Dermatitis – More Than Just a Superficial Concern

May 22, 2017 | Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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Dermatitis – More Than Just a Superficial Concern
Dermatitis - An itchy rash on swollen, reddened skin reflects inflammation. It’s an uncomfortable manifestation of the skin responding to an irritant. How well the skin responds to irritants depends on management of inflammation, immune cells, antioxidants, and gut health and integrity. Protecting this balance can help keep skin healthy, intact, and vibrant rather than challenged with dermatitis. Skin health and beauty is indeed more than skin deep as in the case of dermatitis.

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If you have ever suffered with any type of dermatitis, you know the self-consciousness from the skin appearance and the maddening itch that occurs with it. Topical steroids, creams, and lotions may be used to calm down the irritation. But if you have a history of dermatitis, do you ever wonder why sometimes one outbreak is minimal, but at other times, you struggle? How you respond depends on several factors. The goal with dermatitis is to stop it from happening in the first place by removal of the known irritants. To get to a deeper level of self-care and health, it is essential to balance the immune system, free radical and inflammatory reactions, and help protect and restore the epithelial tissues of the skin.

Dermatitis is a significant health concern with increasing prevalence throughout the world. Dermatitis may occur from foods, chemicals, lotions, poison ivy, jewelry, soaps, cleaning products, etc. and even ultraviolet exposure. There are many types of dermatitis which includes contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), cradle cap in infants, and seborrheic dermatitis. Different locations of the body may be effected with red, swollen skin rash with sometimes intense itchiness. If you scratch the affected area, the rash can leak fluid and crust over which can create more itching.

In contact dermatitis, an irritant touches the skin and triggers an innate immune response. A similar type of process may occur with the ingestion of food causing allergic dermatitis. The immune response engages a type of immune cell called T-regulatory cells or T-regs. This leads to an inflammatory response and a significant out-pouring of highly damaging free-radicals, like ROS, PLA2, histamine, and others. This increase in free radicals like ROS and histamine can cause a break down in the hyaluronic acid and connective tissue in the skin layers and provoke more irritation. The final result is an itchy rash on red, swollen, inflamed skin.

Different Levels of Intervention


Natural plant based compounds, antioxidants, and vitamins are essential for healthy balanced T-regs, management of free radicals, and connective tissue integrity. Intervention with any of these issues may help support healthier skin and fewer concerns. Simultaneously, a focus on gut-immune support may be needed, as skin health is more than just superficial. Approximately70 percent of the immune system is in the gut. There is solid information since research on gut and skin inter-relationship began a half century ago that shows that the gut flora or microbiome influences dermatitis and other skin inflammatory concerns. Immune cells in the gut talk to the immune cells in the skin. This interaction contributes to many skin disorders like dermatitis. In fact, increased intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome is an underlying reason for dermatitis.

T-regs: Keep Them in Balance


T-regs play a key role as they control and inhibit activity of the immune system during inflammation. Researchers have explored different options of how to regulate the T-reg excessive inflammatory cell response in dermatitis. Vitamin A, vitamin D, curcumin, probiotics, FOS/prebiotics, and glutathione are known T-reg modulators and are used for suppressing inflammation throughout the body, including skin. Prebiotics like FOS help support the beneficial probiotics or flora. FOS when ingested by the mother has been shown to help prevent dermatitis in offspring in animal studies. Vitamins A and D are well known help keep skin healthy and even treat several skin disorders.

Quenching Free Radicals in Dermatitis


To quench the damaging free radicals from the initial irritant and the inflammatory cascade that leads to tissue injury and dermatitis, scientists recommend increased support with antioxidants for prevention and treatment of dermatitis. 1Natural compounds exist, which are known to quench ROS, histamine, etc throughout the body. These include boswellia, astaxanthin, natural carotenes like beta carotene and lycopene, and tocotrienols and quercetin.

