Have you ever wondered if there is an eczema-thyroid connection? If you suffer from either eczema or a thyroid disorder, you are probably aware that they are by instinct. When you are trying to help your clients with thyroid disorders, it is important to recognize that thyroid disease is truly a multi-system disease, including the skin.
As both practitioners and prior sufferers ourselves, we are able to share with you some unique perspectives about how to help both thyroid disorders and skin problems at the same time. The eczema journey can lead you into countless hours of search and research to find some hope and relief! We will break some of that down for you here.
When you see a skin condition like eczema, there is always something much deeper going on.
In the simplest of definitions, eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that is due to dryness. Underneath this, all can be a brewing hormonal, nutritional, and digestive current of imbalance. This imbalance can be modified by thinking of it and managing it from a thyroid perspective.
The Thyroid Gland and Your Skin
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, signs of thyroid hormone imbalances as they relate to the skin include: “dry, pale, and cool skin, dry skin with deep cracks and scale, deep, noticeable lines on your palms and soles, slow-healing wounds, flushing in your face, rashes, reddish spots that come and go, scaly, and discolored skin.”
Sound anything like eczema to you? Yes, to me too.
You see, our skin is like a window to our internal health. When we have signals of imbalance on the outside, you will certainly find an imbalance on the inside. Meaning problems with digestive health, adequate absorption of nutrients, presence of antibodies, poor immunity, and more. Healthy skin will look resilient, soft, hydrated, and nourished from the inside.
People with hypothyroidism and other thyroid disorders may also have common dermatological changes in hair and nails. This includes dry, brittle hair and nails, dull lifeless hair, hair loss, cracked nails, and more [R, R].
Both eczema and low thyroid hormone are increasing in numbers too. This has to be about our food, our environment, our stress, and how our genes respond to all of these things. The good news is this: these are all controllable factors: how empowering for you and your clients.
Thyroid Hormone and Skin Manifestations
As it turns out over 70% of people with hypothyroid have dry skin, according to research [R]. Dry skin and eczema will be a telltale sign of thyroid disease, in other words.
Don’t just assume if you live in a dry climate that your skin should be dry and eczema ridden.
The thyroid gland determines whether or not new skin cells are produced. While low thyroid often reduces skin turnover, there is also often redness due to autoimmune conditions as well.
Nutrients are integral to both thyroid health and skin health. In fact, the skin and thyroid both really reflect all nutrients. There are 7 are particularly important nutrients, including vitamin A, omega 3 fatty acids, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin C, and all the B vitamins.
As a perfect example, vitamin D is central to hormones and balance in these hormones, including parathyroid hormone, thyroid hormone, insulin, calcitriol, and so much more [R].
Healthy skin and nutrients mean a healthy thyroid!
If there is a topic near to my heart, it is eczema. Anyone who has had it know that it disrupts everything in your life and it’s not just a little rash. If anyone says its a minor issue, they have never had it.
For me, my whole face and chest were covered with it eczema, along with my lower legs, my hands, and my forearms; basically my whole body. I couldn’t sleep due to the itch, the pain. I couldn’t function well because I was tired.
This is not even to mention how embarrassing my appearance was and how difficult it was to work. I swear that the inflammation was also making me anxious and sad. It was a very rough period.
The Silent Swollen Thyroid
I was so focused on all of the discomfort of all of these things that I didn’t even notice my thyroid was swollen until I visited with my naturopath. This wasn’t the first time in my life that my thyroid silently but surely was affecting me!
Little by little, over the course of 6 months, my eczema all but disappeared using a functional nutrition approach and with the help of my naturopath and dermatologist. It also took a lot of digging into the research on my part! My thyroid tissue is also calmed down too.
Here are the things that helped my thyroid and my eczema heal together. The eczema thyroid connections are close if you pay attention to the body’s signals. Here, I will talk about vitamins for eczema sufferers as well as some healing foods.
