Thursday, 2 August 2012

Inflammatory Eczema...The Guts of the Matter

By Tim Howden ND BHSc MNHAA
"All Disease begin in the Gut" - Hippocrates 460-370 BC
Right now we are experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of babies and children who are developing eczema.  This uncomfortable condition is largely driven by an immune imbalance that is mediated via the digestive system.  There is a correlation between food sensitivity, food allergy and eczema as well as a higher prevalence in babies who are bottle fed on cows milk formula as opposed to being breast fed.  
Babies who were born via C-section, given antibiotics in early life and who are bottle fed have lower numbers of beneficial  bacteria in their digestive tract making their system more vulnerable and susceptible to infection and more prone to developing inflammatory conditions like eczema.

But lets go back a couple of steps for a tic.  This is where things get interesting.  You see, a process called "epigenetics" may help explain the rising prevalence in these conditions. In essence prenatal diet and lifestyle events appear to alter gene expression, making certain individuals prone to certain sets of illness.  Here is an example of how it works. A mothers gut health has a direct relationship to the development of her baby's digestive and immune function. Take for example a woman who uses the oral contraceptive pill prior to pregnancy or who has had antibiotics, has a diet high in refined processed foods with a history of high stress.   She is a prime candidate drug and lifestyle-induced dysbiosis, which is poor colonization of beneficial gut flora. Because of this her baby has a much greater likelihood of developing an inflammatory condition like eczema.  A baby's digestive health is determined to some extent by the mums health. 

Its not all doom and gloom though.  But it is certainly ineresting to look at some of the priming epigenetic factors that may make our kids prone to certain illness. Measures taken pre-natally to ensure good digestive heath have found to have positive effects. And good evidence supports the use of specific foods as well as nutritional medicines such as probiotics and essential fatty acids to help support infant digestive health, reducing inflammation and ultimately the expression of eczema.