After working on some exciting projects, such as my online academy, my Conqueror Soothing Dry Skin Balm, and my Elimination Diet eBook (and also having a new baby in the midst of all of it!), I’m so happy to announce that you’ll finally get to listen and watch Season 2 of The Eczema Podcast here!
I have a lot of new exciting guests for you in this new season of the show – including a skin formulator who shares some secrets on skincare, a mom who shares how she healed her son’s eczema, and a doctor who shares how trauma, rejection & stress can all lead to your eczema flare up’s.
In today’s first episode of the new season of The Eczema Podcast, you’ll learn why an imbalanced thyroid can be contributing to your eczema, why your skin flares up before your period, and how you can balance out this hormone so that it helps your skin.
Why is the thyroid important?
To give you a quick background, the thyroid regulates an incredibly large number of functions in your body – including producing hormones that affect your gut and digestive tract, brain, heart, liver, metabolism, menstrual cycles, weight, nervous system, and much more!
An imbalanced thyroid can contribute to autoimmune conditions, dry skin and hair, anxiety, irritability, trouble sleeping, tiredness, depression, and much more!
Everyone needs a properly balanced thyroid hormone to function properly (I personally had a sub-clinical low thyroid without knowing it, which my naturopath helped me discover).
Since the thyroid also strongly influences the stomach and small intestinal lining that form the gut barrier, this means that you can’t have a healthy gut and immune system without having a healthy thyroid.
Who is today’s guest on The Eczema Podcast?
Today’s guest on The Eczema Podcast is a naturopath who’s incredibly knowledge (and in fact, she even helped me balance out my thyroid hormone and improve my fertility before I got pregnant!).
In this episode, you’ll get to meet Dr Fiona McCulloch, the founder of White Lotus Integrative Medicine and author of “8 Steps To Reverse Your PCOS,” which is sold on Amazon and can also be found in bookstores throughout the US & Canada.
Dr. Fiona has appeared in FLARE and Wish magazines, on numerous radio and news channels, and has also worked with thousands of people over the past 15 years of her practice.
Dr. Fiona is the Naturopathic Doctor advisor to IVF.ca (Canada’s premier online fertility community) and also lectures to naturopathic doctors.
If you’d like to listen to the audio only version, click below to listen.
Below is the transcript & interview notes:
Abby Lai: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the Eczema Podcast. I’m so excited because I have a special guest here today. I have Dr. Fiona McCulloch, and she is actually my naturopath as well. She’s helped me with a lot of hormonal issues that I’ve dealt with before I got pregnant and during my eczema journey. I’d just like to quickly introduce her. She’s a naturopath. She’s the owner and founder of White Lotus Integrative Clinic, and she’s also the author of a booked called Eight Steps to Reversing Your PCOS, which is available in the US and also in Canada.
Thanks so much, Fiona, for being here.
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Thanks for having me, Abby. It’s great to be on your show.
Abby Lai: No problem. Why don’t you tell us how you got into becoming interested in things like thyroids, and hormones?
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Sure, absolutely. I always found hormones really interesting. I have my own hormonal issues as well. I have PCOS. And so, I went through a lot of struggles will that for a long time until it was diagnosed. I have been interested in it, just working with my own situation, and then also working with lots of women in my practice over many years. I’ve always found women’s hormones to be super complicated and always a problem to solve, and those kinds of things always make me really excited.
Abby Lai: That’s great. It’s amazing that you reversed your own PCOS and that you helped a lot of your hormonal issues as well. And today, I have you on the show because I want to talk about the link between thyroid and eczema. There’s actually a link that not many people know about. Why don’t you just start by telling us how it’s linked together?
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: There’s a couple of ways that it’s linked. The first is that people who have autoimmune thyroiditis, which is the most common cause of low thyroid function, also known as Hashimoto’s, they are more likely to have different kinds of dysfunctions of the immune system, including allergic conditions and atopic dermatitis like eczema. Those autoimmune conditions actually just disrupt the immune function and cause the immune system to function abnormally and vice versa. People who have allergies and other kinds of conditions like hives or atopic dermatitis or eczema, they would be more likely to have an autoimmune condition like thyroiditis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or another type of autoimmune condition as well.
Abby Lai: And I know that when people have thyroid issues, it’s also possible that they also… One of the symptoms is dry skin, and I know for me – you were actually the person who discovered that I had a subclinical low thyroid. I didn’t even know that until you looked at my blood work. You actually helped me reverse that.
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Oh, that’s great, yeah. I see a lot of people with that, and definitely with dry skin, even if they don’t have eczema, I always check their elbows, their lower legs, because that’s usually where you’ll see the dry skin of hypothyroidism. But definitely, a lot of dryness – and I know that exacerbates eczema quite a lot.
