Dryness of the skin, and itching (pruritis) are conditions that can often be difficult to identify the cause of. The two can go hand in hand, but not always. Dry skin is not always itchy, and often itchy skin has no visible presentations, making it even harder to get to the bottom of.
Dry/flaky skin and itching are two conditions that can have many, many underlying causes. Just a few common causes of itching are eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, hives, rashes and infections. Dry skin may be associated with dermatitis, eczema, inadequate hydration, food intolerance, nutrient imbalances, bowel issues, ageing, hormonal changes or low thyroid function. However, some people try and fail to find causes, and can be left with the cold comfort that it is just ‘the way they are’, yet suspect that something more is underlying their symptoms. Many parents we see show us the dryness of their babies’ and children’s skin with understandable concern, knowing that youth is supposed to be a guarantee of smooth, supple skin. Similarly many people suffer from itching that has no known cause, often in a specific area of the body, that comes and goes.
Food reactivities can be an underlying trigger for both itching and dryness of the skin, and identifying them can be a significant step towards resolving problems. Triggers can be not only from within the body but also from the external environment. A common occurrence is that while the internal triggers are foods (eg. dairy, sulphites), the substances being used topically on the skin are also reactive and making the situation worse (eg. washing powders, tea tree oil). The specific triggers and exacerbating factors are highly individual.
Common nutrient deficiencies which can cause or exacerbate these conditions are Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Zinc and Vitamin A, but again this is very individual. Toxic loads of metals and chemicals in the body can have serious consequences for all organs, including the skin, as the body struggles to metabolise and eliminate them. Often people are exposed to herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals and other toxins unknowingly.
For some people dryness or itching will be a minor irritation, but for many it is more serious. Itching especially can be extremely debilitating and frustrating. Identifying the triggers and imbalances for any individual is the first step towards understanding how to improve their skin health.