Eczema

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Skin conditions present us with a window to what is happening inside the body. Treating eczema or any other skin condition topically alone does not get to the root cause. Eczema is commonly a symptom of gut dysbiosis (microbial imbalance). Leaky gut is also implicated in eczema. This is where the wall of the gut lining is compromised and toxins and food particles make their way into the blood stream, causing the body to react to these foreign invaders and inflammation ensues. Eczema is an inflammatory condition. Ezcema is also the symptom of an overtaxed liver which cannot offload all the toxins and so is attempting to excrete them via the skin. Eczema is also the result of compromised skin barrier function, caused by, among other things, overgrowth of bad bacteria. This compromised barrier allows bacteria and irritants to penetrate the skin. 

Let’s talk about the immediate need to combat eczema topically and then we will cover how to address the root causes.

Topical Treatment

Essential oilsLavender, helichrysum, frankincense, chamomile, and geranium can soothe and help support the red, dry skin associated with eczema. Oils like tea tree and myrrh are helpful if wounds are angry looking. Myrrh also possesses moisturizing properties. Click here to order essential oils. If infection occurs, see my MRSA & Staph blog.

Coconut oil is a good choice for a carrier oil to dilute the essential oils because it possess antimicrobial properties. It is also a cooling oil so it will help soothe irritated skin. Another good choice for carrier oil is  jojoba oil. This is actually a liquid wax and structurally similar to the sebum, the waxy substance produced by our skin glands, so it is easily assimilated by the skin. Sebum lubricates and protect our skin.  Because of its waxy constitution, Jojoba oil seals in the moisture and create an effective barrier to external elements. Additionally, Jojoba oil possesses antibacterial properties and contains myristic acid which is a natural anti-inflammatory.

Magnesium flake, himalayan, or epsom salt bath –  are natural exfoliant for the skin.  While you soak, the salt gently lifts the dry, damaged surface skin to reveal new skin underneath. These salts strengthen this skin barrier, and help support the beneficial flora on the skin.

Bentonite clay paste on leg:

img_3586Bentonite clay – is great at drawing out infection and soothing itching. It can be applied topically as in the picture to the left (I applied it when Ava had poison ivy) or added to a bath. Bentonite clay has a negative charge (so too does distilled water) and the toxins and irritants in and on the body such as bacteria and allergens are mostly positively charged. So because of the opposing charged particles and also the absorbent and porous nature of the clay, it will help draw out some of the bad bacteria and toxins.

Sun – direct sunlight on the skin can reduce eczema. A recent study [1] suggests that vitamin D may be playing a role with this. Supplementation with oral vitamin has been shown to increase the production of cathelicidin in the skin. Cathelicidin is a skin protein that protects against skin infections from viruses, bacteria and fungi. People with eczema have low amounts of cathelicidin in their skin. This makes them more susceptible to colonization and infection of the skin with bacteria, viruses and fungi, which is known to worsen eczema. Caution must be exercised with sunbathing as people with eczema may be more prone to sunburn. Some dermatologists recommend treatment with medical-grade ultraviolet light. Do not use tanning beds.

Anti-inflammatory Diet

Diet is key with eczema. Try eliminating inflammatory foods such as gluten, corn, soy, and dairy. Focus on adding foods high in antioxidants found mostly in fruits and vegetables and anti-inflammatory compounds, found in fatty fish, nuts, and avocados. A study of children in Columbia found that diets high in fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish are associated with a lower risk for developing eczema, whereas diets high in processed foods increase the risk [2].