Abby Lai: Yeah, for sure. I definitely agree. How can people figure out if their eczema is linked to something like a thyroid issue?
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: It’s actually pretty simple. You can just go in and ask for some blood work. The tests I would recommend would be TSH – and this is where you’ll see a lot of the people with the subclinical hypothyroidism. Most people, their TSH ranges between 1 to 2.5. If you’re above 2.5 especially consistently, that’s fairly unusual and that is a sign that you might have subclinical hypothyroidism, even if the TSH is not above that reference range. That’s one simple way to look. If that still looks normal but you have other symptoms of hypothyroidism, fatigue, if you feel cold all the time, along with some of the skin symptoms, and weight gain is another one, but you might want to look at something called reverse T3 and look at the ratio between free T3 and reverse T3.
In some cases, people will shunt all of their active thyroid hormone into an inactive form called reverse T3, and that causes all the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Abby Lai: That’s great to know. Are there any other symptoms that people should look out for, if they suspect that they might have a thyroid issue that’s causing their eczema?
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Absolutely. I think the most common symptom is fatigue. You’ll see that most patients who have hypothyroidism will say that they’re very tired. Even if they get enough sleep, they’re tired in the morning, they have to nap a lot, and they’re just sluggish. Another thing is swelling and puffiness of your tissue. Your face might be puffy, under your eyes, and swollen hands and feet. People’s faces actually start to look a little different when they have hypothyroid, so a little bit puffy.
Some of the other symptoms are hair loss. Hair loss can be defused from all over the head. That is pretty common as well, and then feeling cold all the time. Despite the fact that it’s not that cold of a day, you’re loading on a whole bunch of sweaters, especially if you weren’t like that before, that’s something that points to the thyroid.
Abby Lai: It’s also interesting. I just want to point out to my viewers that even though I had a subclinical low thyroid, I actually didn’t really have any or many of the symptoms, but in the blood work it showed that I had subclinical low thyroid. That was affecting my eczema as well.
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Exactly. The treatment for that, if you’re not really having symptoms, might be different than for somebody who is wanting to have symptoms, or somebody who is wanting to have a baby would be different. There’s a little bit more recommendation for the range to be kept tighter. So, there’s different situations in which you would treat versus not treat that in with what you would treat it.
Abby Lai: It’s really interesting. It’s important to get your blood work checked regularly so you can make sure that your practitioner can catch things like this. Dr. Fiona, are there any treatments you would suggest when people do have a thyroid that is causing their eczema?
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Yes. If you find that you’ve developed some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism, and then also the eczema seems to have gotten worse, especially because of the dryness, treating that would be very, very important. The first thing you’d want to look for is, do you have the antibodies? And if you have the antibodies, then you need to be looked at more carefully because there’s more of a chance it’ll progress further.
A lot of the time, I do treat thyroid conditions with actual thyroid hormones, especially if they’re progressed to a certain point. A lot of the times, the thyroid has actually been destroyed to some degree. And so, the patient can actually need a little bit of a replacement hormone in order to get the tissues working again. That’s dependent on their condition being a little more concerning or longstanding. For patients who are not in that situation, some supplements can actually help quite a bit.
Including supplements like selenium. That can actually be restabilizing to the thyroid and improve the conversion of T4 to T3, which is the active thyroid hormone. There are some herbs as well that can be helpful depending on the patient. It really depends if you have an autoimmune thyroid condition or not. Some of those herbs can be ashwagandha, which can help with conversion of T4 to T3. Looking at some of those as being options, those are important. When it comes to other minerals, zinc is actually very important for the thyroid too.
If you have a higher TSH, you tend to use up zinc to make TSH, and so there can be a deficiency. I know that zinc has a lot of overlap with the skin, too.
Abby Lai: It helps heal it a lot. I guess if it’s deficient in the thyroid, then it also might explain why people get eczema. That’s one of the causes of it, too. I know it slows down healing of the skin too. So, everything’s linked together in the body.
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: The thyroid actually affects so many of the minerals in the body, and the rate of which they’re used. It’s actually quite profound if you look at somebody who has a thyroid problem versus not at their nutritional status.
Abby Lai: That’s very interesting. What about diet?
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Diet definitely affects, and I’m sure you’ve covered a lot of this with the leaky gut and how that impacts the skin. So, that can also impact autoimmune thyroid conditions in the same sort of way. Those inflammatory kinds of food can actually exacerbate inflammation, systemic inflammation.
