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Is Your Lifestyle Helping or Hurting Your Eczema?

By Dr. Diane Angela Fong, ND and Tori Taggart, MS, CNS




Living with eczema can be challenging, as it often feels like a constant battle against itchy, inflamed skin. While treatments and skincare routines play a crucial role in managing this condition, your everyday lifestyle choices could significantly impact your skin's health. A poor lifestyle can exacerbate eczema, affecting your overall well-being. It's not just about what you eat; various factors such as sleep, exercise, hydration, sun exposure, and stress management play a crucial role in managing eczema. Inadequate sleep, sedentary behavior, dehydration, limited sun exposure, and chronic stress can lead to immune dysregulation, inflammation, and compromised skin barrier function, ultimately worsening eczema symptoms.


Understanding how these lifestyle factors influence your eczema can empower you to make positive changes. By addressing these areas, you can support your overall well-being and manage your condition more effectively. In this blog, we'll explore how your daily choices may be helping or hurting your eczema and provide practical tips to create a healthier, more skin-friendly lifestyle.



THE SCIENCE

It is essential to understand the underlying science of how lifestyle choices can impact skin health. Research shows that lifestyle factors such as diet, sleep, exercise, hydration, sun exposure, and stress management play critical roles in regulating the immune system and maintaining the skin's barrier function. Inadequate sleep and chronic stress can lead to hormonal imbalances and increased inflammation, which can worsen eczema symptoms. Similarly, a lack of exercise and poor hydration can impair circulation and skin hydration, contributing to dryness and irritation. In this section, we'll delve into the scientific mechanisms by which lifestyle choices influence eczema. By understanding these scientific principles, you can make informed decisions to better manage your eczema and improve your quality of life.



Sleep & Eczema


Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health, including skin health. Several studies have highlighted the impact of inadequate or poor-quality sleep on the exacerbation of eczema symptoms. One study investigated the effect of various stressors, including stress, sleep deprivation, and exercise, on skin barrier function. It found that both stress and sleep deprivation caused a delay in the recovery of skin barrier function, indicating that stress-induced sleep disturbances can disrupt skin barrier function homeostasis in women (Altemus et al., 2001). Another review emphasized the importance of circadian rhythm in overall skin health, highlighting that adequate sleep is necessary for optimal DNA repair activity in the skin (Lyons et al., 2019). Moreover, a population-based study revealed that adults with eczema are more likely to experience fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and insomnia compared to those without eczema. These sleep disturbances were associated with poorer overall health status, increased sick days, and more frequent doctor visits among individuals with eczema (Silverberg et al., 2015).



Physical Activity & Eczema


Physical activity plays a crucial role in maintaining the body's defense system, known as the immune system. Research has shown that regular exercise acts as a boost to the immune system, enhancing defense activity and promoting metabolic health. Nieman and Wentz (2019) highlight the inverse relationship between moderate exercise training and the risk of illness, indicating that regular physical activity can lower the susceptibility to infections and other immune-related disorders.

Individuals with eczema may face challenges in maintaining adequate levels of physical activity due to various factors, including discomfort from lesions, fatigue, and sleep disturbances associated with the condition. Consequently, reduced physical activity levels can have detrimental effects on immune function, potentially exacerbating eczema symptoms.


Regular exercise has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory influence, mediated through multiple pathways within the body. By reducing systemic inflammation, exercise can help alleviate symptoms associated with inflammatory conditions like eczema. Conversely, a lack of physical activity may contribute to chronic inflammation, which can further compromise immune function and worsen eczema symptoms


Maintaining an active lifestyle is essential for supporting immune function and managing conditions like eczema. Movement can start with simple walking as any increase in activity is helpful! By understanding the link between physical activity, immune health, and eczema, individuals can take proactive steps to optimize their overall well-being.  



Water Intake & Eczema



Water is a fundamental nutrient essential for the proper functioning of every living cell, including those in the skin. The skin serves as a barrier against dehydration, making adequate hydration crucial for maintaining its integrity and function. Eczema is characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin, poses particular challenges regarding hydration and skin barrier function. Recent studies, such as that by Douladiris et al. (2023), have explored the relationship between water intake and skin hydration in children with eczema. While topical leave-on products are commonly used to address dry skin and improve barrier function, the effectiveness of increasing water intake as a treatment strategy remains debated.


