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What is eczema?

Understanding your skin condition

Eczema and dermatitis are interchangeable terms for the same common but non-contagious inflammatory skin condition. Eczema presents as patches of dry, red, raised or scaly skin, which can blister, crack and exude fluid. Because of this, people with atopic dermatitis are prone to skin infections and more susceptible to colonisation by Staphylococcus aureus.

The problem isn’t just skin deep

Want to treat eczema naturally and permanently? Research is beginning to uncover the links between gut and skin health and has also found that dietary factors can exacerbate and even cause dermatitis, making food and nutrition both a potential trigger, and treatment, in the fight against eczema.

This is why our practitioners treat eczema with a holistic whole-of-body approach that offers a more permanent solution to your skin condition while treating its underlying cause.

Our patients are seeing results they’ve been trying to achieve for years through conventional medicine. See the difference our  approach to healthcare can make in the before and after photos below.

Before
After
Before
After

What causes eczema?

There isn’t one single cause of eczema but a range of potential contributing factors that are unique to each person. These include:

Genetics

Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.

These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.

Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)

If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected. 

Food allergy and sensitivity

Food hypersensitivity has been found to cause or exacerbate atopic dermatitis in 10-30% of cases, and 90% of these are caused by eggs, milk, peanuts, soy and wheat.

Compromised gut health

The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.

Nutritional deficiencies

Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).

Pregnancy

Studies have also found high maternal stress levels in pregnancy can increase the risk of their child developing atopic dermatitis. Our practitioners can work with you to develop a healthy lifestyle plan, while also supporting hormones with key nutrients and herbs.

Weather and environment

Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.

Hormones

Hormones also play a role in the course of atopic dermatitis, including the stress hormone cortisol which triggers an inflammatory immune response affecting all organs of the body, including the skin.

Mould exposure

Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.

What causes eczema?

There isn’t one single cause of eczema but a range of potential contributing factors that are unique to each person. These include:

Genetics

Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.

These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.

Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected. 

Food allergy and sensitivity

Food hypersensitivity has been found to cause or exacerbate atopic dermatitis in 10-30% of cases, and 90% of these are caused by eggs, milk, peanuts, soy and wheat.

Compromised gut health

The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.

Nutritional deficiencies

Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).

Weather and environment

Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.

Hormones

Hormones also play a role in the course of atopic dermatitis, including the stress hormone cortisol which triggers an inflammatory immune response affecting all organs of the body, including the skin.

Mould exposure

Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.

Forget short-term topical treatments. Treat the cause instead

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Natural vs conventional eczema treatments

Aside from only providing a short-term solution that doesn’t treat the underlying cause of your skin condition, conventional medicine can cause undesirable side effects.

Topical steroids

The side effects and risks of topical steroids may cause atrophy and thinning of the skin, and increase the potential for bruising, ulceration, rosacea, perioral dermatitis, acne, skin discolouration, contact dermatitis and your susceptibility to bacterial and fungal infections.  Long-term topical steroid use can also result in topical steroid withdrawal syndrome, also known as red skin syndrome. Symptoms include redness of the skin, a burning sensation, along with itchiness, which can progress to skin peeling.

Topical calcineurin inhibitors

More recently, topical calcineurin inhibitors which inhibit immune system responses have been used for short term or chronic intermittent treatment of atopic dermatitis, as an alternative to steroid use. But these products too can carry potential risks, and now include a Boxed Warning for potential, albeit debated, risk of lymphoma associated with TCI use.

Eczema baths

The Royal Children’s Hospital provides an eczema bath formula for children, which combines bath oil, pool salt and White King bleach in a bath of tepid water. The protocol is not intended to cure eczema, but to reduce Staphylococcus aureus bacteria on the skin in an attempt to reduce the rate of infection.

If you suffer with eczema you may have already tried some or all of these treatments and found limited or only short-term relief. Our skin health practitioner, Rebecca Hughes can work with you to find real answers to why your eczema is occurring and how you can treat the cause effectively and naturally.

Listen to Rebecca talk about the functional medicine approach to skin health and natural treatments for eczema below.

The Melbourne Functional Medicine Approach

Personalised assessment and treatment of what’s causing your eczema

Our practitioners take a highly personalised approach to any health concern, including eczema. This means we use detailed assessments, analysis, and functional testing to determine which of the underlying causes or contributors apply to you. More often than not, our investigations and natural eczema treatments will focus on gut health and may include:

Functional testing

We offer a range of testing options including food sensitivity and allergy tests, intestinal hyperpermeability assessments, and microbiome and hormonal profiles.

