Skin problems and most autoimmune problems are caused primarily by:
1. An overactive immune system 2. Impaired gut barrier 3. Genetic tendencies.
An overactive immune response and damaged gut is caused by diet, lifestyle, allergens, stress and personal care products. Genetic factors are affected by a more heightened immune response and a defective skin barrier.
They affect different parts of the body with people responding to various triggers, resulting in dry, itchy, often infected and inflamed skin. It is crucial to target these root causes in order to restore balance in the body and achieve long term relief.
Constant use of topical and oral immune suppressants including steroids, antibiotics and antihistamines do not address the root causes. They are often used for convenience with side effects downplayed.
1. Overactive Immune System
Eczema is associated with an overactive response by the body's immune system to a perceived irritant. The immune system of people with atopic eczema produces large amounts of a protein called IgE. IgE is an antibody that acts as catalysts for the protective cells of the immune system to recognise and lock on to the protein components of foreign allergens.
IgE is present in small amounts in everyone. However, in atopic eczema more is produced because of increased sensitivity to substances that are inhaled or eaten, or substances in contact with the skin.
The overactive state of the immune system is caused by external irritants & toxins penetrating the skin barrier and undigested food particles entering the bloodstream through a leaky gut. It is crucial to restore the skin and gut barrier in order to balance the overactive immune response.
The immune system is not static and can be balanced by healing the skin barrier, removing contact allergens and repairing the gut lining through a specific diet, lifestyle and mental health.
2. Impaired gut barrier
People with skin problems show decreased gut barrier functionality. The gut barrier is an important part of our body’s internal protection against bacteria, toxins and allergens. It is affected by a combination of diet, environment and genetic factors.
Things like alcohol, grains, antibiotics, chemicals and processed foods can damage the lining of the gut, leading to ‘leaky gut’. When this occurs, undigested food particles, waste and toxins can readily enter the bloodstream where they cause allergic responses.
A number of disorders have been associated with breakdowns in the gut barrier, including eczema, food allergies, celiac, asthma, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis and various cancers.
3. Genetic Tendency
Over 50% of severe eczema sufferers have a genetic mutation in the filaggrin protein and skin cells which play a key role in the formation of this barrier. This makes it one of the contributing causes that leads to eczema.
This mutation causes increased skin permeability and reduces its antimicrobial function. The skin is thinner, doesn’t hold water as effectively and the structure and quantity of skin lipids is impaired.
The cracks in the skin allow allergens, bacteria, viruses and yeasts to enter or grow on the skin more easily which leads to skin reactions and scratching & a more sensitive immune response, perpetuating the cycle. Areas around the face, elbows and knees are prone to problems as they are heat spots and the skin is thinner in these areas.
Studies also indicate that atopic dermatitis patients have an impaired immune response that prevents them from producing adequate amounts of antimicrobial peptides in their skin. This makes them more susceptible to bacterial infection. The bacteria, staphylococcus aureus is found on skin of over 90% of people affected by eczema.
Although genes account for a predisposition to skin problems, epigenetics shows that environmental influences including diet, lifestyle and mental health interplay to affect the actual gene expression.
Restoring the skin & gut barrier
It is crucial to stop the root cause of itching, discontinue use of products which degrade the skin barrier and avoid food and chemical irritants.
The itching is caused by an allergen or something irritating. Something coming in contact with the skin like harsh chemicals, detergents, chlorine, preservatives, fragrances, dust, hot water or grass. Your body wants to itch as a way to remove the irritation. Internally certain foods like peanuts, grains, shellfish, soy, MSG can cause irritation especially if your gut barrier is weakened. When undigested food particles leak through the defective gut barrier, the skin becomes a means of waste excretion.
Make sure you are not constantly damaging your skin barrier from constant use of harsh face washes, detergents, chemicals, exfoliants, cleansers and toners. All products should be fragrance free, pH balanced and contain non irritating preservatives.
Prolonged use of cortisones often causes skin thinning and adrenal gland suppression so they should only ever be used for once off isolated instances, if at all. They are known to cause topical steroid withdrawal when used for extended periods and create an increasing dependence over time. They do not address the root cause, they just suppress the immune system.