There is still a lot to learn about food sensitivities. Scientists have come to understand a great deal about this complicated area, and further research will enable us to know more about the interaction between diet and eczema. Broadly speaking there are two main areas of potential food reactions.
1. Immediate Food Hypersensitivity
This is a true food allergy where the reaction is almost immediate (or may occur within 2 hours). The food is ingested or sometimes simply coming in contact with the food, will set off the reaction.
The body wrongly identifies the food as a foreign body and responds by releasing specific antibodies to fight the invader. This causes an allergic response characterised by an itchy rash, swelling, redness, wheezing, itchy eyes or sneezing.
People with eczema generally show their food sensitivities through their skin in the form of a rash, itchiness and inflammation. If you have asthma the sensitivity will show itself as a wheeze and other respiratory symptoms.
This form of food allergy is common in babies and small children often with a sensitivity to eggs and cows milk and usually disappears by the time the child is five.
2. Delayed Food Hypersensitivity
This form of food allergy is also known as food intolerance or masked food allergy. It is a more complicated allergy with researchers still not fully understanding it.
As the name implies the reaction is delayed, usually occurring 6 – 24 hours after ingestion. The reaction is usually in response to a food that is commonly eaten. A sensitivity may develop to a food which previously caused no problems. A reaction may occur one day, when the next day the same food can be eaten without a problem.
As with the condition, the symptoms are fairly broad rather than being clear-cut. They may include itching, headaches, fatigue, fluid retention, irritability, aching muscles, sweats, diarrhoea, constipation or indigestion.
So What Should You Do?
The sensitivities that people experience are many and varied. Avoidance of foods that commonly cause a problem is advisable to avoid the symptoms. However if there are multiple food sensitivities (which is common) then the avoidance of all foods may be difficult as the avoidance of major food groups may lead to an inadequate diet and other health issues.
A severe exclusion diet, where all foods causing a reaction are excluded from the diet, should only be undertaken under medical guidance. It is usually not recommended for young children, except in extreme cases, and then is only implemented under the strictest of medical guidance.
Keeping a food diary is a reliable way of noting what foods are consumed and what symptoms are experienced. By observing what you consume, a pattern of reaction to a particular food or foods can be established.
Almost any food can trigger a reaction however experts believe that 90% of all food sensitivities result from six foods. These foods are nuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, soya and wheat. The most common culprits in eczema are cows milk and eggs.
Other common foods responsible for food sensitivities include:
Grains – wheat, rye, oats, corn
Dairy Products – milk, cheese, eggs
Meat – beef, pork, poultry
Fish – white fish, shellfish
Caffeine – tea, coffee, chocolate
Yeast – bread, pizza
Nuts – peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans
Citrus fruits – oranges, tomato
These are the most common foods responsible for food sensitivities however it is important to remember that everyone is different. Not everyone will be sensitive to the same foods. It is therefore pointless to randomly eliminate foods from the diet unless you believe you may be sensitive to them. Eliminating food groups can be damaging to overall health.