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The Naturopathic Approach to Skin Disorders
Treating the cause vs. managing the symptoms
Skin problems can cause significant distress in that they can cause itching, pain and disfigurement. Of all the types of health challenges I work with, I find it particularly rewarding to be able to help patients with skin problems. This is certainly one area of medicine in which the naturopathic approach can be much more effective at producing a lasting cure than the conventional approach.
As a naturopathic physician I see skin problems as an external manifestation of an internal problem. With that perspective, I am able to address the underlying causes of skin problems and in most cases, teach people how they can lessen or even eliminate their problem on a long term basis, without the use of drugs.
Conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, chronic fungal or bacterial infections, seborrheic dermatitis, chronic hives, diaper rash, and dermatitis herpetiformis all typically respond very well to the inside-out approach.
Conventional medicine, for the most part, treats skin problems topically. The most common drugs prescribed for skin conditions are steroids. They often provide immediate relief from symptoms, but will rarely cure the problem. Steroids suppress the body’s inflammatory signals so rashes often appear to “get better” after a short period of use. However, since the cause of the problem is still there, when the steroids are stopped, the symptoms often come back worse than ever. So why not just stay on topical steroids forever? The side effects of long term treatment are significant and include:
Skin atrophy: thinning of the skin and underlying connective tissue causing skin to become lax, wrinkled and shiny.
Increased risk of permanent, often itchy stretch marks
Decreased immune function in the skin makes the skin more susceptible to bacterial or fungal rashes. People using topical steroids to “treat” eczema may be more likely to develop impetigo which is a bacterial (staph or strep) infection in the eczema affected areas.
Another common approach to skin problems is the use of oral antibiotics, particularly for acne. While the skin may improve, the side effects of long term antibiotic use can be profound. The eradication of good bacteria in the intestinal lining can harm the digestive system, immune system, liver, hormone balancing mechanisms and more. Meanwhile, the underlying cause of the acne has never been addressed and the patient has not been able to respond to this important signal from the body that something is out of balance. Symptoms are an intelligent alarm bell from the body and when symptoms are simply suppressed, health will inevitably decline.
The naturopathic approach to skin conditions is to support the key systems of the body that promote detoxification and to restore balance. When the body is overloaded with toxins, they come out the skin and provoke inflammation which results in a myriad of skin conditions from acne to hives.
The liver is the key organ for detoxifying chemicals, eliminating hormones, promoting digestive juices and much more. In all ancient systems of medicine, promoting optimal liver function is a fundamental part of resolving skin conditions. For example, the influx of hormones at puberty will be more likely to cause acne if the liver is not able to regulate the elimination of hormones. Liver support and hormone balancing are key aspects of the naturopathic treatment of acne.
The colon is another organ of elimination that must be looked at in order to truly cure a skin condition. Constipation, candida yeast overgrowth from antibiotic use, and food allergies are potential causes of skin conditions. I have helped hundreds of people resolve skin problems by testing them for food allergies with a very sensitive and non-invasive allergy testing method and then coaching them on an allergy free diet. It is so rewarding to see a child’s eczema clear up in a couple of weeks or an adult’s life long psoriasis diminish in a couple of months after a simple shift in diet.
My naturopathic approach to skin health also includes coaching patients to eat a whole food diet, ensure optimal hydration, and reduce stress. Stress management is important due to the connection between the stress hormone cortisol and inflammation in the skin. It is no coincidence that people often bemoan the arrival of a big zit on their wedding day!
Don’t put up with simply managing your symptoms with side-effect laden drugs. Learn what your body is trying to tell you about your skin symptoms. The naturopathic approach takes time and patience, but the benefits go far beyond skin deep. Because we are cleansing and balancing the whole body, people report increased energy, mental clarity and the resolution of many other health issues as a “side-benefit” of this approach. Your long term health will be the greatest reward for your investment.
Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a licensed naturopathic physician with a family practice in downtown Courtenay. For more information please call her office at (250) 897-0235 or contact her via this website.
Candida and Intestinal “Good Bacteria” (candida)
Intestinal Flora Imbalances
Candida albicans, a yeast that normally lives within your body can make many people feel sick if it is in excess. Yeast can cause many health disorders such as fatigue, headache, depression, premenstrual tension, hyperactivity, skin disorders, digestive problems and more.
Everyone has candida, a form of yeast (Candida albicans) normally confined to the lower bowels, the vagina, and the skin. In healthy individuals with strong, functioning immune systems, it is harmless and kept in check by “good” bacteria, called probiotics like acidophilus and bifidobacteria. But if the balance of the intestinal environment is altered by a compromised immune system or other factors, then opportunistic candida grows in the intestine or can infect other body tissues. The candida becomes pathogenic, transforming from a simple yeast into an aggressive (mycelial) fungus that can compromise one’s health. This condition is known as candidiasis.
