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Can A Healthy Gut Reverse Eczema Flares in Winter?

By Skye Sherman  •   November 20, 2023
•    Medically Reviewed By Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Jan 19, 2024

Photo Credit: by freepik.com
Photo Credit: by freepik.com

Your stomach and your skin might be the last two organs you would expect to be connected, but there is something called the gut-skin axis and the truth is that your gut balance can be a major determining factor in your skin health.

People who suffer from eczema know that winter is a time when they can expect unsightly and uncomfortable flare-ups. There are various reasons for this, which we will examine in further detail below. Still, eczema can crop up at any time of year.

Eczema is a chronic skin condition also known as atopic dermatitis, and it is very common, affecting millions of people around the world. It is characterized by dry, itchy, inflamed skin and sometimes painful rashes, and these can pop up with more frequency and become difficult to manage as the weather turns colder.

We’ll also take a look at the role your gut plays in eczema and other skin conditions so you can take action to avoid flare-ups as much as possible.

What you eat (and don’t eat), how you spend your days, and even what you think about can all affect your gut health. Read on to learn more about how to combat eczema flares during winter and beyond by keeping a healthy gut.

What triggers eczema flare-ups in winter?

While eczema is not necessarily a seasonal disease, many individuals experience more severe symptoms during the winter months. Winter’s colder, drier air coupled with indoor heating can wreak havoc on the skin, making eczema symptoms worse.

Several factors contribute to the winter eczema issue, including:

Low humidity: Cold air holds less moisture, leading to lower humidity levels, and this dry air can sap moisture from the skin, making it more susceptible to irritation and inflammation.

Indoor heating: Central heating systems used to combat the winter chill may also have the undesired effect of drying out your indoor environment, which can spell disaster for your parched skin.

The National Eczema Society explains it this way: “Central heating may keep us warm and snug but it also strips moisture from the air. Placing a bowl of water near radiators can help to offset this drying effect and minimize the impact on your skin. Equally, it’s important not to sit too close to a heat source and to ensure instead that the whole room is warm, supplementing this with additional clothing or blankets as required.”

Hot showers: There’s nothing better than heating up with a hot shower or bath to combat the winter chill, but water that’s too hot can strip the skin of its natural oils, worsening eczema symptoms.

Heavy clothing: Wearing heavy clothing can trap sweat and moisture against the skin, leading to increased itching and discomfort.

Closed windows: You might not want to open your windows in winter, but the National Eczema Society says that “failing to air rooms properly means that house dust mites – whose droppings are a common trigger for those with eczema – have the perfect conditions in which to thrive.” Inadequate ventilation and a lack of fresh air can also lead to mold growth, another eczema trigger.

Plus, keeping your windows closed can make your home stuffy, and the National Eczema Society explains that a home that’s less fresh and clean than normal can be a trigger: “It’s important to be even more vigilant around dust and other indoor allergens than normal. Damp dust hard surfaces, establish a regular vacuum-cleaning routine that includes carpets, rugs, mattresses, curtains and other soft furnishings, and make a note if something needs an additional deep clean, either by yourself or a specialist company.”

Weakened immune response: Some studies suggest that the immune system may become more susceptible to overreacting in cold and dry conditions, contributing to eczema flares.

However, recent research suggests that a healthy gut may play a crucial role in mitigating eczema flares, even during the harshest winter conditions.

What is the connection between gut health and eczema?

Research suggests that a balanced gut microbiome can potentially help reverse eczema flares in winter. This is because the gastrointestinal system is home to trillions of microorganisms collectively known as the gut microbiome and these bacteria play a vital role in regulating immune responses, inflammation, and overall health. Deficiencies of certain beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium in the gut can exacerbate this issue and the immune system responds by ramping up inflammation which leads to the itchy inflamed skin seen in eczema flare ups. Can Mixed Strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium Reduce Eczema in Infants under Three Years of Age? A Meta-Analysis

As Medical News Today explains it, “The link between eczema and gut health lies in the gut-skin axis, which refers to the way intestinal flora influence the microbes that live on the skin. Scientists are not sure how this works but believe that an imbalanced microbiome may play a role in the inflammation and immune response that causes eczema.”

It is well-established that imbalances in the gut microbiome can lead to systemic inflammation, which can, in turn, exacerbate skin conditions (including eczema).

In fact, some studies suggest that individuals with eczema often have an altered gut microbiome compared to those without the condition; their gut microbiome tends to be less diverse and may have an overgrowth of certain harmful bacteria or lower levels of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Faecalibacterium, which can result in imbalances that impact overall health, plus increased disease severity and inflammation in the skin.

How to balance your gut health and avoid winter eczema

If you are able to balance your gut health, you can expect to experience results like a more regulated immune system, control of your inflammation, a stronger skin barrier against irritants, and decreased sensitivity to allergens.

But how exactly can you do so? Some steps people can take to support a healthy gut and potentially reverse eczema flares during winter include:

First and foremost is with dietary changes: Consuming foods rich in plant-based fibers such as asparagus, broccoli, red onions and artichokes for example feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut and the more of these bacteria are present, the healthier the gut is and the less likely our immune system reacts with inflammatory causing eczema. Fermented foods such as kimchi sauerkraut, as well as foods like yogurts and kefir can also make your gut healthier.

Supplements, probiotics, and prebiotics: Start with a good routine of probiotics and prebiotics, which support a healthy gut microbiome and may help reduce eczema symptoms and improve skin barrier function. You can supplement a healthy diet with a good routine of probiotics which can help support a healthy gut microbiome and may help reduce eczema symptoms and improve skin barrier function. Consult with a healthcare professional to find the right probiotic strain for your needs.

Hydration: As with many health conditions, hydration is key! Staying well-hydrated helps maintain skin moisture and can mitigate the drying effects of winter on the skin.

Dietary changes: Another way to combat eczema flares in winter through the gut is dietary interventions. If you change what you eat (and avoid), your gut makeup will change. Incorporate a balanced diet rich in fiber, whole foods, and probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi, which can help replenish beneficial gut bacteria. Foods rich in prebiotics, such as garlic, onions, and leeks, can also help nourish the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Medical News Today reports, “Making changes that promote a healthy microbiome, such as eating a plant-based and anti-inflammatory diet, may help some people with their symptoms. However, more research is necessary to understand how the microbiome may be relevant to eczema treatment.”

Lifestyle stressors: Believe it or not, living a high-stress lifestyle can affect not only your mental health but also your gut health and even your skin health! If you’ve ever had an acne breakout caused by stress, you know this to be true. If you live with high levels of stress, make some changes or incorporate stress-reduction strategies like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises. And remember, stress can also shorten your life!

Avoid your triggers: If there are specific foods, fragrances, or allergens that trigger your eczema, do everything in your power to avoid or limit your exposure to them. It might be worth keeping a food journal to see which foods your gut may not tolerate.

See your doctor: A healthcare professional or dermatologist can make personalized recommendations and prescribe specific courses of treatment. A doctor will be able to recommend if your situation requires a prescription eczema medication like Opzelura or Elidel.

You deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin no matter the season. Take the proper steps to nourish your belly and your biggest organ (your skin) and you can expect better eczema outcomes all year long, even throughout the harshest winters.



The purpose of the above content is to raise awareness only and does not advocate treatment or diagnosis. This information should not be substituted for your physician's consultation and it should not indicate that use of the drug is safe and suitable for you or your (pet). Seek professional medical advice and treatment if you have any questions or concerns.