Updated: Jan 12
There are few conditions so inextricably tied to diet than skin problems like eczema.
Look no further than the immediate effect a trigger food has on your skin, or your dark circles after staying up all night, or your chapped lips when you are dehydrated, or the cracked corners of your mouth due to a b-vitamin deficiency - what you eat and what you do has an effect on your skin.
Diet and lifestyle changes can truly deliver on long-term solutions but sometimes even patients with well-controlled eczema can have inexplicable flare-ups or low-grade autoimmune-like symptoms.
This can be due to hidden ingredients in food, an undiagnosed autoimmune condition, latent infections, food sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies, genetic predispositions and other factors that can impair your health to the point of causing conditions.
Utilizing Diagnostic Testing for Eczema
For chronic eczema suffers, there are 3 areas of particular importance that should be evaluated and expertly addressed:
Levels of nutrients - including but not limited to zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, essential fatty acids (omega 3's and omega 6's), and B complex deficiencies.
Liver function and toxic burden - liver enzyme function testing and evaluation of stored environmental toxins are two key factors that are relevant in almost every case of chronic eczema
Gastrointestinal Microbiome - a thorough functional medicine evaluation and comprehensive stool analysis to gauge the health of good bacteria as well as to look for harmful microbes contributing to inflammation
Nutritional Considerations For Eczema
Magnesium deficiency is common in eczema sufferers and has been implicated in a range of other conditions and symptoms.
Not all magnesium is created equal however, different types of magnesium are better absorbed by some individuals.
Certain types of magnesium are best for restoring digestive motility, others forms are better suited for increasing energy and muscle function, and some are optimal for supporting brain and nervous system function.
Topical zinc creams, as well as oral zinc supplementation, can be effective in treating eczema.
Zinc, particularly the effective form of zinc picolinate is stored effectively in your liver.
You CAN take too much zinc. The maximum dose of 12mg per day is generally considered safe for adults unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
Taking a higher dose can lead to nausea, headaches, and vomiting.
Vitamin d deficiency has been linked to skin problems, fatigue, and other chronic conditions.
Adequate vitamin D is protective against viral and bacterial infections, this is of particular importance since eczema increases the risk of skin infections.
Histamine and Salicylate intolerance
Histamine and salicylate intolerance are both very common in eczema sufferers.
Supplementation Is Only Part Of The Solution
Avoiding foods containing what you are reacting to is important - but it is also necessary to correct biochemical imbalances that led to these intolerances so you do not have to rely on a restrictive diet indefinitely.
Rectifying nutritional deficiencies can reverse or mitigate many conditions and symptoms but be careful, self-administering a supplement routine based on your own online diagnosis can create its own set of problems.
Many conditions and be mistaken for others and even practitioners can make incorrect assumptions regarding the origin of your symptoms.
A functional medicine practitioner can make sure there are no additional factors involved in your eczema.
Testing can confirm what your biochemical needs are, and the administration of pharmaceutical grade supplementation can ensure that you are getting the best quality treatment for your health situation.
In using nutritional supplementation, the type of nutrient, its dosage and the timing of administration are crucial elements that can mean the difference between finding relief and having no effect whatsoever.
A person who is homozygous for the MTHFR gene, who has gastrointestinal upset, suffers from migraines and has eczema will have a completely different treatment plan than someone who has arthritis and whose eczema only flares when they eat certain foods.
A Clean Diet is a Vital First Step
Cleaning up your diet is an important first step you can take in addressing your eczema. The typical American diet is filled with chemicals, preservatives, pesticide residues and allergens that can irritate even the healthiest immune system.
Food additives like preservatives and MSG are known to cause liver inflammation - and a burdened liver creates a foundation of ill health and chronic conditions.
A poor diet also results in a less diverse gut flora, a factor that has been implicated in the development of eczema in infants.
Most importantly, a diet that is poor in nutrients is not good for your health overall. Your skin health cannot be compartmentalized from the rest of your body. Living an unhealthy lifestyle with have health consequences that will affect your skin and beyond.
Keep in mind that cutting out large groups of foods indiscriminately can create its own health problem - it can lead to nutrient deficiencies as well as creating food sensitivities.
If you eat only from a small group of 'healthy' foods, you risk sensitizing your body to those foods, your body can then become reactive to foods that were previously 'safe' (via an IgE reaction). Your list of 'safe foods' can then become shorter and shorter.
How to Avoid Ingredients Sabotaging Your Health
Cooking from home when possible, making your food from whole ingredients that you buy as clean (organic) as possible is the best, and cheapest way to avoid harmful additives.
Making your own food also has a remarkable effect on overall health. For the most part, restaurants and fast food locations stay in business by using the cheapest possible ingredients.
Generally, your meal will always be healthier for you if you use whole ingredients and you prepare it a home compared to the same dish at a restaurant.
Try to limit items that come packaged - processed foods have additives in order to increase their shelf life, added salt and sugar to improve taste, and many allergens that can hide under 'natural flavors'.
Identify food allergens and sensitivities and remove them completely from your diet. One of the easiest ways to do this is by starting a food journal.
Write down the time, what you ate and any symptoms you had.
You can read more about how to do a food journal in my article here.
Keep track of how you feel, patterns often appear when you write down your symptoms over the course of a few weeks.
Sometimes, clearing up your eczema is as simple as removing a few foods (like avocados and tomatoes), or removing an environmental allergen (like mold), or clearing up a gastrointestinal infection (like an overgrowth streptococcus and candida in the small intestine).
Eczema, is the manifestation of a problem somewhere else in the body - it could be a toxic liver, a digestive dysfunction, an infection, a long-term nutrition deficiency or an undiagnosed food sensitivity/intolerance.
What Functional Medicine Can Offer
If your eczema is complex, is not solved by common interventions, or you simply feel too exhausted from all of the remedies you have tried to do any more 'trial and error' - then a complete functional medicine evaluation is absolutely vital for your recovery.
Your 'new patient' functional medicine evaluation will be an hour long. During the appointment your complete health history will be taken in order to discover what is necessary for your complete healing.
I also review previous testing, family history, your health goals, genetic data (if applicable), and all of your symptoms.
Often, my patients with eczema have a list of symptoms that accompany their skin conditions but since their skin is their priority, these 'secondary' symptoms never get investigated.
My priority is to heal your skin as quickly as possible while also supporting your entire body and health.
The body heals in layers. Once the eczema is cleared, many patients realize that they have been tired for years, often get headaches, and their sleep is poor - this is when we begin the process of getting patients from 'symptom free' to vibrantly healthy.
If you would like to speak to me to ask questions about functional medicine, chronic illness or how I can help you, please schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation or call or text my office at 913-728-5291.
If you think that you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Nor should you ever delay seeking medical advice or treatment due to the information contained on this Website.