Is yours or your child’s skin red, dry, scaly and extremely itchy? Have you been
diagnosed with eczema? Eczema is believed to affect over 30 million Americans with it first appearing in children. Research is actually finding that 65 percent of cases occur before infants hit their first birthday, and 90 percent of those affected have their first cases before they turn 5 years old. (*source)
Why are we focusing on eczema this month? Well, one of the risk factors for eczema is a dry climate. Considering winter typically brings about dryer air for most regions, individuals who suffer from eczema could be experiencing worsening of the condition. While dry air can definitely be a factor in eczema, let’s look into some of the deeper root causes.
Eczema is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition. There is often a genetic component, and symptoms can range from mild to severe with frequent flares. Eczema flares are often due to a dysregulated or autoimmune reaction of the immune system, which can be due to leaky gut, food sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies and/or toxins. Bio- individuality comes into play here, but some of the common root causes of eczema include:
Immune system dysfunction
Genetic variation that impacts the skin
Insufficient fat consumption and/or absorption of fat soluble nutrients
Food sensitivities and/or allergies
Allergies to beauty products, hygiene products
As mentioned above, one of the biggest culprits we find in eczema cases is a dysregulated immune system. 75% of the immune system lies in the gut. If there is a leaky gut, the proteins of foods can pass through the intestinal wall, into the blood stream and the immune system can tag them as foreign with a certain antibody. If it’s an IgE antibody, the body’s mast cells will trigger a strong histamine release when they come in contact. If it is an IgA or IgG antibody, the body’s response will be slower and less severe but more persistent. Symptoms can take 24 to 72 hours or longer to appear and can vary widely; one being eczema for some individuals.
Heather has a very intimate story with eczema. She suffered severely with it from early childhood until 30 years old. It was so bad it covered the length of both of her shins, it would be on her hands, elbows and elbow pits. Sometimes it would get so bad it would flare up on her face. At night she would wake up scratching her legs so badly they would start to bleed and to this day she still has the scars on her legs to prove it. When she turned 30 she had enough of all the symptoms she was experiencing and decided to overhaul her diet. She ditched, gluten, dairy, and sugar. Within a couple weeks of eliminating these foods, her eczema went away. She has continued to keep these foods out of her diet and eczema hasn't shown it's angry face again.
When we focus on the immune system, we think of the client’s gut health, but also the key nutrients needed to keep it balanced. In particular, zinc is critical for immune strength, but it’s also important for skin health. In fact, zinc deficiency has been associated with eczema (*source). Zinc is used for a wide range of dermatological conditions and has been shown to help with itchiness. Fun fact - zinc oxide is one of the main ingredients in calamine lotion.
Other key nutrients that are needed for strong immune health and skin health are fat soluble Vitamins A, D, E and fatty acids such as Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s. Omega 6 is often demonized in the media, but we actually need a balance between Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s. Unfortunately, most Americans' diet is excessive in Omega 6 and deficient in Omega 3 and this imbalance is what causes concern. Research shows that people with eczema often have a defect in the function of the delta-6-desaturase enzyme (*Source), which is involved in the conversion of linoleic acid to gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that is important for reducing inflammation and cell growth. There are several sources of GLA that could be used to address a deficiency, but studies show that evening primrose oil (EPO) is effective in relieving many symptoms of eczema, including itching, dryness and inflammation (*Source). Increasing intake of wild fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, or sardines are a great way to get Omega 3 fatty acids or consuming a high quality fish oil, such as one from Nordic Naturals.
Getting to the root of eczema is a very individualized journey. What may be true for one person isn’t necessarily true for another person. This is why personalized medicine is critical for healing and creating optimal wellness and is one of Sagebrush Wellness’ founding principles.
If you’d like to learn more about healing from eczema join us for our webinar, Exposing Eczema on Friday, March 11th at 10:00am CST.
This blog post is for informational and educational purposes. It’s not meant to treat any health condition or to be prescriptive for anyone.
Always be sure to work with your healthcare practitioner before implementing new recommendations and/or supplements.