I’ve had eczema since childhood and it’s safe to say my skin is my Achilles' heel. As soon as I feel stressed or run down, my skin flares up and there’s no way of ever knowing how long it will last. I’ll always remember sitting my GCSEs on a really hot summer’s day, wearing a thick roll neck jumper. My eczema was so red and angry across my back and neck I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone seeing it. I’ve visited dermatologists and homeopaths, applied steroid and other topical creams, and tried pretty much anything else that claimed to relieve the condition. But nothing has ever given me long-lasting relief. Ironically, the only thing I can do to calm my skin down is to have a spray tan. Figure that one out?! But it genuinely calms everything down for a few months.
The more I’ve learnt about anatomy over the years, the more I’ve come to appreciate the major role our lifestyle plays in our health and wellbeing. Quite often, when we go to the GP regarding an ailment, any prescribed medication will usually treat the symptoms rather than the cause. This is because sometimes it simply isn’t possible to identify a definitive reason for the problem. This has certainly been my experience with eczema over the years.
So, my interest switched from trying to alleviate the external symptoms of eczema, to better understanding what’s going on inside my body and what I can do to alleviate the condition from within. My research identified a recurring theme – inflammation. Within the body there is good and bad inflammation. For example, when you sustain an injury, such as a cut to the hand, inflammation kicks in as part of the body’s immune system. The area becomes red and sometimes swells due to the increased blood flow to the site of injury. Inflammation is also the start of the healing process, with our white blood cells rushing to the area of injury to defend against infections, bacteria and viruses (1).
However, sometimes the inflammation process continues and the body remains on a high state of alert. This is known as chronic inflammation and it is suggested that it can contribute to the development of major diseases including cancer, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression (2). With chronic inflammation, the symptoms are less obvious than those experienced during acute inflammation, such as when you cut your hand. This is because the inflammation takes place deep within the body. Symptoms of chronic inflammation can include (1):
There are a number of chronic conditions that will require anti-inflammatory medications, such as arthritis and polymyalgia rheumatica. Many believe it is also possible to reduce the level of inflammation within the body through nutrition.
One theory of explanation is that ‘leaky gut syndrome’ can contribute to ongoing inflammation (3). It is believed that due to a number of factors, such as poor diet and an overuse of antibiotics, the lining of the bowel becomes irritated and its function is compromised. Harmful toxins ‘leak’ through the bowel lining and into the bloodstream. This in turn prompts the immune system into action, resulting in inflammation throughout the body. It is claimed that such inflammation is linked to conditions including (3):
While there is some scepticism as to whether leaky gut syndrome exists, many studies have shown that certain foods do induce inflammation, while there are others that reduce it. Harvard Health Publishing (5) suggests that the following foods should be limited or removed from the diet to prevent inflammation:
According to the Arthritis Foundation (4), studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants provide anti-inflammatory benefits to the body. The Mediterranean diet, consisting largely of fish, olive oil, nuts, fruit and vegetables, is rich in such nutrients. In people with rheumatoid arthritis, following such a diet reduced symptoms of pain and morning stiffness (4).
Foods suggested to reduce inflammation include (1, 5, 6):
The foods listed above shouldn’t come as a great surprise, as they’re all generally known for their health benefits and disadvantages. It’s important to note, however, that an anti-inflammatory diet is not a replacement for prescribed anti-inflammatory medication.
We live in a fast-paced world with an array of ready-prepared foods available for our consumption. But if our health is paying the price for such quick and easy meals, perhaps they’re not so convenient after all?
Inner Wellness Massage Blog
Welcome to my wellness blog! This is where I will share all things health and wellbeing. I hope to encourage others to prioritise their own health while I continuously work to better my own.
Disclaimer: the views and experiences shared are my own and information based on health-related topics has been researched. While this blog promotes and encourages a healthy lifestyle, I am not a doctor and the content is not intended as medical advice. Always seek help from a medical professional if you are concerned about your health.