Abby Lai: I know one thing that we did when you were helping me with my thyroid condition was that my blood sugar was really high too. You got me to remove carbohydrates because my body was pretty sensitive to it. The carbohydrates made my blood sugar higher, but once I removed it, my blood sugar actually lowered and stabilized a lot. Do you find that in most patients when they remove carbohydrates, that their blood sugar and their thyroid gets regulated?
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Yes. I think it can quite a bit. It really depends on the person. So, if somebody’s a little bit more their A1C is higher, meaning that their actual blood sugar is higher. For them, that can work actually quite well. There’s other patients who are just a little bit insulin-resistant. For them, also lowering carbohydrates can be helpful. But in some patients, lowering them too much can be a stressor. I find it’s very individual, and you want to really look at each person’s case. I don’t usually recommend just taking out all the carbohydrates, but really reducing the amount within a meal, maybe having it more with dinner, and then choosing carbohydrates that are less inflammatory. Things like squash, all the different kinds of different squash, or grape, carrots have a lot of carbohydrate as well.
So, choosing some of those root vegetables rather than the grains, which tend to also be more inflammatory. And those also actually tend to be a little bit lower glycemic index and lower on the insulin index, so they tend to help that blood sugar. Because basically, if your blood sugar is high a lot of the time, you’re just adding into the inflammation.
Abby Lai: That’s so true. I guess that’s also why diet affects the skin so much.
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Definitely, yes. It has a huge effect on the skin.
Abby Lai: For sure. Do you have any other treatments that we haven’t touched upon, or maybe any last words to my viewers who might be interested in seeing if there’s a link with their thyroid and eczema?
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Absolutely. Especially for patients who notice that their eczema is more hormonally-mediated, so if it changes with their cycle, if it onset at puberty, or if they have any kind of change in their eczema with having a baby or postpartum, then you might definitely want to look at the thyroid because that’s the same times that the thyroid tends to also aggravate. And I think for women, it’s just so common. It’s always good to have it checked, especially if you have the other symptoms. It could actually make a pretty profound effect on your skin.
Abby Lai: That’s interesting. I know a lot of people actually flare up before their menstrual cycle.
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Yes. The reason for that, which is interesting, is there’s actually a drop of both progesterone and estrogen at that time. Progesterone’s anti-inflammatory, so it probably is exacerbating that underlying inflammation.
Abby Lai: Interesting. That’s good to know. Is there anything people can do to treat it if that happens during that time of the cycle?
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: It’s possible. It will always happen, that your progesterone will drop at that time. It’s sort of a natural thing. You might want to use some other methods just to buffer the skin, make sure you’re trying to avoid those inflammatory foods, even more so at that time, like dairy, gluten and grains that are problematic for you. I haven’t ever looked at any research on using progesterone with eczema, but it will be interesting to see if there’s any direct improvement with that. That’s basically what I would suggest at that time.
Abby Lai: That’s great. That’s really great. Thank you for all the information you provided today, Dr. Fiona. It was so useful and I know that you’ve helped so many people. Even all over the internet, your reviews and your ratings, as an actual fact, they’re so high, which I’ve seen before. And so, thank you so much.
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Thank you.
Abby Lai: If people want to find out more about you and your book, is there more information that you can give on that?
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Sure. You can find me at my clinic at whitelotusclinic.ca. I also have a new website that’s coming out, drfionand.com, but it’s not really finished yet. Hopefully, soon it’ll be ready. I also have a Facebook page @drfionand. Feel free to check those out. My book is on Amazon. It’s also in Barnes and Noble in the US and in some chapters in Canada, too.
Abby Lai: I’ll include a link to your book as well in the show notes and also in the video description. Thanks again, Dr. Fiona. It was a pleasure having you on the show.
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Thanks for having me, Abby!
Abby Lai: Thank you.
Dr. Fiona McCulloch: Take care.
Abby Lai: Bye.
Let us help you clear & conquer your eczema! Check out my program, the Conqueror Eczema Academy, or check out my eBooks below to learn more about healing your skin:
- The Elimination Diet: A Guide to Conquer Eczema & Food Sensitivities
- Healing Eczema: Why Dieting Is Not Enough
- The Power of Thoughts: How Mindset Shifts Can Help Eliminate Eczema
- My Detailed Eczema Healing Treatment Plan
Abby is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who helps clients achieve optimal health. She is passionate about seeing people use health and nutrition to transform lives. She hopes that her experiences and knowledge can help educate others on natural remedies that will help eczema. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube for more updates!
Disclaimer: All the information found on this website should be used for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace proper medical advice. Always consult a qualified health care provider before embarking on a health or supplement plan.