110: Missing Links Between Your Little One's Skin Rashes & Mom's Health w/ Jennifer Brand, MS, CNS

Seeing a baby struggle with chronic skin rashes is heartbreaking. Today's guest is here to talk about how mom's health has the potential to impact her baby's skin health.  

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My guest today, Jennifer Brand, is an integrative and clinical nutritionist with a Master's degree in public health, a Master's degree in nutrition, and she’s a Certified Nutrition Specialist.

She specializes in childhood skin rashes (eczema, psoriasis, tinea versicolor, hives, acne, vitiligo, and others), food allergies and sensitivities, and gut problems.

Jennifer’s own struggle with gut problems, and her father’s battle with psoriasis turned psoriatic arthritis left her frustrated with conventional medicine. She knows first hand that a different approach is needed:

  • An approach that doesn’t remove more foods from the diet. Your body runs off of nutrients from foods you eat. When they are missing, imbalances develop and symptoms and health problems follow.
  • An approach that doesn’t include stronger prescription steroid creams. No one has skin rashes because of a steroid cream deficiency!

Jennifer is a relentless detective putting her strong knowledge of nutritional biochemistry to work for you, to identify what’s driving symptoms and health problems in order to address the root cause of them.

Jennifer’s work has been featured in peer-reviewed scientific journals and Voyagela, as well as on podcasts, online summits, and in-person presentations at venues such as Casa Colina Hospital in Pomona California.

Join us as we discuss the link between a baby's skin rashes and the health of their mother.

Have you ever wondered if your health could have impacted your little one's skin rashes? Let me know in the comments!

In this episode:

  • No guilt or finger-pointing
  • What's the deal with an infant's microbiome compared to an adult, especially in terms of skin rash issues?
  • Effective testing for little ones
  • Can breast milk pass things that could affect a baby's skin?


“A gut microbiome is not mature until a child is about two to three years old.” [4:00]

“I started finding some research that certain gut bugs can be passed through breast milk. H. pylori is one of them.” [10:50]


Find Jennifer Brand online

Healthy Skin Show episode 008: Identifying The Chemical Triggers Behind Your Skin Flare Ups w/ Jennifer Brand

Follow Jennifer on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

110: Missing Links Between Your Little One's Skin Rashes & Mom's Health w/ Jennifer Brand FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jen F.: Hi everyone. Welcome back. I've got a great guest with me today and one who is recurring. You probably heard her on the Healthy Skin Show before, but you might also recognize her from both of her appearances on our 2018 and 2019 Eczema & Psoriasis Awareness Weeks. My good friend and colleague Jennifer Brand is whom I would consider one of the experts in working with children, babies, your general little ones essentially who are struggling with skin rashes. She's an integrative and clinical nutritionist with a master's degree in public health, a master's degree in nutrition, and she's a certified nutrition specialist.

Jen F.: She specializes in childhood skin rashes, things like eczema, psoriasis, tinea versicolor, hives, acne, vitiligo, food allergies and sensitivities, and gut problems. Jennifer's own struggle with gut issues and her father's battle with psoriasis turned psoriatic arthritis, left her frustrated with conventional medicine, so she knows firsthand that a different approach is needed and that's why she loves to work with people. She typically does do virtual consults like I do, and she also gives lots of presentations in the California area. I am so excited to have her here. Jennifer, thank you so much for coming back to the show.

Jennifer B.: Thank you so much for having me back.

Jen F.: So let us talk today a little bit about this interesting conundrum between like mom and little one and little one's microbiome and how that can impact skin health. But I do want to preface this conversation, and I think you would agree with me, that the conversation is not meant in any way, shape or form to make mom feel bad. I think that's an important part of this conversation, but if we're looking for root causes, we want to have an honest conversation about where these issues are. So what are your thoughts on that? So moms are listening to this. We don't want them to feel like we're pointing the finger back at them, right?

