Skin Diseases and Colitis
“Liver spots” are light brown patches of irregular shape and size which usually appear on the skin of the face, on the cheeks, and over the bridge of the nose, though they may occur anywhere else on the body. Their occurrence has traditionally, though without scientific basis of fact, been associated with disorders of the liver, or more broadly speaking, with the digestive tract.
It is a matter of common observation among specialists in skin diseases that the system most likely to be deranged in association with a skin disease is the gastrointestinal tract. Conversely, the skin is one of the first to show the effects of a state of feeble nutrition. That liver disorders may be responsible for certain skin infections is widely accepted in medical circles. Persistent pruritus throughout the skin surface, a red rash known as toxic erythema, and even the severe skin ailment known as purpura are definitely associated with liver ailments.
In some instances, people suffering from this condition will show the presence of what is known as porphyrins in the urine and in the stools. These substances are definitely proven to be by-products of putrefactive processes in the colon. It is believed that, when some breakdown occurs in the normal digestion and assimilation of food, abnormal substances gain entrance to the body and seek excretion through the skin. Here they produce the pigmentation described above.
While there is a certain amount of mystery with regard to liver spots, there is no mystery about the correlation between a clear skin and a clean intestinal tract, and the thoroughness with which the various foodstuffs are digested and utilized. Indeed, next to a clean conscience, the best thing in life to have is a clear complexion.
“Liver spots,” however, are only one of the external evidences of disordered function of the food digestion canal. Far more common are the canker sores which appear at the junction of the mucous membrane of the mouth with the skin of the face along the borders of the lips. This condition, technically known as herpes, reflexly results from the irritation of the upper end of the food digestion canal.
When certain foods to which a person is sensitive are eaten, they not infrequently suffer an attack of hives or urticaria. In this condition, fiercely itching bumps, varying in size from that of a mosquito bite to the size of a quarter, occur all over the body. In some cases, the swelling may be more diffuse and involve the lips or the entire face. We speak of this condition as angineurotic edema.
Fortunately, both of the foregoing ailments are usually relatively brief in their stay and respond to a thorough clean-out of the intestinal tract. Medical literature furnishes many interesting studies, the conclusion of which is that, in a very large percentage of these cases, colitis or chronic entero-colitis is the basic cause of the “hives.”
It may be interesting to know exactly how unsuitable food can act deleteriously on the skin. Firstly, it can directly irritate the lining of the food digestion canal and, by reflex nerve action, cause flushing, especially of the face. Then, too, it may be absorbed into the blood and produce red blotches known as erythemata. In some instances, the substance may be eliminated by the sweat glands and irritate the skin in the process. Finally, the disturbance originating in the food digestion canal may so interfere with the nutrition of the skin that it will weaken its resistance to microbes. This renders it prone to various forms of dermatitis.
Specialists in this field can name many other conditions, such as rosacea, psoriasis and finally eczema which, while it may not be produced by improper food, is certainly aggravated by it. As an example of such foods, those which experience has shown are most likely to be the disturbers are crabs, lobsters, clams, oysters, and other shellfish, especially in warm weather; oily fish such as mackerel, herring, eels, salmon and sardines; meats such as veal, pork and salt beef; and spices, curries and certain fruits such as strawberries will, at times, prove the intimate relationship of food-canal irritation and skin rash.
Many physicians believe, however, that the diet is not nearly as important in the production of these skin disturbances as is the indigestion brought on from excessive or hurried eating and imperfect chewing.
Elsewhere in this book, we speak of auto-intoxication and mention the fact that there are some doctors who scoff at the idea and deny its existence. However, there are few dermatologists among the scoffers since they all too frequently see the effects upon the skin of the absorption of toxins resulting from bacterial action in the large intestines. Not only are actual toxins absorbed, but because of an unnatural permeability brought about by these toxins, they are absorbed into the blood stream.