Quercetin, a natural flavonoid, is well-known for its anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory benefits for skin and gut health. Studies show it provides protection to the skin in a variety of ways by helping to restore the natural skin barrier, by blocking damage caused by UV radiation, histamine, and skin irritation from toxins. In doing so, it can help reduce itching, swelling, dryness associated with dermatitis.

Grape seed extract is another compound that has gotten quite a bit of attention for skin health and dermatitis. Results show that grape seed extract provides protection for contact dermatitis by its antioxidant function and ability to inhibit T-cell proliferation. Grape seed extract provides additional benefits for other skin health concerns as it can help protect against UV radiation and sun-damaged skin.

One of the free radical compounds released in skin inflammation and dermatitis is PLA2. Studies show that if PLA2 is blocked, the inflammation of contact dermatitis can be down-regulated. Glucosamine is a nutrient that blocks PLA2 in a healthy manner and is integral to healthy connective tissue throughout the body. Many will recognize glucosamine for joints and cartilage health where it works synergistically with hyaluronic acid, but research also suggests that this compound is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound for down regulating PLA2 related with dermatitis. Omega-3 fish oil, DHA and pine nut oil are also beneficial in PLA2 management as seen in other disorders.

Restoring Health Connective Tissue and Gut Lining


Skin health and restoration requires nutrients of many types. Good oils like squalene and omega-3 and omega-6 oils (EPA/DHA, GLA) are needed to help maintain or restore the oils in skin. Connective tissue support requires vitamin C, amino acids, zinc, copper, B vitamins, especially biotin, MSM sulfur, carotenes, glucosamine, hyaluronic acid, glutamine, and others. Interestingly, many of same these nutrients are essential to help restore healthy gut lining and function lost in leaky gut syndrome.

If you have chronic dermatitis or even an acute outbreak from contact with something like poison ivy, extra support may be helpful in any one of these areas. The more long-standing or severe the concern is, the more that you want to use a multi-faceted approach. Basic support may simply be adequate vitamin A, carotenes, vitamin D, quercetin, and glucosamine. For more severe concerns, consider additional support with EPA/DHA, and GLA for the omega-3 and omega-6 oils and squalene, curcumin, boswellia, grape seed extract, astaxanthin, probiotics and other support for leaky gut syndrome. 29

The red, itchy rash of dermatitis is a superficial symptom of something deeper. Dermatitis reflects challenges with T-regs and inflammation, diminished antioxidant status, and increased repair and connective tissue needs, often with an underlying leaky gut syndrome concern. To break the cycle of chronic dermatitis, it may take some work, but the inner healing needed for healthy skin and prevention of dermatitis is well worth it. Beauty is indeed more than skin deep.

Nutritional Options


Quercetin – This natural flavonoid and antioxidant helps mild allergies and itching. It helps block skin damaging UV radiation. It is often used to help stabilize immune cells that have become stressed and out of balance from irritants like pollen, food intolerances, or even germs.

Glucosamine – Glucosamine and N-Acetyl Glucosamine (NAG) are essential building blocks for the skin. Glucosamine works with hyaluronic acid and MSM for skin integrity and strength. It helps reduce inflammation not only in joints and cartilage but helps skin irritation like dermatitis.

Grape Seed Extract – Grape Seed Extract is a proanthocyanidin with a long-standing history of use with collagen and antioxidant support. It has a unique ability to attach to collagen structures like the skin, gut lining, cartilage, and even blood vessels. Wellness Resources' Grape Seed Extract supplement is concentrated for 92 percent OPC, with 12 percent being the very active monomeric OPC's. It has a Porter Unit Value of 330, significantly higher than most grape seed extract supplements.

Squalene – This unique oil naturally occurs in the skin. It helps stabilize skin structure, and hydrates dry, cracked, irritated skin. It works together with other healthy oils like EPA/DHA, and GLA, but is different. Squalene can deactivate free radicals generated from UV radiation and ROS.

MSM Sulfur – The mineral is known as the beauty mineral. It is a required nutrient for connective tissue, especially the skin. Our skin relies on sulfur compounds for maintaining its integrity and protecting against inflammation. It is often used to help allergies, gut health, and pain.

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