Jennifer B.: Absolutely. And something that I commonly talk to moms about and when I start working with a family, I hear, “Well you know, she/he was C-section and you know, I couldn't breastfeed so we had to use formula. And you know, we have a cat, we have a dog. And I was eating this way when I was pregnant.” And so there's a lot of guilt involved and I have to say, so I want everybody out there listening to know that I have seen babies that are C-section, not breastfed, all kinds of exposures, yes, with health concerns. And I have seen babies vaginally born, breastfed for like two years, no exposures to anything, super clean diets and they have the same health concerns. So there really is no rhyme or reason, if you will to one way or the other. But I've seen similar health concerns both ways. So it's absolutely not mom's fault.

Jen F.: Yeah. And so let's start with the microbiome issue because a lot of people will notice that their little ones also sometimes I think have some GI issues as well, but maybe not. You could probably speak to that better, but what's the deal with an infant's microbiome compared to an adult, especially when we're talking about this in terms of skin rash issues?

Jennifer B.: The microbiomes are different between children and adults. And something else I want to point out too is that I find it really interesting that when we're, doing a stool sample for example or when I'm questioning what is the baby's stool like, and parents will say it's normal, but often it's really hard to tell because especially if the child is in diapers, it's kind of mashed up anyway. You really can't tell how soft it is. And if the baby is breastfed, not eating solid foods yet the consistency is different. So it's a little bit more difficult to tell what's normal. And then when we're looking at the gut microbiome, so a gut microbiome is not mature until a child is about two to three years old. So before that time, children tend to have a higher relative abundance in general.

Jennifer B.: And so when we're looking at stool tests and something that we look at in adults is that if there's a higher relative abundance, we look at that as an overgrowth pattern. So in children that may actually be normal. There isn't a lot of research that I have found yet on the subject to see what is actually normal and other folks and professionals that I've talked to in this area, also have noted that there isn't a lot of research on this yet. So when we're looking at a stool test, we really have to look at it more closely and take different things into account when we are looking at little ones that are less than two years old.

Jen F.: Now here's the thing, you mentioned stool testing and I think a lot of moms are like, “Wait, what type of testing are we doing on my little one? We were looking at the scans.” So can you connect the dots here just for someone who's like, wait, we're doing stool testing, but the little one has skin issues. Is that usually the type of testing that you feel provides you the most benefit for if someone's little one has these rashes that they can't figure out what the allergist and the pediatrician that can illuminate things? Yeah. So talk to us a little bit about that.

Jennifer B.: Sure, absolutely. So there is a major connection between what's happening in the gut and what's happening on the skin and when we're talking about eczema that often, especially in little ones comes along with other atopic conditions like asthma and allergies. And so if you look at the research on this, there are major connections between eczema, asthma, and food allergies and what's happening in the gut microbiome and differences in the gut bacteria compared to other little ones that do not have those atopic conditions.

Jennifer B.: And so health really does begin in the gut. And something else I talked to my parents about a lot, my parents of the little ones I work with, is that 80% of our immune system is located in our gut microbiome. And when we're talking about these atopic or allergic conditions, that is an immune system that is dysregulated. And so if we're looking for where is the majority of your microbiome, 80% of it is in your gut. So it's a really good place to start investigating if your little one is struggling with atopic conditions and certainly with skin rashes. So yeah. So that is where we start looking and often, and I know Jen we've talked about this before, so I'll say it here as well, that 100% of the clients that I have seen that have skin rashes have gut problems. And I say that because every client that I've worked with that has skin rashes and we've done a stool test, there have been gut microbiome imbalances.

Jen F.: Well so also to that point if a mom is like, “Wait, I'm a little uncomfortable with the idea of my little one being pricked.” Because that can be really traumatic for the mom depending on the age and everybody involved. So you're saying like with little kids, is that the primary way that, I mean obviously you're doing an intake and things, but if moms are wondering what type of testing is usually involved, it's pretty easy to collect?

Jennifer B.: Well it is but it isn't because sometimes it's hard with the diaper and then it's not supposed to be mixed with the urine and so there are a few challenges there, but something else I want to point out too is that all of this can be going on in the gut without any gut symptoms at all.

