Every part of your body is interconnected, so it is not a surprise that your eczema is related to your gut health. Discover how to keep them balanced!
Eczema – also known as atopic dermatitis – is a skin condition that affects the outermost layers of the skin. In the U.S. alone, about 10–20% of children suffer with this condition. And as with any persistent condition, there is usually a great deal of misinformation surrounding the subject.
A lot of specialists prescribe medication to treat eczema, but few people get to the root cause to actually help heal the condition once and for all. This is where the misinformation comes in. Truth be told, eczema can be cured, but we have to get to the root cause. After all, the cure is always in the cause!
Studies are now showing that individuals suffering with eczema are likely to have a condition called leaky gut, which is essentially a damaged intestinal tract, particularly in the small intestine.
Eczema as well as other common skin conditions seem to be the result of this gut disorder. Additionally, those with eczema tend to experience food allergies and sensitivities. This boils down to the bacterial balance within the body. When the bacteria in our bodies, particularly within our digestive system, is out of balance, we experience a whole host of issues; leaky gut and eczema being just two.
The research shows that those with eczema are also more likely to develop these other conditions such as respiratory problems, allergies, and even asthma. In fact, according to traditional Chinese medicine, eczema is referred to as skin asthma.
What is Eczema?
With eczema, the skin becomes red, inflamed, scaly, and itchy. In more serious situations, the skin may crack, puss, or even bleed. Despite these manifestations, eczema is actually not just a skin problem; it’s actually a symptom of another, deeper issue.
The skin is a barrier system; it protects us from external pollutants and also works to detoxify the internal body. When eczema occurs, this barrier system is actually just beginning to break down. This happens because the rest of the body’s barrier systems (the lungs, digestive tract, etc.) are also broken down.
This happens when the body is overburdened with toxicity. So, it is not uncommon that eczema is simply just a problem with these other barrier systems that is now making its appearance on the skin. It’s sort of the body’s way of saying, “HEY! Are you listening, now? We need help!”
The Gut-Skin Connection
In traditional Chinese medicine, the practitioners knew that the entire body was connected; there were no separating of ailments. So as it turns out, the skin is connected to the gut and the rest of the body!
As barrier systems, both the gut and the skin are designed to defend the body. Both contain particular cells, called dendritic cells, that are native to the immune system. These cells are also found in the nose and lungs.
They actually help make up all of our barrier systems. Their job is to filter external pathogens – making sure that nothing from the outside; that isn’t supposed to be in the body, gets in.
- Harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi—and their waste
- Pollutants in the air
- Environmental chemicals and toxins
When the dendritic cells are activated in a particular part of the body, it may set an alarm off in other barrier systems. We recognize this “alarm” as inflammation. Inflammation is necessary for keeping us healthy. However, if we activate the immune system too much, it creates the problem of chronic inflammation, which can attribute to many diseases.
3 Attributing Factors of Childhood Eczema
If you were born with eczema, it’s helpful to know what might attribute to this condition. We will get to adult eczema in a moment, but there are still critical points to take here. Amongst the many things that may over-stimulate the immune system leading to eczema, there are 3 major factors that influence our bacterial balance:
Before a child is born, it resides in a very sterile environment. The world we live in is full of bacteria, yeast and microorganisms. Because of the sterile nature of the womb, a baby’s first contact with bacteria occurs during the birthing procedure.
There are two obvious ways a child is born; through the birth canal and via a C-section. Those born through the birth canal come in contact with a different arrangement of bacteria than those who are born by C-section.
Infants born through the birth canal are actually covered with beneficial lactobacillus bacteria to protect it – babies born by C-section are not. Therefore, the first bacteria that these babies come into contact with are bacteria from the immediate environment; the bacteria in the air, on the skin, and whatever else. Lactobacillus bacteria provide a base for the child’s immune system; without it, the child is vulnerable to whatever bacteria is in its environment. This can greatly attribute to the development of that child’s immune system later on.
Breast or Formula Fed
Breast milk contains good bacteria, and it also feeds the good bacteria already living in baby’s gut. A breastfed baby mostly harbors bifidobacteria.
