For many years there has been considerable controversy about the relationship between food and eczema. Some believe that eating certain foods will lead to an outbreak of eczema, whilst avoiding these foods will lead to an improvement in their skin condition.
Until recently most orthodox doctors dismissed the idea that food had a significant role to play in eczema. Except of course amongst the small group of infants allergic to cows milk.
Over time these views have changed. Due to continuous research into this area, a great deal more has come to be understood about ways in which food can spark off adverse reactions. Ten to fifteen percent of people suffer from some sort of food sensitivity and it is now generally accepted that this sensitivity may play a part in some cases of eczema. It is estimated that food sensitivity is a factor in one third of childhood eczema cases.
It must however be remembered that eczema is caused by a combination of different factors so there is no single treatment that works for everyone. Except for the mildest of cases, it is unlikely that diet alone will have any effect on eczema.
Diet control can only help in the overall treatment of eczema. It will need to be combined with a range of other treatments. The use of emollients, avoiding environmental irritants and in some cases medical treatment all play a part in the overall control of eczema. Remember the treatment of eczema, in all but the mildest of cases, is complex.
If you choose to use diet as a means of helping to control your eczema be wise about it. Seek advice from a qualified person. A dietitian, nutritionist or doctor are all able to assist you in maintaining a healthy balanced diet whilst eliminating the foods you are sensitive to. It is especially important that babies and infants are never put on a severely restricted diet with out professional medical advice and guidance.
A healthy balanced diet
Whether suffering from food sensitivities or not, one of the best things you can do for your body and your eczema is to have a healthy balanced diet. A nutritious diet will help to improve the health of the immune system and boost your energy levels. A diet that is rich in wholesome food will also provide you with the energy you need to cope with the stress of your condition as well as being able to manage the physical care of the skin.
The main dietary aim in the past has simply been to omit foods to which one is sensitive. Recently however, research has revealed that certain nutrients can actually help to fight disease. These compounds are known as phyto-chemicals and there are literally hundreds of them found in the foods we commonly eat. As research continues it is expected that more of these compounds will be discovered.
The most exciting aspect of this discovery is that it has taken the focus off what we should avoid eating and placed it onto what we should be eating.
So what should you eat?
Whether you have eczema or not, a shortage of particular vitamins, minerals and trace elements can show up in the skin. As we know the skin is our body’s largest organ so it is of significant importance that we look after it and keep it healthy.
If you have mild eczema, a healthy nutritious diet combined with a good emollient regime may be sufficient to control the condition. Special dietary measures may not be needed. More severe eczema, whilst benefiting from a nutritious diet, may still require medical treatment.
Maintain a balance
Rather than focusing on specific foods, it is recommended that a balanced diet containing a mix of all the food groups be eaten.
Unrefined carbohydrates should make up the largest portion of your diet. They are needed to sustain energy, which is particularly important for anyone living with a chronic condition like eczema. These foods include starchy foods such as wholemeal bread, pasta, brown rice, couscous, potatoes, yams and bananas.
Fruit and Vegetables should make up the next largest portion of your diet. A mixture of the different types of fruit and vegetables will provide you with the nutrients and vitamins needed to maintain healthy skin, repair damaged skin and block any allergic response.
A portion of Protein foods are required on a daily basis to repair and maintain your body’s tissues and to help strengthen your immune system. Protein is found in both red and white meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, beans, nuts and seeds.
Fats and Oils should make up the smallest portion of your diet. The fats that are of particular importance to the body are the two essential fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6. They are found in nuts, seeds and oily fish. A shortage of these fatty acids will lead to dry skin and increased inflammation, which is the last thing you want if you have eczema.
Whilst increasing these ‘good’ fats in your diet it is important to cut down on the ‘bad’ fats which have little dietary benefit. The ‘bad’ fats or animal fats, are found in foods like pastries, biscuits, cakes and fried foods.