One of the most frustrating problems to deal with as a teenager is not having clear skin. It’s even worse when these problems exist when you aren’t a teenager! Itchy, irritated skin, acne, dermatitis, eczema, and rosacea and skin issues all have a similar root cause.

These are the only 3 places skin irritation originates from:

  1. Detoxification/Hormones
  2. Inflammation
  3. Infections: Microbes or Food

Think about all potential treatment options a dermatologist has given for a skin related abnormality. They will fall into one of these 3 categories stated above. Many girls get put on the birth control pill for acne. The pill is hormones, thus, the reason for the skin problem is a hormonal imbalance. Other patients get put on an anti-inflammatory cream which means the reason for their skin problem is inflammation such as Psoriasis, Rosacea or even

Eczema. Other patients get put on an antibiotic. If an antibiotic clears up the skin it means the outbreak is coming from a bacteria or a gut microbe!

Skin Problems and Eczema Coming from Detoxification and Hormones

According to the Environmental Working Group, women use an average of 12 products a day, containing 168 different chemicals. Men use fewer products, but still put 85 chemicals on their bodies[i].  This trend along with hormonal differences make this an issue more commonly found in women than in men.

The skin is a major organ of detoxification. When chemicals are not processed correctly the body will often excrete them through the skin in order to cleanse the body. One of the largest natural chemicals your body needs to detoxify is the sex hormones (particularly in women). Patients can certainly have reactions to a number of synthetic chemicals in the environment.   For this reason, many patients with skin problems undergo questions and possibly testing in our office for their hormones, toxic chemical exposure, heavy metal exposure, and the strength of their detoxification pathways.

Eczema, Functional Medicine, DermatitsSkin Problems and Eczema Coming from Inflammation

The second major category that causes skin irritation is inflammation.  The most famous treatments in this category include anti-histamines, topical corticosteroids, prednisone, and biologic anti-inflammatory drugs like Humira for Psoriasis.  This is common in patients who have an autoimmune disease like Psoriasis, Celiac Disease, or Hashimoto’s.  While these anti-inflammatory interventions can be helpful, most of them are not great long-term solutions.  True healing often involves finding lifestyle triggers that are constantly aggravating the immune system and driving the inflammation.  What are the common triggers?

Read more about autoimmune diseases in other articles from Dr. Warren.  Articles include:

  1. Autoimmune Disease: How to Approach Fixing Them
  2. Autoimmunity: The Unknown Monkey Wrench in Your Health

The short version is the most common triggers for inflammation are:

  • Foods
  • Bugs
  • Chemicals
  • Stress
  • Hormones

Identifying which of these triggers (and it can be more than 1) is driving the inflammation is vital to solving a skin problem.

Unless we identify the root cause and remove it, the symptoms will keep coming back!

Skin Problems and Eczema Coming from infections and the Gut

Most people are aware that various infections can cause skin outbreaks.  Chicken pox, for example, is a common viral infection that cause skin outbreaks.  Lyme disease and other tic born infections also can cause a rash.  For the most part this is an acute or short lived experience that comes as we get ill and resolves once we get better.  However, some microbial imbalances can perpetuate for longer in our body and cause chronic skin outbreaks.

Leaky Gut: The Cause of Most Skin Reactions and Eczema

Our gut houses 40-100 trillion microscopic organisms that live in a symbiotic relationship with us. When these bugs get disturbed it can wreak havoc on the body. An imbalance of bacteria, yeast, parasites, etc. often leads to what is called “leaky gut”. The scientific word is intestinal permeability which means the intestines have holes in it that allows partially digested food into the blood stream.  With this pattern patients can have symptoms from the direct microbe imbalance dumping toxins into their system, or they can also have symptoms from the leaky gut the microbe imbalance causes allowing food into their system which they then become reactive to.

Why We Work with Microbes Before Doing Extensive Food TestingRosacea, Functional Medicine

In our office, we typically work on balancing out the gut microbes, repairing the leaky gut, and then move onto food sensitivity testing if it is needed afterwards. The reason for this is if you have a gut infection (such as candida) it creates leaky gut. When we have a leaky gut from a bug you will react to pretty much whatever you eat.  If you change your diet but still have a leaky gut, in about 6 months you will react to the new food you are eating.  By removing the offending bacteria and healing the gut lining food reactions can be at least reduce and optimally eliminated.

Why We Cycle Antimicrobial and the 4R Program to Healing the Gut

Any intestinal support program typically has 4 pieces.

Remove phase includes removing bad bugs like yeast, bacteria, parasites that are not part of the healthy microbiota.  This also includes the removal of aggravating foods such as gluten, grains, and dairy. The Repair phase includes nutrients to aid in the health of the intestinal epithelial cells and promote healing from any leaky gut accompanied by a microbial imbalance.  The Replace phase is adding in digestive enzymes to aid in digestion. The Re-inoculate phase involves restoring healthy bacteria to the system after the removal phase.

We cycle or “pulse” anti-microbials during the Remove phase because many yeast and some bacteria such as clostridia have a spore phase which protects them.  By taking a few days off the removal phase of gut repair it allows the spores to germinate and then they are vulnerable again to being removed. This has been shown to be more effective than straight antimicrobial courses with no breaks.


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