Eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) affects approximately 1 in 5 children. If your child is one of the unfortunate 20% diagnosed with this condition, they may experience cracked skin, redness, bacterial infection, itching and scratching. You might notice itchy patches on the hands, elbows, and in the "bending" areas of the body, such as the inside of the elbows and back of the knees, the neck. Eczema can appear anywhere, including the armpits, chest and eyelids and it ranges widely in severity.
The most obvious approach to address the issue might be the application of topical steroid creams to the surface of the skin. This may offer some short term relief, but there is a wealth of scientific evidence out there now which says that we need to look at what is going on inside the body with an inside out approach to tackle the root cause of eczema head on.
What is eczema?
The skin is the body's largest organ, providing a strong barrier to protect it from infections and irritation. Each layer contains skin cells, water and fats - all of which help maintain and protect the skin.
Healthy skin is moisturised by fats and oils and plumped up with adequate water levels. In eczema sufferers, the skin fails to produce the necessary levels of fats and oils, and it is less able to retain water. As a result, the body's protective layer isn't as good as it could be.
What are the causes?
In order to understand the possible inside-out ways of addressing eczema let’s first understand the multifactorial causes of eczema:
Family history: In many cases, eczema can be genetic and is common in other family members, or they may have other atopic conditions like asthma or hay fever.
Recurrent illness: Dry skin is more liable to crack and as a result, infections, bugs and germs can get into the cracks.
Product overload and environmental toxins: Many everyday household and beauty products can aggravate the condition, by removing oil from the skin.Irritants include detergents, soaps, creams, deodorants, rubber, leather, synthetic fibres but also dust mites, pets, pollens, and mould.
C-section: Often children who are born via C-section have lower levels of beneficial bacteria, meaning they have a weaker immune system and are more prone to inflammatory skin conditions.
Stress. Eczema is a psychodermatologic disorder whereby it can be brought on by stressful situations, especially prevalent in adult eczema..
Temperature Extremes. Cold, hot, humid or dry extremes can all cause flare-ups.
Here are our top 7 tips at the Nourished Tribe Singapore top to tackling eczema:
1. Look at gut health
Food intolerance is common in those suffering from eczema. The most common trigger foods are: eggs, dairy foods, wheat, peanuts and soy. Exposure to these foods can trigger flare ups or worsen symptoms. Eczema is often a sign of a ‘leaky gut’, a condition where undigested foods and bacteria end up passing through the gut lining into the bloodstream. These toxic substances result in inflammation. One way to deal with this is to remove triggers that make this inflammation worse. An elimination diet or food intolerance testing may be a good place to start. Please make sure that you do this under the guidance of a qualified nutrition or naturopath practitioner.
3. Start taking fish oils
If you are not eating two portions of oily fish a week, then look at supplementing with a good quality fish oil. Research has shown that fish oils can reduce inflammation and they also have the added bonus of creating a calming effect which is much needed when your child’s condition is stressing him / her out.
4. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Avoid “inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy and sugar. Eating too many sugary foods such as soft drinks, cakes, biscuits and sweets causes your insulin levels to spike, creating a burst of inflammation throughout your body. This inflammation produces enzymes that can result in eczema wounds not healing or taking far longer to heal than they would normally. Add in plenty of healthy oils containing anti-inflammatory omega 3, including oil fish, and nuts like walnuts, almonds and pecans. Use herbs as much as you can in your cooking. Many have medicinal benefits. Berry fruits, sweet potato, broccoli, artichokes, garlic, onions, beetroot, avocados and red apples have particular anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Up your nutrients
Get you or your child’s vitamin D levels tested as low levels are associated with an increased risk of allergic skin diseases. Another one to look at is Vitamin A (think liver, oily fish, goats cheese, butter). It has also been shown to have a significant impact on our mucosal immunity, our first line of defence. Also related to gut health and eczema are low levels of Secretory IgA which is often associated with poor ability to fight back when microbes enter the body. This can be boosted using a supplement called Saccharomyces Boulardii.
6. Take probiotics
Probiotics are great for a healthy gut and have been shown to reduce the severity of eczema. As well as supporting the immune system, they may also regulate hypersensitivity responses. Probiotics and prebiotics can be supplemented using nutritional supplements, however, in the first instance, we would recommend trying food sources of both prebiotic (onion, garlic etc..) and probiotics (fermented vegetables, kefir etc…).
7. Consult the experts
Making sense of all the contributing factors around eczema isn’t easy. It can be overwhelming and frustrating, especially when you’re trying everything, but nothing seems to make a difference. That’s where we can help you. Book in a call with The Nourished Tribe on 3138 8600 and let’s talk through how we can make some positive changes you or your child’s diet and start tackling eczema at the root cause.