Jen F.: Okay.

Jennifer B.: So that is something that I also like to point out. And so it does amaze me when I do see a stool test and there's a lot going on, a lot happening in the gut microbiome and I always think to myself, “How can this person not have any [inaudible 00:07:53]? Can often be the case as well. And something else too that I find very commonly is that when I am doing an intake, so I'll talk to a parent initially before we decide to work together, and the main concerns are eczema or skin rashes or what have you and no gut symptoms are reported. But then with the intake process, which is extremely detailed, we get a full history of what's happening. And then often there is. You know maybe the baby was colicky before the eczema began. Maybe they did have some gas. There's often silent reflux or reflux symptoms in general. Lots of spit up. So there are some things that I think aren't necessarily identified at the beginning until we start talking about those different types of concerns and they really are all connected to gut health.

Jen F.: And real quick because I know I've had a couple of people ask me just about tongue-tie real quick. Is that also a red flag if you see that on a little ones intake?

Jennifer B.: Yeah that is and for some different reasons. So tongue-tie can really impact feeding. So if your little one does have feeding issues, for example problems latching, swallowing a lot of air, that might be something to check out. Also even problems sleeping. And there are so many adults too that actually have tongue-tie and never know it. I don't know a lot about it but it's definitely something to check out if you do have feeding problems with your little one and sleep issues as well. Tongue-tie, lip-tie is actually really common and it can impact overall health.

Jen F.: Okay. And that actually leads in to my next question because I would like to talk a little bit about breast milk. So one thing that you shared with me that I was like “Whoa,” is, and it makes sense, a lot of us know that mom is passing nutrients to baby, right? Or little one depending on how old the little one is. But is it possibly passing other things as well that could impact the little one's skin?

Jennifer B.: Yeah. So I've become extremely fascinated by this because what's been happening is as I'm working with these families more and more and working with more and more little ones, the moms have been on elimination diets and so we're talking about children who are all breastfed or mostly breastfed. And so moms have been on elimination diets and I'm taking a close look at their history, the diet history, what's going in to the little one, what's going into mom. And it just doesn't make sense. Like, I can't pull out any overt food triggers. Their moms are avoiding all the major things that we would ask them to remove, you know, gluten and dairy for example. Other things that might be triggering of allergies or gut hyperpermeability. And so I started finding some research that certain gut bugs can be passed through breast milk. H. pylori is one of them.

Jen F.: Oh my goodness, Really?

Jennifer B.: Yeah. So there are certain bugs that can be passed. And again, I'm having some difficulty finding lots of research on this. So breast milk of course is protective against so many different bugs. So it absolutely is protective and it does help baby build their immune system. So this is by no way saying you need to stop breastfeeding or that you should stop breastfeeding. It's just another avenue to explore. So I've been starting to explore more and more what's happening with mom and mom's gut health because when a mom is really worried about her little one, they're not talking about themselves, you know?

Jennifer B.: And when moms have little ones, they're focused on their little ones not on themselves. So I also do wonder as well and have been talking to some other professionals about this too, what other things can be passed through breast milk? And so it's also very possible that if mom does have some gut imbalances that all of those overgrowths, infections, whatever's happening in there, those bugs produce toxins. And so endotoxemia, right? So these bugs get out into the bloodstream through gut hyperpermeability for example. And they can end up in breast milk and being past to the little one. And so it's very possible that food isn't even a trigger at all. And it could be these endotoxins in the breast milk that are triggering baby. Something else too that I found interesting, so parasites for example, are too large to cross the mammary, the milk mammary barrier, but however antigens from them can.

Jennifer B.: So it's possible that if mom has a parasitic infection, that some of the toxins or the antigens from those bugs can be passed to baby. And again, it can be, and it's not uncommon that we don't have any symptoms at all with these gut things going on and these gut problems. And then everybody's different too. Like everybody's gut microbiome is different. And so what causes symptoms in one person may not cause symptoms in another person. And so it's very possible that you, me, any of us have all kinds of nasty stuff happening in our gut, but we're not really symptomatic with it. So there's no need to check it out and there's no need to address it because for us it's fine. So it's really challenging to determine what's going on with all of these little ones. But it really makes you wonder because there are so many babies that develop eczema at just a few months old.

