Why Eczema is Not Just a Skin Issue
For over 12 years, I treated my eczema topically with steroid creams and solutions but never saw lasting results. It would constantly flare up, usually even nastier than the last breakout, yet I continued with topical steroids because I didn't know what else to do. The incessant cycle of applying steroids only to flare up yet again felt hopeless, inescapable, and beyond frustrating. Until one day I learned that the reason topical steroids don’t provide any long-term relief is because they aren’t treating the root cause of eczema at all. They only treat the surface symptoms that we see on our skin (I mean, they’re literally classified as anti-inflammatory and immunosuppresant, after all), still leaving the bigger problem to rear its ugly head.
Contrary to conventional medicine and popular belief, eczema is not just a skin issue. (I mean, it is a skin issue in the sense that it manifests on your skin, but its root cause is much more complex.) Eczema is actually often a symptom of poor digestion and poor gut health. This is why healing eczema by restoring good gut health through ways like consuming a clean and nutritious diet offers a more long-term solution, rather than endlessly applying topical steroids and expecting they will solve the ultimate problem. Attacking the root cause of the disease will always yield more long-term results.
A lot about eczema is unknown or misunderstood by most conventional practitioners. To start learning how we can see real, long-term healing from eczema, we first have to understand the root cause.
THE SCIENCE, SIMPLIFIED
The food we eat is absorbed into our bodies through the lining of our intestine—a lining that is only 1-cell-layer thick! This lining acts as a barrier, allowing our bodies to absorb some things while keeping others out. Therefore, we describe this lining as being “semi-permeable” and its ability to absorb things or let stuff into our bodies as “permeability.”
All the cells of this semi-permeable lining are held together by specialized connections called tight junctions. Tight junctions are what regulate the barrier and determine what is absorbed by the body and what is not. In a healthy digestive tract, tight junctions allow only the good stuff in and keep the bad stuff out. However, when the integrity of these tight junctions is compromised (like the tight junction is broken or opened), there is no regulation or control of what is being absorbed and what isn’t, allowing us to take in the bad stuff along with the good.
The term “leaky gut” is a popular colloquialism that refers to this increased intestinal permeability (the intestine’s ability to let the bad stuff in along with the good due to malfunctioning tight junctions).
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Certain things we consume (gluten, alcohol, and NSAID medications like ibuprofen to name a few) have the ability to open these tight junctions and cause this unregulated chaos. The more tight junctions are open, the more bad stuff we’re able to absorb. And the more bad stuff we’re absorbing, the more symptoms will begin to surface—as migraines, fatigue, pain, irritable bowel, congestion, allergies, or, if you’re like me, eczema.
In order to heal eczema long-term, you may need to change up your diet to keep those tight junctions working well and preventing the bad stuff from being absorbed and manifesting on your skin. I have seen a countless number of eczema-sufferers heal their skin by making the lifestyle change to a clean and nutritious diet, and I have personally experienced immense amounts of healing from eczema by incorporating cleaner eating into my life. It may require major lifestyle change and there is no quick fix, but restoring good gut health is one of the best things you can do to help heal your eczema once and for all.
Stay tuned for a post coming soon about the best things you can do for a healthy gut! And subscribe below to stay updated with new posts :)
**This post was updated on June 24, 2018.**