One of the most common symptoms or issues we see in clients at our BePure clinic in the Hawke’s Bay is eczema. For some it is a mildly annoying patch of dermatitis that hints at other health concerns, while for others it is painful, raw, prone to infection, itchy, a cause of self-consciousness and in extreme cases it can be completely debilitating.
In one case we dealt with a small child with eczema who had to have their hands wrapped each night to prevent them itching themselves until they bled. You can imagine the toll this loss of sleep played on both the child and their parents.
Eczema is a catch all term to describe a medical condition in which patches of skin become rough and inflamed and can cause itching and bleeding. There is some debate amongst the medical profession as to what causes eczema. Some doctors simply say some people have sensitive skin and need creams to deal with the symptom. Progressive health professionals are now understanding the link between eczema and other inflammatory or gut conditions.
Clinically at BePure we treat eczema as a sign of some other systemic health condition. In almost all cases, eczema and other skin conditions such as rosacea and psoriasis, are due to systemic inflammation or poor liver function.
In the case of inflammation, particularly in young children, the eczema is the result of an immune response within the body. Especially within the gut. This usually points to the individual eating something that does not agree with them. The most common culprit we see is gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye and is what gives bread its stretch. Its consumption stimulates the production of a protein called zonulin in everyone who eats it.
Zonulin is currently the only known regulator of the tight junctions between the cell walls of the digestive tract. The wall of the digestive tract is meant to serve as a barrier between us and the outside world. However, zonulin can loosen these tight junctions, allowing undigested food particles and other inflammatory particles to pass into the bloodstream. Because over 70% of our immune system is located in our gut, if these immune molecules pass through our intestinal barrier and into our gut stream, it can cause massive inflammation across the whole body. This is known as leaky gut syndrome. To learn more about leaky gut, you can read the works of Dr Amy Myer and Dr Natasha Campbell McBride who both specialise in gut health.
If you are susceptible to zonulin, this can lead to an immune response, contributing to a whole host of autoimmune conditions including Celiac Disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Graves Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and Fibromyalgia, as well as all sorts of neurological disorders and skin conditions including eczema.
The number one thing we recommend in this instance is to eat a clean diet free of gluten and pro-inflammatory foods such as vegetable oils, sugar, alcohol, preservatives and highly refined grains.
Secondly, if you experience eczema as a result of inflammation or a food intolerance, taking a quality Omega 3 fish oil to balance the ratio of Omega 3’s to Omega 6’s in your body will be beneficial. We have a quality fish oil product called BePure THREE. It’s made from anchovies and has been extremely effective in treating our patients with skin conditions and gut issues.
The second factor we see driving eczema is poor liver function leading to liver toxicity. Our livers are the incredible organs responsible for helping us detox every single day. However, due our exposure to environmental toxins and substances loading our liver such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol, this elimination cannot happen as effectively as it should.
Our skin is our largest organ. When we can’t process environmental or dietary toxins through our liver, they try to escape through our skin. The result in this instance is eczema and other skin conditions.
Again, diet is critical here. Removing liver loading substances like excessive coffee, alcohol and sugar will place less strain on the organ so it can remove these toxins naturally. Reducing your exposure to environmental toxins such as BPA, parabens, conventional skincare products, personal care items like deodorant and sunscreen and old buildings with lead-based paint will all help with the health of your liver.
What you add into your diet is just as critical as what you remove. Nutrient-rich foods like liver, leafy greens, small oily fish and ensuring you eat a variety of coloured fruits and vegetables will provide your body with the nutrition it needs. Our BePure ONE multivitamin also contains the B vitamins necessary for liver health and is a great addition for those people suffering with eczema.
We understand that the symptom itself often does need managing. Topically, it’s important to choose a product that doesn’t add additional strain on your liver with unnecessary chemicals, steroids or parabens. Sticking to all natural oil based products will heal retain moisture in the skin and don’t require synthetic chemicals to be added. It’s a really difficult topic and time for those people stuck in an eczema rut. We know that sometimes a short term trade off needs to be made to provide some relief. My aim in this blog isn’t to negate medical treatments for eczema but to provide some overarching direction and ideas for those struggling with this condition. As with all health concerns, each case of eczema is unique and working closely with a healthcare provider can be helpful in finding a tailored solution.
Ben is the founder and clinical director of the holistic health and nutrition company BePure. He is passionate about changing the landscape of health in New Zealand using real food, holistic lifestyle strategies and nutritional support.