Eczema is not one specific condition, but rather a collective term for a group of related skin disorders that cause symptoms like inflammation, redness, dryness and scaling. Diet has been implicated in the development of both eczema and poor gut health and is a proactive place to start if you’re fed up with an ongoing battle with your skin.
How the Gut Plays a Part
The gut is far more complex than a simple tube used to absorb nutrients, the outer mucus layer of the gut has around one THOUSAND grams of bacteria that digest nutrients to produce hormones and vitamins, inhibit growth of pathogenic organisms, and assist in the metabolism of drugs and toxins.
When functioning normally, this barrier is highly selective, allowing nutrients to pass through while protecting against foreign molecules and pathogens. Certain triggers and stressors, often seen with the consumption of the typical western diet, are thought to cause dysbiosis of the microbiome and disruption of the cellular gap junctions, this combination can lead to increased intestinal permeability, allowing unwanted pathogens or improperly digested foods to enter systemic circulation, this has been linked to the pathogenesis of a multitude of different health conditions including eczema.
The Problem with a Leaky Gut
The problem with leaky gut is that it can cause malabsorption of vital minerals and nutrients, including zinc, iron and vitamin B12, essential for proper skin cell renewal. Ensuring the health of the gut is maintained is a crucial key to the recovery of eczema. Including foods that support the integrity of the gut while eliminating known allergens or proinflammatory foods is a good place to start in the fight against eczema.
How to Start Healing
Following a healthy diet with anti-inflammatory foods can help boost immunity. Certain food compounds namely lectins and phytates can be aggravating to the gut, causing exasperation of eczema symptoms, these foods include wheat, soy, rice, and spelt. Sprouting grains can reduce these compounds making them easier to digest and less likely to trigger an inflammatory response. Gluten containing foods may also cause damage to the gut lining, so is best avoided when eczema is flaring. Conventional cow’s milk is another food that is commonly known to trigger an inflammatory response influencing the severity of symptoms.
Treating Leaky Gut
1. Remove certain foods and factors that damage the gut
It’s essential to remove allergens and inflammatory foods such as un-sprouted grains, added sugar, GMOs, refined oils, synthetic food additives and conventional dairy products. The top toxic exposures to eliminate are tap water, pesticides, NSAIDS and antibiotics (always consult with your doctor first if they are prescribed to you).
2. Replace gut-damaging foods with gut-healing foods
- Bone Broth — bone broth contains collagen and the amino acids proline and glycine that can help heal your damaged cell walls.
- Raw Cultured Dairy — contains both probiotics and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that can help heal the gut. Pastured kefir, yogurt,amasai, butter and raw cheese are some of the best probiotic foods.
- Fermented Vegetables — contain organic acids that balance intestinal pH and probiotics to support the gut. Sauerkraut, kimchi and kvass are excellent sources.
- Coconut Products — all coconut products are especially good for your gut. The medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) in coconut are easier to digest than other fats so they work well for leaky gut. Also, coconut kefir contains probiotics that support your digestive system.
- Sprouted Seeds — chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds that have been sprouted are great sources of fibre that can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria. (If you have severe leaky gut, you may need to start out getting your fibre from steamed vegetables and fruit).
- Healthy fats— consuming healthy fats in moderation like egg yolks, avocados, ghee and coconut oil are easy on the gut and promote healing.
- Omega-3 fats— anti-inflammatory foods like grass-fed beef, lamb and wild-caught fish like salmon benefit a damaged gut.
- Fruit– Consuming 1–2 servings of fruit daily is supportive for gut healing. You can steam apples and pears to make homemade apple sauce or fruit sauce. Fruit is best consumed in the morning and not later on in the day.
3. Supplements to Improve Immune/Gut Function
- Probiotics (25–100 billion organisms daily): Probiotic supplements can have protective and preventive effects when it comes to skin health. They’re linked with improved gut health and immune function. Look for strains like Bacillus clausii, Bacillus subtilis, Saccharomyces boulardii and Bacillus coagulans.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (1,000 milligrams daily): Help lower inflammation.
- Antioxidants (such as vitamins E, C and A): Antioxidants can help prevent skin damage, reduce inflammation and promote wound healing.
- Vitamin D3 (2,000–5,000 IU daily): The“sunshine vitamin” helps regulate immune functions and is a very common deficiency here in NZ.
- L-Glutamine — critical for any program designed to heal leaky gut. L- Glutamine is an essential amino acid supplement that is anti-inflammatory and necessary for the growth and repair of your intestinal lining.
4. Tailoring a plan to you.
The root cause of eczema can vary from person to person, if your eczema is particularly bad or chronic it’s recommended to go for a more targeted approach with a plan designed uniquely for your case. Get in contact with Jess our Gut Health Nutritionist to book in an appointment with her today.
– Jess Wharton, Nutritionist.