Updated: Sep 25, 2020
Is eczema actually a skin condition?
In the search for answers for my own daughter as a baby with eczema of which I knew absolutely nothing, I've since developed my own 'take' which I infuse into my work with families across the world.
Eczema is incredibly common especially in our modern environment, so it would be easy to call it normal and dismiss it as just bad luck however for us it was an amazing journey into learning how our bodies work, and an opportunity to really investigate nutrition, lifestyle and more. I chose to stop chasing symptoms and start asking better questions as to what it actually was - and the answers surprised me.
Something I've noticed is a general assumption that eczema is merely a skin based reaction to 'something', and that if we treat what we observe, we'll sort it. I know some people have found relief from just whacking some cream on but I've seen many families struggle with finding that one cream, spending thousands and finding little relief, so I wanted to help demystify this particular symptom.
Like all topics health related, there are many different theories out there - this is just mine, not only as a mother but with all the families I've worked with worldwide in my clinic. Because I focus almost exclusively on skin and gut health, I see some very constant patterns but we are all different and that is important to remember.
When the skin isn't actually about the skin...
Eczema itself is a general term for any superficial inflammatory process involving the skin and is marked by redness, itching, bumps, weeping, scaling, oozing and/or crusting. So is our skin the problem? Well possibly, but actually I often get the best results by not focusing on the skin at all.
Food, environmental and chemical allergens are a major TRIGGER of eczema but they are not the actual cause.
This isn't just about semantics, it's important to begin looking at eczema for what it is. A reflection of internal health. Our skin is the mirror.
So where does this response tend to start from? I first investigate gut health and how that influences our immune response which then impacts our organs and central nervous system. This is what science is beginning to understand in more depth but for me felt more like common sense.
Leaky gut syndrome theorises that partially undigested food, toxins, viruses, yeast and bacteria are able to pass through compromised intestinal walls (something immature guts have, but many adults develop) and into the bloodstream, triggering our immune systems switching to a protective response. This may result in IgE antibodies (soldiers) being produced in the case of an allergy, or the release of stored histamine from mast cells often found underneath the skin. Both are highly inflammatory processes which can overwhelm our organs (exit doors) as the body seeks to push the inflammation out.
When our diets are optimal and we have adequate nutrition and strong digestion, our liver and kidneys work efficiently to process a normal load of toxins out of our bodies however when the immune system is on hyper alert our organs can easily become overwhelmed. And what is our largest detoxification organ? That's right. Our skin.
If we think of it as an exit door for inflammation, we can better understand why the role of creams is so limited. I use them to keep the skin supple but avoid steroid creams unless absolutely necessary as it doesn't address the underlying response and while it may reduce symptoms, it allows the inflammation to rampage unchecked throughout the body. Nor do I recommend most pharmaceutical skin creams because they either contain alcohols which can have a drying effect but because the ingredients often compound the toxin load the liver has to process.
So what to do?
For some, eczema resolution is as simple as removing key dietary triggers of inflammation, but for others it's far more complex and even involves looking at some less tangible factors such as emotional triggers.
Of course I'm going to throw out there that investing into working with me 1:1 to help you navigate through this process is a great way of fast tracking results especially for those who have been dealing with eczema for a while and feel like they've tried everything and seen everyone - it's a reality I'm often the last person they see and they can't believe that nobody explained this to them before finally getting results.
The general idea is to reduce the inflammation focusing on both the gut and liver, providing high quality nutrition that is easy to digest, adequate hydration, mineral balancing, emotional release and supporting the body to find balance. We are all different and so our path to clear skin is individual too.
Eczema is best addressed at the root cause to find long term relief. Avoiding triggers may help to reduce the appearance of external symptoms, but holistic healing is really about addressing the underlying dysfunctions so that inflammation cannot take hold.
If you'd like to get in touch to see if I may be a good fit in working with you, please don't hesitate.