However, research suggests that normal skin hydration can be enhanced by increasing dietary water intake, especially in individuals with previously lower water consumption. In eczema, skin dryness exacerbates the itch and inflammation cycle, contributing to barrier impairment and worsening disease severity. 

Understanding the relationship between water intake, skin hydration, and eczema can inform comprehensive management strategies for individuals with AD, emphasizing the importance of hydration in maintaining skin health and managing eczema symptoms.



Stress & Eczema

Stress, whether originating from psychological factors such as anxiety or depression, or environmental factors like work-related pressures, has emerged as a pivotal factor in the aggravation and persistence of eczema symptoms. The connection between stress and atopic dermatitis (AD) has garnered increasing attention in recent years, revealing a complex relationship between psychological states and physiological responses. This intricate relationship has been shown through various studies, unveiling the profound influence of stress on immune function, skin barrier integrity, and the overall severity of the disease.


Research by Arndt et al. (2008) and Meštrović-Štefekov et al. (2019) underscores the stress related factors implicated in the pathogenesis of eczema. Psychological stressors can trigger immune pathways, leading to an imbalance in immune responses characterized by a shift towards T helper type 2 (Th2) cells and allergic reactions. Chronic stress, in particular, has been associated with dysregulated immune responses and increased inflammation, exacerbating eczema symptoms.

Furthermore, studies such as that by Oh et al. (2010) have demonstrated a bidirectional relationship between stress and eczema symptoms, with psychological stressors contributing to disease severity and impaired quality of life in affected individuals. The activation of these inflammatory pathways, involving neuropeptides and neurotrophins, further exacerbates itchiness and inflammation in eczema.

Work-related stress has also been investigated as a potential trigger for eczema, as highlighted in the study by Weinmann et al. (2022)

Moreover, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a key network involved in stress response, has been implicated in the pathogenesis of eczema. Lin et al. (2017) found that eczema patients exhibit HPA dysfunction, characterized by a blunted cortisol response to stress, which may contribute to disease progression and symptom exacerbation.

The mechanisms underlying the relationship between stress and eczema underscore the importance of holistic management approaches that address both the physiological and psychological aspects of the condition. Interventions aimed at stress reduction and psychological well-being have shown promise in improving eczema outcomes and reducing disease severity.



Sun Exposure & Eczema

In regions with higher latitudes or limited sunlight exposure, there's a notable concern regarding the potential impact of vitamin D deficiency on the prevalence and severity of eczema. The "vitamin D hypothesis" has emerged as a plausible explanation for the increased incidence of eczema in these areas. Research, including the study by Debra J. Palmer and colleagues published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine in 2015, has underscored a significant association between vitamin D status and eczema outcomes. Notably, inadequate sun exposure leading to lower serum vitamin D levels has been linked to an increased incidence and severity of eczema symptoms. This correlation highlights the critical role of sunlight in the synthesis of vitamin D, which in turn affects immune system regulation and skin barrier function, both of which are crucial in the pathogenesis of eczema.




HOW TO EVALUATE IF YOU HAVE POOR LIFESTYLE FACTORS



Assessing lifestyle factors is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being. Identifying areas of improvement can lead to positive changes that contribute to a healthier lifestyle. One effective way to evaluate lifestyle factors is through the Cleanbody Pillars Assessment, which examines the five key pillars of health: CleanFOOD, CleanFIT, CleanENVIRO, CleanROUTINE, and CleanMIND.

  1. CleanFOOD: This pillar focuses on the quality of nutrition in your diet. Evaluate your eating habits, including the types of foods you consume and their nutritional value. Consider factors such as balanced meals, portion sizes, and intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

  2. CleanFIT: Assess your level of physical activity and exercise routine. Consider the frequency, intensity, and duration of your workouts, as well as the variety of exercises you engage in. Aim for a balanced fitness regimen that includes cardiovascular exercises, strength training, flexibility exercises, and activities that promote overall well-being.

  3. CleanENVIRO: Examine your environment and surroundings to identify potential sources of stress, toxins, pollutants, and other environmental factors that may impact your health. Consider aspects such as air quality, water quality, exposure to chemicals, noise levels, and the overall cleanliness and organization of your living and working spaces.

  4. CleanROUTINE: Evaluate your daily habits and routines to determine their impact on your health. Assess factors such as sleep quality and duration, stress management techniques, hygiene practices, time management, and consistency in following healthy habits. Establishing a balanced and consistent routine is essential for promoting overall well-being.

