Eczema: Is Gut Health to Blame?
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If you have ever wondered about the connection between your skin and what you eat, the latest research on eczema proves that the health of the gut often shows up on the skin.
Eczema is a recurring skin disorder. Flare-ups look like dry, red patches of skin that crust, flake, and can develop into oozing blisters.
Eczema is likely to develop in early childhood, and cases have nearly tripled in the past 30 years in the U.S. Replenishing the gut with a probiotic-rich drink like InnergyBiotic can help to improve immunity and soothe skin inflammation.
Many of those affected by eczema begin to show signs during childhood, usually before the age of 5 years old. This is when the digestive system is particularly vulnerable. This is also when the microbial ecosystems of the body are in development.
The gut is first and foremost a barrier that protects you from the outside world—an outside world that you introduce to your body several times a day in the form of food and drink.
Much of the communication between your body and the immune system happens at the level of the digestive tract. These signals produced by the immune system move throughout the body.
Key factors that may be related to the risk of developing eczema include:
- Birth mode - vaginal or Cesarean section
- Whether or not baby is breastfed
- Presence of older siblings
Each factor introduces specific groups of microbes that colonize the body and educate the immune system. (1)
Some studies show that eczema is more common than ever before, with up to 20 percent of children showing signs of the disorder. The number of eczema cases in the Unites States has nearly tripled in the past 30 years! (2)
While eczema mostly affects the face and scalp during infancy, as a child grows older, it typically moves into areas that surround the joints. Common places where you may see eczema include the inner crease of the elbow and behind the knee.
The Ecosystem Living on Your Skin
Eczema—like many skin disorders—is not merely skin deep.
While what happens on the surface of the skin is important, eczema doesn’t begin or end there. For example, researchers at the National Cancer Institute found that the immune system helps select which microbes make their home on the surface of the skin. (3)
Researchers found that those with a weak immune system harbored microbes that are not found on healthy individuals. According to the co-senior author of the study, Heidi Kong, "Our findings suggest that the human body, including our immune systems, constrains and potentially selects which bacteria and fungi can inhabit skin.”
A weak immune system also means less diversity—or a reduced number of species on the skin. The authors of the study suggest that correcting diversity, rather than just targeting the “bad guys,” may be the best way to treat eczema.
Indeed, Penn researcher Elizabeth Grice, assistant professor of Dermatology, explains that there is a balance between the ecosystem of the skin and the immune system. (4) "That balance is probably highly evolved so our optimal skin health is maintained when these two factors are in balance and communicating. And it's when you disrupt one of those components that you can trigger or exacerbate a skin disorder or infection."
Professor Grice wisely points out that, “I think our definition and labeling of 'bad microbes' needs to change. We need to think about how we nurture our microbes rather than eradicate them. They evolved with us for a reason."
Probiotics for Eczema? How to Find Eczema Relief
The most common way to treat eczema is with drugs that suppress the immune system and control inflammation—such as immunosuppressants and corticosteroids. A bacterial infection may call for antibiotic therapy.
But research shows that these therapies may not get to the heart of the disorder. (5) Corticosteroids, immunosuppressants, and antibiotic therapy may only manage symptoms.
As scientists hone tools that might enrich the communities of microbes living on your skin, steps that may decrease eczema flare-ups are:
1. Remove Trigger Foods. Because the immune system plays such a pivotal role in skin health, you can support your immune system by removing any “triggers” that excite an immune response. Many of these triggers come in the form of food. Nuts, eggs, and nightshades such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, chili pepper, and bell pepper might all be responsible for a flare-up of eczema.
2. Use Natural Skin Products. Avoid harsh chemicals that could damage the good bacteria on the skin.
3. Replenish Beneficial Microbes. Beneficial bacteria and yeast communicate with the immune system of the body. They communicate with nearby cells. They work together to thrive. Beneficial microbes may help soothe away inflammation, seal a leaky gut, and balance the immune system. The good news is that beneficial microbes are found in fermented foods and probiotic beverages. These superfoods can restore the microbial ecosystems of the body.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
The health of your skin is directly related to what you eat and the microbial diversity of your gut. Eczema is a chronic skin disorder marked by flare-ups of itchy, dry, red patches of skin that can often blister. Eczema is likely to show up in childhood, before age 5. This is significant because early childhood is a time when the digestive system is more vulnerable.
Eczema may begin on a baby's scalp and face and move to the joint areas as a child grows older. The true issue with eczema lies much deeper than the surface of the skin. Research proves that people with a weak immune system harbor certain microbes on the skin not found on healthy individuals. A weak immune system can also contribute to less microbial diversity. Instead of trying to target bad bacteria, it's important to find a balance between the ecosystem of the skin and the immune system.
Fortunately, there are 3 natural steps you can take to get your gut and skin health in sync:
- Eliminate any foods that could trigger eczema—most commonly nuts, eggs, and nightshades.
- Use only natural skin products free from harmful chemicals that can destroy good bacteria on the skin.
- Replenish beneficial microbes in the gut to calm whole-body inflammation with superfoods like fermented foods and probiotic beverages.
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- Penders, J., Gerhold, K., Stobberingh, E. E., Thijs, C., Zimmermann, K., Lau, S., & Hamelmann, E. (2013). Establishment of the intestinal microbiota and its role for atopic dermatitis in early childhood. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 132(3), 601-607.
- Saito, H. (2005). Much atopy about the skin: genome-wide molecular analysis of atopic eczema. International archives of allergy and immunology, 137(4), 319-325.
- Oh, J., Freeman, A. F., Park, M., Sokolic, R., Candotti, F., Holland, S. M., ... & Kong, H. H. (2013). The altered landscape of the human skin microbiome in patients with primary immunodeficiencies. Genome research.
- Chehoud, C., Rafail, S., Tyldsley, A. S., Seykora, J. T., Lambris, J. D., & Grice, E. A. (2013). Complement modulates the cutaneous microbiome and inflammatory milieu. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(37), 15061-15066.
- Kong, H. H., Oh, J., Deming, C., Conlan, S., Grice, E. A., Beatson, M. A., ... & Segre, J. A. (2012). Temporal shifts in the skin microbiome associated with disease flares and treatment in children with atopic dermatitis. Genome research, 22(5), 850-859.
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