Atopic dermatitis or eczema affects 15–20% of children and 1–3% of adults worldwide. Inflammation caused by atopic dermatitis is manifested by rashes and severe itching – this condition can last for years and seriously impair the quality of life. There is no way to cure eczema completely, but there are remedies that can help relieve the disease.
In this article, we look at how to recognize atopic dermatitis and find out what to do to relieve symptoms and prevent it. I will also share my story of healing eczema in my little one. It was quite a journey with multiple triggers, but we succeeded in identifying the root cause and getting rid of rash/eczema for good.
- How do you know if it’s atopic dermatitis?
- Nature vs Nurture?
- How do gut and skin microbiome regulate immunity?
- Gut microbiome and atopic dermatitis in children
- How to relieve atopic dermatitis?
- How to prevent the development or exacerbation of the disease?
How do you know if it’s atopic dermatitis (AD)?
The main signs of AD are rashes on the bends of the elbows and knees in adults and in the folds of the neck and cheeks in children. The skin flakes and itches, and crusts and scratches appear on the affected areas.
Eruptions on the flexor surfaces of the joints, on the back of the neck, and behind the ears are covered with cracks, pigmentation and thickening of the skin.
Often the exacerbation of eczema is associated with other factors:
- Cold season;
- The use of certain products;
- Use of “dirty” detergents and household chemicals;
- exposure to allergens;
- Increased sweating.
Nature vs Nurture?
The predisposition to AD can be inherited, and those whose relatives suffered from atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, and asthma are most predisposed to it. One of the main mechanisms for the development of atopic dermatitis is the formation of defects in the skin barrier, which can occur for various reasons, such as genetic mutations, skin dysbiosis, gut dysbiosis, or a malfunction of the immune system.
Most often, AD occurs in children under 2 years of age, but sometimes the disease first manifests itself in older children and adults.
Studies say that the spread of atopic dermatitis in the modern world is due to external factors, each of which is associated with changes in the microbiome.
How do skin and gut microbiomes regulate immunity?
The skin microbiome is a regulator of the skin condition, but when it comes to skin conditions like psoriasis, acne, seborrheic dermatitis, and atopic dermatitis, the gut microbiome also plays a role.
The intestines and skin are covered with epithelial cells and perform a barrier function. Certain substances are able to penetrate the epithelial layer into the bloodstream, where they meet with the cells of the immune system. Early in life, the immune system is thus partly trained to respond to microbial components. As a result, tolerance to certain substances is laid in the body.
Autoimmune disease – the immune cells begin to make mistakes and produce antibodies to harmless substances or even to the cells of their own body. As a result, inflammatory processes occur that can damage important organs – most often the mucous membranes, skin, and gut suffer.
Disruption of the skin microbiome, and in some cases the gut microbiome, can lead to impaired barrier function, so working with atopic skin must take into account the condition of both organs and their microbiomes.
What is the relationship between the gut microbiome and atopic dermatitis in children?
Studies show that abnormal gut microflora is a common trigger for AD in children. The most famous hypothesis in this direction is the hygienic theory. It implies that children are surrounded by a sterile environment, and interaction with microbes is limited, so the immune system does not learn to adequately recognize them and becomes overly sensitive to any stimuli.
In addition to excessive adherence to hygiene, scientists include other environmental conditions in the list of important factors in the development of AD :
- Small family size: it is believed that if there are several children in the family, then their microbiota will develop more actively.
- Big cities: air pollution reduces the diversity of the microbiota, especially for children.
- Western Diet: Simple carbohydrates, meats, and a low proportion of vegetables in the diet are thought to be an indirect cause of skin problems and allergies.
How to Treat Eczema?
All people suffering from atopic dermatitis should use emollients – moisturizers and emollients. They need to be used 3-4 times a day in a large volume – in an adult, with a large area of skin lesions. This is a bandaid treatment aimed at temporarily decreasing the symptoms.
The conventional medical treatment is primarily with anti-inflammatory drugs such as glucocorticoids. If a secondary infection joins atopic dermatitis, then it will need to be treated with antibiotics.
With serious skin lesions, the doctor may prescribe phototherapy – exposure to ultraviolet waves of different lengths on the skin in a medical institution. Phototherapy shows good results in reducing inflammation and reducing itching. During phototherapy, strictly dosed UV radiation with a certain wavelength acts on the skin, it is less traumatic for the skin than a regular tan or a commercial solarium.
The functional medicine approach includes figuring out the root cause of the problem and treating it accordingly.
How to Prevent the Development or Exacerbation of Atopic Dermatitis?
- Moisturize your skin at least 2 times a day.
- Watch for skin reactions to any trigger: sweating, stress, wearing rough clothes, changing soap or detergent, being in a dusty room, or inhaling pollen.
- Avoid things that your skin reacts to as much as possible.
- Limit your bath time to 10-15 minutes and avoid washing with very hot water.
- Keep your nails short and clean and try not to scratch the rashes.
- Do not use antibacterial and deodorant soaps and shower gels, use only hypoallergenic body wash/soap/shower gel – IF needed.
- Keep an eye on your diet and microbiome status.
In my practice, I use a number of tools – one of them is a comprehensive functional stool test analysis from Diagnostic Solutions – GI MAP stool test that helps me choose the optimal treatment strategy and analyze the status of the microbiome.
This does not constitute medical advice, always seek the direct advice of your Doctor or Medical Provider for your specific health care or needs.
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