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April 2009

By Verity Vincent

A drop in temperature and humidity during the cooler months can often trigger flare-ups of inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) commonly presents in young children and may even go dormant for a period of time with relapses in adulthood. Eczema may be part of an “atopic” picture, involving other conditions of the immune system such as asthma and hay fever. Psoriasis is a skin condition characterised by an overproduction of skin cells that build-up to form thick, scaly patches that are dry and itchy.  Stress commonly causes exacerbations of this condition.

Conventional treatment for both of these bothersome conditions often involves steroid creams that come with a number of harmful side effects including suppressing the immune function of the skin and, over time, contributing to the skin becoming thinner. Natural topical remedies can provide temporary relief of symptoms, helping to reduce inflammation and soothe itchy, dry skin and can improve skin health and integrity over time. There is a plethora of skin creams available for those wanting to “reduce the itch”, which is a challenging field. Certainly, voiding parabens, petrochemicals, fragrances and artificial colours is important, especially considering how much is absorbed through the skin (and even more when it’s damaged).

However, increasing knowledge links the manifestations in the skin with what is happening in the intestines. Gut bacteria produce compounds that can aggravate skin problems, Potential contributing factors may include:


  • Poor gut health, contributing to “leaky gut” (intestinal hyper permeability)
  • Food sensitivities or allergies (which may in turn be coming from a gut cause)
  • Nutrient deficiencies (think diet or gut)
  • Emotional stress
  • Exposure to toxins and chemicals


Due to the chronic nature of these skin conditions, it may take time to identify and address the underlying root causes. Naturopathic treatment aims to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms while identifying and correcting the underlying imbalances that may be at play. A tailored holistic treatment plan may involve the following:


  • Functional testing (such as SIBO breath testing). A strong link between bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine has been linked to psoriasis (PMID: 27434104). Stool testing may also be recommended, depending on your history and current health status.
  • Based on results of functional testing, using a research-backed approach to restoring normal gut flora and support gut healing.
  • Standard laboratory testing – for example inflammatory markers, vitamin D status, which are known to be involved in psoriasis.
  • Identifying and eliminating trigger foods in a controlled manner to calm the body’s reactivity and to allow the healing process to start. Response to this can provide useful information as to what the underlying issues might be.
  • Supporting the immune system with adequate levels of specific minerals, vitamins and fatty acids.
  • Increasing intake of orange and yellow coloured vegetables, which are high in vitamin A, an important nutrient for skin health.
  • Supporting detoxification to ensure efficient elimination of toxins from the body through the correct pathways (not the skin!)
  • Providing strategies for reducing mental/emotional stress, as this affects digestion of food.
  • Supporting healthy sleep, which is vital for healing and cell regeneration.
  • Identifying and minimising toxin exposures and other triggers.

If you are struggling with a chronic skin condition and seeking a natural alternative, we can support you with an individualised nutritional, lifestyle and herbal treatment plan. Book an appointment with one of our naturopaths today and let’s start you on your skin-healing journey.

IMAGES OF CLIENT’S ECZEMA, BEFORE AND AFTER: Long standing “mod-severe eczema”, many, many years of unsuccessful medical treatment. It took 18 months of “peeling away the layers” of issues contributing to the problem to heal this condition.



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