterial infection from spreading.


Raff AB, Kroshinsky D. Cellulitis: A Review. JAMA. 2016 Jul 19;316(3):325-37

Tabassum N, Hamdani M. Plants used to treat skin diseases. Pharmacogn Rev. 2014 Jan;8(15):52-60

Ouwehand AC. Probiotic approach to prevent antibiotic resistance. Ann Med. 2016;48(4):246-55

Scheinfeld N. Dissecting cellulitis (Perifolliculitis Capitis Abscendens et Suffodiens): a comprehensive review focusing on new treatments and findings of the last decade with commentary comparing the therapies and causes of dissecting cellulitis to hidradenitis suppurativa. Dermatol Online J. 2014 May 16;20(5):22692

Akdemir Evrendilek G. Empirical prediction and validation of antibacterial inhibitory effects of various plant essential oils on common pathogenic bacteria. Int J Food Microbiol. 2015 Jun 2;202:35-41

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