Getting to the Root Cause of Eczema

In this week’s episode of Integrative Wellness Radio, Dr. Nicole and Brooke discuss the underlying causes of eczema and what you can do to help eliminate symptoms in infants, children, and even adults! Want to learn more with a free strategy call? Log on to now!


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Hey there, welcome back to another episode of Integrated Wellness Radio. This is the functional medicine nutritionist, Brooke Scheller, and I'm here today with Dr. Nicole. We're going to be talking about a topic that I think plagues a lot of people, and that is eczema. It plagues a lot of people. I think more often than not it plagues starting in childhood, or even just after birth. We wanted to go ahead and give you little bit of background if you are someone that is suffering with eczema, or other skin condition. Welcome Dr. Nicole.

Dr. Nicole:
Hi everyone.

Let's get started talking about some of the background with why someone may be experiencing something like eczema.

Dr. Nicole:
Eczema is something that we often think is strictly topical, and we usually are going to seek out a dermatologist, and use maybe something as simple as a hydrocortisone, or even getting into more intense or aggressive topical steroids. Often enough when I do testing as a Functional Medicine Practitioner, I do find that there are often infections in the gastrointestinal system that are a big component to the immune system not regulating properly, which then manifests in the skin. It's very often that there are different over-growths in the gut, that could be anything from bacteria to yeast, and also parasites.

I would definitely say the most abundant is typically going to be a yeast overgrowth, which unfortunately is so common in children, because there is so much hidden sugar in the food that we eat nowadays, and especially foods that geared towards kids. Everything from even baby formulas to different types of baby foods. Then as they get older milk has a ton of sugar in it that we don't realize. Then even if you're using soy milk, or almond milk, those things also have a lot of sugar in them. It's very common that we can feed the normal amounts of yeast that we have in our gut, and it overgrows, and then can affect our skin.

I'm glad that you bring that up talking about the foods that we eat, and talking about in childhood, because there's a lot of babies, infants, newborns, that begin experiencing eczema. Why don't we talk about how the mothers microbiome can affect that as well.

Dr. Nicole:
What we mean by microbiome is 80% of us are actually bacteria. The bacteria that we get from our mom's gut is the start of the immune system in the baby. Whatever is in mom's gut, which is supposed to be probiotics, meaning the good bacteria that protect us and boost our immune system, all of that good bacteria is supposed to go into the gut of the baby. That is the start of their immune system, and the start of their microbiome, which is then going to protect them against all the bad bacteria that we get exposed to in life.

What's happening often enough is that because of so many things that are compromising mom's immune system, and I don't want to just say mom, I mean people in general. Everything from different types of toxins, and then pesticides, and herbacides, and different types of chemicals that are in our food, in our environment, a lot of us are having compromised immune systems. Then we're also getting exposed to a lot of bad bacteria. This bacteria can then manifest in our bodies, especially our gut, because one of the primary avenues that we get bacteria in our systems is via food.

If there is this overgrowth of bacteria in our guts, or there's an overgrowth of yeast in mom's gut, because she has also eaten too much sugar, or carbohydrates in her life, then that is something that will be passed to the baby. This is really important to understand, not really just for eczema, but also for infertility. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of different reasons why there can be infertility. We actually did a whole podcast on that, so make sure to check that out on our channel. If you do have an unhealthy gastrointestinal system, maybe you've been diagnosed with IBS, maybe you've been diagnosed with Crohn's, maybe you've had past food poisoning, then there is a possibility that you do have an unbalanced gut.

You have an overgrowth of bad pathogenic bacteria, parasites, or even yeast, that could potentially be passed to your baby. Your body is preventing you from getting pregnant to protect your unborn child.

What about in the incidence of a woman using fertility treatment if they are struggling?

Dr. Nicole:
When you use fertility treatment you're bypassing nature. If your body is not getting pregnant a lot of us are told it's genetic, it's we're doomed. It's not really the case. There are genetic things that play a role in fertility, but more importantly you have to rule in or out, do you have infections, do you have a compromised immune system, do you have mold exposure, or do you have massive amounts of deficiencies. One of the primary things that I think a lot of women can relate to is if you buy a prenatal there's a ton of stuff in there. Iron is very abundant, B vitamins are very abundant, and folic acid are very abundant, in our prenatals.

If your body is massively deficient in that, then it's very difficult to get pregnant, because your baby needs all of those things to grow, and develop, and be healthy. There's a lot of different things that play a role in the inability to get pregnant, but it's finding the clarity, figuring out are you dealing with any of those things, so that you can balance your own system then so your baby can have a healthy development. Then obviously have a healthy childhood, as well.

