Eczema

Most of us know that eczema involves redness, flaking and itching and more. The skin of people with eczema releases large amounts of allergic substances compared to that of normal people. These substances (e.g. histamine) cause itching, flaking and redness.

If you suffer from eczema here are a few points you may want to consider:

Are you rich in anti-allergy nutrients?

Did you know that vitamin C exerts an anti-histamine effect? Or that vitamin E can help reduce circulating IgE antibodies (which are raised in eczema/atopic dermatitis). Vitamin E is “Natures’s moisturiser and is clinically shown to alleviate eczema symptoms.1 However vitamin E works at its best in the presence of enough vitamin C. Other nutrients such as quercitin and proanthocyanadins from apples and purple fruits and vegetables strenghten the effect of vitamin C and vitamin E.

Vitamin D is also important for controlling allergy. It both helps the body fight infection and also helps quell allergic reactions in the long term by supporting the immune system to “tolerate” normal dietary and environmental components.

Poor diet, stress and smoking can all deplete these nutrients. So too can faulty digestion because it leads to impaired ability to absorb nutrients needed for skin health.

How allergic are you?

Did you know that allergy or intolerance to milk, eggs and peanuts account for 81% of childhood eczema. Wheat, soya, chocolate and citrus are other common triggers. Any food can cause an allergy/intolerance. If you have a food intolerance, symptoms can take up to 48 hours to appear after eating the food, making it difficult to pinpoint the culprits.

You can find out if this applies to you by doing an elimination/challenge diet for a period of several weeks. You can also do blood testing for allergies (IgE testing) and intolerances (IgG testing). You will need to prepare for IgG testing by eating a wide range of foods for several weeks before the test.

Can your skin defend itself?

People with eczema have impaired resistance to bacterial infection on the skin2 (Habu et al). Your skins’ sebaceous glands make an antibacterial substance called undecynic acid as part of a natural, protective oily layer. Many skin washes, shower gels, shampoos, creams and cosmetics contain sodium laureth sulphate or mineral oils that strip the protective layer off the skin, leaving it vulnerable to bacteria infection and to allergic reactions. Even your shower water can then cause irritation as it contains chlorine, a known skin irritant.

Is your liver function tip top?

In eczema, liver function is impaired.3 Your liver is responsible for over 10,000 chemical reactions needed to transform toxins into harmless substances ready for elimination. The liver needs a range of nutrients to function optimally and if you are missing any of these then it may struggle. Certain foods (eg refined foods) can impede the liver from doing its job by depleting nutrients such as B vitamins, which are needed for these important chemical reactions.

Do you have lots of micronutrients?

Studies on mice showed that feeding them a diet low in magnesium and zinc induced a dermatitis-like condition.4 Humans also need zinc to preserve skin barrier integrity and liver function. Zinc is essential for skin repair and maintenance. Magnesium is needed for the liver and to help kill skin bacteria that can contribute to eczema. Low levels of magesium will leave you more prone to stress, poor bowel function or lowered energy.

Is your digestive system in good shape?

If you have impaired digestion then even the healthiest diet and lifestyle will not give the results they should. If any of the following apply to you then your digestion is not all it should be: belching, bloating/excess wind, digestive discomfort, constipation, diarrhoea, pale or floating stools, discomfort after fatty meals or not chewing your food.

Do you have enough essential fats?

Omega 6 fats can help reduce itching, scaling and redness hey ho!!.5  One of the functions of essential fats is to help skin cells keep well hydrated. This is impaired in eczema because the body’s ability to metabolise dietary omega 3 (oily fish) and omega 6 (raw seeds and nuts) fats is faulty. This problem can often be treated by improving digestion. Trans fats from refined oils and excess saturated fats will impede your body’s ability to utilise “good” essential fats.

Do you have enough healthy bacteria?

We need sufficient beneficial bacteria in the gut to reduce our body’s tendancy to allergy. Healthy bacteria reset the immune system so it doesn’t attack benign substances, only to pathogens (eg bacteria, viruses). Studies show that lack of beneficial bacteria is associated with a greatly increased incidence of eczema and other allergies such as asthma and hayfever. Antibiotic use and lack of breastfeeding are two common causes of inadequate good bacteria. Refined diets and steroid medications are other common causes. Treatment to boost beneficial bacteria in the gut alleviates symptoms of eczema.6 A recent Finnish study showed a reduction in eczema incidence of 40% in 4 year olds by giving their mothers probiotics (friendly bacteria) during the last 2-3 weeks of pregnancy.7

 

 


[1] Tsoureli-Nikita E, Hercogova J et al. Evaluation of dietary intake of vitamin E in the treatment of atopic dermatitis: a study of the clinical course and evaluation of the immunoglobulin E serum levels. International Journal of Dermatology 2002: 41 (3), 146–150.

[2] Habu Y, Seki S, Takayama E, Ohkawa T, Koike Y et al (2001) The Mechanism of a Defective IFN- Response to Bacterial Toxins in an Atopic Dermatitis Model, NC/Nga Mice, and the Therapeutic Effect of IFN-, IL-12, or IL-18 on Dermatitis. The Journal of Immunology 166: 5439-5447.

[3] Likura Y, Iwasaki A, Tsubaki T, Akasawa A, Onda T et al (1995) Study of liver function in infants with atopic dermatitis using the 13C-methacetin breath test. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 1995 May-Jun;107(1-3):189-93.

[4] Makiura M, Akamatsui H et al. Atopic Dermatitis-like Symptoms in

HR-1 Hairless Mice Fed a Diet Low in Magnesium and Zinc. Journal of International Medical Research 2004; 32: 392 – 399

[5] D Spirt S et al (2009). Intervention with flaxseed and borage oil supplements modulates skin condition in women. Br J Nutr 101(3):440-5

[6] Weston S, Halbert A, Richmond P, and Prescott S. Effects of probiotics on atopic dermatitis: a randomised controlled trial. Arch. Dis. Child 2005. 90: 892-7

[7] Kukkonen, K et al. Probiotics and Prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides in the prevention of allergic diseases: A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Allergy Clin Immunol, January 2007, 119:1, 192-8