Did you know that those with the MTHFR mutation have a higher risk of developing eczema, a chronic skin rash that can range from annoying to absolutely debilitating? The reason for this is that eczema, an immune system over-response, is actually a gut health problem - something MTHFRs are especially prone to have. Yes, that's right. While there are certainly cases of dermatitis that are triggered by other factors and are not an indication of an underlying gut issue, many, many cases of eczema are actually food-related. This means that, until the problem foods are eliminated and a healthier diet is in place, the problem can only be worsened or temporarily relieved through skincare measures.
While there are many people who have suffered from far worse eczema than I've ever experienced, I still consider myself to be pretty familiar with the struggle. As a child, my teacher called home with suspicion of child abuse because my hands looked like they were dipped in boiling water. My embarrassed mother had to explain my condition and that we were working on finding a solution, assuring my teacher that there was no foul play involved. Taking extra care to dry my hands and use hand cream afterwards staved off the issue until adulthood, when I began to develop explosions of unexplained, more stubborn rashes. I found myself with new, more persistent patches on my hands, around my eyes, and other places I won't specify. Very large painful, itchy rings exploded on the back of my neck and would last for weeks at a time.
If I didn't dry my hands properly, for instance, the rashes would get worse, but it wasn't coming about in the first place due to a moisture issue. Steroid creams would help to keep the rashes at bay, but offered no real solution. Plus, steroid creams are not safe to use long-term. Over time, they damage the integrity of the skin, and even cause eczema to worsen. People with severe eczema are sometimes prescribed immunosuppressants, another dangerous "solution." I had to get to the root of this problem. I decided to try the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, a form of the Paleo diet that focuses on eliminating foods that trigger an immune system response and on maximizing nutrient density. After an elimination phase, you then slowly reintroduce foods to determine which ones were causing your symptoms. To my amazement, my persistent, thorn-in-my-side rashes completely went away within a couple weeks of the elimination phase! Prior to trying this diet, I had already eliminated wheat and dairy. The remaining culprits that were causing my rashes? Corn, white potatoes, and excess sugar. Other common problem foods include soy, eggs, and nuts.
Now, if I slip up on my diet, I may notice a little itchiness coming back, but overall, it hasn't been a problem since I changed my way of eating. It truly was a gut issue for me! If you struggle with eczema, there's a pretty good chance it's a gut issue with you as well. Once your gut heals (there are many things you can do to heal your gut besides just changing your diet, but I won't get into that in this article), some people are able to reintroduce foods that were once problematic. However, most of the time, foods that are problematic are probably not good for you in the first place. While I find that my tolerance for things like corn, white potatoes and sugar is higher than it was when I first eliminated them, I don't have any desire or intention to make them a staple of diet again. I find myself desiring to eat cleaner and not missing those old foods that made my immune system go haywire.
Have you ever struggled with eczema? Did you find that it was a gut health issue for you? Tell us about it!