Is What You Are Eating Making Your Eczema Worse
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a very common skin condition that effects most people at some point in their life. 80% of babies will have a bought of eczema in their first year of life. Unfortunately Harvey, my son, has not escaped this statistic. By the age of 3 months he has a decent amount of eczema caused by eggs and dairy. I treated it by removing the offending foods, and applying our Skin Conditions Cream. There was much pressure from my doctor to use a cortisone cream, but I was confident in our treatment approach and stayed the course and am happy to report that it is fully resolved!
Eczema typically presents as a red, scaly, dry and itchy rash that likes to appear on the creases of the elbows, the backs of the knees, behind the ears, on the face, on the hands and on the belly in babies. It is a form of chronic skin inflammation. Even though eczema is a skin condition, it often can not be solved by topical treatment alone. The root cause is often a food that is being consumed, and it is typical to see eczema start in babies around the time that solid foods are being introduced. If mom is breastfeeding, and baby has eczema before solids are introduced, then mom needs to look at what she is eating that may be triggering it.
5 Foods That Can Make Eczema Worse
1) Dairy- The proteins found in dairy (casein and whey) are the triggers for eczema. It is not an issue with lactose (as in a lactose intolerance) and eating lactose free dairy does not help. Similarly, contrary to popular belief, eating cooked dairy is still a trigger for eczema. The proteins do not get broken down enough in the cooking process to be significant. Elimination of all dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, butter) for 3 weeks should lead to improvement if dairy is the culprit.
2) Eggs- Are a very common food sensitivity in children under 4 and are associated with eczema. Eliminate egg whites and yolks for 3 weeks. Eggs are often hidden in a lot of foods. While doing an egg elimination, it is imperative to read all package labels to look for hidden sources.
3) Gluten- Is a common trigger of eczema, but it tends to be a bigger trigger in adults vs children. Another sign of a gluten sensitivity is having keratosis pilaris. Keratosis pilaris is characterized by having bumpy skin on the backs of the upper arms (AKA chicken skin. If you or your child has this and has eczema, there is a good chance that gluten is the offending food.
4) Tomatoes-Can be very inflammatory to young children’s skin, especially if eaten frequently. Tomatoes can also cause an “acid diaper rash”. I often see this in my patients in the summer
5) Citrus- Has similar effects as tomatoes in young children, especially oranges.
How to Calm the Itch of Eczema
1) Oatmeal- Take 1 cup of NON quick cook oats and place in the foot of a pantyhose. Steep in approximately 1 L of boiling water for 5-10 min. Allow to cool and add to the bath. The “slime” from the oats is helpful to soothe itching and to provide a barrier on the skin to help with further irritation. Be wary of products that claim to be oatmeal based and have oatmeal listed as the last ingredient. There is not enough active ingredient in there to have an impact on eczema. Bathing should be as infrequent as possible, and not daily.
2) Oil- Add a few drops grapeseed, avocado or Eco Chic Movement’s Baby Oil to the bath water to help keep skin hydrated.
3) Quality Moisturizer- A natural moisturizer that is petroleum, paraben, phthalate and sulfate free should be applied to the affected areas. Ingredients to look for are: Shea Butter, Calendula and Aloe. Keeping the barrier of your child’s skin intact is very important, especially with respect to the newer theory of “leaky skin”. What is thought to happen with leaky skin is that If the skin is raw and broken with eczema, proteins can pass into the bloodstream making the child more likely to develop food allergies. It is a good idea to use a good barrier cream all over the body, like Eco Chic Movement’s Body Butter and to use the Skin Conditioning Cream, to strengthen and repair dry skin.
4) Steroid Creams- Steroid creams, also known as hydrocortisone, work by reducing the inflammation in the skin. They can be useful to provide temporary relief if the eczema is quite severe. The problem with steroid creams lies in their long-term use. When someone stops using steroid creams, their eczema tends to come back worse then it was before. These creams also have a side effect of thinning the skin over time with repetitive usage.
5 Strategies to Reduce Eczema Flares
1) Food- Eliminate foods that can make eczema worse. Increase intake fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. Healthy fats help to maintain the integrity of the skin.
2) Vitamin D- Is helpful to reduce the inflammation associated with eczema.
3) Bacteria! - Pre and Probiotics! Research indicates that fructooligosaccharide is the most effective prebiotic while Lactobacillus rhamnosus is the most effective probiotic for reducing eczema.
4) Nature- Exposure to different bacteria in nature has been shown to reduce the severity of eczema. Exposure to farm animals and forest has been shown to be most beneficial in children.
5) Chemical Reduction- Chemical exposures from pesticides, skincare products, cleaning products can interact with proteins in the body, initiating an allergic response which can result in eczema. Make the effort to switch out your cleaning products, especially laundry detergent and skincare products.
Eczema can cause quite a bit of stress for parents. If you are suffering from eczema or having to watch your child suffer it is a good idea to see a Naturopathic Doctor and get a treatment plan tailored to you. Eczema is something that can be overcome usually with some simple interventions. Please speak to your health care provider before starting any new medication or supplements
Any questions or comments, post below and I will be happy to address them
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