NATURAL JOURNEY BY AMY PUNKE
If you suffer from eczema, psoriasis or any skin condition you know how frustrating it can be. Many treatments and personal care products address the symptoms of dry skin, flaking, itching and redness, but only provide short-term relief. Because the skin is a reflection of your internal health we must look to the gut to better understand what is at the root of your symptoms.
As I have talked about in previous articles, your digestive system is a hub of activity, responsible for the absorption of nutrients from your food, the excretion of unwanted waste and the metabolism of medications. Throughout the lining of the intestines there are billions of beneficial bacteria called flora that work to keep levels of unwanted pathogens, bacteria, parasites and yeasts low. However, many things can upset this balance including eating foods you are allergic or intolerant to, being constipated, being stressed, eating on the go, etc. Over time, if this “bacterial balance” is upset, there will be damage to the intestinal wall causing you to develop symptoms of digestive upset and/or skin conditions.
To illustrate my point, let’s say you are intolerant to gluten (but maybe haven’t realized it yet) and you eat two slices of whole-wheat toast for breakfast. Once the gluten (a protein found in whole wheat) reaches your intestines it will start to cause an inflammatory reaction because your body is intolerant to it. Inflammation causes the immune system to respond, leading to the formation of immune complexes that are deposited in the skin causing a variety of skin conditions. Some people may also experience bloating, gas, diarrhea and other digestive concerns and should be tested for irritable bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) if this describes them. Identifying what foods may be aggravating your skin condition is best done with the guidance of a licensed naturopathic doctor who will do either blood testing or a food allergy elimination diet program with you to determine what foods you are intolerant to.
Once offending foods are identified and removed from the diet your symptoms should start to improve fairly rapidly. On top of removing foods, you can also do a number of things that will help rebalance the healthy flora in the gut including:
1. Taking a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are healthy beneficial bacteria that will help repopulate your gut and control unwanted pathogens.
2. Making sure you are regular. If you have issues with constipation, increase your water and fibre intake. Consider 1 teaspoon of ground flaxseed a day to provide fibre and healthy omega 3’s which will help decrease any inflammation.
3. Get tested. If you think you have a number of food intolerances and are having trouble identifying them, see a licensed ND who will perform an IgG blood test for over 100 common foods.
4. Consider supplements like L-glutamine and Quercetin for help with healing the lining of the gut that is damaged by inflammation.
Skin conditions are treatable but you have to go below the surface to really get long lasting results. Whether you have been struggling with eczema for years or have a new diagnosis you can get results by improving digestion and making changes in your daily routine.
Dr. Amy Punké, ND, has a naturopathic practice at Whole Self Wellness Centre, 106 Stellarton Rd., New Glasgow (above Healthy Selection). Visit www.dramypunke.com or call 902-755-1210.