The Skin Microbiome – what is it and how to keep it healthy?
When the skin is healthy, it is covered by a diverse mix of microbes, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. When in balance, these microbes have a symbiotic relationship with our body and interact with our genes to support immunity, barrier function and to help protect against disease.
In skin conditions such as eczema, the microbiome loses this diversity and becomes imbalanced. These imbalances can affect immunity and barrier function, resulting in inflammation of the skin.
So what can we do to keep our skin microbiome healthy and reduce the risk of eczema flares?
The good news is there are some simple dietary and lifestyle changes we can make that can make all the difference:
Time to get dirty– hygiene has its benefits but also its drawbacks. Excessive cleanliness can reduce our exposure to diverse microbes, especially in the beginning stages of life. Research shows that early exposure to animals, fresh plant foods and outdoor time can have a positive impact on our immune system and reduce risk of allergic diseases such as eczema.
Nourish your bugs– microbes won’t feed themselves. Good bacteria rely on their host (that’s you) to eat a healthy diet to survive. Plant foods in particular help to nourish the good bacteria, which means an extra serve of fruit and veg a day can make all the difference
Put back what you take out– there may be times where your diet and lifestyle are less than ideal and may include foods or medications which reduce microbial diversity, such as alcohol, processed foods and antibiotics. During these times it may be beneficial to top up your good bugs with a probiotic until you are back on board with steps 1 and 2!
For further information on the skin microbiome and how it can affect your eczema, contact the Psoriasis Eczema Clinic – the centre for Complementary and Alternative treatments for eczema Melbourne.
It can be a daunting experience starting a new treatment.
“Will it work this time?” “How much will it cost?” “What will I have to change?”
These are all valid questions we deserve to have answered before we commit to a new therapy and practitioner. Whilst there are no guarantees, knowing what to expect can help make the process that little bit easier and put in place some realistic expectations.
Many patients who decide to take a more holistic approach to their skin treatment often share a similar story of past experience, some of which include;
“I’ve tried everything and nothing worked”
“I just didn’t feel listened too”
“I’m concerned about the side effects”
Whatever the story, the motivation behind taking more holistic approach is to find a safe, effective and natural treatment which takes into consideration the whole person and not just the symptoms.
When it comes to the skin, a holistic approach can have many benefits, including;
1. Getting to the root cause: Chronic skin conditions can have multiple triggers, including those coming from inside and outside the body. Addressing the triggers as well as the skin itself, helps to get to the root cause, ensuring longer lasting results
2. A treatment designed for you: A key benefit of a holistic approach is that it takes into consideration the uniqueness of the individual being treated. Therefore, instead of a one size fits all approach, treatments can be customised according to your needs
3. Feel listened to: Holistic consultations typically allow for longer appointment times so that a thorough examination can take place and your story can be heard. After all, you know your body better than anyone and therefore sharing your story can provide key insights for your practitioner
4. Promote healing, naturally: Holistic treatments typically take a more natural approach, utilizing nutritional, herbal, dietary and lifestyle medicines to not only promote healing but to restore balance and strength to the body’s systems
5. Feel empowered: A holistic practitioner aims to empower the patient with knowledge, so that they can not only understand the nature of their condition better, but also play a key role in managing, preventing and healing the condition going forward. Often patients with chronic skin conditions feel powerless and that their body is ‘broken’ or misbehaving in some way. The alternative perspective is that your body is simply reacting in a protective manner in response to your current environment. By understanding your body’s needs you can make more informed decisions and take back that control over your health.
The keto diet is one of the most popular diets for those trying to lose excess fat. It is also well known for its positive health benefits for conditions such as epilepsy, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. But how does the evidence stack up when it comes to the keto diet and psoriasis?
Given psoriasis is associated with increased rates of metabolic syndrome and obesity, one might assume that any successful weight loss regime is a good one. However, a recent study has shown this may not be the case when it comes to keto.
According to co-lead investigator, Barbara Kofler PhD, it’s all in the types of fats. A well balanced keto diet rich in long chain triglycerides such as olive oil, fish, nuts and avocado, did not worsen skin inflammation, however it also did not improve the skin. In addition to this, a keto diet rich in medium chain triglycerides such as coconut oil, increased skin inflammation.
The other concern over keto diets and psoriasis is when they are not followed consistently. High fat consumption combined with substantial carbohydrate consumption was also shown to promote the progression of psoriasis- like skin inflammation as well as spontaneous dermatitis in mice.
Several other studies on diet and psoriasis have also confirmed high fat intake to worsen psoriasis inflammation, such as the amounts associated with the typical Western Diet.
So what is the best diet for psoriasis? Our PEC nutritionist recommends those with psoriasis to follow a modified Mediterranean style diet with plenty of olive oil, fresh fish and plant foods and less processed foods and animal proteins such as eggs and meat. Read more about the benefits of fresh fish and psoriasis here
Felix Locker, Julia Leitner, Sepideh Aminzadeh-Gohari, Daniela D. Weber, Philippe Sanio, Andreas Koller, René Günther Feichtinger, Richard Weiss, Barbara Kofler, Roland Lang. The Influence of Ketogenic Diets on Psoriasiform-Like Skin Inflammation. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.jid.2019.07.718
Since checking in with you last the clinic has been open, closed and open again! No matter what comes our way in 2021, we are pleased to offer our patients consistency of care via our Telehealth and postal services. This has provided convenience and flexibility during lockdowns but also helps us to care for our distance patients around Australia and the globe, from Ireland all the way to Qatar.
