The skin plays an extremely important role in the body as a protective layer from bacteria, as a body temperature regulator, a sensory organ and an organ of elimination. Unfortunately, many people will suffer from a skin condition at some point in their life, whether in a mild form or much worse. Eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, rosacea and acne are just some of these conditions that can range from irritating to severely debilitating and distressing to the individual. They may impact so much on the person’s life that they create further health issues such as social isolation, anxiety and depression. Put simply, these conditions are signs that your body is inflamed. So rather than applying chemically-potent creams & lotions on the skin, we need to identify what is wrong or out of balance inside your body and resolve that. There is a direct connection between the health of the gut, immune system and skin. If the skin is inflamed, the gut is generally in a state of inflammation and therefore dysfunction. To heal the skin we must address the gut and immune system. 

Young Asian woman with clean healthy glowing skin in white top isolated on beige background. Facial skin care concept, spa, cosmetology, plastic surgery.

Functions of the skin

Holds fluid in and prevents dehydration

  • Helps you feel sensations, such as temperature and pain
  • Acts as a protective layer to keep out bacteria, viruses and other causes if infection
  • Stabilises your body temperature
  • Creates Vitamin D in response to sun exposure
  • Is a large detoxifying organ, that helps eliminate toxins

What causes skin diseases?

Certain lifestyle factors can lead to the development of a skin disease. Underlying health conditions may affect your skin too.

Some common causes:

  • Contact with environmental triggers, such as allergens and food intolerances
  • Diabetes and reactions to insulin spikes (eg. such as occurs with acne)
  • Fungus or parasites living on your skin
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Conditions that affect your thyroid, kidneys or immune system
  • Genetics
  • Medications, such as the ones that treat IBD
  • Viruses
  • Sun damage

Two major health issues impact our immunity

Leaky gut or increased intestinal permeability:

Leaky gut creates low-grade inflammation as a reaction to undigested particles leaking through unhealthy gut walls. This results in food sensitivities, in particular gluten and dairy, but can also trigger other health problems. Fatigue, headaches, allergies, irritable bowel (IBS), poor concentration, acne, depression, sinus issues, joint pain, reflux and autoimmune diseases are all commonly linked with leaky gut.

Abnormal gut flora (microbiome):

Gut dysbiosis or an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast will impact on good gut bugs and throw them out of balance. This is a common cause of eczema and dermatitis and can be eliminated by avoiding a high sugar, refined carb diet. It is also triggered by the over-use of antibiotics, steroids, HRT and birth control pills. Let’s not forget that chemicals in skin care, make-up, detergents and cleaning products can also trigger eczema and dermatitis. Since over 2/3rds of our immune system is located in the gut, many other culprits can affect the health of the gut. A number of small changes along the intestinal tract from multiple insults will over time compromise the healthiest immune system. For example, too many antibiotics, aspirin, reflux medications, stress, food sensitivities, infections and toxins will alter our ability to protect our body with a healthy immune response. Conventional drugs just mask the symptoms and can make the body more toxic. Dietary and lifestyle improvements offered by our experienced Adelaide naturopath can address the causes.

As Hippocrates stated many years ago, “Food is medicine”. The wrong food choices can make us sick. Sustaining and nourishing fresh food nurtures and heals, and can prevent and even cure disease. So, what is inflaming the gut? Processed, refined carbohydrates, sugar, flour, additives, preservatives, MSG, artificial sweeteners and trans-fats all act like poison in the gut and inflame the gut and cells, making them sick. We experience the sickness as pain, headaches, allergies, depression and fatigue and these inflammatory states can lead to increased gut dysfunction, weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. The right balanced diet will reduce inflammation, settle, rebalance and heal the gut, and provide the immune system with the boost it needs to perform well again. Skin conditions can be healed.



This is a dry, itchy skin condition that leads to swelling, cracking or scaliness. It typically appears symmetrically on the body and may start in the elbow flexures or behind the knees, then may progress to other parts of the body. It is seen commonly in young children with compromised immune systems, eg. They may have colic or tonsilitis when young. After treatment with antibiotics or other medications, the gut can be badly impacted, then some years later the skin can begin reacting. This often leads to food intolerances as well.

Causes of eczema

Immune system: when your immune system overreacts to allergens (triggers) in your environment, causing elevated histamine levels. The immune system’s defence is to create inflammation in both the gut and skin.

  • Genetics: often there is a history of eczema, dermatitis or elevated histamine in the family. People are also at higher risk if there is also a history of asthma, hay fever and/or food allergies or intolerances.
  • Environment: exposure to certain factors in the environment may result in initial reactivity. Such factors may include smoke, air pollutants, high pollen levels, cat dander, harsh soaps, fabrics like wool and some skin care products. Low humidity can cause skin to become dry and itchy. Heat and high humidity can cause sweating which can result in a flare up.
  • Emotional triggers: High levels of stress, anxiety and depression can also result in a flare up of eczema.
  • Food reactivity: Many sufferers of eczema also have a level of food intolerances, as this seems to be a part of the high histamine picture. A specific elimination diet will help to identify the food culprits and will allow a period of time to work on healing the gut and skin. This usually results in less reactivity to foods.


