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What are the Most Common Root Causes of Eczema?

Written by

Deborah Freudenmann BHSc

Skin conditions are a common issue affecting millions of people worldwide. Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis is known to cause recurring symptoms like dry skin, itching, redness, and rashes. The treatment of eczema is often aimed at relieving these symptoms. However, since it is a chronic condition, there is a need to identify its root causes and eliminate them in order to derive long-term relief. Here is a brief discussion about what eczema is and the common underlying factors responsible for it.

What is eczema?

Eczema, occurs when the immune system attacks the healthy tissues of the skin resulting in damage and death of the cells.

If not treated properly, the recurring attacks of this condition can lead to the thickening of the skin, perhaps due to the repeated cycles of damage followed by healing. There is also oozing of moisture from the lesions, often leading to a high risk of infections.

The pathogenesis of eczema is influenced by multiple factors, such as immunology, genetics, environmental factors, and infections that result in inflammation and dysfunctions of the skin barrier. Having a family history of eczema can also increase your risk of developing this condition.

From an immunological perspective, atopic eczema and atopic dermatitis belong to the special syndrome called atopy. Some other forms of atopy include rhinitis allergic, extrinsic allergic asthma, conjunctivitis allergies, and food allergies.
Patients with atopic dermatitis have an altered immune response that is characterized by the increased production of Immunoglobulin E, which is a type of cell released by the immune system to stimulate a reaction in response to specific irritants or allergens.

Patients with atopic eczema usually have an underlying alteration in their regulatory T-cells or innate immune system. As a result, there is a reduction in the level of the antimicrobial peptides, which are the critical components of the innate immune system of the normal skin.

This emphasises that the treatment of eczema should be aimed at correcting these factors or identifying the causes responsible for triggering it to be able to derive significant relief from the symptoms.

Identifying the root causes of eczema & practical tips to healing

It’s important to remember that once you’ve understood what root causes are at play in your development of eczema – you also have the power to start addressing these and improving health. Although the list below may seem overwhelming, you might only have a few causes and not all of them, regardless finding which ones you DO is imperative.

Cesarean birth and lack of breast milk

Children who are born through a cesarean section and the absence of adequate breastfeeding during infancy could put them at risk of developing eczema at a later age.
Cesarean birth and the lack of breast milk could deprive the child of the antibodies that are passed from the mother through breast milk. This may prevent the optimum development of the immune system. It can also lead to the lack of microbial balance and slower maturation of the immune cells thus compromising the functions of the immune system and making it a major contributory factor that drives the development t of eczema.
Moreover, fatty acids in breast milk like n-3 LCPs passed from the mother to the child also play a protective role against the development of atopic diseases.
Choosing natural vaginal delivery, whenever possible, and breastfeeding the child at least for the initial 8 to 10 months after birth could strengthen the immune system of the child protecting him against the risk of eczema.

Food allergies and sensitivities

Allergies to certain foods like peanuts, wheat, soy, eggs, and tree nuts, and food sensitivities specifically to gluten and dairy could trigger the immune system.
Food allergies and sensitivities can stimulate an abnormal response of the immune system causing an increase in the production of immunoglobulins like IgE and IgG, respectively, which are responsible for causing itching and other symptoms of eczema.
Avoiding the foods, you are allergic or sensitive too from your diet could help to minimize the risk of food allergies and sensitivities and protect you against eczema.

Compromised gut health

A poor gut microbiome could affect the activities of the immune system making it weaker and inefficient at fighting infections and allergic responses. Eating a nutritious diet and the use of prebiotics and probiotics could restore the overall gut integrity and enhance the functions of the intestine thereby relieving the symptoms of eczema.

Nutritional deficiencies

Deficiency of nutrients such as vitamins A, C, D, E, and K2, niacin, biotin, and other vitamin Bs, could hamper the efficient functioning of the immune cells. Lake of adequate levels of minerals like selenium, silica, zinc, and sulfur, and natural antioxidant like omega 3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) and coenzyme-Q10 in your body can also make your immune system weaker.

Correcting these nutritional deficiencies by eating a nutritious diet or using supplements could be a key to protecting yourself against the recurring attacks of eczema.

Topical irritation

Exposure of the skin to chemical products including cosmetics, fabric softeners, fragrances etc. could result in irritation and itching. Use of natural, organic, and chemical/toxin-free skincare products is highly recommended to keep your skin safe and healthy.

Topical application of natural skincare products containing omega 3 fatty acids, and herbs like hypericum, chickweed, calendula, and chamomile is recommended for supporting the healing of the skin, especially after the acute attacks of eczema.


Weather and environment

Indoor allergens like mites, animal dander (from dogs, cats, and mice), fungi, moulds, cockroaches, and yeasts as well as outdoor allergens like pollens or fungal spores can irritate the skin and trigger an allergic or hypersensitive reaction of the immune system.
Exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and particulate matter can also worsen the symptoms of eczema.
Tobacco smoke, including active smoking, passive smoking, postnatal tobacco smoke exposure, and maternal prenatal smoking, are common factors contributing to the risk of eczema.
Contact with sensitizers like flour, wood dust, soybean dust, grain dust, formaldehyde, vanadium salts, metals like nickel and platinum, ticks, and other insects can worsen your condition.

Stress response

Mental stress can trigger the excessive production and release of histamine by the immune cells due to which your symptoms of eczema could become worse. Stress can also result in the higher production of cortisol and cause imbalances in the levels of other hormones.
Hence, there is a need to adopt stress-busting methods like yoga to reduce stress and overcome the symptoms of eczema.


Methylation impairment

Insufficient methyl groups and methyl donors could result in the overproduction and retention of histamine in the body. The higher histamine levels are also related to allergies and eczema.
Increasing your intake of activated B vitamins such as vitamin B6, B12, and folate could help to avoid these factors.


Poor detoxification

Poor detoxification of the body and the lack of efficient histamine clearance, especially due to increased alcohol intake, are the results of inefficient liver functioning.
Support with nutrients in the form of diet or supplements could enhance liver functions and promote the elimination of toxins from your body while supporting histamine clearance. This would provide significant relief from eczema symptoms.


Though the symptoms of eczema often manifest in the form of itching and other symptoms on the skin, the problem is not just skin deep.
This is why; conventional medicines like topical steroids and topical calcineurin inhibitors often fail at providing long-term relief from the recurring attacks of this condition. Identifying the root cause of eczema and eliminating them is the cornerstone for controlling this condition in a safe and efficient manner.

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  • 2 Responses

    1. Great and useful information. In childhood, I had severe eczema until I was about 16. To corroborate what you said, I have since determined that my food at the time ( high sugar, carbohydrates, dairy and meat and low vegetable and fruit) combined with a very high stress level were the causes for me. When those factors were eliminated, the eczema went away.
      My proof is that now, as an adult, if I resume that diet, the eczema returns. As a practitioner, I find the following strategy to be very effective:
      -supplements which kill candida and re-balance gut flora
      -a short course of steroid cream with nystatin or ketoconazole for relief from the itching
      -baking soda baths which help kill the candidiasis on the skin
      -a plant based feeding regimen, with no dairy or grain
      Thanks again for the information.

    2. I helped mine by using milk-thisle, to clean the Liver!
      I advise iodine and Magnesium plus a Zero Water Filter to get healthy enough to get rid of

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