Eczema treatment from a functional medicine perspective is all about finding the cause. I don’t treat my patients’ eczema; I look for the cause of the eczema and fix it. In this article I will go over the common problems I find that cause eczema.
Eczema Treatment | Intestinal problems
The first place I look for the cause of eczema is the intestinal tract. Whenever there is a skin problem (acne, psoriasis, rashes, boils, etc) the most common cause is something wrong with the gut. It is rare to find someone with unhealthy intestines but healthy skin. The skin and the gut have some things in common. They both get rid of toxins. When the gut is damaged and not able to eliminate toxins effectually, or worse is ADDING toxins to the body, the skin becomes the place these toxins end up, resulting in a “skin illness” like eczema. Both the skin and the intestines are affected by bacteria.1 They each can be made sick by a lack of healthy bacteria or the presence of pathogens.
So obviously eczema treatment here is to fix what may be wrong in the gut. Some of the common intestinal conditions that I’ve found result in eczema are:
- Dysbiosis, which is a fancy word for the bacteria in the intestines being messed up. Our bodies need lots of healthy bacteria, probiotics, in the right proportions. If the probiotics are lacking or imbalanced, the result will be problems in the gut.
- Intestinal pathogens like harmful bacteria, parasites or fungi (yeast or mold). These bad guys damage the intestines and can cause a condition called leaky gut syndrome.
- A variety of digestive problems can hurt the gut. Hypochloridia is a condition where the stomach doesn’t make enough acid. When the digestion in the stomach is weak, food is not broken down. Along the same lines, if either the pancreas and gallbladder under-perform, there will be undigested fat, protein and carbohydrates. Poorly digested food irritates the gut and can result in skin problems.
With proper testing all of these issues are easily diagnosed. Eczema treatment from a functional medicine approach will always address any problems in the intestinal tract.
Eczema Treatment | Food Sensitivities
Food Sensitivities can cause many skin conditions including eczema. Sensitivities can be developed to any kind of food or food ingredient including chemicals like food coloring and artificial sweeteners, seasonings, and even things like baker’s yeast. Sensitivities are different from food allergies which cause an immediate reaction. Instead, a delayed onset reaction occurs and can last for up to three weeks once triggered. Because of this delay and long duration it can be very frustrating to figure out by trial and error. Thankfully there is excellent testing that can uncover what these sensitivities are. I’ve seen many health issues resolved in patients, even some unexpected ones, once their food sensitivities were discovered and their diets adjusted.
Eczema Treatment | Imbalanced Fatty acids
Low or imbalanced fatty acids or high levels of pro-inflammatory fatty acids can lead to eczema. Fatty acids are very important in regulating inflammation in the body, and in eczema the skin is very inflamed. Fatty acid levels are affected by diet and absorption. If a person is eating foods high in pro-inflammatory fatty acids (soy, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, safflower, and mixed vegetable oils, fatty meats like burgers, hot dogs, bacon, bologna, ribs, etc) or not eating enough foods high in anti-inflammatory fats (olive oil, nuts like almonds and walnuts, fatty fish like salmon) their biochemistry will become pro-inflammation. Testing fatty acid levels is an important part of treating eczema.
Eczema Treatment | Histamine intolerance
Most people are familiar with antihistamine drugs. Histamine is released in response to allergies and causes the runny nose and sneezing associated with allergies. The allergy component is just one of the jobs histamine is involved in. Histamine is also released in response to injury, inflammation and infection. In fact histamine has 23 different functions in the body. When a person’s body can’t eliminate histamine and has elevated levels all the time, they develop an intolerance to histamine. Eczema is one of the possible problems histamine intolerance can cause. Histamine intolerance can cause leaky gut, which again can lead to eczema. This is a good example of how a problem like eczema can be complicated and multi-layered. A functional medicine approach looks for these various factors to uncover the root cause(s) of eczema.
Eczema Treatment | Toxins
Air pollutants from cigarette smoke, automobiles, industrial factories, and heating systems in buildings all can cause eczema. Heavy metals like mercury, lead and cadmium can cause eczema. People with poor detoxification ability are at greater risk here. Testing not only for the presence of these toxins in the body, but for how well a person is able get rid of toxins, is important.
Eczema Treatment | Mold
Mold can cause eczema. Testing here is critical because mold can cause so many other health problems. Every patient I’ve had whose eczema was caused by mold had no idea that their home had mold.
Eczema Treatment | Allergies
Allergies to foods, food additives, ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, environmental chemicals and pollutants, seasonal pollen, dust mites, and pet dander all can cause eczema.
Eczema Treatment | A Functional Medicine Approach
Treating eczema from a functional medicine approach is all about finding the cause and fixing it. I’ve seen my patients’ eczema resolve from every cause, and usually more than one of the causes I’ve written about here. Generally patients with eczema have more going on than just their eczema. Often these patients have one or more of these conditions as well: autoimmune disorder, chronic fatigue, weakness, body pain, joint pain, headaches, sinus problems, brain fog, IBS, depression and anxiety.
The components of the human body are so interwoven that when something is not working right a whole host of problems can occur. Functional medicine is all about recognizing this. Once the root causes are resolved people get healthy and their symptoms go away.
If you or a loved one has eczema, I would love to help. Feel free to reach out with your questions or comments.