Amanda Hamilton, Leading UK Nutritionist, explores the link between Gut Health and Eczema.
The conventional approach of creams and medication for eczema focuses on suppression rather than treatment at the root cause. Yes, they deliver relief and are often required, but, for a longer term resolution, there is another way. Nutritional therapy supports healing through diet and can be enhanced through the use of natural mineral salts bathing.
But first, what is eczema?
Eczema comes in many forms, but it is mainly recognized by its red, itchy rash. According to conventional medical thinking the cause of eczema is unknown but functional and natural medicine takes a different view.
As a nutritionist I view eczema not as a “disease” in and of itself, but rather, as an external symptom of an internal problem. So, each and every time I see someone for eczema, adult or child, I work toward addressing the underlying cause.
Eczema has its root in inflammation, a body’s response to a perceived threat. Those who are predisposed to ‘atopic’ conditions such as eczema, hayfever and asthma are most likely to experience this frustrating condition. Not surprisingly, the first dietary first step is to begin to follow an anti-inflammatory nutrition plan, ideally alongside some natural skin soothing baths with mineral rich Dead Sea Salts. This combination helps tackle this condition from the inside out and the outside in!
Follow an anti-inflammatory diet
A whole-foods diet based on a large percentage of vegetables and some fruits is an ideal anti-inflammatory starting point, ideally organic. In addition, grass fed meats and oily fish are core protein sources. The nutrients in nuts (if safe to consume) and avocados can also be helpful, as can specialist ingredients such as turmeric. In terms of grains and carbohydrates, the best options are quinoa and gluten free oats, either cooked to replace pasta or rice, or as a breakfast cereal. According to research, a diet based more on processed or fast food increases the risk of eczema so if you can’t pronounce what it says on the label, you shouldn’t be eating or drinking it!
Rebalance the gut
A healthy gut prevents undigested food particles and undesirable substances from crossing the GI barrier into the bloodstream, so called “leaky gut.” It is precisely these substances that trigger the body over respond and create inflammation.
Luckily, the gut (also known as the large intestine) can be repaired through following a staged dietary approach, such as that in the Gut Plan Diet. Yeast overgrowth, commonly referred to as Candida, or Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth (SIBO) are other common complaints that are linked to eczema that can be approached in a similar same way. Specialist ingredients such as prebiotics and probiotics, both found naturally occurring in foods, are an important component of any gut healing diet.
Food allergies and intolerances
The nutritional therapy approach to eczema also requires that any food allergies or intolerances are discovered and the foods and / or drinks removed, either long term or for a time out to allow for recovery, and then reintroduced slowly. The most common trigger foods are cow’s milk (dairy), eggs, soya, wheat, fish / shellfish and deadly nightshade foods that include potatoes, aubergines, cucumbers and peppers. For very young children and babies, a tailored approach often includes switching from cow’s milk formula to goat’s milk alternatives.
Histamine intolerance is yet another potential contributor. Histamine is a chemical involved in your immune system and inflammation and there are a wide variety of otherwise healthy foods that naturally contain histamine, cause the release of histamine, or block the enzyme that breaks down histamine.
Excess sugar and alcohol are also disrupters for many people for wider health in addition to skin conditions.
Take natural salts treatment baths
As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, medicated creams can suppress symptoms but don’t deal with the root cause. However, there are ways to work directly with the skin if you utilise the benefits of natural sea salts, renowned for their therapeutic benefits since ancient times. Westlab Dead Sea Salt and Kid’s Dead Sea Salts contain high levels of minerals that are absorbed via the skin when added to the bath. The soothing, relaxing nature of mineral baths can also help ease stress that can make symptoms of eczema worsen. So, prioritise ‘me time,’ or a child’s chill out time in the bath, knowing you are supporting body and mind.