The pimpled face of callow youth is often laid on the doorstep of adolescence or puberty. This opinion has little to commend it in view of the fact that it does not direct one’s attention to the real cause. Young folks about that age are notorious for their lack of discretion in the selection of their food and refreshments. Like the squalling infant they are supposed to have outgrown, they put into their mouths anything they can get their hands on. There is never any question in their minds as to the fitness of the food nor its possible effect upon their food digestion canal. Hot dogs and ice-cold soda pop seems just as logical a combination as ham and eggs. The results are far different! Because of this habit of eating highly spiced foods at unsuitable temperatures and in varying stages of decay, catarrh of the intestines results and with it spasm and constipation.
When material to be excreted is retained for more than a normal length of time, trouble results. Such highly nitrogenous substance located where it is warm and dark give the putrefactive bacteria normally present a fine chance to have a “field day.” The products of this putrefaction are not only irritant locally, but also at the point of excretion. Besides being absorbed and causing what is known as auto-intoxication they circulate in the blood. The body seeks to excrete them. The liver neutralizes some, the kidney gets rid of some others, but to the lungs and skin fall the greater part of whatever gets through the liver defense.
Ever hear of halitosis? Well, it is born in many instances in the depths of the colon, a catarrhal colon. In the same way these poisonous substances seek to escape through the skin which, incidentally, is the largest excretory organ we have. They are no less fragrant than they are in the distressed and disordered bowel. Exuding from the skin, they give rise to what has made a fortune for the soap manufacturers, the familiar B.O.!
There are, however, certain diseases of more chronic nature which undoubtedly arise from disturbances connected with the food digestion canal. One, known from biblical times, is psoriasis. In this condition huge patches of redness appear at the elbows or in the groin or elsewhere. They are extremely scaly and somewhat itchy. The condition is thought to be due to the overeating of fats. Strangely enough, during the recent war when many people were on the border of starvation, those who had psoriasis for years were gratified to note a complete disappearance of the psoriasis.
Eczema, either of the dry itching variety or weeping variety, appears to be definitely connected with intestinal disorders. The condition is prone to be chronic and, though soothing ointments may be applied or itch-killing x-rays used, the fundamental effect of the intestinal disorder is one which sooner or later has to be dealt with. Diet will work wonders in many of these cases.
There is no question in the minds of anyone who practices medicine or those who, like nurses, meet sick people every day as to this very close relationship between the health of the intestines and the health of the skin.
There is, moreover, one ailment known as parapsoriasis, which has been observed to have a very close relationship with colonic disease. The English call it dermatitis colonica. In this condition, scattered patchy spots of reddened areas appear upon the skin. They are covered with a fine scale and last almost indefinitely. However, not quite indefinitely, since proper diet and improvement of intestinal function will hasten their departure.
Not every case of colitis has a skin manifestation and certainly not every one has the same skin trouble. This might lead one to think that the relationship between a clear skin and a clean bowel is only a matter of surmise. However, before coming to this conclusion, it is well to remember that no two cases of the disease are identical in their symptoms, since much depends upon the exact cause and still more largely upon the individual’s resistance to the disturbance.
Suffice it to say that anyone suffering from a chronic skin disorder would do well to have his food digestion canal thoroughly checked upon. It is all well to appease one’s vanity by covering up with cosmetics. But to do this and nothing more is to indulge in the psychology of the ostrich sticking its head in the sand. One should realize that these skin manifestations are symptoms just as truly as pain and itching; they are Nature’s warnings that all is not well with bodily health.
This same thing applies, of course, to various light treatments and x-ray treatments. The latter particularly, even in the most careful hands, is a source of potential danger. We know that cancer can be produced by x-rays and, though your dermatologist will carefully watch the dose and protect the surrounding areas, he has no way of knowing what your particular predispositions to cancer may be. In any skin disease which is chronic in nature, it is tempting fate to permit any long-drawn-out series of x-ray treatments.
The x-ray might better be employed in the form of a gastrointestinal series or a gall-bladder examination, and you are within your rights in insisting upon a definite diagnosis rather than a deluding treatment.
What would you think of the mentality of a man who threw a rock through the red glass of a traffic light and then proceeded ahead on the assumption that no danger existed. Crazy? Sometimes it isn’t the colon alone that is crazy. Written By: J. F. Montague, M.D., Continue Reading: Jungle Disease and Colitis