“I’ve got a terrible case of eczema. I itch all the time,” writes this week’s House Call. “Is there anything I can do besides taking topical steroids to suppress my immune system?”
Again, great question – especially as the winter months approach and skin becomes more susceptible to these issues. The simple answer is yes, you can.
Simply put, eczema becomes a sign that your body is inflamed. The solution, then, becomes figuring what’s wrong inside your body and reducing that inflammation, NOT slathering potentially dangerous stuff onto your skin.
The root cause of eczema is a disturbance in your immune system. Your body is overreacting to something attacking you or inside you.
Let me be more specific. If I had to narrow down eczema to two primary causes, I would say:
- Leaky gut. Medically called “increased intestinal permeability”. This is a sign of a good gut gone bad. Leaky gut creates a low-grade inflammation in reaction to food particles (deemed foreign by your immune system) that literally leak through your gut wall. This causes 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, skin diseases such as acne and eczema, autoimmune diseases and more. Inflammation also causes weight gain which is triggered by insulin resistance, food sensitivities and food allergies.
- Abnormal gut flora. Getting rid of the overgrowth of bad bugs and yeast can make a huge difference to eliminate eczema. This is called dysbiosis. It is when the 3 pounds of bugs in your gut become out of balance driving inflammation. Yeast overgrowth is a common cause of eczema. It can be caused by a high-sugar, refined carb, low-fiber, processed diet. Yeast overgrowth also can be triggered by the use of antibiotics, steroids, hormones and even the birth control pill.
Now, there are other culprits. Chemicals and other weird stuff in cream, lotions and detergents can certainly trigger eczema. But I’ve found when your body becomes out of balance, these topical substances cause a more adverse reaction.
The question really becomes, why are you so reactive? Why is your immune system so out of out of whack?
Many people don’t make the connection between gut issues and immunity. Over two-thirds of your immune system resides in 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 and get exposed to your immune system, creating systemic havoc.
Put another way, creams, antibiotics and other conventional solutions are really just short-term solutions that fail to address the root cause of eczema. They are just covering over the symptoms.
That’s where a Functional Medicine approach, which looks at a disease’s root cause and takes a big-picture approach to the solution, becomes so valuable.
I once had a 60-year-old patient with eczema all over her back, legs, and abdomen. Dermatologists had been unsuccessful giving her topical creams and steroids to calm everything down. Understandably, she arrived in my office miserable.
It didn’t take me long to determine the triggers. She was eating a diet super high in sugar and yeast, she was allergic to dairy, she was nutrient-deficient, and she took copious antibiotics.
The beauty of Functional Medicine lies in its simplicity, and this approach gets results. I gave my patient a drug called Diflucan, incorporated eczema-healing supplements (including fish oil, vitamin A, zinc and vitamin D), removed food sensitivities (including gluten and dairy) and had her switch from her high-sugar diet to an anti-inflammatory diet that eliminated excess sugar.
Her eczema went away, she looked and felt better and as a nice “bonus,” she lost 60 pounds in the process.
This wasn’t a miracle, and it didn’t happen overnight; however, the results were impressive. With their short-term solutions, conventional practitioners had overlooked the bigger picture. My patient provided proof I’ve seen many times: When you fix your gut, you can get rid of eczema.
Change Your Food, Improve Your Skin
Food is medicine. Bad food is bad medicine and will make us sick. Good food is good medicine that can prevent, reverse and even cure disease. Take away the bad food, put in the good food and magic happens. It really becomes that simple.
The problem with current medical thinking is that it treats diseases individually, requiring specific diagnoses and labels such as “you have eczema.” And then you get the antibiotic, the immune suppressant, that sort of thing.
What if you didn’t have to treat diseases specifically or even need to know their names? What if you could just treat the whole person with dietary changes, upgrading the information given every day to your body through food?
With that approach, inflammation dies down, gut issues subside, your immune system finally gets that much-needed break and conditions like eczema eventually subside.
Food is information carrying detailed instructions for every gene and every cell in your body, helping them to renew, repair and heal or to be harmed and debilitated, depending on what you eat.
What if you could send messages and instructions to heal your cells and turn on healing genes? And what if, by some simple changes in your diet, you could get rid of most of your chronic symptoms and diseases in just 10 days?
That is entirely possible. The best part of this approach is that you don’t have to trust any expert (including me!). You simply have to trust your body. It will tell you very quickly what it likes and doesn’t like.
If you are constantly putting in information that is making your body toxic, sick and fat—hyper-processed industrial junk food, sugar, flour, chemicals, additives, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, inflammatory foods, or what I call anti-nutrients—it acts like poison in the body.
These foods inflame your gut and your cells, leading to whole-body inflammation that you experience as numerous problems, including eczema, as well as diabesity and all its repercussions.
So the solution becomes to pull the junk and replace it with healthy foods.
From that approach came The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, which eliminates processed, sugary and inflammatory foods, while adding in healing, detoxifying, anti-inflammatory foods.
This plan gives you the power to heal in a way that medication won’t and never will be able to. I’ve witnessed it numerous times with my patients and readers. In fact, this approach can work faster and better than any medication, without the adverse side effects.
Getting rid of the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff can often reverse the most difficult-to-treat medical problems like eczema and give people the experience of profound wellness, even if they don’t have a serious illness. Everyone should try this just once. Most of my patients say, “Dr. Hyman, I didn’t know I was feeling so bad until I started feeling so good.”
If you want to do just one thing to reverse eczema and revamp your health, take 10 days to see just how powerful a drug called food can be. There is nothing to lose but your suffering. It doesn’t take months or years to see change. It happens in days or weeks.
The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet becomes the perfect solution to get rid of more than just unwanted pounds and so much more. This is your chance to heal your body on every level.
Yes, you will drop pounds, but you will also find that your energy, sleep and mood improve, that chronic problems including joint pain, digestive problems, autoimmune disease, headaches, memory problems and brain fog, sinus and allergy issues, even acne, eczema, and psoriasis will get better or disappear entirely. Your sexual desire and performance may even improve.
Why is that the case? Because what makes you sick also makes you fat, and what makes you fat makes you sick.
Before you take another pill or apply another toxic lotion, try these seven strategies to help you eliminate eczema, and who knows, like my patient, you might discover unexpected bonuses like weight loss and increased energy.
- Try my 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 and results in just 10 days.
- Incorporate anti-inflammatory nutrients and foods. Eat plenty of wild-caught fish and a colorful array of plant foods, and use spices like turmeric liberally. Fish oil and curcumin are among my favorite anti-inflammatory supplements. I often use UltraInflamX® PLUS 360°, a medical food formulated to provide specialized nutritional support for compromised gut function, with many of my patients.
- Normalize gut flora. Prebiotics, probiotics and digestive enzymes are among the things I use to normalize healthy gut flora. Please keep in mind it may become necessary to work with a Functional Medicine practitioner to address gut issues, but removing food sensitivities and incorporating gut-healing nutrients are entirely within your power. Restoring normal gut flora reduces overall immune activation and many inflammatory diseases including asthma, eczema, rhinitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
- 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. Read 19 of my top sleep tips here.
- Exercise regularly. Studies show regular exercise reduces inflammation and boosts your immune system. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned pro, grab my comprehensive but easy-to-implement exercise plan here and 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. Many patients find my UltraCalm CD greatly helps them to reduce stress and anxiety.
If you’ve ever struggled with eczema or other skin conditions, what strategy would you add here? Did you take a conventional approach by visiting a dermatologist or did you attempt a Functional Medicine perspective? Share your story below or on my Facebook page.
And keep those great questions coming. Next week I might make a House Call to you!
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, M.D.