Candidiasis can affect areas of the body far removed from candida colonizations in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina. Its symptoms cover a broad spectrum and the condition can cause a number of diseases ranging from allergies, vaginitis and thrush (a whitish fungus in the mouth or vagina), to an invasion of the genital-urinary tract, eyes, liver, heart, or central nervous system. Common symptoms of candidiasis include digestive problems such as bloating, cramping; wheezing, earaches, generalized fatigue, poor concentration and loss of libido.
The likely candidate for candida overgrowth is someone whose medical history includes: prolonged or repeated use of antibiotics which are frequently given for urinary and ear infections, sinusitis, bronchitis, and other infections; steroid hormone medication such as cortisone or corticosteroids, often prescribed for skin conditions such as rashes, eczema, or psoriasis; acid blocking medication (such as Nexium and Cimitidine); stress, high sugar intake and oral contraceptives. Certain illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, and AIDS can also increase susceptibility to candida overgrowth. High carbohydrate diets can also upset the intestinal flora balance.
Antibiotics, life-saving cures for many diseases, may be the single greatest cause of candidiasis, because antibiotic treatment for infections is nondiscriminatory, killing the “good” intestinal chemistry-balancing bacteria, as well as the “bad” infection-causing bacteria.
The good bacteria strains are called acidophilous and bifidobacteria. They produce natural antifungal substances (as well as antibacterial materials) as part of their control mechanism over yeast. One of the activities of “good” bacteria is the manufacture of a B vitamin, biotin, which exerts control over yeast. When biotin is lacking, as a result of damage by antibiotics to the good bacteria, yeast has a chance to change from its simple yeast form into a different organism, and encroaching mycelial (vegetative) fungus.
LEAKY GUT / INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY
Antibiotics can cause the altered imbalanced intestinal environment that candida requires to change into its fungal form. Candida then puts down tiny rootlets which penetrate the tissues on which the yeast is growing. When this happens to be the inner wall of the intestine, it breaks down the barrier which exists between the closed world of the bowel and the body. Toxic debris, yeast waste products, and partially digested proteins are allowed into the bloodstream, resulting in allergic and toxic reactions. Healthy bifidobacteria and acidophilus intestinal colonies can usually withstand one or two short episodes of antibiotics without serious harm. If, however, use of antibiotics is frequent or prolonged (as with a course for acne treatment or/and infections), then the spread of candida becomes inevitable.
DIET AND CHRONIC CANDIDIASIS
A number of dietary factors appear to promote the overgrowth of candida. The most important factor is a high intake of sugar and carbohydrates, foods containing a high content of yeast or mold.
DIAGNOSIS OF THE YEAST SYNDROME
The best method for diagnosing chronic candidiasis is clinical evaluation by a physician knowledgeable about yeast-related illness. More than likely, the manner in which the doctor will diagnose the yeast syndrome will be based on clinical judgement from a detailed medical history. Vega testing is an additional tool that has proven to be an effective method of assessing candida overgrowth and monitoring the program of a candida elimination program.
Successful treatment of candidiasis first requires the reduction of factors which predispose a patient to candida overgrowth. Secondly, the patient’s immune function must be strengthened. Diet, nutritional supplements, herbal medicine, and yeast killers are some of the choices physicians use to accomplish these ends. A program will be tailored to your individual health needs.
SYMPTOMS OF CANDIDIASIS
There is a wide array of candidiasis symptoms depending on an individual’s age, sex, environmental exposure, and immune systems. These include (but are not limited to):
fatigue, especially after eating
depression &/or mood swings
memory loss, poor concentration
recurrent fungal infections such as “jock itch,” athlete’s foot, or ringworm
recurrent infections: vaginal, urinary, ear, etc.
premenstrual syndrome and hormonal problems
sensitivity to chemicals, perfumes, smoke, or other odors
a feeling of being lightheaded or drunk after minimal wine, beer, or certain foods
Sinus congestion and infections
50% of people with chronic sinus problems have fungal overgrowth harbouring in the sinuses.
These symptoms may worsen in moldy places (such as basements) or in damp climates, and after eating or drinking foods containing sugar.
If this sounds like the care that you’re seeking, we’d love to hear from you.
You can book a complimentary 15-minute “meet-the-doctor” visit anytime by calling the clinic. You’ll be able to ask questions, find out how we can help, and see if there’s a comfortable fit with your naturopath.
Book an appointment with Dr Macdonald by emailing us or calling (250) 897-0235
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The Macdonald Centre for Natural Medicine
448 10th Street Courtenay, B.C.