What is Eczema?
For those unfamiliar with eczema; it is an inherited chronic skin condition in which patches of skin become dry, red and itchy. It sometimes weeps and if you go to a doctor, nine times out of ten they’ll prescribe a steroid cream, like cortisone. There are so many contributing factors – stress, food allergies, drugs, bacterial overgrowth in the bowel, alcohol intake, trauma and nutritional deficiencies can all impact on eczema flare-ups.
What are your triggers? What makes it better? When do you notice flare-ups? After certain foods? Are you stressed?
The Many Roles of Your Gut
Gut health is extremely important in this condition. The gut has 3 major functions: (1) Absorption – extracting nutrients from food across the intestinal wall to where they are needed in the body; (2) Protection – separating larger and potentially toxic particles from the blood; (3) Immunity – production of antibodies which bind to bacteria and other harmful particles, preventing their attachment to the intestinal wall and facilitating their removal from the body. Disruption to any of these factors can cause increased intestinal permeability (which I will explain).
Is Your Gut ‘Leaking?’
It is easier to understand the condition if you know how the gut functions. In eczema sufferers, increased intestinal permeability is one of the underlying problems (which is usually genetic). To explain this concept, imagine the intestines to be like a fine mesh sieve. When food comes into contact with this sieve, it filters out all the nutrients it needs for absorption into the body. The larger, potentially toxic molecules and germs cannot be filtered into the blood because the holes in the sieve are too small. People with increased intestinal permeability (not just eczema sufferers) have a sieve with slightly larger holes. Particles of undigested food and toxins pass through and can enter the bloodstream – provoking an allergic reaction, also know as a systemic immune response. These particles are processed and transported to the skin for elimination which can decrease the skin’s natural barrier function and upset the lipid composition (the fats that help to protect your skin).
Common Food Allergies
Food sensitivities should be considered firstly when trying to treat eczema as they create an immune response and contribute to flare-ups. By removing food allergens from the diet, your body is able to heal itself more effectively and tighten the gaps in your gut.
Foods commonly associated as allergens for eczema include:
- cow’s milk
- egg white
- gluten – including wheat, oats, rye, barley and spelt
It is important to listen to your body and notice what foods are triggers. It’s not going to be the same for everyone – so it’s a matter of trial and error. You could try an elimination diet for 4 weeks and take out all the common allergens, as listed above. Slowly introduce them back into the diet – one by one (one food item per week) and see if you can pin point what your poison is. This is much easier said than done. How could I possibly go without these foods for 4 weeks?! Yes, it’s a challenge. If you really wanted to heal yourself, then you would at least try – and no cheating. Who knows, you could be fixing ten other things going on in your body as well! Wheat and gluten can cause a plethora of other symptoms like fatigue, irritability, stomach cramps, decreased mental clarity & arthritis – just to name a few.
As I said, food allergies are one of the many factors contributing to eczema. It is important to understand that you need to remove any allergens from the diet first in order to treat the condition. I adhere to the 4R concept; Remove, Repair, Restore, Replace. The first step is to remove and that’s what you need to do.
If you’re interested in my 4R concept, let me know and I will write another post. Feedback & questions are always welcome. Nutrition consultations are available through my bookings page.
Have a happy, healthy week!
Love Stace x