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Eczema: The Digestion Connection

Have you ever noticed that when your eczema (or psoriasis or acne) flairs your bowel issues do too? Or maybe your joints are on fire, your heartburn is keeping you up all night, you’re getting a lot of headaches, or all of these things are happening at once. It can be difficult to get your head around the idea that so many parts of the body—particularly your skin—can be affected by your gut health.

If you suffer from eczema—often called dermatitis—you’re probably not as thrilled as the rest of us that warm weather is on the way. It means no more hiding those itchy, raw patches that you’ve scratched bloody. Winter is especially tough on those with eczema because of the dry indoor heat and soggy outdoor freeze. We want to help you get your skin eruptions under control not only for aesthetic reasons, but because it’s indicative of and can lead to more serious issues.

Your Intestinal Microbiome

It’s shocking how many bacteria live inside of us. Our microbiome comprises trillions of microorganisms—about 3 lbs worth—that make up our gut flora. Besides influencing digestion and the absorption of nutrients, they serve as 70% of our immune system and keep inflammation in check. It’s only when things get out of balance that trouble begins.

In cases of microbial imbalance, bacteria can migrate from your large intestine up to your small intestine, where they are not meant to be. They can also damage the lining of your intestine, which hinders digestion. Undigested food, hard to digest food, starches, and sugars provide fuel to feed and grow the pathogenic colonies that then get the upper hand. When they’re done eating, they release toxins, which further damage your intestinal lining and overwhelm your detox systems. This compromised intestinal integrity is what people call leaky gut.

Depending upon your individual biological susceptibilities, these toxic by-products as well as undigested food particles pass through the intestinal wall causing inflammation in any number of areas or several at once—the inflammation becomes systemic. Traveling through the blood stream and ending up in your brain, joints, or skin, your immune system attacks these foreign invaders because they are in a place they should not be. This is how inflammation lands on your arm, leg, face etc. causing atopic dermatitis.

Left unchecked, serious health complications can arise such as autoimmune disease—your immune system becomes confused and begins attacking things it should not. Malnutrition, acid reflux disease, mood disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and more can also occur.

So when Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut,” he wasn’t kidding!

First things first

Before we treat you, we want to be sure that your condition is really eczema and not something else. Sometimes, patients carry incorrect diagnoses from doctor to doctor, which can inhibit reassessment. At SoCo, we pride ourselves on digging deeper to get at what’s truly going on because solutions rest on correct assessments.

It’s confirmed. Now what?

While we can’t make any promises, diet is a great place to start. Since pathogenic bacteria love foods that are hard to digest and that ferment, it's worth eliminating starches, grains, and sugars. Cut these foods out completely and you cut off their food supply. You may be uncomfortable early on, but this approach goes a long way toward healing the gut. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet in particular as well as the Paleo, GAPS, or Body Ecology diets might seem extreme to many, but a little discipline can create major gains. Gut healing protocols can also include bactericidal herbs such as oregano oil and allicin (a medicinal extract of garlic).

You may have more than bad flora running amok. Getting tested for H. Pylori, parasites, and other GI (gastrointestinal) issues can help determine a more targeted approach. See a progressive gastroenterologist, functional medicine doctor, or naturopath specializing in this area.

To help with your impaired gut function, you can also add digestive enzymes and HCl—hydrochloric acid, the acid in your stomach responsible for breaking down your food. One sad truth is that your acid reflux is not caused by too much acid, but rather not enough. The recommendation to take acid suppressing drugs and PPIs only masks the problem while further reducing much needed HCl. With even more undigested food putrefying in your gut, your gut issues gain momentum, which could possibly lead to cancer.

Topical steroid creams are routinely used to help calm and clear rashes by suppressing the immune response and inflammation. While they are fast-acting, they do not solve the underlying gut issue.

If you have contact or allergic dermatitis, the problem may be more localized.

We have several effective topical lotions that quell the itch. Constant scratching creates a vicious cycle of inflammation that makes it hard to heal. Our manuka cream soothes, protects, and nourishes those dry, red, scaly patches. Also, try using soaps and lotions free of detergents, chemicals, and fragrances. ‘Clean,’ organic products can reduce irritation.

You may be reacting to fabrics and metals that touch your body. We can test you for dozens of things with which your skin comes in contact to determine if your rash is being caused by an allergic reaction.

Food allergies and sensitivities can also be triggers. We use IgG-mediated food sensitivity testing through Genova Labs. Visit our page about food sensitivity testing here. We also dedicated a previous blog post to food testing and elimination diets, which you can read here.

Each person is different and not every approach is appropriate for everyone. Don’t be discouraged. Please get in touch for one-on-one guidance on a treatment plan that will work for you.


Do you have a chronic or recurring skin issue?

We'll get to the bottom of it!

Call us: (203) 323-5660 or


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