The Root Cause of Eczema Symptoms & How You Can Find Hope for Healing
Between the incessant itching and feelings of loneliness it causes, eczema symptoms affect so much more than just the surface of our skin. They impair our emotional wellbeing. Studies have confirmed that people with eczema are nearly three times more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than the average person1.
And, I’m not at all surprised. At its worst, I was in constant physical pain. And, it felt really hard to hold relationships with others without being judged or looked down upon.
One of the most disheartening things about being diagnosed with eczema is that it feels like no one has any real answers. No one can tell you what causes eczema symptoms, how you got it, or why you?
It may have taken the better part of 10 years (and lot’s and lot’s of learning), but I can stand with you today and tell you I now fully understand the root cause of the inflammation that causes eczema. And, how to support the body in healing itself.
Understanding the root cause truly opens the door for hope. Understanding what’s going wrong inside of your body provides the answers you’re looking for about how to heal from the inside out – and how to do it naturally.
Getting to the Root of Eczema Symptoms
Way back in the day Hippocrates, the ‘father of medicine’, made a ground-breaking statement that went something like this, “all diseases begin in the gut”.
When it comes to the root cause of inflamed skin, he was dead on. There is a clear gut-skin connection.
The root cause of eczema starts in your digestive tract. Impaired digestive function (i.e. low stomach acid [aka hypochlorhydria], or pancreatic enzymes), parasitic infections, fungal infections, and bacterial imbalances (aka dysbiosis) can all lead to imbalances in the gut.
Once these imbalances take hold, poorly digested food makes its way through our gut, leading to irritation and inflammation. As the small intestine becomes inflamed, the mucus lining in our gut (which normally acts as a protective barrier) becomes injured and starts to break down.
Over time, the lining of the intestine becomes impaired. This causes undigested food particles to float in between the cells and directly into the bloodstream. This is known as intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome.
Intestinal Permeability aka Leaky Gut
Intestinal permeability looks something like this:
As these little bits of food enter the bloodstream, they come into contact with the cells of our immune system. Our immune systems are not designed to recognize poorly digested food. Because of this, they react as if an invader has entered our body. The same way they would react to infectious bacteria or viruses.
Once intestinal permeability is present, this immune system reaction happens almost every time we eat.
Over and over again, our body is overreacting. Inflammation continues to increase. And, eventually, our immune system can become so overwhelmed that it starts attacking our own cells and tissue.
This is the root cause of autoimmunity, and how we end up with these itchy red patches on our skin.
This is the same process that leads to food sensitivities. People often believe that food itself, like gluten, causes eczema. But, the reason that certain foods tend to increase eczema symptoms for most people is that a leaky gut increases the risk of an inflammatory reaction to foods.
Why Haven’t You Heard of Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The connection between intestinal permeability and inflamed skin can be found in scientific literature as far back as the 1980s and earlier.2,3,4
We know that it takes somewhere between 15 and 20 years, on average, for updated science to make its way into healthcare practice.5 Unfortunately, when it comes to understanding the root cause of eczema symptoms, it’s taking much longer for this information to be accepted in conventional medicine.
Healing Intestinal Permeability: Identifying Foods that Trigger Your Eczema Symptoms
The process of healing leaky gut, and getting to the root of what causes eczema symptoms, is two-fold: 1. avoid inflammatory triggers, and 2. support the gut lining so it can heal itself.
Click here to download a Food Symptom Diary. This is very similar to the one I use with my clients to connect the dots between specific foods and increased inflammation. Make note of foods eaten 72 hours prior to a flare in symptoms.
Common food sensitivities that contribute to eczema include gluten, eggs, dairy (especially cow’s dairy), and soy. But, any food can become a sensitivity when we are dealing with a leaky gut.
Pin-pointing your specific sensitivities can be very tricky, but is necessary in order to heal. This is why when working with clients I prefer to test with functional lab testing, instead of guessing.
A good example here of some unexpected food sensitivities happened when I ran a food sensitivity test on myself. I was reacting more to beef and butternut squash than any of the ‘common’ trigger foods.
I had been avoiding eggs for months, but found that I actually was not reacting to them at all!
But, testing is a financial investment. If you’ve never considered how foods might be impacting your eczema symptoms, using this Food Symptom Diary is a great place to start.
You can find some additional ideas for reducing inflammation in this blog post: 5 Simple Ways to Reduce Inflammation in the Body.
Healing Intestinal Permeability: Supporting Your Gut Lining to Improve Eczema Symptoms
There are many healing foods that play an important role in supporting the integrity of your gut. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Bone Broth – I LOVE making stuff in my slow-cooker. Especially bone broth. Everything you need to know about making Crock-Pot Bone Broth can be found in this recipe by Real Simple Good.
- Sunchokes – here is a simple recipe for Roasted Sunchokes with Chives.
- Marshmallow Root Tea – this is my preferred brand. It has a really enjoyable mild, earthy flavor. Mix one scope with hot water and sip on this throughout the day to support your gut’s protective mucosal barrier.
Please always check with your healthcare provider, (preferably your pharmacist) before starting a new supplement regimen.
Adding these gut-healing foods to your weekly regimen can be very supportive to healing eczema symptoms. However, if you find that you continue to have unbearable symptoms, you may need individualized support to figure out what is at the core of your gut imbalances. If this is the case for you, I invite you to schedule a free Clarity Call with me. You can book a session by clicking here.
Coming up next on the Nourished News Blog: Identifying Food Sensitivities and Strategies to Heal Leaky Gut Naturally.
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Sending you compassion in your healing journey.
- Nearly 1/3 of people with atopic dermatitis report depression/anxiety. (2020, September 02). Retrieved from https://nationaleczema.org/nea-press-release-10-26-17/
- Bjarnason I, Goolamali SK, Levi AJ, Peters TJ. Intestinal permeability in patients with atopic eczema. Br J Dermatol. 1985 Mar;112(3):291-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.1985.tb04856.x. PMID: 3919753.
- Pike MG, Heddle RJ, Boulton P, Turner MW, Atherton DJ. Increased intestinal permeability in atopic eczema. J Invest Dermatol. 1986 Feb;86(2):101-4. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12284035. PMID: 3745938.
- Rosenfeldt V, Benfeldt E, Valerius NH, Paerregaard A, Michaelsen KF. Effect of probiotics on gastrointestinal symptoms and small intestinal permeability in children with atopic dermatitis. J Pediatr. 2004 Nov;145(5):612-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2004.06.068. PMID: 15520759.
- Morris ZS, Wooding S, Grant J. The answer is 17 years, what is the question: understanding time lags in translational research. J R Soc Med. 2011 Dec;104(12):510-20. doi: 10.1258/jrsm.2011.110180. PMID: 22179294; PMCID: PMC3241518.