“A person who consumes a lot of mucus-producing foods such as dairy may produce a gluey, sticky type perspiration. When this individual sweats and the body is not cleaned regularly, the dried sweat clogs the pores. This is a beginning cause of dermatitis, or skin malfunction. In addition, as a nation we have fallen in love with easy to wash and iron synthetic clothes. These rob the body of the breath of life because man-made synthetic fibers do not “breathe.” Only natural fibers such as cotton, wool, linen, silk, etc., can allow the skin to breathe properly. “[3]

Going gluten, casein, corn, soy free and limiting processed foods and sugar as much as possible can make a tremendous difference. These foods cause inflammation and feed the bad gut bacteria. In extreme cases, some people may need  to remove meats and eggs that come from livestock fed a corn or soy diet. Grass-fed meat  is so much nutritionally superior and does not possess the same toxic burden. In the case of nursing mothers and babies with eczema, the mother should eliminate inflammatory foods from her diet. For some people, diet modification is all that is required to eliminate eczema. However, the underlying issues remain – liver congestion and gut dysbiosis. These underlying deficiencies are just not being aggravated to cause eczema, in order words the underlying issues are being “managed” not resolved.  So even if eczema clears with diet changes, it is still imperative to work with the liver and gut.

Gut

The gut houses 70-80% of the immune system. Eczema is a symptom of gut dysbiosis, the beneficial bacteria have been  overtaken by the bad bacteria. Leaky gut has been associated with eczema. A healthy GI tract serves as a protective barrier that stops undigested food particles, microbes and toxins from entering the bloodstream. When candida (yeast) overgrowth damages the intestinal lining, substances are able to “leak” into the body, where they are attacked by the immune system, which leads to inflammation and Leaky Gut Syndrome. Yeast is often the result of antibiotic use, c-section babies are more likely to get yeast, it can also be the result of a weak gut microbiome inherited from the mother, stress and a bad diet. Bi-products of Candida, such as acetaldehyde and tartaric acid, trigger inflammation.  Leaky gut can also impair the protective function of the skin. Here are ways to help restore the microflora of the gut:

Probiotics – “pro” meaning for and “bio” meaning life, these provide good bacteria to the gut and help produce antibodies to fight pathogens. They are important for maintaining and developing a healthy mucosal lining in the digestive tract. It is important to rotate probiotics so that certain beneficial strains are not elevated to such an extent that they crowd out other beneficial bacterial strains. Dr Millie Hinkle ND recommends that 3 different probiotics be rotated every 2 weeks. That said,  I do know of people who have had success using just one brand. The probiotics we use are Cytoflora and GutPro. An issue with probiotics is an “easy in, easy out” phenomenon. It can be hard for the probiotics to gain traction in the gut. Probiotics are important and our family takes them every day but the best probiotic comes via fermented foods. I like prebiotics such as dandelion root or burdock  root to be taken with a probiotic to make them more efficacious. Prebiotics are food for the probiotic. 

In addition, there is a product called Restore which is essentially a bacterial communication network that I recommend for almost all my clients, both adults and children. This basically gives the good bacteria channels of communication so they can work more effectively and cohesively together. This has been shown in in cell culture to promote the strengthening of the tight junctions in small and large gut membrane cells for an optimal gut environment.

Fermented foods – Fermented foods are foods which go through a process where natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process called lacto-fermentation, preserves the food, creates probiotics, enzymes, b-vitamins and vitamin K2.  The food is also broken down by the natural bacteria into a more digestible form that can be more readily assimilated into the body. Fermented foods also supply greater variety of beneficial bacterial strains that can be gleaned from a probiotic supplement, once the foods being fermented are rotated. A nice benefit is that they are cost effective, you can make them yourself! Fermented foods are one of the best things you can do for you or your child’s health. Note, controversy exists on whether fermented foods are beneficial when there is yeast overgrowth. The conclusion of Dr Mary Reed Gates which I agree with is that yes, fermented foods are very beneficial in cases of yeast overgrowth because the good bacteria it produces kill yeast.

Coconut kefir – this is fermented coconut water. It contains probiotics that helps to recolonize the gut and mucous membranes with beneficial strains of microflora. Like fermented foods, coconut kefir promotes a wide variety of bacteria. It also contains beneficial yeasts that combat pathogenic yeasts in the body.  These cleanse and fortify the intestinal walls which helps the body become more efficient in resisting pathogens like e. coli, overgrowth of bad bacteria and to mitigate leaky gut.