Jennifer B.: So it begs the question, what is happening and what's getting in? The other thing to keep in mind too is that baby's guts are actually hyperpermeable. And depending on the research, I've seen a few, I like the first nine days I believe it is it is very leaky. Babies have very leaky guts and that can be the case for a number of months until the gut stops being quite as leaky. So it's that first period of time too that can be very telling as to what might happen. And I do see that's when a lot of children are developing these skin rashes and developing eczema. And then I've also seen in a number of cases where the little one we're finding C. Diff. toxins.

Jen F.: I remember you told me this. Like you were telling me about this one case.

Jennifer B.: There have been more. Yeah.

Jen F.: And you said the poor child was, the mom was taking out all this food. And because that's our natural inclination right now is to look at food, blame food, point the finger at food. And yet it came back and this poor little kid had C. Diff.

Jennifer B.: Yes. So that one in particular, and the mom suspected that it wasn't… So the little one, I think she was about, she was under a year old at the time and she had a staph infection so they gave her an antibiotic for it. And after the first dose of antibiotics she woke up the next morning covered in eczema and it hadn't gone away since.

Jen F.: Oh wow.

Jennifer B.: So we did the stool test and found C. Diff. toxins. And then I actually had another one that I was talking to today reviewing stool test results with, and this little one is just under a year old and there is C. Diff. toxin. And so started fact finding a little bit more with mom and she did have some antibiotic use. She had an infection. It was after the baby was born, but she was breastfeeding. And so is that where the C. Diff. toxin came from? I don't know. I don't know that we know that, but C. Diff. is associated with antibiotic use and so I have been seeing more and more of these really kind of crazy infections and toxins in little ones. And again, these children are so small. So it makes me ask the question, how is this happening and where are these things coming from?

Jen F.: Yeah, absolutely. So I guess then this is a question that I have for women who are interested in getting pregnant and they know they've got some health issues, because sometimes you know and you're like, “Well does it matter? Is it important I deal with it now?” If you're listening to all this, I've always found with clients it's kind of better like pre-pregnancy is a really good time to work on things.

Jennifer B.: Absolutely.

Jen F.: I think this also might provide some impetus to someone listening to this. If you do have some health concerns, if you've got rash issues, if you've gotten gut issues, any sort of things, it might be best to try to address it beforehand because it does become increasingly difficult. Like in pregnancy and breastfeeding and it is more complicated to deal with your own issues as the mom, unfortunately. And people do need to know that it's not as straight forward and simple because it is a more complex situation because now you've got mom and baby to consider. So what happens though with mom on a gut protocol. Like can that impact their little one? If mom knows she's got gut problems and she's like, “Well I'm breastfeeding.” I've kind of given a little bit of the farm away I suppose. But why don't you give your take on that?

Jennifer B.: Sure. Okay so first of all, during pregnancy I would not recommend doing anything other than probiotics can be okay and maybe some supportive things. I do think it's important, like, mom, don't ignore your health. You definitely need to take care of yourself. Think of it as putting your oxygen mask on first. You know, that's what we're supposed to do. And it's really important that you do that. So Jen, just to reiterate your comment, I think it is important to address any health issues that you have pre-pregnancy if possible. So yeah, definitely check that out first.

Jennifer B.: But when it comes to addressing health issues during breastfeeding, so it's possible. So there is a family that I'm working with and I'm working with the children. The mother however, has all sorts of gut issues and was working with another practitioner. So the practitioner has the mom on a gut protocol that does involve antimicrobials and a lot of different types of supplements that, not really my place to say, but anyway, so what was interesting was developing the little ones protocol that's being breastfed around mom's protocol. So this is something that I don't recommend. I really don't recommend if you're a breastfeeding mom going on a bunch of antimicrobials or anything like that. So what we were seeing in the little one, and he's fine, like everybody's fine, everybody's doing well, everybody's getting better. But, so when the mom started her protocol, the little ones started having some die off too, which actually wasn't a bad thing in this case because he did have lots of different infectious types of things going on in his gut.

