We wanted to know more about the root cause of seborrheic dermatitis, as more and more children are affected by it. We asked our health expert Karen Ranzi, M.A. for more insight on what could be the cause and ways to eliminate and/or improve the condition:
Seborrheic dermatitis (also known as “seborrheic eczema”) is an inflammatory skin disorder affecting the scalp, face, and torso. Typically, seborrheic dermatitis presents with scaly, flaky, itchy and red skin. It particularly affects the sebaceous-gland-rich areas of skin. In adolescents and adults, seborrheic dermatitis usually presents as scalp scaling similar to dandruff or as mild to marked erythema of the nasolabial fold.1
Seborrhea is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that affects the areas of the head and trunk where sebaceous glands are located. A type of yeast that has an affinity for these glands called Pityrosporum ovale may be the cause, but this has not been proven yet. It is believed that the buildup of yeast in these glands irritates the skin, causing redness and flaking. Seborrhea is more common in men than women and affects 3 percent of the general population.2
Each year, about 70 percent of Americans are affected by some type of skin allergy.6 The most common allergens are poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Other common substances that trigger skin allergies include construction materials used to build homes and offices, cleaning products, deodorants, cosmetics and medications. Dermatitis of the earlobes can be caused by an allergy to earrings containing nickel. Chemicals in fragrances, skin creams and lotions, shampoos and shoes or clothing also can cause allergic reactions.6
Proper hygiene plays an important role in treatment. Frequent washing gets rid of the oils in the affected areas and diminishes symptoms. Sunlight inhibits the growth of the yeast; therefore exposure of affected areas to sun is helpful, although caution should be exercised to avoid sun damage.2
It’s best not to clean the face with anything but water when bathing: lukewarm-to-cool water, not cold and not warm, and never hot. It’s important not to scrub or scour the face but instead to gently rub off any flaking with the fingertips. One should take time in the shower, rubbing for approximately 10 minutes under the streaming water.3
Essential Fatty Acids
Several studies have pointed out essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency in individuals with atopic dermatitis. Researchers have hypothesized that a direct way to relieve symptoms may be to give dietary supplementation of GLA, concentrated in borage oil. Several studies have investigated the effect of borage oil supplementation on the symptoms and biochemistry associated with atopic dermatitis. One study reported significant and progressive improvement in itching, blistering, redness and oozing, with no change in dryness or scaling. The study also reported large, significant reductions in the need for antihistamines, steroid medications, and antibiotics for infections of skin lesions.7
Borage and Evening Primrose Oils could be palliative but wouldn’t reverse the condition.
Caprylic Acid To Treat Seborrheid Dermatitis
Some have found caprylic acid to be helpful with bouts of seborrheic dermatitis. It is known to be anti-microbial, reducing systemic yeast overgrowth, which results in yeast infections of the skin. However, we need to look at the cause of the problem, which is almost always intestinal in nature.
Through research and observation, I have found those with suppressed immune systems are more susceptible to conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis. Those having previously taken doses of antibiotics are at greater risk since antibiotics kill both the good and bad intestinal bacteria. A yeast, Malassezia, which is a fungus, has been implicated in seborrheic dermatitis.4 Anti-fungal treatments have shown some temporary success in treatment but they are only curative and never eliminate the CAUSE of the problem.
Diet, Food Allergies and Seborrheid Dermatitis
Dietary changes are most often successful because they address the root of the problem. The cause of seborrheic dermatitis and the cure of the condition are dependent on dietary and lifestyle changes. Eliminating refined sugars and white flour, which both feed yeasts, would be a first step.
When trying to determine what their child is allergic to, parents often incorrectly assume that if he has eaten a food before and not had problems, then he probably is not allergic to that food. They usually only suspect new foods as being able to cause food allergies. However, it is important to keep in mind that it takes time for the immune system to build up a reaction against something that the body is allergic to. It may take days, weeks, months or even years to build up enough of a response to cause noticeable symptoms. So your child may be allergic to a food even if he has eaten it many times before, without problems.5
A primary step should be to eliminate the main food challenges, as there is a strong proven link between the yeast Candida Albicans and skin issues. The benefits of switching to more healthful eating, abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables is evidence that the main cause and cure for seborrheic dermatitis lie in the digestive tract.
Major Food Allergens
The majority of medical complaints, including skin problems, such as seborrheic dermatitis, would be resolved when we eliminate the main allergens: wheat (gluten), dairy, peanuts, soy, yeast, eggs, and antibiotic-containing meats. Gluten is found in almost all processed foods. These allergens are the main culprits. There are the rare sensitivities to citrus fruits and bananas, but this is usually benign. I always recommend first eliminating the major allergens.
Over time, eating the highly allergenic foods, many individuals experience subtle increases in chronic inflammation and irritation to the digestive tract. Forty percent of the population displays gluten intolerance.8 Gluten will affect the intestinal flora of a person who is sensitive to it.
In addition to gluten in food, it’s also found in some vitamin supplements, shampoos, and sunscreens.
Leaky Gut Syndrome
We can develop allergic reactions by having an already-weakened immune response or “leaky gut syndrome” (thinning and damaged small intestinal walls that leak toxins into the bloodstream). In a vicious cycle, allergens in our food or medications continue wearing away the gastrointestinal tract, allowing more and more toxicity and undigested protein molecules to circulate. Our body’s natural response is to produce extra white blood cells, releasing more histamine; eventually inflammation develops as a safety mechanism.9
Candida Growth and Probiotics
Probiotic usage has been extremely useful in the healing of Candida issues, which cause seborrheic dermatitis.
“Everyone’s body is host to Candida. Candida is a type of yeast. Candida is normally kept under control by good health and probiotics. However, Candida overgrowth can occur when the system is challenged or altered. The use of antibiotics can reduce the ability of probiotics to keep Candida at bay. Also, the over consumption of yeast-feeding foods such as simple carbohydrates, sugars, peanuts, alcohol and milk products can encourage Candida growth.”10
Some personal care products you are using may be making things worse. If they contain synthetic chemicals (i.e. parabens), the ingredients can provoke a response in the skin or make the skin drier. Switching to a natural or certified organic product for sensitive skin could make a significant difference.6
Seborrheic dermatitis is a skin condition. The skin cells are directly connected with the large intestine, therefore problems with the skin are linked to digestion, issues with stomach acids and gut imbalances. Children exhibiting this skin disorder do well to eat greater amounts of fruits and vegetables, while eliminating the major allergenic foods. Children who spend time outdoors in the sunshine and sleep in well-ventilated rooms also experience improvement.
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SAFbaby Health Expert Adviser, Karen Ranzi, M.A.
Vibrant health author and lecturer, Karen Ranzi, M.A. has published her book, Creating Healthy Children. Karen has traveled widely, spreading the word about the power of plant-based nutrition for families. She has been interviewed on radio and TV, recently on talk shows of the Gary Null Progressive Radio Network. Karen has received enthusiastic audiences for her wellness workshops at the University of South Carolina, Penn State University and Ramapo College.
Karen is a writer for Get Fresh!, Vibrance, Super Sustainable Life, and Green Child Magazines. Karen is also a speech therapist specializing with autistic children since 2002. In addition to speech and language improvement, she has also helped her students to improve their health. For more information, visitSuperhealthychildren.com