The Thyroid Iron Connection
Heavy periods have vexed me from age 13 to age 45. Does this take a toll on iron? 100% yes.
So many people have told me to “just eat some red meat.” I laughed with my naturopath about this one: I would have to sit down and eat a bucket of meat every day to be enough iron!
My naturopath, Dr. Margaret Coffey at a local clinic called Natura, wisely suggested that we try to slow down my period with herbs along with getting iron in my body. That way, my iron “tank” didn’t drop critically low each month, only to barely rise again for my next period.
I take Slow Flow when my period hits. It’s an herbal combination specifically designed to help reduce heavy periods. No research out there really, but let me tell you, it works for me. Slow Flow does have some key components that do have research, however, such as vitamin A.
Another issue I had: I couldn’t tolerate iron! With a course of GI Repair powder, my body wasn’t yelling at me anymore when I tried to take iron.
How does low iron affect the thyroid and eczema?
Iron is involved in the circulation and oxygenation of tissues as well as the energy of each cell. Iron also helps the body have proper ratios of T3 to reverse T3 and T4. When your thyroid is imbalanced or you have hypothyroid, the oxygenation of your skin is reduced, making it more likely to be dry and have eczema.
While I started taking vitamin A to support the healing of the skin, it had another very surprising effect: it has lightened up my periods too! How do I know this? One month, I was hiking and didn’t remember to bring the Slow Flow with me. My period was still much lighter than it used to be.
I wasn’t taking carotene for my vitamin A. Why?
I have genes that make it so my body doesn’t use plant sources of vitamin A well. If you haven’t had your genes tested for this, I highly recommend you do, especially if you get heavy periods or eczema.
Taking active vitamin A, or retinyl palmitate didn’t work overnight for my skin, but slowly I did notice that my skin is more resilient. A couple of research studies were done early on to show how effective vitamin A is in reducing blood loss [R].
I’m taking more than the RDA too. Why?
Do you think 30 years of heavy periods depletes you of just about everything? Yes.
And vitamin A is a big one according to some research done a long time ago. Seriously, if I had all the money in the world I would conduct a research project on this one today to help women like me all over the world.
Does Vitamin A Help Thyroid Function?
Yes. In a recent, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, supplemental retinyl palmitate over 4 months reduced TSH in premenopausal women [R]. Active vitamin A is involved in the regulation of thyroid hormone metabolism and TSH.
Vitamin A may also reduce the rate of instances of goiter well [R].
Perhaps my favorite of all my remedies for eczema so far is medicinal mushrooms, including reishi and Chaga. Within 2 weeks of having some of these every day in my diet, my eczema itch and symptoms all but disappeared.
This is the step that has possibly made the biggest difference in my eczema. Mushrooms are good for so many health benefits, so you have nothing to lose giving it a try. Our favorite brand to use is Medicinal Foods.
Removing Mercury and Nickel
Mercury has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and our thyroids at risk for damage from heavy metals [R].
My body was screaming at me that it doesn’t like them. How do I know this? I would be wearing a pair of pants with a button and my skin would flare. Earrings? Forget it. Never can wear them. This decision was a big one for me: time to get my amalgam fillings out.
While I can’t say for sure that this is a big one in helping me heal from eczema and thyroid conditions since I did have them taken out, the last little nagging itchy spots are finally completely calmed down; so has my thyroid.
I also added daily cilantro and Chlorella for a month to help gently remove heavy metals from my body.
I followed an elimination diet as well, which may have helped. When I added back foods, it seemed like I was reacting to peanuts and maybe dairy. But here’s the thing I reacted to most: eating a lot of ANYTHING.
Moderation in my diet seems to be key. And no gluten or alcohol ever. One glass of wine or a cocktail will make me instantly itch.
All scented products, even natural ones, had to go. My skin became hypersensitive to them, so they simply weren’t worth the risk.
