HEALING ECZEMA WITH FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE
THE CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT OF ECZEMA
Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a painful skin condition with many potential causes and an almost limitless amount of possible triggers.
Knowing where to begin can be a challenge for patients who are bombarded by information and advertisements with claims to be the ‘one thing’ you need to heal permanently.
Conventional topical 'solutions' are often harsh and have severe side effects with potentially excruciating withdrawal periods.
Extreme treatments like using bleach topically and high-dose steroids are a superficial approach that damages the skin - the very organ that is inflamed.
High-dose topical steroids can cause calcium deficiency that can impair bone density, cause sleeplessness and damage your overall health.
BIOCHEMICAL STRESSORS CAN CONTRIBUTE TO ECZEMA
If there is an imbalance resulting from stress, a virus, a bacterial infection, autoimmune dysregulation, or toxicity - it is likely that your body will manifest conditions and inflammation which can take the form of eczema.
As you get healthier and remove any viruses, food sensitivities, bacterial infections, or toxins that are impeding your health it is common for skin problems to improve or disappear.
Lifestyle and dietary interventions can be powerful and permanent solutions, but if you have not achieved the results you want through these interventions then it may be that your treatment is not tailored enough to you as an individual.
In order for lifestyle and nutritional interventions to achieve their maximum effectiveness, personalization and timing of therapies are vital.
CONTRIBUTING FACTORS OF ECZEMA
FOOD ALLERGIES AND FOOD SENSITIVITIES
Food sensitivities and allergies can cause serious symptoms and be the source of many chronic conditions. Even 'healthy' diets may contain potentially reactive foods for you.
Deficiencies of zinc, omega 3's, magnesium, and B vitamins have been linked to eczema. Your levels can be tested and a personalized regimen created for you
Heavy metals and other chemicals can build up in your body (and especially in your liver) and can cause skin issues, autoimmunity and other chronic conditions
You would be surprised how many chemicals like MSG and gluten can be hiding under 'flavors' on an ingredient list - these additives can create chaos on your skin and in your body
Pollen, dust, mold, pets, chemicals, and pollution can overwhelm your immune system to the point that you develop chronic conditions like eczema
There can be an autoimmune component to eczema. We can isolate potential allergies or rule out other autoimmune diseases through targeted testing
UNDERLYING CAUSES OF ECZEMA
Eczema is too often labeled 'idiopathic' (without a known cause) without key factors being ruled out first.
Often, conditions are hastily shoved into an 'unknown cause' category because there is not just one simple cause that can be mitigated by pharmaceutical intervention.
Medications that attempt to shut down the immune system or mitigate the superficial manifestation of symptoms do not 'heal' they are simply an inadequate band-aid solution.
It is imperative that the exact underlying factors involved in your eczema be identified and addressed to heal your skin and health fully.
There is a reason you are suffering from eczema, and once the factor is identified and targeted, your skin can finally begin to heal.
YOUR DIET & NUTRITION
Dietary interventions can be extremely effective in treating eczema, but often, patients can hit a plateau. Their diets can reduce symptoms, but they still have low-level itching or periodic flare-ups.
Sometimes the solution can be relatively simple, it may be that you are eating an otherwise healthy veggie that has a natural pesticide called salicylates that is inflaming your skin.
Or it may be that your use of immune-suppressing drugs has caused your skin to become more inflamed and your once-effective diet is has been narrowed to fewer and fewer 'safe' foods.
During the period of healing, whatever underlying factor may be at work in your condition, you may be asked to avoid certain foods. It is imperative that you follow these guidelines strictly.
These diets allow time for your body's inflammation to calm down. 'Just a bite' of an inflammatory food can lead to a cascade of inflammation that can last for days or weeks.
UNDERLYING VIRAL INFECTION
Most patients know the importance of protecting themselves against the superficial skin infections that can accompany eczema, but few are aware that latent viral infections can cause or contribute to the condition.
In the majority of eczema patients, an underlying 'hibernating' viral infection is the primary culprit causing inflammation. Those with this condition often have a burdened liver in addition to a viral load in the liver itself.
The liver acts as a shield for the rest of the body, guarding it against this mounting viral infection. Given the right factors (ingesting food sensitivities, heavy metals and chemical toxins, stress, and nutrient deficiencies), this viral load will excrete viral waste products.
Viral-derived toxins can then enter the bloodstream initiating a skin reaction.
If you have chronic eczema that does not respond to therapies, ruling out a viral component to your condition is very important.
Atopic dermatitis is the diagnosis given to eczema that has an IgE-mediated sensitivity to allergens, but not all eczema patients have this reaction.
Some degree of immune dysregulation is common in those suffering from eczema, and patients often have a list of 'autoimmune type' symptoms like tingling in the hands and feet, cold extremities, joint pain, digestive upset, and food allergies.
A functional medicine approach to eczema is not only equipped to address your skin inflammation but also to identify and treat any factor that is preventing your immune system from functioning normally.
THE GENETIC COMPONENT OF ECZEMA
Eczema has a genetic component that is modified by environmental factors. Too often, patients resign themselves to having conditions because it 'runs in their family.'
There is a lot we can do to modify the expression of our genes. You could have a genetically impaired pathway that leaves you predisposed to eczema, but there are ways we can 'switch on' our good genes and 'switch off' the function of our bad genes that are contributing to the condition.
For some eczema patients, histamine intolerance or excess histamine is a major factor in the perpetuation of their symptoms.
Histamine is a normal immune-inflammatory response to something like an allergy or it can be a response to chronic infection or dysfunctional digestive system.
If histamine reaches critically high levels, skin reactions (as well as digestive issues) can occur. In certain cases, understanding your specific genetic variants for metabolizing histamine can be key in devising the therapies useful to you.
Our approach will be tailored to your genetic data, health status, and any other conditions you may have.
HOW CAN FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE HELP ECZEMA?
Our first patient appointment is one hour long, this is to ensure that you have enough time to go over all of your symptoms, family history, patient history, and any previous testing.
Dietary interventions and the elimination of any potential environmental toxins will be a big part of your protocol, so if you have a food journal or any food allergy testing be sure to bring it to the appointment.
After your initial appointment, we will most likely run targeted tests - to determine if you have any other conditions, if you have nutritional deficiencies, if your body is battling a parasite or if you have a bacterial infection or viral infection.
As with all complex conditions, it is vital not to read a symptom list online and then treat yourself assuming you have that diagnosis.
Many conditions can masquerade as others, and many patients have come to me after years of treating a condition they did not have.
Sometimes solutions are as simple as a dietary change and a switch to a clean makeup brand.
Other times, we have to clear a parasite, heal a damaged gastrointestinal tract and remove food sensitivities, and place you on a gentle eczema-friendly diet for a while.
Whatever the case, personalized treatment is the surest way you can get to a solution without wasting time, and money and having to suffer another day of painful symptoms.