Recently I had the privilege of attending a two day workshop by Karen Fischer, Australian nutritionist and author of The Eczema Diet, and several other books on skin health. Skin conditions are one of the most complicated conditions to improve. Having devoured three of Karen’s books, I was full of anticipation for this workshop.
Many of Karen’s clients are people who have tried everything, seen multiple doctors and specialists, tried all sorts of alternate pathways to healing, and still have unresolved skin issues that are often debilitating, painful and embarrassing. Karen’s amazing success with so many difficult cases over the past ten years has earned her worldwide acclaim. Many would have seen her on the Today Show.
Here’s a (very) brief summary of how I processed the workshop information.
Canary in the Coal Mine
Conditions of the skin are a reflection of something going on inside of the body. In many cases, it is an inability of the liver to detoxify the body adequately.
A skin condition is therefore like a canary in the coal mine – it is showing up inadequate liver detoxification, or possibly an inadequate gut microbiome or poor kidney clearance – and if this is not fixed (not ‘masked’, as with drugs) – it may eventually show up in a more serious and painful condition, for example, autoimmune, asthma, arthritis or cancer. It is important to pay attention to skin conditions because they point to a deeper malfunction in the body.
Fix the liver, fix the skin
The liver is one of the body’s four elimination channels; the others are the intestines, the skin and the kidneys. You might be asking why someone’s liver might be detoxifying inadequately. The liver is supposed to be breaking down food chemicals and excess hormones into component parts then shipping them to the needed areas of the body, placing them in bile to be excreted via the digestive tract or sent to the kidneys for removal in urine. In some cases this detoxification is not happening at fast enough a pace, resulting in the skin being required to detoxify more than it can cope with.
The liver fails to detoxify adequately for two reasons: either there are too many toxins to clear all at once, or it is under functioning due to poor diet and lifestyle. Some examples of this are –
- a hefty vaccination schedule as a child coming at a time when their health was not excellent
- massive exposure to environmental toxins, such as contact with heavy metals
- the cumulative effects of environmental toxins over time
- receiving many vaccinations as an adult for a tour overseas
- long-time use of properly prescribed medical drugs – all of which are toxic if you read the labels. This includes repeated antibiotic doses combined with a sub-par diet.
- Excessive use of over the counter painkillers.
- An inadequate diet, failing to supply it with nutrients to function properly, or causing fatty liver
- Poor nutrient absorption (due to gut issues) leading to poor liver nourishment
- Premature birth, drugs at birth, drugs given to the mother during and after birth
- Nutritional inadequacy and drug use in the mother before conception and during pregnancy
People with damaged livers often get skin conditions. A large number of people with autoimmune conditions can point to some sort of trauma as described above that happened around ten years before the autoimmune condition showed up. Best to fix the damage while it is limited to a skin condition.
‘Detoxes’ and fad diets
A note about health food shop/fad diet ‘detoxes’. For a person who has a minor skin condition only, general juicing and fasting may make them feel light and ‘cleaned out’ – but for a person with a chronic skin condition, some of the foods on the ‘detox’ may be foods that exacerbate the condition. If so, time to get professional help for your condition.
Steps for dealing with chronic skin issues
Many skin conditions can be dealt with by avoiding the Dirty Dozen foods of chemical contamination. In Australia, these are:-
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Snap Peas
If you have a skin condition try eating these dozen foods only organically – or avoiding them altogether. If there is no real relief after several weeks of this, we then look at two things: chemical sensitivities and nutrient deficiencies.
Food Chemical Sensitivities
When the liver fails to detoxify adequately, this means it is not coping wth the breakdown of certain chemicals – even those that are in normal, healthy, everyday foods. Many people know when they eat certain (healthy) foods they feel bad; this may be a sign of a food chemical insensitivity.
The next step is to work out exactly what groups of foods the person is sensitive to. Foods can be grouped according to their chemical compositions; some common triggers are foods containing amines, salicylates, MSG, sulfites, yeast, colourings and nitrates, and more well-known, dairy foods and gluten. We discover which by the use of a carefully planned elimination diet with two weeks off that group entirely, then back on – and see what happens. If nothing, we try another group.
Unfortunately, skin prick tests and allergy tests are quite unreliable with results differing from lab to lab. Foods that show up as unproblematic in a lab may cause flare-ups when the person eats them, and vice versa. The only true way to see if a person is sensitive to a food is to use an elimination diet. An elimination diet is the gold standard of allergy testing.
Healing the Body
For a nutritionist, discovering foods that cause a reaction is only the first part of the healing plan.
The goal is not to determine what foods the person is sensitive to then avoid those foods forever. The plan is to take them out of the diet for several months, and meanwhile, develop a food and lifestyle plan to improve the function of the liver, gut, kidney – whatever organ appears to be struggling. This can be done with both dietary change – using foods that heal – and using judiciously chosen supplements to overcome nutrient deficiencies.
After several months, the problematic foods can be re-challenged – until normal foods can be eaten again without the skin reacting.
Treating the skin in this way does not only result in healthy skin. It also results in a stronger immune system and elimination system to cope with future challenges, and it helps protect against more serious diseases in the future.
So if you have a chronic skin condition, please don’t continue masking it with creams and steroids and pain killers, toxic drugs and even herbs – make the effort to get some help and get rid of it – for your future health.
You can contact me for help wth your skin on the Contact page of this website.