Great. Jumping back on the eczema topic, because I think we diverted there with the fertility thing, but it's definitely important information. Talking about antibiotics, because I think that's something that's a little controversial. We go to the doctor and most of the time they prescribe, as a precaution, an antibiotic if there's any type of infection. This can be during a pregnancy, if can be before a pregnancy affecting the mother's microbiome, but then also in infants, and babies, and children, as well. Let's talk more about that.

Dr. Nicole:
Like I mentioned before, our bodies, our human bodies are actually 80% bacteria. With taking that into consideration it's good bacteria. It's bacteria that, again, builds our immune system and protects us against any type of bad bacteria in our world, in our environment, in nature. If you are young, if you're an infant, and you're already having a lot of antibiotic intervention, maybe because something went wrong in the hospital, maybe you were premature, maybe mom had an infection and mom was put on the antibiotics. There's a lot of different reasons for it, but you've already started to compromise your microbiome. You've already started to compromise that good bacteria.

You've started to compromise your immune system, and your natural defenses against the bad bacteria. Unfortunately, in the hospitals there's a lot of different types of bacteria that are pretty serious. Everything from strains of staph infections, different types of Clostridium, in addition to MRSA. These are things that if your natural defense are down, because of very early on antibiotic treatment, you can open yourself up to those infections. Now, from the very start, you're going to have an altered microbiome, and an altered immune systems.

I think that eczema is almost like a preliminary type of symptom, in that it's something that might start early on. It doesn't really seem something that's that extreme, it's very common. You might be thinking, "oh a little bit of eczema, a little of cream, and everything will be fine." I think more importantly is that some of these things like antibiotic use before the use of one year old, that can actually lead to things down the road, things like asthma, things like auto immune disorder, and whole strain of other things too. Aside from that, what are some of the other symptoms outside of eczema that they might be experiencing maybe right away?

Dr. Nicole:
I should before we got there, one of the big things that we actually didn't mention, we've talked a lot about the different imbalances that can then lead to a depressed immune system, and then lead to eczema, is C-section versus natural birth. That's another thing is we talked about mom's gut, and microbiome being passed to the baby, yes that's a big part of the start of the immune system. Then the other layer to that is the baby going through the birth canal. Then going through the birth canal the baby gets exposed to even more bacteria, which then starts to build the immune system even further.

Naturally, if you are a C-section you don't go through the birth canal. You do miss out on a lot of that beneficial bacteria. That is another big component to then getting into the world with your natural defenses being down.

Going into some of the other symptoms, when you think about everything we've talking about with the immune system, and natural defenses being compromised, you might not just see eczema. You might see, or have a baby being colic. You might also see some food allergies, or they're not tolerating breast milk, or they're not tolerating certain types of formulas. You might even see different colors in their stool, or loose bowel movements, mucous in the stool. You might see generally differences in their stood day-to-day. There are other things that will affected in the event that their microbiome is compromised, and, again, this is going back to mom, how they were born, antibiotic use, and then their diet, of course.

Those are really great for looking at a baby, and analyzing an infant. How about with children? Similar symptoms?

Dr. Nicole:
With eczema anybody can be affected by eczema. As you get older, child, teenager, adult, one of the things to think about is what are the other things outside of what we're talking about right now that can affect your immune system. We did do a whole podcast on this, so we're going to touch on it briefly.

The other things that you can acquire over time is getting exposed to mold, which I know is something that is not always thought to have long term effects, but is can. Especially if you used to live in it and you've moved out of that home, or you've moved on from your job. You can definitely have residual effects from being exposed to mold for a period of time, and it is very damaging to the immune system.

The other thing is also going to be heavy metal exposure. Unfortunately, I have a lot of people that look at me and say, "How did I possibly get heavy metals in my body?" Unfortunately, it's more exposed to them every day. We're exposed to them through the water we drink. We're exposed to them by eating fish. Different pots and pans we use in our kitchens, personal products we put on our bodies, so they're all around us. If you are the person who has used antiperspirant, and then you've found out that aluminum is bad, because aluminum is in antiperspirant, and then you've stopped using antiperspirant, it doesn't mean that problem is solved.

You actually have to do a detox, a specific type, to get these heavy metals out of your body. They do stay within your system if you don't make an effort to get them out. Heavy metals are a big part of affecting our immune system. Then, obviously, the gastrointestinal system, yeast, parasites, bacteria, are another really, really big part of that puzzle.