Pau d’arco –  There is a correlation between people with candida and ezcema and psorasis [4]. Pau d’arco is one of the principal herbs used to combat candida .  The pau d’arco tree grows in the damp rain forests of Brazil. Unlike other trees around it, pau d’arco does not develop fungus growth. We have had great success using this to bring down yeast flares. This is one of the herbs in my Nature’s Medicine cabinet.

Camel’s milk – We get ours here. The dosing for this should be small as it is quite potent and it should not be drunk in the same quantities as cow’s milk can. Camel’s milk boosts the immune system and helps heal the digestive tract lining and is particularly helpful for leaky gut.

With all of this, it is vital that the toxins are being eliminated and that constipation is not an issue. I am currently writing a blog about how to eliminate constipation that will be posted in November 2016.

Liver

When the liver is congested, it cannot off-load the toxic burden. The following are ways to support the liver to rid the body of the toxins.

Liver cleanse  – this supports the liver in throwing off toxins. In addition to helping the liver, this is also a blood purifier and strengthens the kidneys.

Dandelion root is excellent at cleansing the liver. Dandelion root has nutritive properties that support the liver, kidneys, stomach and blood. Herbalists consider this plant one of the most nutrient-rich in the plant kingdom.

Burdock root –  Burdock is a common weed with giant leaves and seeds (burrs) that cling tenaciously to clothing. It has been used traditionally as a blood purifier. Burdock root stimulates bile and its antioxidant activity helps protect the liver from toxicity. It is a favorite blood purifier among Ayurvedic practitioners and is helpful for skin issues because it cleanses the blood. Think of it as vacuuming up toxins.

Glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant, is also helpful in supporting a congested liver.

Inflammation

Eczema is an inflammatory disease. Some people who have eczema also suffer from asthma and seasonal allergies, which are also caused by inflammation. This is so common that doctors refer to this as the “atopic triad.”

Turmeric – is  the quintessential anti-inflammatory. I have noticed the most benefit making the turmeric golden paste.

Coconut oil – Coconut oil is an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. It contains lauric acid, which is in breastmilk. This fights candida and bad bacteria which help restore beneficial gut bacteria. Candida, in particular, can decrease stomach acid which causes inflammation and poor digestion. If coconut oil is taken at the same time as omega-3 fatty acids, it can make them twice as effective, as they are readily available to be digested and used by the body.

Omega 3 – reduces inflammation. Research has shown that those with eczema have a lower rate of essential fatty acids breaking down into their metabolites, and lower rates of getting those fatty acids up into the skin cell membranes closer to the surface of the skin. Omega 3 is also important for healing the mucosal lining of the digestive tract.

Minerals

Zinc – Low zinc is a common deficiency and has been linked to eczema and zinc supplementation has been shown to decrease itching. [5] Zinc has many important uses in the body. It is a natural anti-inflammatory,  antimicrobial and supports the immune system and the development of cell membranes and enzymes. It also helps restore beneficial gut flora. Zinc can be helpful for picky eaters. Zinc-rich foods include pumpkin seeds, cashews, seafood and mushrooms. Zinc levels can be ascertained by a hair test which evaluates toxic and nutritional elements.

Why?

The question to ask is why is the gut out of the balance? Why is the liver congested?

Common reasons are heavy metal toxicity such as mercury and aluminum. Heavy metals cause many issues in the body including overgrowth of yeast in the gut. The yeast grows to protect the body from the metals. This hair test evaluates toxic and nutritional elements in the body and is one that I think everyone should take, children and adults alike.

Sources

[1] Update on the role of systemic vitamin D in atopic dermatitis.

[2] A Traditional Diet is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Eczema and Wheeze [asthma] in Colombian children

[3] Dr Chrisopher, herbalist “Herbal Home Health Care” pg 68

[4] The role of various Candida species in oral candidiasis etiology in psoriasis and eczema patients.

[5] Hair zinc levels and the efficacy of oral zinc supplementation in patients with atopic dermatitis.