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233: Should You Go Gluten-Free to Stop Eczema, Psoriasis or Other Rashes?

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Have you tried a gluten-free diet for eczema, psoriasis, rosacea or some other type of chronic skin problem?

Whether you noticed an improvement or not, you might wonder if it’s worthwhile to continue avoiding gluten…

And if so, for how long?

I want to share with you my thoughts based on research as well as my clinical experience as to why I recommend to clients to avoid gluten.

AND why I don’t really care about whether it’s an actual food trigger that flares your rashes.

Gluten is a much bigger problem for chronic skin issues than it simply being a potential “food sensitivity”.

No matter what you decide, I hope that this different perspective on gluten and skin rashes helps you decide for yourself whether to stay gluten-free or not!

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | Subscribe on Android

In this episode:

  • Why I ask my clients to remove gluten (even if it’s not a food trigger + skin issues don’t improve)
  • Research connecting gluten to eczema, psoriasis + rosacea
  • Gluten’s distinct role in increasing leaky gut
  • Do you have to avoid gluten forever if you have skin rashes?

Quotes:

One study found that women with rosacea had “twice the odds of having type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

Gluten increases leaky gut every time it’s consumed whether you are sensitive to gluten, have celiac or are non-reactive.

 

Woman thinking about going gluten-free

233: Should You Go Gluten-Free to Stop Eczema, Psoriasis or Other Rashes? (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome back to episode #233 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In today’s episode, I’m dishing on gluten and why I ask clients to go gluten-free!

You might think that my recommendation of a gluten-free diet is somehow suggesting that gluten could potentially be at least partly responsible for your eczema, psoriasis or whatever type of rash you have going on.

But the truth is that I make the suggestion regardless of whether I suspect gluten as a food trigger. 

In fact, many of my clients note that removing gluten didn’t help their rashes at all – basically, they saw no change in their skin.

So then why on earth do I recommend to clients or anyone who is going through this process of rebuilding healthy skin to avoid gluten?

The answer isn’t exactly straightforward. So let’s dive into the research that’s led me to find a gluten-free diet helpful from a clinical perspective!

 

Flour, bread and baking ingredients with gluten

Can Gluten Cause or Worsen Skin Rashes?

Certain skin issues seem to have some potential connection to gluten and I think it’s worthwhile to keep the following in mind…

In some instances, eczema patches could be the result of gluten consumption (as was the case of my cheek eczema over ten years ago) as well as those who may not know that they have a gluten sensitivity or even the skin manifestation of celiac disease called dermatitis herpetiformis.

With psoriasis, research is still currently being done to better understand this interesting complexity. Generally, there appears to be some benefit for those with psoriasis who have either gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. But not everyone will benefit and see an improvement to their symptoms simply by going gluten free.(1)

Rosacea has an interesting possible connection with gluten in that research points towards potentially shared HLA genes associated with celiac disease. One study found that women with rosacea had “twice the odds of having type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis.”(2,3,4)

And while much of the research out there seems to associate skin issues with celiac, it’s been my clinical experience that not everyone who struggles eating gluten has celiac. Some (like myself) are sensitized to the protein and seem to react to it in their body’s own unique way.

Sharing this doesn’t mean that gluten is inherently bad for you, but it does highlight an ongoing field of research that hopefully, we’ll have more definitive answers in the coming years.

For now, this is simply a potential piece of the puzzle for some.

 

Gluten-Free products

Why I Recommend a Gluten-Free Diet For Skin Rashes

While it is possible that your body could potentially react to the gluten protein, this isn't my driving concern with clients.

I’m more concerned about a very specific problem that gluten creates for your gut.

We know thanks to ongoing research by celiac pioneers such as Alessio Fasano, MD, that gluten actually increases gut permeability (leakiness within the gut).(5)

This occurs in every single person no matter who consumes it – even in those who are not sensitive to it.(5)

That single fact is significant in my experience (and in that of my colleagues) as gut microbiome dysbiosis is quite often present in cases of chronic skin issues especially when diet alterations didn’t create lasting improvements (or any improvement at all).

It’s why I don’t believe that food and diet are all that matter here because some problems are not really food-fixable. And sometimes really “healthy” diet changes can actually make skin issues worse (as I’ve shared repeatedly on the show).

This is when we need to look deeper into what’s driving the physical complaints rather than just cutting out more and more foods.

And often this points towards an underlying gut microbiome issue (even surprisingly in cases without any gut symptoms whatsoever).

When there is serious gut dysfunction and microbiome issues thanks to organisms that create digestive + absorptive challenges in addition to triggering more inflammatory cytokines, increasing how permeable or “leaky” your gut wall is IS NOT a good idea.

The last thing your poor body needs is to be flooded with every more inflammatory waste products from what’s in the gut, partially undigested food proteins, and even parts of organisms in the GI tract.

So while gluten could be a food trigger for some like myself, its role of increasing the permeability of your gut wall is actually more concerning.

Clients who haven’t ever seen any change from removing gluten often ask me after a few weeks if they can go back to eating gluten.

My answer is NO.

They often think that the request was based purely on taking out a potential food trigger for the rashes. But my reason has to do with reducing as much leakiness throughout the GI tract as we work on the imbalances there.

I want to do my best to contain the inflammation as best as possible and that’s why removing gluten can be helpful in that effort.

 

Woman looking out over the ocean and thinking

Do I Have To Avoid Gluten Forever?

If you decide on your journey to remove gluten, you might be wondering if you have to avoid it for life to keep your rashes at bay.

While I don’t have a clear-cut answer for you, it is possible that you could again eat gluten without any issues assuming you don’t have celiac disease.

As things stabilize with time and work, some clients are able to add gluten back into their diet to varying degrees.

Some may tolerate wheat and other sources of gluten just fine while others might only be able to tolerate more ancient forms of wheat (like kamut, spelt, or einkorn).

And some might only be able to tolerate fermented products like sourdough.

While others (like me) discover that gluten just isn’t their friend.

Everyone is different and I hold space for wherever someone’s journey and personal decisions about their health guide them.

But in the meantime, I firmly feel that removing gluten is worthwhile while working on your root causes of chronic skin problems.

So if you have previously thought that the only reason to remove gluten was in the event that it was a diet trigger, unfortunately that’s short-sighted.

Even if it’s not a dietary trigger, its power to increase gut permeability and expose your body to an increased burden of inflammatory items from the GI tract is actually an even better reason to avoid it.

As you work on the GI tract and bring the microbiome back into balance, you may be able to reintroduce gluten as your tolerance to maintain a sealed gut improves.

I hope this provides you a different perspective on the challenges gluten brings to your case so that you can make an informed decision about whether to continue to eat gluten or avoid it on your journey.

If you’ve got any questions or thoughts to share about this, leave a comment below so I can address them.

And make a point to share this episode with someone you know who is either considering going gluten free for their rashes OR is wondering if they should continue to avoid gluten (because they aren’t seeing results) to help them make an informed choice.

Thank you so much for tuning in and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode!

 

Reference Books

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4104239/
  2. https://www.medpagetoday.com/resource-centers/advances-in-dermatology/women-rosacea-twice-likely-have-celiac-disease-and-other-autoimmune-diseases/882
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26830864/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4434179/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4377866/

One study found that women with rosacea had “twice the odds of having type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis.”


Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.


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