Generally we tend to treat skin issues as a condition involving only the skin. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Typical treatments involve putting something on our skin (often an antibiotic or steroid) and when that doesn’t work we resort to taking pills orally. Either antibiotics or synthetic hormones like the oral contraceptive pill and even powerful retinoids like Accutane. These medications can cause depression, severe sun burns, liver damage, infections etc... and never treat the root cause of our skin issues.
No one wants blemishes or irritating rashes so I understand why people reach for the medications to treat their condition. But what if there was a way to prevent or treat these skin irritants without medications?
It’s important to understand why your skin is irritated in the first place. Simply put, there is inflammation in the skin. Why is there inflammation? Inflammation occurs when our immune system is fired up. The most common cause for inflammation is an issue in our gut.
75% of our immune system is connected to our gut. This allows our body to understand and react to foreign exposures. If you eat an egg sandwich that was left in the sun too long, your immune system can immediately react to any bad bacteria that may have entered your body. Our immune system reacts by causing inflammation.
“Leaky gut” is a condition that occurs when the attachments holding your gut wall together become weak and allow toxins, food particles and microbes to seep through. Think of your gut wall becoming more like cheesecloth rather than a tightly woven fabric. Food sensitivities arise when food particles get through the gut wall and are recognized by your immune system. The inflammation that ensues shows up as eczema or acne in the skin, but can also cause a multitude of other symptoms like abdominal discomfort, brain fog, and autoimmune diseases.
Although a number of things can cause your gut to become leaky, the 3 main culprits are:
- Diet high in gluten, sugar and processed carbohydrates. Gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, can be extra damaging to those attachments in the gut wall. Sugary sweets are often high in gluten, also causing inflammation, which further worsens the problem.
- Imbalance of gut bacteria (or Dysbiosis). For every 1 human cell we have 10 bacteria cells in our body. When there is an imbalance (bad bacteria and yeast overgrow) it acts as a huge source of inflammation in our gut leaving it weakened.
- Chronic Stress. Stress causes your body to release cortisol (which is a natural anti-inflammatory). This is a good response, however, chronic stress over time can deplete your ability to release cortisol and therefore fight inflammation.
Other causes include certain medications, infections and a zinc deficiency.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Heal your gut. As you can see it is the root of most inflammation, so by removing the source of the inflammation a large portion of your symptoms will improve.
- Improve your diet. Cut out the inflammatory foods such as processed packaged foods, white sugar and sweets, fried foods, trans fats and sodas. This first step will make a drastic difference. Week 1 from a well&tight program will help you resolve this issue immediately.
- Do an Elimination Diet. Remove typical gut irritants like gluten, dairy, nuts, soy, eggs and meat for at least 3 weeks. Record how you feel and any symptoms you experience as you systematically reintroduce the foods one by one. This is not only a great way to heal the gut, but also an inexpensive way to find out your food sensitivities.
- Add in anti-inflammatory nutrients. Eat anti-inflammatory foods like colourful fruits, leafy green vegetables, wild caught fatty fish, olive or coconut oil, chia seeds, ginger and tumeric. These foods provide you with a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, Zinc and antioxidants like Vit A, C and E.
- Take a Probiotic. This will help replenish your good gut bacteria and inhibit the growth of bad gut bacteria and yeast. Look for a supplement that has 10 - 25 billion cfu and don’t forget to get a good amount of soluble fiber rich prebiotic foods such as garlic, oats, and flax as well.
- Reduce your Stress. Try setting your alarm or using an app to remind you to periodically stop and take 10 slow belly breaths. Breathing this way automatically calms our sympathetic nervous system thereby reducing the drain on cortisol.
- Get enough restful sleep. As mentioned in my previous post on sleep, this is the time to replenish cortisol, your body’s natural anti-inflammatory.
- Exercise. Start moving regularly. Bike with your family, walk after dinner or sign up for a well&tight class. Movement is a natural anti-inflammatory. It helps to improve your sleep, improve your mood, and reduce pain. Aim for 30 min of moderate intensity exercise 5 days a week.
Healing first from within is what Functional Medicine is all about. We have developed many advances in our medical knowledge and our understanding of how the human body works. The beauty and simplicity of it all is that food is our medicine. Starting here first we have the ability to heal many illnesses from the inside out.
I would love to hear your comments and questions so reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bio: Dr. Angelina Yee is a medical doctor trained in both Family and Functional medicine. As a fitness and health enthusiast she enjoys all forms of activity and exploration into physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Angelina is a certified yoga instructor and a national body-building champion. She is happily married and a mom to 6 year old twins and a golden doodle named Marvin. Follow her personal wellness journey on IG @dr_angelinayee.