Anyone who’s ever dealt with the terrible dry, itchy, red skin caused by eczema has probably wondered “What the heck is causing this?!”
I don’t blame you, it can be incredibly frustrating. And when it’s your child struggling with the painful symptoms, it can be heartbreaking to feel there’s nothing you can do to help.
Fortunately, you don’t have to just continue suffering or watching your child suffer. Once you know what’s causing the symptoms you can actually put a stop to them for good.
So what is causing this skin condition that affects over 30 million Americans?
Looking at Eczema from the Inside Out
First and foremost we need to understand that eczema is an external presentation of an internal problem, specifically – inflammation.
When you’re chronically inflamed, your immune system becomes stressed and eventually goes overboard and ends up attacking your skin.
Conventional medicine focuses solely on applying steroid creams and ointments to the inflamed skin in an attempt to calm it.
However, in functional medicine, our goal is to uncover the root cause of the inflammation and treat it at its source.
6 Root Causes of Eczema
So let’s look at 6 common root causes of eczema.
1. Food Sensitivities
These are particularly common in the children I see with eczema, and gluten and dairy are often the culprits.
Food sensitivities occur when you have an immune response to eating a certain food. Unlike food allergies, which are usually severe and immediate, food sensitivity symptoms can be fairly mild and take up to 72 hours to present, so they often go undetected.
However, even if they aren’t as severe as food allergies, these repeated immune reactions lead to a serious buildup of inflammation, eventually triggering eczema.
2. Leaky Gut
Leaky gut or intestinal permeability is where the tight junctions of your small intestine open up, allowing bacteria, toxins, viruses, and food particles to escape into your bloodstream.
Your immune system tags all of these particles that don’t belong as foreign invaders and goes into attack mode, triggering a big spike in inflammation. This can not only cause eczema, it also leaves you vulnerable to developing more serious conditions down the road.
3. Gut Infections
So how does your gut become leaky in the first place? Well, the inflammation from food sensitivities is one way, but another big one is gut infections.
Candida, in particular, is a big culprit for eczema because the yeast itself can colonize your skin once your gut becomes permeable. That explains why researchers looking at skin cultures from eczema patients have found yeast is often present.
4. Nutrient Deficiencies
Nutrients play a key role in immune function in general, and a few in particular have been linked to eczema and other inflammatory conditions.
Vitamin A is another one that is key for immune function, but it also plays a big role in skin cell repair and turnover, and lower levels have been linked to eczema.
5. Chemicals & Environmental Toxins
We are surrounded by an unprecedented number of chemicals and toxins, and many of these can aggravate eczema and cause a flare in symptoms.
Mold is a big one because it can trigger an inflammatory or allergic response that worsens eczema symptoms.
Everyday products can also exacerbate eczema because of the chemicals found in them. These include:
- Household cleaners
- Laundry detergents
- Cocamidopropyl betaine, found in shampoos and lotions
- Household disinfectants containing formaldehyde
- Isothiazolinones, an antibacterial found in personal care products like baby wipes
Stress is highly inflammatory in and of itself, so it can often worsen eczema symptoms. But over time it can lead to periods of immune system suppression, which leaves you more vulnerable to gut infections like Candida and SIBO, which trigger leaky gut and perpetuate a vicious inflammatory cycle.
Getting Answers & Saying Goodbye for Good
For most people, there are a number of these root causes at play in their eczema, especially when it comes to the gut health issues.
That’s why it’s key to get the right testing and develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all of the underlying factors, so you or your child can say goodbye to eczema for good.
We’ve helped countless patients of all ages find relief from eczema and we’d love to help you and your family too.
About the Author: Dr. Seth Osgood is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) Certified Practitioner.
Dr. Osgood received his post-graduate training in Functional Medicine through the IFM and from working with Dr. Amy Myers. He has helped people from around the world improve their health utilizing a Functional Medicine approach.
Want to work with Dr. Osgood and the GrassRoots team? Become a patient in our West Lebanon, New Hampshire Functional Medicine clinic, our Burlington, Vermont Functional Medicine clinic, or our Austin, Texas Functional Medicine clinic!