A study recently published in the Canadian Association Medical Journal found that how a baby is delivered into the world and what the baby consumes during the first several months of life may have important consequences. (8) For example, researchers discovered that babies born by C-section were lacking a specific group of bacteria—even if they were breastfed. Babies that were strictly formula-fed also had differences in their gut bacteria.
According to Canadian researchers, babies born by C-section are at an increased risk of asthma, obesity, and type 1 diabetes. Breastfeeding seems to protect against these and other disorders, although the level of protection is unique to each child.
Antibiotics kill bacteria; they are designed to wipe out all bacteria, not just the harmful ones. This is bad news for babies who receive antibiotic therapy.
A study published in November 2012 found that short-term antibiotic use affects the type of bacteria living in a baby’s gut. (9) In other words, antibiotic therapy will not only get rid of an infection, but it also disrupts good bacteria. Worse, it seems that even short-term antibiotic use reduces microbial diversity—or, the number of different species of bacteria living in the gut.
According to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the diversity of our micro-biota largely affects our health. The studies show that when antibiotics are given to a baby, the long-term development of their internal micro-flora is negatively impacted.
The exact long-term consequences of antibiotics are still unknown; however, plenty of evidence shows a decrease in healthy bacteria within the body, leading to potential immune issues. This is just another reason to look for more natural and holistic means of healing. Especially considering that babies with eczema also display low microbial diversity.
Getting To the Root: Probiotic Solutions
Studies done by Mack DR, Michail S, Wei S, McDougall L, show that lactobacillus probiotics, as found raw, cultured and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, milk and water kefir encourage cells in the intestines to produce healthy mucus. This mucus inhibits harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Clostridium difficile from proliferating and thriving in the human gut.
This is helpful for those with eczema because other studies have found that stool samples from children (just prior to Eczema development) often contain too much E. coli and C. difficile. Additional research verifies that babies with eczema have a bacterial imbalance: they usually do not have sufficient bifidobacteria and too much C. difficile.
How probiotics benefit and treat eczema:
- Probiotics help to seal a leaky gut. (Leaky gut is connected with eczema.)
- Good bacteria also help strengthen the gut. In fact, evidence shows us that infants who have received probiotic treatment have a more sound gut wall.
- Probiotics have been found to normalize dendritic cells, which are part of the immune system and stimulated in babies with eczema.
- Probiotic bacteria can influence the bacterial balance of the skin, helping regulate infections on the skin from eczema outbreaks.
- In many studies, both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria (probiotics) have been shown to improve eczema in both adolescents and adults.
Related: How to Heal a Leaky Gut & Improve Digestion with Collagen
The Best Form of Probiotics to Take
While there are many probiotic supplements on the market today, the best way to get these healthy bacteria are actually from good ole fashioned fermented foods.
These fermented foods would include but are not limited to; sauerkraut, kim-chi, milk kefir, water kefir, kvass, miso, kombucha, and many others.
Here’s a tip: If it is your child who is suffering from eczema, and they are a picky eater or too young to enjoy some of these foods, then try just a dropper full of vegetable juice from cultured vegetables.
We can get probiotics from our food. But sometimes either we forget to eat foods with probiotics in them, or we just aren’t getting enough. That’s why taking a probiotic supplement can be so beneficial to maintaining our gut health.
Sunwarrior Probiotics combine stable probiotics with prebiotics and chloroplasts to enhance digestion, improve enzyme function, and fight free radicals. These probiotics will make your gut feel and work better.
Probiotic foods are very healing; however, eczema is ultimately a gut and immune issue. In addition to taking these foods, it will be helpful to work at boosting the immune system:
- Eat a diet comprised of organic, local, whole foods.
- Remove toxic, non-foods like GMO’s, Hybridized foods, pasteurized dairy, all processed and refined foods, especially sugars!
- Laugh and love more.
- Spend more time in nature, especially in the sun.
- Reduce the overall toxicity load of your life. This would include household items, clothes, beauty products, and of course toxic thought and emotional patterns!