In the world of dermatology, eczema has long been considered a complex mystery, leaving millions of people searching for effective solutions. But what if we told you that the key to unlocking the mysteries of eczema lies not just in creams and ointments, but in the complex connection between your gut and your brain? So get ready to discover in this article from The Dermo Lab how these two seemingly unrelated parts of your body are intimately linked. Get ready for the mysteries surrounding eczema with the remarkable story of eczema and the gut-brain connection.
What is the eczema enigma?
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, affects millions of people worldwide. Its symptoms are often red, itchy, and inflamed skin, which can be both uncomfortable and unsightly. Although eczema is generally considered a skin condition, researchers are increasingly intrigued by the possibility that it has deeper roots in your body.
For years, the prevailing idea was that eczema was primarily the result of external factors, such as allergens or irritants. However, despite rigorous efforts to identify these triggers, many eczema sufferers found little or no relief. Scientists therefore explored other avenues, which led to the unexpected discovery of the link between the gut and the brain (1).
What is eczema and the gut-brain connection?
Here’s what researchers know so far about this link.
Studies have shown that, in people with atopic dermatitis, the health of the gut microbiome is often compromised. One review notes that atopic dermatitis is associated with (2):
- lower bacterial diversity
- lower levels of beneficial species, such as Bacteroidetes, Akkermansia, and Bifidobacterium
- higher levels of harmful bacterial species, such as Staphylococcus aureus.
This points to a link between dysbiosis and atopic dermatitis.
2- The immune response
The symptoms of atopic dermatitis are due to the immune system. When the immune system perceives a threat to the skin, it creates inflammation in response. This is what causes itching.
Scientists believe that dysbiosis in the gut and on the skin may be at the root of this phenomenon. It may be that the immune system detects harmful levels of “bad” microbes on the skin and reacts accordingly. Dysbiosis and eczema can then create a cycle of inflammation that perpetuates the symptoms.
Changes in the microbiome can also alter the immune response, leading to its dysregulation (2).
3- Intestinal permeability
The walls of the intestine are permeable. This means that substances can pass through them. In some people, the intestinal walls let more through than they should. Some people refer to this as “leaky gut”, although this is not a medical diagnosis in its own right.
Scientists know that certain species of beneficial bacteria produce by-products that help the intestinal barrier function more efficiently. These include certain species that atopic dermatitis sufferers may have less of, such as bifidobacteria.
This may explain why some studies have found a correlation between atopic eczema and increased intestinal permeability (3). However, further research is needed to fully understand this link.
Moreover, the gut-brain link came into play when scientists discovered that stress and emotional factors can exacerbate eczema symptoms (4). The brain communicates with the gut via the vagus nerve, and stress can trigger the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that have an impact on the gut microbiota. This in turn can aggravate eczema symptoms.
What is the path to relief?
Understanding the link between the gut and the brain in eczema opens the way to new treatment and management possibilities. Here are a few promising avenues currently being explored:
- Probiotics and prebiotics
Supplementing with probiotics (beneficial bacteria) and prebiotics (foods for beneficial bacteria) can help restore balance to the gut microbiome. Some studies have shown an improvement in eczema symptoms with probiotic supplementation, but further research is needed to identify the most effective strains and dosages.
- Diet and nutrition
A balanced diet plays an essential role in gut health and eczema management. Here are some dietary considerations:
- Fiber-rich foods: Incorporating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into your diet can provide essential fiber that supports a diverse gut microbiome. Fiber acts as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish (salmon, mackerel, and sardines), flaxseed, and walnuts, have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce eczema-related inflammation.
- Hydration: Staying well hydrated is essential to maintaining healthy skin. Drinking enough water promotes skin hydration and can help relieve the dryness and itching associated with eczema.
- Avoid trigger foods: Some eczema sufferers find relief by identifying and avoiding trigger foods that exacerbate their symptoms.
- Stress management
Stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and relaxation exercises, can help mitigate the impact of emotional factors on eczema. By reducing stress, people can experience fewer flare-ups and better skin health.
- Limit alcohol consumption
Alcohol consumption has been shown to alter the intestinal microbiome. This can lead to intestinal dysbiosis. It’s best to reduce alcohol consumption if you can.
- Targeted drugs
Researchers are also investigating drugs capable of modulating the gut-brain axis to reduce inflammation and improve eczema symptoms. These drugs aim to restore balance to the immune system and microbiome.
The future of eczema treatment
As we uncover the complex web of links between eczema, the gut, and the brain, the future of eczema treatment looks brighter than ever. What was once considered a baffling skin condition with no definitive cure is now being viewed from a new angle of understanding.
The discovery of the surprising link between eczema, the gut, and the brain has opened up a world of possibilities for researchers and eczema sufferers alike. It’s a testament to the constant evolution of medical science, and the importance of exploring uncharted territory to find solutions to age-old problems.
Although we don’t yet have all the answers, one thing is clear: the quest for eczema’s secrets has taken a big step forward, and each discovery brings us a little closer to lasting relief for those who have long struggled with this puzzling condition.
Last Updated on November 12, 2023