Eczema has a strong dietary connection. It affects the skin and has characteristic symptoms ranging from itching to extreme irritation. There is often pain, inflammation, prickly heat, redness and blotches that may appear on the skin. Over time, the skin becomes cracked, rough, dry and discoloured.
The irritation from eczema can also disrupt sleep resulting in poor mood and low energy levels. Any parent with a young child with eczema will have experienced sleepless nights trying to ease the itching and distress. Self-esteem and confidence may also be negatively affected by eczema.
The symptoms triggered by eczema result in the body becoming physically, mentally and/or emotionally stressed by this condition.
Topical applications and medications may help to control this condition but in order to address eczema there needs to be a deeper, holistic understanding of this condition.
According to natural nutrition principles, cellular dehydration is the underlying imbalance triggering eczema. Dehydration within the body cells stems from many factors such as:
- Physical, emotional and/or mental stress
- Dietary dehydration
- Nutritional imbalances
- Poor elimination of toxicity and wastes from the body leading to a build up of toxicity which is being offloaded by the skin
Eczema is an outward sign of internal cellular dehydration occurring particularly within the skin cells. Cellular dehydration results in elevated levels of histamine and acidity within the skin which trigger symptoms of irritation, pain and inflammation.
How the Skin is influenced by Cellular Dehydration
From natural nutrition principles, cellular dehydration is triggered by any form of physical, emotional and/or mental stress. Repeated stress creates further dehydration within the body. If this situation becomes long-term and chronic then the pattern for dis-ease and imbalanced health sets in.
When histamine is released it is a message from the body that there is dehydration. If dehydration is not addressed and histamine levels build then this triggers pain and inflammation, which is a much stronger message from the body that something is wrong and urgently needs to be addressed.
When the body becomes chronically dehydrated it also diverts water from lower priority areas like the colon and skin to other higher priority areas like the kidneys, heart, lungs and brain. Using naturopathic principles from Herring’s Law of Cure; dehydration within the body progresses from the lesser organs to the greater organs. A similar principle also exists in traditional Chinese 5 element theory where dehydration will usually initially occur within the colon which is considered as the lowest level and then progressively moves deeper within the body manifesting in the skin, lungs and lastly the brain. According to traditional Chinese 5 element theory, when cellular dehydration is within the brain this is viewed as the deepest level of dehydration within the body. From the traditional Chinese 5 element pathway, if the skin is showing signs of dehydration then there will also be congestion and dehydration presenting within the colon which also needs to be addressed if the eczema is to be holistically resolved.
Symptoms of dehydration and nutritional imbalances are usually seen within families and their previous generations. When these imbalances have not been addressed each new generation manifests a deeper level of cellular dehydration than the previous generation. This is one of the reasons for health issues like eczema running within families.
The Imbalances Triggered by Cellular Dehydration
Cellular dehydration causes changes within the cell. The outer boundary of the cell known as the cell membrane starts to increase its coating of cholesterol, which is a hard, waxy-like material. This extra layer of cholesterol is designed to help the cell to hold onto precious water when it is in a dehydrated state. If cellular dehydration is not addressed then over time the cholesterol coating thickens and interferes with the transfer of substances like nutrients and wastes from entering and leaving the cell. The increasing cholesterol coating also disrupts normal cellular communication, which can interfere with messages for the cell to manufacture essential hormones, proteins, etc.
Cellular dehydration also influences the electrolytes: principally sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium. The electrolytes are key players in generating the correct electrical charges within the cells and are essential for drawing in nutrients, hormones, releasing wastes and so on to and from the cells.
Cellular dehydration and electrolyte imbalance within the body tissues is not an immediate worry for the body to deal with. However if this imbalance builds over time then it stimulates histamine release which in turn triggers pain and inflammation. In eczema, histamine is being released from the skin cells to signal that the skin is short of water and there is an imbalance within the electrolytes.
One of the main external sources of dehydration is from the diet. Certain foods drinks and drugs have a dehydrating effect on the body as they trigger the release of important minerals and water from the body. Other foods require a lot of water to be present in the digestive system for digestion and will draw water from reserve areas resulting in dehydration.
The common sources of dietary dehydration include: low water intake, a nutritionally poor diet high in processed foods and chemicals, medications and stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs.
Some foods which have health-promoting properties can be too dry for the body to cope with when there are imbalances like eczema. For example foods like whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds require a lot of water to be present in the digestive system for them to be correctly digested. These foods need to be correctly prepared otherwise it will be difficult for the body to digest and absorb their nutrients.
Milk and dairy products are another group of foods which are usually too challenging for the body to cope with when eczema is present. These foods trigger further dehydration and overload the elimination organs as the body tries to digest, assimilate and eliminate.
Regular dietary dehydration often leads to the digestive system becoming the first place to be chronically dehydrated. This can manifest symptoms like heart burn, stomach ulcers, bloating, irritable bowel, spasm, constipation and so on. Over time as the colon gets more and more congested then the body starts off-loading some waste and toxicity from the colon through the skin which sets the scene for eczema.