  5. CleanMIND: Consider the state of your mental and emotional health. Reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes, as well as your ability to cope with stress, manage emotions, maintain positive relationships, and foster a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life. Prioritize activities that promote mental clarity, emotional resilience, and overall psychological well-being



HOW TO FIX POOR LIFESTYLE



Improving your lifestyle is essential for promoting overall health and well-being. By making positive changes in various aspects of your daily routine, you can enhance your physical, mental, and emotional wellness. Here are some practical strategies to address common lifestyle issues:


Improve Sleep

  • Establish a CleanROUTINE with consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it's time to wind down, such as reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.

  • Make your sleep environment comfortable and conducive to rest, including a cool, dark, and quiet bedroom with a comfortable mattress and pillows.

  • Limit exposure to electronic devices, such as smartphones and computers, before bedtime, as the blue light emitted from screens can interfere with sleep.


Increase Physical Activity

  • Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week, as recommended by health guidelines.

  • Incorporate a variety of physical activities into your routine, including cardiovascular exercises, strength training, flexibility exercises, and recreational activities you enjoy.

  • Find opportunities to be active throughout the day, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking or biking instead of driving for short distances, and participating in active hobbies or sports


Increase Water Intake

  • Stay hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day. Aim for at least half your weight in ounces of water daily, or more if you're physically active or in hot weather.

  • Carry a reusable water bottle with you to make it easier to stay hydrated wherever you go.

  • Monitor your urine color: pale yellow to clear urine indicates proper hydration, while dark yellow urine may indicate dehydration.


Decrease and Manage Stress

  • Practice stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, or yoga, to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels.

  • Identify sources of stress in your life and find healthy ways to cope with them, such as setting realistic goals, prioritizing tasks, delegating responsibilities, and seeking social support.

  • Make time for activities that you enjoy and that help you unwind, such as spending time outdoors, engaging in hobbies, listening to music, or spending quality time with loved ones.


Increase Sun Exposure

  • Spend time outdoors in natural sunlight to boost your vitamin D levels and improve mood.

  • Aim for at least 15-30 minutes of sun exposure on exposed skin, such as the arms and legs, several times a week, especially during the hours when the sun's UV rays are most intense (typically between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.).

  • Practice sun safety by wearing sunscreen with a high SPF, protective clothing, and sunglasses to prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer



SEEK PROFESSIONAL GUIDANCE



Consulting with our team can provide personalized guidance and support on your journey to better lifestyle choices. Our team at Cleanbody offers one-on-one consultations with Dr. Fong and Cleanbody Nutritionists to assess your individual needs, develop tailored nutrition plans, and address any underlying health issues contributing to poor nutrition. Attend Dr. Fong's next live Q&A session every Wednesday at 11:15 am PST to ask questions, or schedule a consultation to start your journey towards optimal health.



GOT QUESTIONS?

We are going live to discuss this topic on Wednesday, July 10that 11:15 AM PST! Watch the live or check out the replay here:




About the Authors:

Dr. Fong - Eczema Doctor

Dr. Diane Angela Fong, ND, is the CEO and founder of Cleanbody, a wellness company dedicated to treating and preventing chronic disease. She is the creator of the Cleanbody Method, which follows a three-step process: Evaluate (digging into the root causes of chronic disease using lab testing and other evaluation tools), Optimize (enhancing health foundations by addressing nutrition, lifestyle, and toxic exposures), and Support (optimizing organ functions through healing protocols).




Tori Taggart, MS, CNS is a Cleanbody Nutritionist specializing in meeting people in their healthy journeys by digging into the root causes of various chronic diseases and conditions. Through the use of healthy food along with aspects of the natural world around us (sunshine, nature, clean water, stress management, relationships, etc), she helps to empower her clients to take charge of their own health and trust their bodies to thrive and heal.




Medical Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog post is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


Affiliate & Product Disclaimer: This blog contains affiliate links and mentions of Cleanbody products. As an affiliate, we may earn a commission if you make a purchase through these links. However, please note that the inclusion of affiliate links does not influence our editorial content or product recommendations. Our primary goal is to provide valuable information and resources to our readers to support their health and wellness journey. We only recommend products and services that we genuinely believe in and that align with our commitment to promoting holistic health. Thank you for your support!

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