The largest organ in the human body, skin serves as the crucial mediator between the inner body and the external environment and reflects the status of the body's internal health. Although surface irritants can be the source of skin problems, many skin conditions are actually systemic in origin, and thus may be effectively treated by correcting physiological imbalances within the body.
The common lay term "rash" is loosely used to signify any number of skin disorders characterized by itchy, red, irritated skin eruptions, including dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and urticaria (hives). Other common skin problems include acne, keratosis (hardening of the skin), canker sores, premature aging, and dryness.
The following functional tests can offer important information that could uncover the trigger for skin problems :
Allergy and Skin Problems: One of the most common causes of dermatitis and eczema is sensitivity to food and/or environmental allergens. Experts estimate that late atopic dermatitis (eczema triggered by allergic reaction) comprises roughly 30% of all skin disorder cases..1 In fact, skin rashes such as eczema and urticaria are among the most common symptoms of food allergy. 2
Essential Fatty Acids and Skin Poroblems: Dry, itchy, scaly skin is a hallmark sign of essential fatty acid deficiency. Because eicosanoids are involved in the inflammatory skin reactions commonly seen in dermatitis and psoriasis, researchers believe that they may hold the key for successful treatment of many skin disorders.3-4.
Numerous studies have revealed clinical imbalances of specific essential fatty acids associated with a variety of skin problems. A common pattern of fatty acid imbalance seen in atopic eczema is elevated linoleic acid, accompanied by low levels of its highly unsaturated metabolites dihomogamma linolenic and arachidonic acid.5-6.
Different types of fatty acid therapy have been associated with clinical improvement in atopic dermatitis, seborrhea, and eczema, with clinical scores linked directly to a rise in the levels of specific fatty acids. 7-8 Many practitioners also use fatty acid therapy as a powerful means of improving skin condition in patients with no overt skin disorders.
Mineral and Toxic Element Analysis and Skin Problems: Nutritional imbalances are very common in people with skin and nail disorders.9 Zinc deficiency changes the collagen structure fiber and both moderate and severe zinc deficiencies can be expressed as roughened skin or dermatitis, respectively. 10-11.
Skin irritations may directly result as these toxins permeate the cutaneous layer, and/or the toxins themselves may provoke skin problems even before that. Nickel for instance can cause chronic exzema.12 Larger concentrations of cobalt may also cause skin problems. 13 Mineral and toxic element analysis from urine or hair can give us the picture of the toxic metal body burden and mineral status.
1 Langeveld-Wildschut EG, van Ginkel CJ, Koers WJ, de Maat-Bleeker F, Felisu A, Bruijnzeel-Koomen CA. Immunology in medical practice. V. Constitutional eczema. [Dutch] Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd 1997;141(43):2055-2061.
2 Le Sellin J. Clinical signs of food allergy [French]. Allerg Immunol 1997;29 Spec No:11-14.
1 Berbis P, Hesse S, Privat Y. Essential fatty acids and the skin [French]. Allerg Immunol 1990;22(6):225-231.
2 Ruzicka T. The physiology and pathophysiology of eicosanoids in the skin. Eicosanoids 1988;1(2):59-72.
3 Lindskov R, Holmer G. Polyunsaturated fatty acids in plasma, red blood cells and mononuclear cell phospholipids of patients with atopic dermatitis. Allergy 1992;47(5):517-521.
4 Wright S, Sanders TZ. Adipose tissue essential fatty acid composition in patients with atopic eczema. Eur J Clin Nutr 1991;45(10):510-505
5 Biagi PL, Bordoni A, Hrelia S, Celadon M, Ricci GP, Cannella V, Patrizi A, et. al. The effect of gamma-linolenic acid on clinical status, red cell fatty acid composition and membrane microviscosity in infants with atopic dermatitis. Drugs Exp Clin Res 1994;20(2):77-84.
6 Tollesson A, Frithz A, Berg A, Kalrman G. Essential fatty acids in infantile seborrheic dermatitis. J Am Acad Dermatol 1993;28(6):957-961.
7 Andreassi M, Forleo P, Di Lorio Z, Masci S, Abate G, Amerio P. Efficacy of gamma-linolenic acid in the treatment of patients with atopic dermatitis. J Int Med Res 1997;25(5):266-274.
8 Schalin-Karrila M, Mattila L, Jansen CT, Uotila P. Evening primrose oil in the treatment of atopic eczema: effect on clinical status, plasma phospholipid fatty acids and circulating blood prostaglandins. Br J Dermatol 1987;117(1):11-19.
9 Morse PF, Horrobin DF, Manku MS, Stewart JC, Allen R, et. al. Meta-analysis of placebo-controlled studis of the efficacy of Epogam in the treatment of atopic eczema. Relationship between plasma essential fatty acid changes and clinical response. Br J Dermatol 1989;121(1):75-90.
10 Sato S. Iron deficiency: structural and microchemical changes in hair, nails, and skin. Semin Dermatol 1991;10(4):313-319.
11 Prasad AS. Clinical, endocrinological and biochemical effects of zinc deficiency. Clin Endocrinol Metab 1985;14(3):567-589.
12 Serrano Ortega S, Aneiros Cachaza J, Tovar IV, Feijoo MF. Zinc deficiency dermatitis in parenteral nutrition: an electron-microscopic study. Dermatologica 1985;171(3):163-169.
13 Bresser H. Oral nickel provocation and a nickel-free diet. Hautarzt 1992;43(10):610-615.