Improving gastrointestinal integrity and function

Gastrointestinal symptoms are common among people with eczema, so the functional medicine approach in our clinic focuses on improving digestive function. This can include food, nutrition supplements and herbal protocols.

Restoring the microbiome

We use a mix of prebiotics and probiotics to help restore healthy balance to the flora of the gastrointestinal system.

Balancing hormones

We take a multifaceted approach to hormonal balancing, combining lifestyle changes with herbs and supplements designed to restore hormonal balance.

Reducing inflammation

One of the most effective ways to reduce inflammation is dietary change, reducing or removing inflammatory foods, as well as potential allergy or intolerance triggers including foods containing salicylates, amines and glutamates, which can cause or exacerbate eczema.

Supplementing nutrients

In addition to an anti-inflammatory diet, we may supplement key nutrients that play a role in skin health and reducing inflammation, including Vitamin D for its role in supporting filaggrin production, omega 3 and 6, zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, glutamine, curcumin, and bioflavonoids.

Modulating the immune system

A functional medicine approach can also extend to calming the overactive immune responses seen in eczema with natural immunomodulators like echinacea, astragalus, albizia, baikal skullcap and even therapeutic mushrooms. These herbs are not suitable for everyone and should only be used under the supervision of a trained practitioner.


(James is a real patient but we’ve changed his name and image to protect his privacy.)

Case study

See how functional medicine is helping our patients achieve better health and richer lives.

James was 17 when he first came to us. He was covered from his neck to his ankles in eczema. There was bad scarring behind his knees from the constant itching and scratching.

Read James’ story by hitting the button below

At Melbourne Functional Medicine, we’ll work with you to pinpoint the cause of your eczema and treat it naturally and effectively, using our revolutionary approach to healthcare. Learn more about our unique program.

Are you ready for a personalised, natural functional medicine treatment? Our unique model of care was designed with you in mind. Find out how, then book a call today!

FAQs

Why haven’t conventional treatments worked for me?

The conventional approach to eczema treatment focuses on treatments such as topical corticosteroids for reducing inflammation, antihistamines for mediating itchiness and moisturiser for rehydrating dry skin.

But these measures are really only responding to the symptoms at a surface level, not addressing the underlying causes.

Is eczema more common in children?

Rates of the condition vary across the world but there is a higher prevalence of eczema in children and family clusters.

Could my eczema be allergy or asthma-related?

Atopic dermatitis often occurs in conjunction with other inflammatory conditions, known as the atopic triad or eczema march, including a strong association with asthma and allergic rhinitis, or hayfever.

Do pre- and probiotics prevent eczema in children?

Interestingly, more than 60 percent of eczema cases occur within the first year of life, which is prompting interest in preventative measures during the preconception and prenatal period, such as probiotics.

Prebiotic oligosaccharide supplementation during infancy has proven to offer prophylactic benefits against atopic dermatitis, while maternal consumption of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG during pregnancy and breastfeeding has reduced eczema and allergy in offspring.

How to treat severe eczema naturally?

Treating severe eczema involves a comprehensive assessment of a person's health to understand why eczema has occurred. This often involves functional testing to explore food sensitivities and allergies, intestinal hyperpermeability, microbiome health or hormonal health. Once factors have been identified, a targeted approach that involves nutritional support, pre and probiotics, and other dietary and lifestyle adjustments is recommended as a course of action.

Do you use topical herbs to treat inflammation?

Topically, we often use anti-inflammatory herbs like hypericum, calendula, chickweed, chamomile, as well as manuka honey, and also comfrey when the skin barrier is sealed. They may be administered in an oil base like jojoba or sunflower oil. Our practitioners can also dispense plant-based herbal medicines for consumption in liquid form which works to suppress inflammation internally.

Can lack of sleep and stress aggravate eczema?

Lack of sleep and high stress levels can alter hormonal profiles, driving up inflammation and aggravating eczema.

Why does eczema happen?

There isn’t one single cause of eczema but a range of potential contributing factors that are unique to each person. These include having a genetic predisposition that causes a loss of function of the protein filaggrin involved in skin moisturisation, food sensitivities and allergies, compromised gut health, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, mould exposure and other environmental factors like weather changes.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Reach out to the team directly – we’ll be happy to assist.