Jennifer B.: So what we did was instead of addressing the overgrowths and what we were seeing in his stool tests directly is that kind of helped with some supportive measures to help rebuild what was going on in his gut and rebuild his gut versus that kill off, the remove phase because he was getting that from mom. So we're just monitoring the situation very closely, seeing how he improves as mom's protocol continues, and then just doing adjunct things to help him until mom has done with our protocol, seeing where we land then and seeing what we need to do next. So it really, it throws quite a wrench into the situation. But in this case, mom was really sick. It really needed to be done with mom because she had a lot going on and was pretty sick with what was happening.

Jen F.: Yeah.

Jennifer B.: Yeah.

Jen F.: And it is what it is. I mean look, if you work with a doctor and you're really sick, I think that a doctor especially they can make judgment calls that our scope of practice is pretty clear. I will say this and I think this is an important reminder to everyone listening, if you are pregnant or you are breastfeeding, that is not the time to go like DIY and try to deal with gut issues in yourself or your little ones all on your own. You don't go buy detoxes or cleanse programs or some well known person's candida protocol. That is not the time to do that because you can cause major health problems. You really need to have the support of someone who's working with you. It is critical because you can make things a lot worse and you don't want to harm your little one in the process of doing that.

Jen F.: And I will say this, one really fascinating thing is I've talked to some of the… We have some of the same kind of mentors and whatnot and also doing my own research. Like it's really difficult to find research on [inaudible 00:21:15]. Research on breastfeeding and little ones pregnancy and breastfeeding. For a lot of these antimicrobials that are out there there's a limited amount and so you can't, again, you cannot just go out and say, I'm going to go buy this. So-and-so did it, but so-and-so might be 55 years old. She's not nursing a child. It's a different story. And I just want to caution people because it is, I totally understand wanting to do your own thing and try and support your family's health, but you do have to be careful in the process because this is a very critical period.

Jen F.: Children grow. Am I wrong in saying… I should remember this from our one class we had to take back in grad school, but I believe that children grow more, they're faster, there's a lot more faster growth in that is what the first two years of life, something like that than the rest of the age range. So we just want to be cautious with that. But Jen, this has been super, super interesting. So guys, do you understand now why I just say go see Jen? Literally my answer will be like, “Really? I don't know this information.” This is in Jen's brain. She loves doing this kind of stuff and supporting moms and dads and little ones. That's why I always, every time somebody writes me I'm like, “Go see Jen, go see Jen, go talk to Jen, go follow Jen because she's really involved in this type of information.” So Jen, everybody can find you over at jennifercarynbrand.com is that correct?

Jennifer B.: That is correct, yes.

Jen F.: Perfect. And I know first of all you have a really great Instagram account. Lots of good information every single day. And then you've also got, I would say… I don't know which do you think would be the best? You've got a bunch of like really nice options for people if they want to dive deeper into this. Do you have like a free gift you'd love to share with everybody listening?

Jennifer B.: I do. Probably, my best general one. I have The Guide to Beat Your Little One's Eczema, and it goes over some of the basic things that you can try yourself regarding diet, nutrition, topical options that might be helpful, skin soothing baths. So sort of supportive measures that you can take to help your little one be more comfortable, and the idea is to do that while you're addressing the root cause.

Jen F.: Perfect. Perfect. I'll put the links to everything, your Instagram, your website, everything over in the show notes for this session and I really appreciate you coming back again, thank you so much for the time.

Jennifer B.: Thank you so much for having me. I love being on the show. I love your show. I do. It's a fantastic resource, a fantastic source of information, and I listen to it all the time, so thank you for including me.

“A gut microbiome is not mature until a child is about two to three years old.” [4:00]