We briefly mentioned things like diet, and obviously diet's going to play a big role in the manifestation, and I would say even the management of something like eczema. We did talk about sugar and carbohydrates will feed the yeast and bacteria. If you're someone who's listening, and maybe your an adult suffering with eczema, and you might notice that if you take out sugar and carbs for a few days you might notice a reduction in your symptoms, and that's awesome. Let's talk more about what things that people can do at home.

Dr. Nicole:
It's exactly what you said Brooke. Really making sure that you can decrease the sugar or carbohydrates from the diet, and you might see an improvement in your symptoms. I do like to distinguish the difference between sugar and carbs, because some people might be listening to this thinking I'm not someone who has a sweet tooth. You are someone who grew up maybe eating a lot of bread, a lot of pasta, and that is also something that will break down into sugar. Despite if it is sugar, or if it is more of the carbohydrates, cutting those things out of the diet, you might find that your symptoms reduce, but they don't completely resolve.

That is because yeast is not always the easiest thing to get rid of. You might actually have to have supplement intervention to get rid of that successfully. If you are someone, you reduce the carbohydrates and the sugars from your diet, you've seen improvement in your symptoms, but you don't see it go away completely, then you would want to get appropriate testing, so that you can possibly get on the right supplements.

One of the supplements that I do absolutely love for kids, because it's easy to administer, because it does come in a liquid form, and it doesn't have a bad taste is grapefruit seed extract. I do use that a lot in kids who are dealing with eczema, and it does play a really, really big role in helping that to reduce any type of bacterial or yeast overgrowth in their gut, and help them clear those infections. Then, obviously, resolve their skin issues.

Grapefruit seed extract is a really awesome way to help get rid of yeast and bacteria, but are there other foods that you would recommend people incorporating in during this time to help get rid of that yeast and bacteria?

Dr. Nicole:
You can definitely use different things that have a very soothing, and healing mechanism to the gut. Something that I feel like has gotten a lot press lately is bone broth. Bone broth is a broth that is made by boiling done bones, a lot it's beef derived, primarily because you can get so much marrow out of the beef bones. We can definitely attach our bone broth recipe to this podcast. In addition, we do have a really amazing bone broth recipe in the "Eat for Your Gut Cookbook." That's something that you would really would want to check out. The "Eat for Your Gut Cookbook" is exactly what the title is. It is a whole slew of different recipes that are geared towards helping you to fight different infections in your gut, heal your gut, and also decrease any type of inflammation.

This is really useful for getting the guidelines on how to eat appropriately to heal your gut, and get it to a good place, and that will in turn affect your skin, and resolve the eczema as well. The biggest disclaimer is, and I make this disclaimer in my book, is if you are the person that you embark on these dietary changes and you hit a plateau, then you do want to seek out working with a functional medicine physician. So that you can get the clarity around what's going on in the gut, which is a very simple stool analysis. Then from there you can get on more specific supplements, and then that will really nip in the bud.

The beauty of it is kids are so easy. I've treated kids that are one year old up to five years old, and within 3 to 4 weeks they have a massive reduction in their symptoms. In some of them up to 2 months, their eczema is completely gone. It's really amazing, they're so young, they're so resilient, and they can really resolve these issues really fast. It takes a little bit longer with adults, because we've done so much more damage, but it's all doable, and that's the moral of the story is. With the proper intervention you can resolve your skin issues.

Psoriasis falls under this category, as well, and that's a separate podcast that we will do in the future. Psoriasis is a little bit more complicated, because it's an autoimmune condition. It takes a little bit more time, but you're still talking about the general basis of what is messing with the immune system. You have to get that clarity in order to help people to resolve their symptoms.

I think this is really important to talk about what this root cause is, because that's our theme is we like to discuss what is that root cause. You could slap a Band-aid on this with hydrocortisone cream, and steroids, and things like that. You might notice some minor progressions, you might not notice it go away completely, or you might notice that it goes away, but it comes back every once in a while. We always think that it's so topical. Like you said, psoriasis is similar, but I even think about acne. Anything that's manifesting in the skin is happening because there is something going on within in the body. Some type of imbalance, that really we could take a look at, and fix, and heal through some very simple dietary modifications, as well as, herbs and supplements too.

Dr. Nicole:
Your skin is technically an organ. It's the largest organ of the body. Your skin is a reflection of your internal environment, for sure. That is pretty much everything you need to know about eczema. If you are someone who is looking for more information about Integrated Wellness Group, or you do have some questions about this podcast, and about how you can start addressing your skin, I would definitely say jump on call with Brooke. We have a 15 minutes strategy call that she is offering to any of the listeners, and you can learn a little bit more about our services, in addition to really what's your first step in starting to resolve your eczema.