Nutritional balance is essential for the skin to develop and remain healthy. The key nutrients for healthy skin include: omega 3 fatty acids, fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E), amino acids, vitamin C, selenium, zinc, silica and water. As these nutrients are also required by other parts of the body, the body diverts available nutrients to higher priority areas like the nervous and endocrine system leaving the skin which is lower down in priority with less until more nutrients become available. If nutritional shortages continue, the skin and hair can be broken down and their nutrients diverted to other more important areas within the body.
The diet therefore needs to be addressed to make sure that supplies of these nutrients are available for the body’s needs. However even if nutrients are being supplied to the body, we cannot make the assumption that they will be fully digested and made available for the body to use. There may be underlying imbalances within the digestive system which prevent essential nutrients from being broken down and absorbed by the body. For example, in leaking gut condition the intestine becomes damaged and has tears in it which allows undigested food to pass out from the intestines into the blood where it triggers allergic reactions and histamine release.
Poor Elimination of Toxicity and Wastes from the Body
The body’s natural detoxification and elimination mechanisms deal with the removal of toxicity and wastes from each cell. The main areas within the body involved in this process include: the lymphatic system, blood system, liver, colon, skin and lungs.
Each cell continually produces waste products from normal metabolic activity. These waste products are normally drawn out into the surrounding lymphatic fluid which bathes each cell. Cellular waste is then drawn into the lymphatic system, which filters and destroys harmful pathogens. The lymph vessels of the lungs and skin also eliminate some waste by directing it to the lungs (breathing out) or through the pores of the skin (sweat).
Eventually lymphatic fluid drains back into the blood system. The blood vessels of the lungs and skin can also channel some waste for elimination to the lungs and skin but it is the liver which will process the majority of this waste and toxicity. The liver then transforms any toxic substances to lesser toxic substances which are to be eliminated through urine, sweat or in the faeces.
If there is more waste and toxicity than the normal elimination channels can handle, there eventually reaches a point when it all becomes too much for the body to fully clear. It is at this point that elimination becomes overwhelmed and the body then tries to store this unprocessed toxicity within non-essential tissues.
Storage of toxicity will initially be within the lesser essential tissues and organs like the skin, joints and muscles but can eventually move into more vital organs like the liver, kidneys and brain. Unprocessed toxicity will also be stored within body fat and/or retained in body water. Stored body toxicity eventually manifests physical symptoms such as pain, skin rashes, sore and stiff joints or as poor energy, low mood etc. Therefore some of the symptoms of eczema can also be attributed to an excess of toxic waste being eliminated via the skin.
Elimination is a key factor influencing health. If the routes of elimination are weak and overloaded then eventually health becomes imbalanced. With eczema there is also an underlying build of toxicity which is being diverted and offloaded onto the skin. Therefore clearing the elimination channels will be a key factor in rebalancing and healing eczema.
Holistically Addressing Eczema
Steps to help address eczema include:
- Get support with clearing the elimination organs using the appropriate naturopathic cleansing techniques. For example alkaline skin rubs help to reduce and draw out acidity from the skin. Soothing oat baths may help to reduce irritation.
- Make sure that water intake is matched to the body’s needs. Physical activity, stress levels etc also need to be taken into account when addressing the body’s water needs.
- Hydrate the digestive system by drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before and after each meal.
- Hydrate dry foods as much as possible before consuming: soaking grains overnight before cooking, consuming nuts and seeds which are pre-soaked, soaking dried fruits etc.
- Consume foods which are rich in essential minerals like celery, mineral broths and green juices which will help to address electrolyte imbalances and reduce acidity.
- Include oily fish and linseed tea in the diet to provide the essential omega 3 fatty acids.
- Identify and avoid foods which may be too challenging at this time to digest (grains, dairy, gluten, lactose etc) by getting support from a qualified nutritionist.
- Take steps to reduce environmental toxicity: Look at what chemicals you may be absorbing into your skin through makeup, shampoo, skin creams, hair dyes, detergents etc.
- Avoid foods which imbalance blood sugar (refined foods, refined carbohydrates, grains can be an issue for some).
- Avoid dehydrating foods like processed and refined foods, which usually contain chemical preservatives, damaged fats, refined sugars and salt.
- Avoid stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, alcohol as they have a dehydrating influence.
- Get support with dealing with life issues which are creating stress. Remember that the problem may not go away but your response to it can be changed. Tools like meditation, yoga, counselling, energy healing can all provide positive support.
In natural nutrition, a programme is developed for the individual, which is tailored to their unique needs. This programme includes dietary changes and naturopathic cleansing which help support the body to naturally offload internalised toxicity.
When hydration levels improve the body is more able to carry out its normal day to day functions like absorbing and assimilating nutrients, processing and releasing cellular wastes, and any internalised toxicity. Overtime, the imbalances which have manifested eczema will be addressed resulting in an improved level of wellbeing.