Have you wondered WHY it is reacting? And HOW you can heal the problematic area by addressing the cause?
The skin is the largest organ in the body, and plays an important role in protecting the body from bacteria and other microbes (germs) and the external environment, regulating body temperature, and allowing feeling and sensation. Given its large surface area and multiple functions, it is not surprising that the skin is susceptible to a variety of conditions including eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, rashes, acne, rosacea, and cellulitis. External factors (skin care products, chemicals, and the weather) can influence the skin; however, it is most often what is going on inside the body that can lead to the development of skin disorders.
Eczema is a form of dermatitis, in which the skin becomes aggravated and inflamed in response to a trigger. The skin may be itchy, red and dry and can cause a lot of discomfort for the individual. One third of Australians are affected by eczema at some point in their lives. Whilst the exact cause of eczema is unknown, it is thought to be caused by an over-reaction of the immune system to a perceived stimulant (which can be internal such as a food reaction, or external such as skin care products or an environmental allergen). This is why it is common for people who suffer eczema to have also experienced asthma or hayfever at some point in their lives.
Psoriasis is a chronic (long-lasting) autoimmune skin condition, which causes the skin to constantly regenerate and become red, inflamed and scaly. Psoriasis commonly appears on the scalp, face, elbows and knees. Whilst the exact cause is not known, the immune system, environment and genetics tend to play key roles.
Acne is an inflammatory skin condition caused by a series of complex events that include: excess oil production, blockage of the hair follicle, bacterial invasion, and inflammation of the affected area, causing redness and tenderness. Acne affects about 20% of adolescents and young adults.
All skin disorders can be very overwhelming and can greatly impact physical, mental and emotional health.
Holistic treatment of skin disorders involves the assessment of all possible causes and exacerbating factors, which may differ from each individual. These include:
Gastrointestinal Health – Poor diet, medications, stress and food intolerances/allergies can cause overgrowth of bacteria that don’t normally reside in the gut (this is called dysbiosis). Imbalanced bacteria can cause inflammation in the body, and thus exacerbate skin conditions.
Food Intolerances/Allergies– Normally, a healthy gastrointestinal membrane ensures that food proteins do not escape the gastrointestinal system and enter other areas of the body. However, the gut membrane can become ‘leaky’ and food proteins can escape into the blood stream and cause inflammation in various areas of the body, such as the skin.
Stress – Stress is now being shown to contribute to the development and exacerbation of a range of diseases. Stress can impact the body in a number of ways, including depleting the body of essential nutrients, and increasing inflammation and oxidative stress (an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants). High levels of stress causes increased production of cortisol (one of the main stress hormones). Increased cortisol levels can suppress the production of other key hormones, and thus lead to hormone imbalances, which can be an underlying cause of acne. It is important to address the cause of the stress and also implement effective stress management strategies.
Altered Immune System Function – Regulating the response of the immune system is integral in the management of skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.
Hormones – Acne can be largely driven by imbalances in hormone production in some individuals. Most commonly, excess androgen (e.g. testosterone) production and poor clearance of androgens can cause acne to develop and flare up. Androgens can cause sebum to produce in the oil glands, which is one of the key factors in acne development. Other hormonal imbalances, such as oestrogen dominance, can be the cause of acne.
Diet– Nutritional deficiencies can play a role in skin health and healing. Essential fatty acids help to reduce skin inflammation. Protein and zinc assist the skin to repair and heal. Vitamin A and D are also important nutrients for promoting skin health. Despite the popular belief that chocolate causes acne (which is not necessarily true), there are in fact multiple dietary factors to take into consideration with the development of acne.
Excess sugar, refined carbohydrates and trans fats can influence acne, through increasing inflammation. Increased blood glucose (in response to foods with a high glycaemic index or load) and insulin levels, and high intake of dairy products, have also been linked to acne.
External Irritants – Many skin products (body soaps/washes, cleansers, deodorants, moisturisers, make-up, etc.) can contain chemicals that can be irritating to the skin. Cosmetics, creams and hair products containing oils can worsen acne appearance.
Individuals who suffer from skin conditions often have sensitive skin, and therefore they benefit from products that are gentler and help to reduce the inflammation. Other external irritants, such as dust mites or pollen, can also be the cause of skin reactions, such as eczema.
Medications – some oral contraceptive pills and steroids may cause acne/skin disorder development. So assessing the cause is generally the preferred method of treatment.
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