Functional Medicine And Eczema

| Updated on March 27, 2024

This article will discuss what eczema is and how to treat it properly with holistic methods. In brief, eczema is a dysfunctional immune response manifesting as a skin condition.  Functional medicine practitioners often advise a nutrient-dense diet to combat some of these symptoms those with eczema endure, though there are often more underlying causes affecting skin health.

What is Eczema?

Eczema, an inflammatory skin condition, is also known as atopic dermatitis. This particular group of skin diseases is known to cause the skin to become itchy, irritated, inflamed, and can manifest as rashes. Typically, these diseases begin in those at a young age and range from mild to severe symptoms.

These diseases are more common than people think. There has been an increase in inflammatory diseases over the last 50 years, and with functional medicine, we can prevent many of them before they happen. Let’s dive into some of the symptoms you see accompanying eczema.

Eczema Symptoms

As stated before, eczema is a rash-like disease that is itchy and can become inflamed. When eczema occurs, it affects the skin barrier keeping your skin connected. This causes your skin to become drier and more sensitive. Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Dry skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin infections
  • Bumps on the skin
  • Leathery patches of skin
  • Crusty skin
  • Skin creasing at the elbows, knees, hands, and face

What Causes Atopic Dermatitis?

The cause of eczema is not officially known, but studies have shown that the immune system takes a hit when the disease occurs. Therefore, it is involved in some form. Eczema can be linked to our food sensitivities, food allergies, and compromised digestive system. We’ll dive into each of these case scenarios and find out why they cause atopic dermatitis.

Food sensitivities

Studies have shown that young kids and adults with eczema may have higher IgG-mediated reactions to food sensitivities. Some of the main foods that people can have food sensitivities to are dairy, gluten, and eggs, and these were also the foods that patients tended to be highly reactive to. However, the presence of these types of reactions points to an underlying intestinal barrier dysfunction that is more important to understand than the specific food sensitivities themselves.  While elimination diets can be helpful in cases like these, functional physicians may offer further root cause methods in evaluation and treatment.

Food Allergies

In a case study, food allergies cause IgE responses in infants, contributing to 40% of infants developing eczema. In addition to eczema, they also developed allergic rhinitis and asthma.  These IgE responses are typically something one lives with for life, and avoidance of the triggering food is the treatment.

Compromised digestive system

Another thing found in patients with eczema can include consistently unbalanced gut bacteria. Called also “dysbiosis,” it affects gut health in infants, and since they generally rely on their mothers for good gut health, diseases occur. Gut inflammation is a major factor in diseases, but we don’t officially know if it is what causes eczema.

Maintaining a good gut microbiome is important, which means changing some aspects of your current lifestyle. While there are conventional ways to treat eczema, why not try the holistic methods first? They are natural and things that you can easily change in your routine or diet to achieve. Let’s dive into more ways of treating atopic dermatitis beyond conventional medicine.

Functional Medicine Approach to Eczema

Treating eczema and atopic dermatitis is all about restoring your skin health. This inflammatory skin disease is very demanding and needs some tender love and care to control, especially because we don’t know exactly how it is caused. We are going to discuss functional methods on how to treat atopic eczema and how to reduce its inflammatory immune response. First, let’s dive into the dietary changes you might need to make.

Healthy Foods

The elimination diet will probably be the best way to determine what foods cause your eczema to inflame. This is how functional medicine can eliminate eczema symptoms or inflammatory disease.

Eating anti-inflammatory foods is another way to reduce inflammation and put the symptoms at ease. To see results against severe eczema might take longer, but if you stay true to these changes, you will see a difference. Be diligent about avoiding processed foods when applicable.

An anti-inflammatory diet is a sure way that patients with eczema will see a difference in their skin inflammation. A food allergy is also another way to ensure that you stay on the right track. Avoiding food allergies will help your immune system and help your skin cells not react badly.

Topical herbs

When you are prescribed topical herbs for the skin barrier, in addition to attacking the root cause, it will help alleviate the symptoms you are experiencing. There are multiple different types of topical herb treatments that can help from case to case eczema. The goal of topical herbs is to gain healthy skin once again.


Another thing that people don’t often associate with this disease is vitamins. It is important to keep your immune system strong, especially when the underlying cause of disease attacks your immune system. Vitamin d is one of the best to take daily to strengthen your body and immune system.

Gut Health

While eating a properly well-balanced diet will help get your gut health on the right track, it is very important for eczema patients not to add any more problems to their list. A leaky gut is not something you want to endure in addition to eczema treatment.

Another thing to aim to prevent is inflammatory bowel disease, which may be something that occurs in those with a longstanding history of eczema. You should see positive results if you continue incorporating anti-inflammatory foods. Make sure your gut microbiome is healthy, through the use of fiber, and fermented foods, and under the guidance of a physician trained in how to evaluate and personalize this aspect of treatment for the gut-skin connection

Skin Barrier

We’ve learned that the skin barrier function is what breaks and spreads skin disease. Atopic dermatitis patients find a functional medicine approach beneficial beyond conventional medicine methods. Skin health is very important, so if you can incorporate functional medicine into your routine and cut out processed foods, you will be on the right track to treating eczema.

Priyam Ghosh

Tech and Internet Writer

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