Eczema, like other autoimmune diseases, is connected to gut health. You’ve probably been hearing a lot about gut health recently. Gut health is becoming more and more popularized, as it should be. Issues in the gut can cause so many problems throughout the body, including eczema, like we’re talking about here. Doctors often prescribe steroid creams and lotions to heal eczema, but the real way to heal eczema is by healing the gut.
Eczema and the Gut
What Is Eczema?
Eczema is inflammation of the skin. People with eczema experience symptoms like dry, itchy, red skin, sometimes with fluid-filled bumps, like little blisters. So, lots of skin problems. But, did you know – eczema is actually an outward sign of what is going on inside your body?
And not just eczema – acne and other skin issues are a good sign that something is not right on the inside. Your body is smart. God designed it that way. And it does let you know when something’s off. Just like with hormones! Ladies, if you’re having period problems or not having your period (and you’re not pregnant or on birth control!) – that’s a sign that something’s off with your hormones.
Our body communicates with us, we need to be observant. Listen and recognize these signals and when changes happen within us. If all the sudden you develop eczema – something happened to cause it. So it’s a good idea, whether you have eczema or not, to just be observant of what you’re eating and doing and how your body responds.
How Is Eczema Related to the Gut?
So when we get to the root cause of skin issues – it’s usually gut related. Like I said, gut health is becoming a bigger and bigger topic as we’re learning more and more out about the gut. Even though it’s relatively new in popularity, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, was quoted more than 2,000 years as saying, “All disease begins in the gut.”
So he noticed the connection, and it took scientists almost 2,000 years to conduct studies and prove the connection. Many conventional doctors still say there is no cure from eczema and the cause is unknown. But holistic and functional medicine doctors look at the body as a whole and how different systems relate to each other. They are focused on getting to the root cause of eczema and other diseases.
With research that has been done on the gut, they have come to find out that eczema and many other diseases – like allergies, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimotos thyroiditis, and more, are caused by gut issues, like Hippocrates said thousands of years ago.
There’s still a lot more to learn about the gut though. Scientist and doctors still do not know everything about the gut. There’s still studies that need to be done. But I’m amazed as I’m learning more and more about the gut and all the issues that stem from gut problems.
Check out this video for more on eczema and the gut!
What is the Gut?
First of all, let’s define the gut. When people talk about the gut, a lot of times they mean the intestines. But the “gut” actually refers to the whole gastrointestinal tract – from your mouth, to your esophagus, to your stomach, then your small intestine, large intestine, and finally your rectum and anus.
How Do Gut Issues Lead to Eczema?
Eczema is an autoimmune disease, where your immune system attacks your skin. But why?
Usually it is because of a condition called leaky gut. “Leaky Gut” is a condition in which the lining of your small intestines leak. In your intestinal wall, there are tight junctures that separate your intestinal tube, which carries your food, from your blood stream, where the nutrients from your food go and are carried to the different parts of your body. Well, when you have leaky gut, these tight junctures separate. They aren’t tight any more. Then things like bacteria, toxins, and food particles are able to enter into your bloodstream.
When the gut leaks, your immune system senses these foreign invaders in the blood stream and starts to fight. About 70% of your immune system is located in the gut. So, it’s right there. It’s read to go. Your white blood cells in your immune system are like the National Guard in your body, ready to attack any foreign invaders. So, they launch an attack on the leaking substances, causing inflammation somewhere in the body. For eczema, the inflammation manifests on the skin.
Now, inflammation can definitely be a good thing. Inflammation is what causes wounds to scab over and heal when we get a cut. However, it is not a good thing when your immune system continues to attack and causes chronic inflammation when there’s not actually a sickness or injury– just a gut that continues to leak.
Here’s a great article from The Paleo Mom, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. you can read to learn a lot more about Leaky Gut.
What Causes Leaky Gut?
So, what even causes leaky gut in the first place? A leaky gut can be caused from one or a combination of a few different things.
- It can partly be due to your DNA. Some people are just biologically more prone to getting leaky gut.
- Chronic Stress: Our hormone cortisol increases when we’re stressed, and high amounts of cortisol can lead to leaky gut.
- Excess amount of environmental toxins, like pesticides that are sprayed on non-organic food, mold, and toxins in our personal care products
- Diet – The standard American diet with high amounts of sugar, processed food, an excess amount of processed carbs, and other inflammatory foods, but low amounts of fiber is a recipe for leaky gut.
- Also, different medications like anti-inflammatory medications (MOTRIN and aspirin) and Proton Pump Inhibitors cause gaps in the lining of the gut.
- One more cause of leaky gut is dysbiosis.
What Is Dysbiosis?
Dysbiosis is an imbalance of bacteria in your gut. You need bacteria. Bacteria in our gut helps with digestion, works with our immune system, and much more. But we can have too much bacteria in the wrong place – like the small intestine. The majority of the bacteria should be in your large intestine. Or we can have too much bad bacteria and not enough good bacteria.
Another function of good bacteria in our gut is to keep the bad bacteria down. It helps fight sickness by taking up all the space and not leaving any space for the bad bacteria.
What Causes Dysbiosis?
In our standard American diet, we eat lots of foods that feed the bad bacteria. Sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, food additives, refined carbs, and alcohol feed the bad bacteria. A lot of Americans have way too much of those things; so then we get way too much bad bacteria.
Instead, we should be eating more foods that feed our good bacteria. Those foods are called prebiotics foods and they contain lots of dietary fiber. So think – vegetables, fruits, and beans. The fiber in these foods is not digested by our stomach and small intestine. It passes through to our large intestine, and it’s there that the bacteria ferments and uses that fiber as food to grow and continue to do all the great things that that good bacteria does to keep us healthy.
Dysbiosis can actually start at birth. So if you’re experiencing eczema as an adult, it could have to do with your birth many years ago. If your mom had you vaginally (sorry if this is TMI!), you were able to get lots of beneficial bacteria when you are born. However, if you were born through C-section, you didn’t get all that good bacteria. Studies have shown that C section babies do not have as much diversity in their gut microbiome and not as much good bacteria.
Breastfeeding also plays a part in dysbiosis. Babies that are breastfeed have more diversity in their gut bacteria.
Another factor that causes dysbiosis is antibiotics. Antibiotics kill bacteria – both the bad bacteria causing your sickness and the good bacteria that helps to fight that sickness. Antibiotics can throw off your bacterial balance for YEARS. These days we’re being pushed to sanitize and disinfect and use antibacterial soap, which hurts our microbiome and lead to greater problems.
How Do We Heal the Gut?
I believe it’s important to get to the root issue of issues in order to heal eczema or any disease, instead of just putting a band-aid on problems and getting rid of symptoms. So, in order to heal eczema, we’ve got to heal the gut!
I covered all this in another post – so go read this post to learn how to heal leaky gut and heal your eczema – naturally!