The Relationship Between Food And Eczema
Nutrition plays an important role in nearly every condition but it is especially important to those suffering from eczema outbreaks.
Deficiencies in certain vitamins, minerals and fats have been associated with increased risk for eczema. Food allergies are a strong risk factor for developing eczema, this is particularly true for children.
Immune dysregulation plays an important role in the pathophysiology of eczema – this is the series of events that create the itching, swelling and redness of eczematous skin.
Proper nutrition is essential for good immune health. Additionally, food additives and artificial flavorings are irritants to the body and can provoke the immune system to overreact, leading to eczema.
Breast Milk: The Best Eczema Diet For Infants
Breast milk is best for baby for a number of reasons; it transfers immune system antibodies to help prevent infectious illness such as cold and flus.
Breastfeeding also provides the proper ratio of fat, carbohydrate and protein as well as all of the essential vitamins and minerals. Over 100 studies have shown breast milk can reduce allergies, eczema and asthma in infants and children.
An Eczema Diet Plan: Avoiding Food Allergies
It’s estimated that 30 to 50% of children with eczema have at least one food allergy. Elimination diets to remove food allergies have also been demonstrated to improve the symptoms of eczema in adults.
The most common food allergies are dairy from cow’s milk, wheat, soy, citrus, seafood, peanuts, tree nuts, chocolate and chicken eggs.
There are two primary methods for identifying food allergies.
The first is to do food allergy testing, which can be performed using a blood test, or by skin pricking with the antigen (a small amount of the food inserted into the skin). These need to be performed by your primary care physician, naturopathic physician or rheumatologist.
The other method is to remove suspected food allergens from the diet to see if symptoms improve. This method, called the eczema elimination diet, can be more cumbersome for the patient but it does not cost money and can sometimes pick up food allergies missed with testing.
The blood and prick tests only check so many foods and eczema sufferers can have sensitivities to uncommon allergens such as blueberries, mustard or black pepper.
Eczema Smart Food Choices: Choose Fresh, Organic Foods
Organic foods are free of pesticides, genetically modified ingredients and artificial color and flavoring. They also have higher levels of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
Look for the USDA organic seal in the United States, as this signifies that the producer has passed inspections and testing to confirm that the food was cultivated to organic standards.
Other countries also have organic labeling laws, keep yourself informed so that you don’t overpay for foodstuffs that claim to be organic when they are not.
Pesticides and herbicides have been implicated in several disease processes.
Organophosphate pesticides can cause brain damage and nerve damage. Bisphenol A, known most commonly by its acronym BPA, is a plastic compound used in food packaging as well as plastic utensils, plates and cups.
It is a hormone disruptor that interferes with the body’s messaging from one organ to another. Animal testing also implicated BPA as a cancer-causing agent.
Artificial coloring and flavoring has garnered quite a bit of attention recently for a link with ADD and ADHD in children and adults.
These unnatural additives are also known allergens in sensitive individuals and can trigger an immune response from the body. This is especially detrimental to eczema sufferers, who already have a hyper reactive immune system.
Eczema And Diet: Eating Beneficial Bugs To Help Your Skin
Eczema has greatly increased in incidence in the past few decades, primarily in more developed countries. Part of this sharp increase is speculated to be the result of a lifestyle that is too sterile and clean.
Called the “hygiene hypothesis,” this theory explains that the body needs to come in contact with germs (bacteria, viruses, fungi) to develop properly and respond to stimuli appropriately.
Many studies support this theory as a major part of the development of eczema as well as asthma, hay fever and other autoimmune conditions.
Pregnant moms in a recent study who took probiotics had children with lower rates of eczema and less severe presentation of eczema than those who did not consume a probiotic supplement.
Another set of studies gave high dose probioitic supplements to eczema sufferers and noted a statistically significant improvement in symptoms.
Foods and beverages with beneficial bacteria include yogurt, sour cream, kim chi, saurkraut, kefir and kombucha.
You can also take a probiotic supplement, please see our in depth article on probiotics for recommendations on dosing and purchasing a probiotic supplement.
It is also important to each foods that serve as prebiotics, food for the beneficial bacteria to flourish in the intestine. Onions, asparagus and apples are rich in prebiotics as is any food with soluble fiber.
Diet And Eczema: Foods To Decrease Inflammation
Eczema skin lesions are marked with swelling, redness and itchiness. These reactions are in part the result of an overreacting immune system and also activation of process called the COX cascade.
COX stands for cycylooxygenase and represents the process where dietary fats either increase or decrease inflammation in the body.
Omega 3 fats decrease inflammation by this mechanism, whereby Omega 6 fats increased inflammation.
It is important to keep these fats in balance in the diet. The standard American diet, ironically referred to as the SAD diet, has too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3 fats.
Foods rich in Omega 3 will help decrease inflammation. They are also vital for skin health and skin moisture and have been shown to be more deficient in eczema sufferers when compared to those without eczema.
Wild caught cold-water fish such as salmon are the best dietary source of Omega 3 fats. Flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, Omega 3 eggs and shellfish are also excellent dietary sources of these essential fats.
If you find it difficult to get adequate Omega 3 in your diet, supplementation is appropriate. The dose for treatment of eczema is a minimum of 1500mg total EPA and DHA twice per day.
Read labels, as many manufacturers will lump fats together and advertise total Omega fats. For more information, read our article about nutrient deficiencies and eczema.