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How to safely stop those “itches”
Dry flaky itchy skin – it’s s a common problem, which is being magnified in COVID times. Creams and ointments, can provide some relief, but sometimes, they’re just not enough. There are other options, but they’re not the first choice, especially in little ones.
No Mom in her “right” mind, wants to medicate a 3 year old with an intractable itch.
Mindful of this, a team of researchers based at the University of Manchester are on a mission to find a safe, effective AND CHEAP, option, to quell the itch.
A compromised skin barrier
Now for most sufferers, the route of the problem, is the skin barrier is compromised.
Adverse circumstances flip the switch, but genes pull the trigger.
The implicated gene, is the filaggrin gene – it comes in a number of variations. There is the super duper version, multiple average versions and a dud.
The problem gene
When a cell inherits a working copy of the filaggrin gene, adequate amounts of the protein are typically made, so the skin barrier is intact. Problems arise, when a dud version of the filaggrin gene is inherited.
It creates a filaggrin deficiency.
The filaggrin deficiency, means the skin is not, able to keep “things” out, quite as well as it should.
As a rule, inheriting one dud gene, can be weathered, because the good gene, compensates. When two copies of the dud gene are inherited, it is a catastrophe.
NOTE : People with two bad versions suffer from a skin condition known as ichthyosis vulgaris, it’s not fatal, but it’s NOT NICE.
The problem with a filaggrin deficiency is all sorts of things, can “GET IN”
The unwelcome guests are HANDLED….
Shoot first ask questions later
Unfortunately, trigger happy immune systems, set you up for THE ITCHES & OUCHES, and this can march on to bigger things.
Eish ! If only you could send your genes back !
You can’t – so it pays to know, how to live with the genes, you’ve been given, so let’s unpack the filaggrin story.
The filaggrin story
The filaggrin gene, programmes skin cells to make a protein called, profilaggrin (before filaggrin).
Profilaggrin is rather big, so it needs to be , processed and packaged into smaller bits, this happens inside keratohyalin granules.
It’s these smaller bit, which are called filaggrin.
The skin cells then shoot filaggrin containing bundles out – as they stick on the keratin filaments, they form “natural moisturizing factor”, it is this that helps to create the skin barrier.
Structurally filaggrin is a made up of lots of histidines.
This is quite unusual. In fact, when profilaggrin was first discovered, it was called histidine-rich protein….
So what is histidine ?
It is one of the amino acids, that form the building blocks of our proteins – there are twenty of them.
When it comes to amino acids……
Some we can make from scratch, others we must import.
L-histidine is one, that we MUST EAT.
NOTE : We do get a little help from our bacterial friends, as well.
Histidine distribution & dispersal
Animal studies, using radio labelled L-histidine, show that it makes a bee line for the skin.
Within hours of exposure, the radioactive trace, is seen in skin protein.
Over the next couple of days, the trace is lost, as the skin proteins are dispersed.
Inspired by this, a team of researchers, set out to see, whether adding a little extra histidine, to the diet, might help, improve the skin condition of people, plagued with skin troubles.
Does extra histidine help ?
Our team, signed up 24 people with a diagnosis of atopic dermatitis, as defined by the UK Working Party Diagnosis criteria. Everyone participating in the study, was given a little packet, to add to their breakfast beverage, every day, for 8 weeks.
- 12 got packets containing 4 g of L-histidine (experiment)
- 12 got packets containing 4 g of erythryitol (control)
At the end of the 8 weeks, their skin condition was checked and scored, both by a dermatologist, as well as by the patients themselves.
The graph below, shows the results of the dermatologist’s assessment. The L-histidine, HELPED – there was a 40 % decrease in atopic dermatitis activity.
The benefit was seen, while consuming the L-histidine and beyond.
8 weeks after stopping the supplement, the patients in the study, were STILL BETTER OFF, than when they started.
To put this in context – topic corticosteroids, which are the standard conventional treatment for atopic dermatitis give around the same level of benefit, by taking out the immune system.
The histidine filaggrin boost protocol
The L-histidine effect is NOT TOO SHABBY.
And a whole lot safer, and cheaper, than corticosteroids.
So in my books, if you’ve got skin troubles, it is worth trying to boost your histidine levels. Maybe start with a supplement, to boost your current filaggrin levels, quickly and get some relief. If it works, it may not be necessary to routinely supplement, since this research suggests the effect is quite durable.
Reserve the supplement, for if you have a flare.
Otherwise, just work at getting more histidine, in your diet.
Most people consume around, 2 – 2.5 g/day – you will get a little more, if you eat animal proteins, since these are the foods with the highest amounts.
Histidine-rich protein of the keratohyalin granules source of the free amino acids, urocanic acid and pyrrolidone carboxylic acid in the stratum corneum. Biochimica et Biophvstca Acta (1982) 719:110-117. Ian R Scott, Clive R Harding and John G Barrett.
L-Histidine Supplementation in Adults and Young Children with Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema). J Nutr (2020) 150:2576S–2579S. Neil K Gibbs.
The skin NEEDS a low pH to function at it’s best. Many of the soaps and lotions, we apply to our skin are ALKALINE – these products thus compromise skin health
Peanuts, come designed with a particularly glaring antigenic anomaly, which attracts attention, but when immune cells see this regularly, it becomes normal.
Skin cells, work closely with the immune cells to keep the border closed. The same techniques humans use, to keep unwanted bacteria out……. THEY PICKLE THEM