This is a common inflammatory skin condition that causes redness on your face, usually across the bridge of the nose and sometimes on the eyelids. Different presentations of rosacea can manifest with visible blood vessels (vascular), pimples, swelling, thickening of the skin and bumpy skin. Sometimes it can affect the eyes, causing them to feel irritated and bloodshot or watery. Eyes may become sensitive to light and painful bumps can form on the eyelids (styes). Rosacea can affect anyone, but commonly impacts women with fair skin. People are more likely to have rosacea in their 30’s and beyond. 

Symptoms of rosacea

Eye irritation: Eyes may become irritated and appear watery or bloodshot. Redness and swelling can occur and occasionally styes can form on the eyelids. Severe cases can result in damage of the cornea and vision loss.
Burning and stinging: These sensations may occur on your face, and itchiness or a feeling of tightness might also develop.
Dry appearance: The central facial skin across the bridge of the nose may be rough and appear very dry.
Plaques: Raised red patches (plaques) that look like a rash might develop without changes to the surrounding skin.
Skin thickening: Skin over the nose may thicken causing the nose to have a bulbous appearance.
Swelling: Facial swelling (edema) can occur independently or can accompany other signs of rosacea.

Triggers of rosacea

  • Sun exposure
  • Hot or cold temperatures
  • Stress
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Spicy foods
  • Skin or hair products (lotions, hairspray)
  • Hormonal changes
  • Microscopic skin mites: A natural, microscopic mite lives on the skin of the nose and cheeks. Too many of these mites may aggravate the skin.
  • An infection: The H Pylori bacteria can cause an infection. Rosacea has been diagnosed in conjunction with this bacterial infection.


This is a condition of the skin where excess sebum is formed in the pores of the skin, which can block follicles resulting in inflammation. Teenagers and young adults most often get acne, but it can also occur during adulthood for many people. Our experienced Adelaide naturopath has worked with this condition for years and has successfully treated many clients, by helping them balance an important hormone, called insulin, that regulates blood sugar. This is one of the major culprits behind the formation of hormonal acne. With the correct dietary advice, once again, the gut needs to be healed and then the skin will improve and the condition resolve. Cystic and nodular acne are more advanced and severe conditions as they can be quite painful.

Where can acne occur?

  • Face
  • Forehead
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Upper back

Symptoms of acne

Pimples: pus-filled bumps
Papules: can be red to purple in colour, or darker than your natural skin tone
Blackheads: pimples with a black top
Whiteheads: pimples with a white top
Nodules: large lumps under the skin which can be painful
Cysts: painful fluid filled lumps under the skin

Causes of acne

Diets high in sugar will dysregulate the hormone insulin and this is a great place to start. We can test for insulin imbalances and then take action to balance the diet.

  • There is a strong link with reactivity to dairy with regards to who is at risk for developing acne. A dairy free diet also helps to calm the gut and heal the skin.
  • The contraceptive pill can cause acne in some women.
  • During menstruation, acne can flare up as a result of increased levels of progesterone.
  • Stress can cause a flare up.
  • Family history. To reduce the risk of acne, eat a balanced diet that is high in fibre, found in fruit, vegetables and ground seeds, high quality protein sources and good quality fats. Avoid highly processed foods to create the right environment to heal the gut and skin.


Keratosis Pilaris is a common condition where small bumps develop on the skin, especially on the upper arms, legs or buttocks. The bumps may look red, brown or white, or they may look the same colour as your skin. This condition is harmless and typically fades by the age of 30. It results in dry, rough patches and tiny bumps and can reflect a diet deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin A. It is sometimes referred to as “chicken skin” because it looks like goose bumps. The condition is more common in babies, toddlers, children and teenagers, and it often worsens around puberty. There is a family tendency to develop Keratosis Pilaris. A person is also more likely to have it if they have fair skin, eczema, asthma, hypothyroidism, diabetes, Down’s Syndrome or obesity.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that causes itchiness and discomfort. It is characterised by scaly skin that may swell or feel hot or become inflamed, especially after stress. It is caused by an overactive immune system and sufferers often also complain of gut issues and major stress.

What part of the body does it affect?

Elbows and knees

  • Scalp
  • Face and inside of the mouth
  • Fingernails and toenails
  • Genitals
  • Lower back
  • Palms and feet

What is psoriatic arthritis?

This is a type of arthritis that causes joint pain and swelling. It is an autoimmune condition that causes your immune system to function abnormally and cause symptoms. About 1 in 3 people diagnosed with psoriasis will also develop arthritis due to inflammation. People of any age, sex or race can get psoriasis.

Causes of psoriasis

  • Emotional stress
  • A bacterial infection
  • A skin injury, like cuts, scrapes or surgery
  • Changes in body temperature due to the weather
  • Some medications, such as lithium and beta-blockers.


With the right diet, nutrients, stress management and consideration of toxin load, psoriasis can be treated. Often, people with psoriasis also have gut issues which need to be addressed as well. UV light therapy is also a useful strategy.