Psoriasis & Eczema: manifestations deeper than the skin

Contributed by Dr. Mary Peric ND. When working with individuals who suffer from chronic skin issues such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, rosacea to list a few, we must always look deeper than the skin! Just brushing the surface with topical treatments, does not address the interior imbalances manifesting themselves on the surface of our bodies.

Psoriasis, an autoimmune condition, comes in many forms and severities, which speaks to the individuality of the cause and treatment of it. AUTOIMMUNE?! meaning a confused immune system that attacks itself (the person) confusing it for a foreign substance or invader (like a bacteria, virus or parasite). We must look deeper than the skin when understanding the complexity of the autoimmune process. Where does that take us? Where do we start? The answer is the GUT.

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, classically presents in childhood, but more commonly these days, goes unresolved or may begin well into one’s adulthood. The general understanding is that eczema is an ALLERGIC type of condition, where one’s immune system is unbalanced, favoring an allergic type of reaction. Hence, we include eczema as part of an atopic triad alongside asthma and allergies. Again, to appropriately address the causes of eczema, an individualized approach must be taken. This once again begins by addressing the immune system, specifically, the immune system of the GUT!

So, what do the gut and immune system have to do with one another? Everything! The majority of our immune system lies within a tissue called “MALT”, which stands for mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue. Approximately 70-80% of this tissue, resides in the GUT and is subtitled “GALT” or gut-associated lymphoid tissue. The gut is densely packed with a unique lymphatic system, nodes and an important organ in immune regulation – the spleen. So when we investigate these skin conditions, we must search deeper and investigate the overall health of the gastro-intestinal system. This will include digestion & elimination via the bowels, detoxification via the liver, lymphatic circulation and communication between the gut and other organs of elimination like the kidneys, lungs and SKIN!

Therefore, in order to properly regulate and optimize the immune system, away from autoimmunity and allergy, one must ensure the integrity of the gut! This includes all aspects, from the tight junctions that hold together the cells lining the gut preventing “leaky gut” to the enteric nervous system which regulates our autonomic responses – remember, “fight or flight” and “rest & digest” – I am sure many of you have repeatedly heard those terms in our office! Self care techniques like dry skin brushing, castor oil packs over the abdomen, ensuring good hydration and stress modification are a part of this regulation and optimizing process.

So healing the skin is not just a bout what you put onto it, though this does matter immensely, but also includes healing from the INSIDE OUT! If you continue to struggle with psoriasis, eczema, acne, rosacea or any “skin” condition, then meet with your ND to discuss your options for recovery and develop your individualized treatment plan!


Consumer Guides:

Hall of Shame |EWG’s 2015 Guide to Sunscreen


EWG’s Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics