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.