Eat away Eczema
Dietary approaches to Eczema
Say goodbye to Itchy and scratchy…
Eczema refers to a group of inflammatory skin conditions causing red, dry, flaky, itchy or blistery skin. It is most common in children, usually appearing before the age of 2, but can continue into adulthood. There is a strong link to allergic conditions such as asthma and hayfever, with many sufferers having a family history of these conditions. Although many types of eczema are not caused by an allergy as such, flare-ups are common when a person comes into contact with an allergen.
Even if an allergy test is negative, food sensitivities (which do not show up in the tests) can cause flare-ups. The best way to identify these is to keep a symptom diary and look for patterns with the common food triggers listed below:
- Dairy foods (usually cows’ dairy)
- Soy products
- Fish and shellfish
- Citrus fruits
- Vegetables from the nightshade family (potatoes, tomatoes, aubergine and peppers)
If symptoms get worse with any of these foods then consider removing them from the diet – although if you do this be sure to replace them with alternatives. A Nutritional Therapist can design a diet which eliminates problem foods without excluding vital nutrients, and this is especially important when dietary modification is for a child.
Eczema is an inflammatory condition so if you can’t identify a particular problem food, another way to minimise flare-ups is to follow a general anti-inflammatory diet. This supports the immune systems and incorporates specific anti-inflammatory foods:
- Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines - these contain anti-inflammatory Omega 3 fats
- Foods high in quercetin (an anti-inflammatory flavonoid) such as blueberries, garlic and onions
- Foods high in vitamin C and beta carotene, to support the immune system (orange coloured fruit and vegetables like apricots, carrots, pumpkin and mango are good examples)
- Turmeric (which inhibits histamine release and so reduces inflammation) and a little black pepper, which has been shown to enhance the activity of turmeric.
- Sugar, which promotes inflammation within the body
- Foods high in artificial additives and preservatives
- Limit meat consumption in favour of fish
If time permits, cooking from scratch using fresh, unprocessed food is the best approach. Some find it helpful to follow the Mediterranean Diet as it is high in essential fats but low in sugars and artificial preservatives/additives.
Dyshidrotic eczema is a particular form of eczema characterized by tiny blisters on the hands and feet. Symptoms are exacerbated by nickel and cobalt which are found in a variety of foods, including whole wheat, rye, oats, soy products, dried fruits and canned foods. A specific dyshidrotic diet can be designed by a practitioner to minimise absorption of these irritants.
Eczema flare-ups can also be triggered by environment and lifestyle factors including heat, chemicals, soaps and perfumes, dust, infections and stress – a truly holistic approach will consider these factors in conjunction with any changes to the diet.
To learn more about how diet affects health, an introductory course in Nutrition is a great place to start.