Unscented salves and lotions are a good friend of mine. Contrary to popular belief, the use of coconut oil topically can be drying, so I avoid it, using lotions with olive oil, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and urea instead.
Sauerkraut has become my best friend. The probiotics in fresh and raw sauerkraut are so great and my body craves this.
I feel sauerkraut was another cornerstone of the healing process of my gut and my thyroid as well as my eczema. To this day, I make sure to have at least 2 big spoonfuls a day.
Kelly’s Eczema Story
My eczema symptoms started when I was finishing up my last semester in graduate school. My final capstone project was writing a thesis and I got a late start because my computer crashed during my first deadline. I was scrambling to get ahead but I was also in jeopardy of not graduating on time.
The constant stress of weekly meetings with my professors, writing, editing, left me frazzled. My stress was so bad that I was not eating, sleeping or exercising, yet I continued to burn the candle from both ends trying to meet the deadlines.
Unfortunately, I missed my deadline for submitting my thesis therefore, I could not present my thesis with the rest of my class. The final big stressor was presenting my thesis alone with just my two professors. Finally, my thesis was accepted a week before graduation.
My eczema started during my last semester of grad school, but I was too busy to do anything about it. I started noticing a small rash on my neck, that burned when I took a shower.
The rash was the size of a small child’s fist, scaly, red, and raw. The dermatologist determined it was stress related but was quick to give me a steroid lotion.
I was curious about asking the doctor if the rash was due to something that I ate. She said it could be a variety of reasons but not food, I continued with steroid lotion for over 6 months and still had flare-ups frequently.
I was determined to do my own research on what the cause of this burning eczema. What I found was interesting. Skin conditions like eczema normally do not react quickly to food just eaten. It’s more like a slow build which means a rash can pop up and can make itself known at any time.
There are over 100 varieties of eczema and psoriasis.
Eczema and Toxins
Where do mystery rashes stem from? Your liver. Toxins and viruses like Epstein Barr Viruses disrupt the liver and make it sluggish causing the build-up to causes skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis [R].
The most common dermatitis is called classic dermatitis which feeds on deposits of aluminum, copper, and pesticides inside your liver causing dry skin, dandruff, or itchy irritated skin [R].
Eczema thyroid connections with Epstein Bar Virus (EBV)
I finally got rid of my eczema after a year of drinking celery juice. Having researched all homeopathic options I was open to trying different remedies to get rid of my eczema. I then came across Anthony Williams’s book on celery juice entitled Medical Medium Celery Juice: The Most Powerful Medicine of Our Time Healing Millions Worldwide.
After incorporating celery juice into my diet I found it was the only thing that helped to get rid of my eczema! I drank the recommended 16 ounces every morning before my workout.
Now each morning I crave the taste of celery juice and it gets me up going in the morning.
Vitamin C and Liver Health
Research has found that vitamin C in celery helps restore the liver’s immune system to help fight off any viral load of toxins in your system [R].
Celery juice flushes out mercury based-toxins that reside in the small intestinal tract. The sodium clusters in the celery juice minimize the viral load inside the intestines and start to clear up eczema. Also eliminating eggs, dairy, and gluten (all foods that feed EBV) can speed up the healing process [R].
You can find out more about how gluten affects the thyroid here.
Nutrients in Celery Juice
Researchers agree that celery juice is loaded with magnesium, calcium, potassium, protein, beta carotene, and vitamins A, B6, C, and K and can reduce inflammation.
Can it cure eczema or prevent flare-ups? The evidence for celery shows antioxidant properties is limited to animal studies. A review of the literature shows celery plants do have powerful antioxidant properties showing [R].
Researchers say no. However, it worked for me.
There is evidence of the prevalence of eczema among those with thyroid conditions. Like thyroid conditions, eczema is triggered by diet, allergen exposure, stress, and irritants [R]. While these are personal accounts of what worked for Heidi and Kelly it may be another avenue to look into when dealing with these symptoms among your clients.