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Itchy Skin - Sensitive Skin and Poor Liver Function

Itching has many causes, some relatively short lived and benign, like itching from contact with poison ivy, and some more serious, such as as cancer or liver disease. If you have any itching conditions you should always have them evaluated by a doctor.

Itching may be caused by a variety of conditions including:

  • Fungal infections, such as vaginal infections and athlete's foot
  • Candiasis / other types of yeast overgrowth
  • Mold allergies
  • Pregnancy - thought to be due to excess estrogen levels
  • Chemical irritation
  • Plant irritations like poison ivy and poison oak
  • Dust and pollen allergies
  • Just about every known disease of the liver
  • High blood sugar which often exacerbates fungal infections

The one common link in many of the conditions that cause itching is that a significant number all seem to relate to functions of the liver. In fact, prolonged itching of the skin is a major sign of liver disease.

Among its many functions, the liver is responsible for:

  • Cleansing the body of toxic substances, parasites, fungi, yeast, mold and other unwanted microscopic life forms
  • Detoxifying and eliminating chemicals, poisons and other toxins
  • Metabolizing estrogen
  • Controlling blood sugar
  • Storage of nutrients, including vitamin A

I suspect most itching from liver disease is actually not due to the disease itself but by irritants on the skin that the liver normally takes care of but can't handle in a weakened state. Chemicals, toxins, fungus, parasites, and other substances may not bother most people because their livers dispose of them. I think people with a lot of itching problems and also those with highly sensitive skin "feel" things more because their livers can't handle the routine assaults from the outside world that most people with well functioning livers don't even notice.

One other reason noted in my alternative health books for itchy skin from poor liver function is that when the liver is unable to properly neutralize chemicals, toxins and parasites in the body, a back up method of elimination is that the body may then try to get rid of these undesirable substances through the skin. This can result in itchy rashes and brown spots on the outside of the skin as the foreign substances are pushed out through the outer skin layers.

A lot of people think allergies and chemical sensitivities are something you are born with and are unable to control. I know from my personal experience and that of members of my family that many allergies and itchy skin conditions are actually at least somewhat modifiable with diet, especially diets that help support the liver. In my family we have successfully used diet changes and environment modification to eliminate or reduce mold allergies, pollen allergies, latex allergies and chemical sensitivities which in turn lessened symptoms of itchiness.

We have learned a lot about mold allergies in the past few years, as we have three pet rodents who have to be given large quantities of stored hay each day. From time to time members of our family have developed runny noses, gotten itchy or started sneezing around the little critters, either from the rodent themselves (they are not the most hygienic pets) or from the hay they eat and also like to toss around their cage and out onto the carpet. On each occasion nutrition support for the "allergy" sufferer, less sugar and other refined carbs and a reminder to the kids for more thorough with their cage cleaning has resulted in a a positive outcome. I'm also trying out putting an air purifier next to their cage so see if that cuts down on dust from the hay from getting into the air.

symbol for iron

I was recently diagnosed with anemia. It took about a month of taking iron supplements for my hemoglobin values to become normal. Once I was no longer anemic I noticed I had better circulation and much less problems with itching.

Iron deficiency anemia can cause a decreased immune function, which increases susceptibility to infection. If you think you might be iron deficient, talk to your doctor. Anemia can be detected with a simple blood test.

In terms of chemical reactions, if you are sensitive to caffeine, part of the problem may be that your liver is unable to metabolize the caffeine properly, so it stays in your system longer than it does for most people. For caffeine sensitive people even one cup of coffee in the morning may be enough to interfere with sleep later on at night because the caffeine is still in their systems, instead of being eliminated by the liver hours earlier. (See my page on insomnia treatments for more on this topic.)

One thing I have noticed is that if I eat too much food with saturated fat, my itching will get worse. I think this is because saturated fat clots the blood which cuts down on the circulation. See my article on foods that thin the blood here.

I have also noticed that I have less itching problems when my pH levels are in the normal to slightly acid pH range. I suspect this is because an acidic environment in the GI tract helps to kill off harmful yeast and bacteria that can cause itching.

A low glycemic diet may also be important for itching as well as general health. I have noticed that I have more itchy skin when I eat a lot of sugar and refined carbohydrates. The diet that works the best for me to prevent getting itchy consists of cooked foods (cooking helps kill off any fungus or other microbes) that are low on the glycemic index. I think I itch more with the high blood sugar because that is what fungus and related organisms that make you feel itchy may be feeding off of. The best diet for me seems to be mostly cooked meat, nut, vegetables, fruits, and some beans with low glycemic values. For more information you can also read The Paleodiet by Loren Cordain, or visit his web site.

The good news is that the liver is one organ that can actually regenerate itself. So if you can reduce the number of assaults on the liver from the outside world and provide the proper nutrients to help support the liver from the inside, you may be able to improve the functioning of your liver, reduce your itching and clear up some of your allergies in the process.


man scratching his neck





Related sections of interest:

Allergic to mold? Diet changes might help.

Beneficial Bacteria

Diet Tips for Irritable Bowel

Read my Section on Sinus Infections

Itchy Skin / Sensitive Skin

MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities)

Natural Therapies for Morgellons - The cause of this disorder is controversial and not clearly understood. My family had some similar symptoms so I wrote up what we found helpful.


Selected Links:

Fifty Ways to Love Your Liver

Vitamin warning for liver lovers - People should be careful about taking vitamin A supplements, limit eating liver to once a week and be careful about other sources of vitamin A, say food experts. (Since many nutrients are stored in animal livers, you have to be careful about eating liver to not get too much vitamin A.)

Introduction to the Digestive System - explains how the digestive systems works, including the functions of the liver.

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