My 7 Steps for Tackling Eczema
Our first question comes from a reader who tweets, “Can you tell me the causes of eczema?”
What is the cause of this painful and often embarrassing condition? Simply put, eczema is a sign that your body is inflamed. The solution is figuring out what’s going wrong inside your body and reducing that inflammation. Unfortunately, traditional medicine has us slathering potentially dangerous potions onto our skin to treat the symptom without identifying the cause.
As I said, the root cause of eczema is a disturbance within your immune system. Your body is overreacting to something that is attacking you from the inside. Many people don’t make the connection between gut issues and immunity. But over two-thirds of your immune system resides inside your gut. Small changes in the intestinal tract from multiple insults (such as too many antibiotics, aspirin, acid-blocking drugs, ibuprofen, stress, infections, food sensitivities or even toxins) allow food particles to enter your bloodstream which get exposed to your immune system and create systemic havoc.
There are plenty of culprits. For example, chemicals and other weird additives found in creams, lotions and detergents can certainly trigger eczema. But in my experience, I’ve found there’s a more adverse reaction to these topical substances when your body is out of balance.
So the questions really become: Why are you so reactive? Why is your immune system so out of whack?
If I had to narrow down the two primary causes of eczema, I would say the following are the culprits:
- Leaky gut. Medically called “increased intestinal permeability.” This is a sign of a good gut gone bad. Leaky gut occurs when the lining of the gut thins and small food particles literally leak through the gut wall. Your immune system deems these food particles as an attacker because the food particles are supposed to stay within the gut. This creates a low-grade inflammation and food sensitivities, especially to gluten and dairy, which are the biggest food causes of eczema. Leaky gut also triggers many other health problems including fatigue, brain fog, headaches, depression, allergies, sinus problems, irritable bowel, reflux, joint pain, acne, autoimmune diseases and more. Inflammation causes weight gain which is triggered by insulin resistance, food sensitivities and food allergies.
- Abnormal gut flora. This is called dysbiosis, which occurs when the three pounds of bugs in your gut become overrun with bad bugs and yeast. Yeast overgrowth is a common cause of eczema. It can be caused by a processed food diet that is high in sugar and refined carbs and low in fiber. It also can be triggered by the use of antibiotics, steroids, hormones and even by taking a birth control pill. Getting rid of the overgrowth of bad bugs and yeast can make a huge difference in eliminating eczema.
Now that we’ve identified the main culprits, here are my steps for tackling eczema:
- Try an elimination diet. The two most common and harmful food sensitivities are gluten and dairy. My 10-Day Detox Diet eliminates these along with sugary, processed foods, resulting in reduced inflammation in just 10 days.
- Incorporate anti-inflammatory nutrients and foods. Eat plenty of wild-caught fish and a colorful array of plant foods. Use spices, like turmeric, liberally. And incorporate fish oil and curcumin – two of my favorite anti-inflammatory supplements – into your daily routine.
- Normalize gut flora. Restoring normal gut flora reduces overall immune activation and many inflammatory diseases including asthma, eczema, rhinitis and inflammatory bowel disease. Prebiotics, probiotics and digestive enzymes are among the things I use to normalize healthy gut flora. Please keep in mind it may be necessary to work with a Functional Medicine practitioner to address gut issues, but you can start immediately on your own by removing food sensitivities and incorporating gut-healing nutrients.
- Use the right supplements. The protocol I use to reduce eczema includes fish oil, evening primrose oil, and vitamins D and A. You can find all these supplements in my store.
- Get sufficient sleep. No surprise: Studies show sleep loss fuels the flames of inflammation, exacerbating eczema and other conditions. That’s among the many reasons you want to aim for eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night.
- Exercise regularly. Studies show regular exercise reduces inflammation and boosts your immune system. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, make it your own.
- Control stress levels. Besides making you absolutely miserable, studies link chronic stress levels with inflammation. Whether you do meditation, deep breathing, yoga or another form of stress reduction, make it a priority and do it regularly.
Before you take another pill or apply another toxic lotion, try these seven strategies to help you eliminate eczema; and who knows, like many of my patients, you might also discover unexpected bonuses like weight loss and increased energy.
Are You Dealing with Excess Gas?
“How do I get rid of excessive gas?” a caller asks.
We’ve all experienced it, and probably at inopportune times. It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable. So, what’s the deal with gas? Are some of us doomed to be gassy forever?
The answer is no. Let’s take a look at some of the major causes of gas and how to treat them.
Food Allergies. Of the many common food sensitivities, gluten perhaps is most prevalent. Even if your doctor tells you that your tests for gluten antibodies or celiac are normal, you can still have a severe reaction. Dairy, which contains proteins like casein and whey that can irritate and inflame your gut, is another common culprit. And there are others, including soy, corn and eggs. Reactions to these foods can cause more than just gut problems. They can also create obesity, depression and acne. A Functional Medicine doctor can run tests to assess food sensitivities and gluten reactions. Or you could do my Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, which along with sugary and junky foods, eliminates the most common food sensitivities.
Bad bugs and bacterial overgrowth. Did you know that humans don’t actually make gas? Truth is the bugs in your gut produce gas. Stop and think about this for a minute: You’ve got about three pounds of bacteria — 500 species — in your gut. In fact, there is more bacterial DNA in your body than there is human DNA! Among all that gut bacteria, there are good guys, bad guys, and VERY bad guys. If the bad guys are allowed to take over, or if they move into areas that they shouldn’t be (like the small intestine which is normally sterile), they can start fermenting the food you digest, particularly sugary or starchy foods. This produces an imbalance in your gut ecosystem that can trigger or exacerbate irritable bowel syndrome – including leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and yeast overgrowth. While the approach to fixing these and other gut issues usually involves treating each issue, the key to reversing them and achieve long-term gut health is to reboot your gut by getting rid of the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff.
Too Many Starchy and Sugary Foods. When you eat starchy foods — bread, cereal, pasta, rice or sugary foods — the bacteria in your gut ferment the sugars in the food. It’s like what happens when apple cider goes bad or ferments. . The fermentation process emits gas and everything expands. That’s what happens in your gut. The bacteria ferment the sugars in the food you eat, and then your gut expands from all the gas that is emitted. . That’s why you get bloating right after meals. We call that postprandial bloating or as one of my patients calls it – a “food baby.”
For some patients, I recommend trying a diet that is low in FODMAP. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. That certainly is a mouthful! Foods high in these types of sugars are readily fermented and can contribute to excess gas for many. To read more about this diet, click here.
Often, doing a gut healing protocol works wonders for many patients and they do not have to go on a FODMAP diet or take other radical measures. For my full plan on fixing your gut bacteria, click here.
If your symptoms don’t get better, then I recommend seeing a Functional Medicine doctor because excess gas is not normal, and it typically means that something deeper is going on that needs to be treated with the help of a professional.
Now I want to hear from you. Are you dealing with excess gas or eczema? What has worked for you and what hasn’t? Comment on my Facebook page. If you liked this video, be sure to share it with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter, and tweet me your questions @MarkHymanMd, and maybe next week I’ll make a House Call to you!
Wishing you health & happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD