Eczema is the term used to refer to a group of conditions.
They present with changes to the skin where the skin becomes inflamed, blisters, and becomes thicker than normal, possibly crusty or scaly. Most people experience burning and itching which can occur over a long time. The main types are:
- Acute: swelling, weeping, formation of vesicles, pain and impaired function.
- Subacute: loss of skin, erosions, crustiness, and scaling.
- Chronic: dryness, scaling and harder, thicker skin.
All of these have an additional impact on quality of life, impairing sleep, and contributing to irritability. There is also the potential for it to have a negative impact on your self-image and self-esteem.
There are a lot of different factors that can come into play with the development of eczema.
There is how and what you are exposed to that causes a reaction. You also need to consider your family history of eczema or food allergies, as well as how much stress you are under. Microbiome diversity also plays a roll, both in the gut and on the skin.
One of the hallmarks of eczema is the balance between the T helper (Th) type 1 and Th type 2 cells.
These are immune cells that help to stimulate the immune response. In eczema, they are unbalanced, and the Th-2 cells are too active or dominant. Th-2 dominance results in the excessive immune response to environmental allergens, which is seen in excessive IGE production and activation of eosinophil granulocytes. The result of this is the production of a rash to an allergen that you respond to, but other people don’t.
Just like the gut, your skin has a microbiome and the two of them are linked together.
An imbalance in intestinal microflora can result in a pro-inflammatory environment. This, in turn, can increase the incidence and severity of eczema as your body is already leaning towards inflammatory reactions.
Correcting this imbalance can help reduce inflammation and help to modulate the immune response to allergens. Research has also found that Lactobacilli rhamnosus supplementation can help reduce the severity and occurrence of eczema.
Eczema is a complicated condition, which has different triggers for different people, and you’ll need to figure what yours are. What a naturopath aims to do is:
- Identify and eliminate foods that are contributing to or exacerbating eczema
- Improve intake of foods containing nutrients that will support repair of damaged skin and reduce inflammation including essential fatty acids, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin D, iron and niacin.
- Correct dysbiosis in the microbiome by improving numbers of beneficial microflora.
- Reduce levels of pro-inflammatory substances and modulate the immune response.