For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, we hope you have all had a restful summer, with some time to recuperate from 2020, For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, we hope you are keeping safe and warm as this cold snap passes through.
At the PEC, we now look towards Autumn, a transition season which allows us to prepare for the more extreme changes of weather to come. The theme of this months newsletter is therefore PREPARATION. If your skin typically flares in the winter or summer, now is the time to take preventative steps to build and strengthen your immunity and skin barrier function. A combination of self care, a great topical therapy routine (we have you covered) and functional foods (see below tips) should see you fully prepared for a healthy and happy Autumn/winter season.
Jessica Simonis – PEC Practitioner/Manager
Functional Foods for Stronger Immunity
If you have skin disease, then you also have immune imbalance. Your immune system, when in good health, is your defense against injury (think scratching), toxins and infection. In chronic inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea and eczema, your immune system is chronically activated against a perceived or actual threat. This constant state of activation increases the demand for energy and nutrients, making it even more important to consume a balanced, nutrient-rich diet in order to support optimal immune cell function.
Functional foods are foods that have demonstrated positive health effects, beyond basic nutrition. They can promote enhancement of well-being, improve quality of life and/or reduce risk of disease. Best of all they are foods which can (and should) be consumed as part of your everyday diet.
Here are our top 3 functional food suggestions to get your immune system in top shape this Autumn.
1) Dietary fibre –Found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains, dietary fibre supports the immune system by helping to regulate intestinal bacterial balance and gut barrier function. This has shown to reduce allergic inflammation (great for eczema)
2) Home grown fruit and veg – Nothing tastes quite as good as your own home-grown food. Not only is it rewarding to spend time in nature, but home grown food is also free of herbicides and pesticides. It also hasn’t been frozen, cooked or radiated. In other words, it is in its natural state with all the beneficial nutrients and microbes to help encourage a diverse microbiome and healthy immune system. Eat a mix of raw and cooked plant foods for full benefits.
3) Eat ‘Mediterranean style’ – There is a reason why the Mediterranean Diet is one of the most researched diets for inflammatory conditions. With a focus on plant oils, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fish, this diet is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds including essential fatty acids and polyphenols. NB Skip the red wine and tomatoes if your skin is itchy!
Make it your goal to eat more immune building, functional foods this Autumn
Meet our newest team member – Susan!
We feel very lucky to have Susan join us as part of the PEC Team. She brings with her a great deal of warmth and empathy, as well as a wealth of knowledge from her many years of experience as a qualified natural health practitioner and educator. Susan will be working in reception and dispensary.
Product Special- 5 + 1 FREE
Our Moisturising Bar has been one of our most popular clinic products for decades and has more recently become a top seller through our Soratinex OTC range – no surprises there. If you haven’t tried it, you are seriously missing out.
Soratinex Moisturizing Bar is a gentle soap and shampoo alternative, perfect for those with sensitive skin of the body and scalp. Rich in natural oils and antioxidants, this luxurious Bar gently cleanses whilst nourishing the hair and skin. Contains Vitamin E, Lavender oil, Sweet almond oil, Evening Primrose oil, Avocado oil and Chamomile Oil. Clinical trials have shown these ingredients help promote the healing of dry, rough and flaky skin.
We have a 5+ 1 Free offer on this product, only available through clinic purchases. Replace your current body wash/soap with the Moisturising bar and you will help improve your skins lipid profile and reduce dryness as you prepare for weather changes ahead.
Purchase in clinic or place your order by phone – 03) 9770 5337 or email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Key Dates to Remember
Monday 8th March – Clinic Closed for Labour Day
Friday 2nd April – Clinic closed for Good Friday
Monday 5th April – Clinic closed for Easter Monday
Keeping a chronic skin condition stable when your hormones
are running wild can feel like a constant uphill battle. Not only do we have fluctuating male and
female hormones to contend with, but there are stress hormones, sleep hormones
and glucose regulating hormones to name a few, all of which work together to create
our natural internal rhythm or “circadian clock”.
When we are in balance, our circadian rhythm responds to
external cues appropriately. For
example, we are energetic during the day light, sleepy at sun down, hungry
during the middle of the day and if female, menstruating in a 4 weekly
pattern. In modern day life, where blue
lit screens are often the last thing we see before bed, gyms are open 24/7 and the
working day starts and finishes in the dark, it’s no wonder our rhythms go
So how does this
affect the skin?
Like many organs, the
skin is regulated by a central clock known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus which
receives light through the retina and passes messages along to other internal
clocks via neural and hormonal pathways. It also has its own internal clock
system which regulates changes in activity according to the time of day. For instance, research has shown skin to do
the majority of DNA and cellular repair work during the night time. Skin cells also divide and proliferate more at
night, are less hydrated, more acidic and at a slightly higher temperature than
during the day, often setting the scene for an uncomfortable night’s sleep for
many eczema and psoriasis sufferers.
What can you do to regulate
your circadian rhythm and improve your skin?
It’s all in the
timing: Research has shown that the
application of topical skin treatments is best timed at night to not only help
alleviate the symptoms but to also help optimize repair at a time where the
skin needs it most.
routine: A regular routine is
essential to a healthy circadian and hormonal rhythm. Chronic disruption to routine such as through
shift work, irregular eating patterns or frequent travel can contribute towards
flares. Do your best to time activities
within your control, such as regular meal times, breathing exercises, and
limiting blue light exposure and/or caffeine before sleep.
Rise with the
sun: The best way to reset your
rhythm is to rise with the sun. Get your
15 minutes of vitamin D exposure and enjoy what nature has to offer before –
there’s no better way to start your day.