Wellness: Skin health is more than skin deep
Your skin is your largest organ and, for some people, it is a large health concern.
Eczema affects roughly six million people in Canada and most cases first appear before the age of five. I’ve seen countless new patients come in with a bag full of medicated creams, washes, moisturizers, etc. on which they’ve spent a fortune with little improvement, or whose skin problems return as soon as they stop using these topical products.
This is because addressing the root cause of eczema requires looking from the inside out rather than simply managing symptoms from the outside in.
What’s happening on the outside of your body — your skin — is a reflection of what is happening on the inside; for example, food sensitivities can contribute to eczema. Food reactions cause the lining of your digestive tract to become inflamed and damaged, allowing minute particles of undigested food into your blood stream. These particles are attacked by your immune system and can travel to your skin, causing inflammation and the eczema reaction.
The most common food allergies and sensitivities associated with eczema are dairy, eggs, peanuts, soy and wheat. Many people with food sensitivities have digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, IBS or belly aches, but for many, eczema may be the only sign of food sensitivities.
Dehydration also contributes to skin problems. The most obvious connection is that low fluid intake contributes to dry skin and in people with eczema, this can aggravate painful cracking and slow skin healing.
But keep in mind that not all fluids are created equal. Coffee and black teas are diuretics, so rather than contributing to your daily fluid intake, they are actually taking away from it. Juice and sodas are very high in sugar, causing a spike in your blood sugar and other unwanted effects, so sodas should be avoided and juice should be limited to small servings of fresh green juices, or at the very least watered down and enjoyed in moderation.
Things like smoothies, homemade soups and vegetables can contribute towards your daily fluid intake. The average woman should aim for roughly two litres of water each day and the average man should aim for roughly three litres per day.
It is important to consider what is being put on your skin in addition to what you are putting in your mouth. Body products should be natural and free of dyes, chemicals and additives. Some ingredients to avoid include sodium lauryl sulfate, gluten, perfumes, synthetic dyes, parabens and polyethylene glycol.
You can find two of my favourite moisturizers in your kitchen cupboard: olive oil and coconut oil. It’s easy to boost the medicinal properties of olive oil by soaking a large handful of loose leaf chamomile and calendula tea in a mason jar with olive oil for two weeks in a dark and cool place. The chamomile and calendula help to soothe and heal skin while the olive oil moisturizes.
Health comes from the inside out and your skin is one of the best examples of this. Eating a clean, healthy diet, identifying and eliminating food reactions, staying well hydrated and choosing only natural body products are the foundation for healing many skin problems, including eczema.
– Briana Peddle is a naturopathic doctor (www.drpeddle.com) in Port Moody with a focus on digestive health, detox, women’s health, fertility and stress management.