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The link between eczema and diet: everything you need to know

Eczema is a very common skin condition in children, in fact, one in three Australian children struggle with it.

Despite it’s prevalence, there is no quick fix and therefore, it’s not always easy for parents to manage.

Understanding your child’s eczema can help you better manage the flare-ups and avoid any triggers.

Someone who has dedicated her life to not only educating people about the causes, but also the link between the eczema and diet, is Australian Nutritionist and award-winning author of The Eczema Diet and The Healthy Skin Diet, Karen Fischer.

Karen’s daughter, Ayva, developed eczema at just two weeks old. Her skin was red, raw, very itchy, and she didn’t sleep well. Karen tried all the treatments available on the market and followed all the advice she could find, but nothing helped.

It was then, fed up, Karen took matters into her own hands.

“She was two years old when I developed a diet and supplement routine for her and after her eczema cleared up (in just two months), I began seeing patients,” tells Karen.

“I did not plan to be a nutritionist who specialised in eczema but I was constantly frustrated at the incorrect advice shown in the media. Eczema can take a toll on the whole family but there is a lot you can do about it. I love how my daughter can now eat whatever she likes, swim in pools, travel and live a normal life. For anyone who has suffered with severe eczema, having a normal, itch-free life becomes so precious.”

Karen has since helped thousands of people understand and better treat their eczema by sticking to a skin and chemical-friendly diet; avoiding foods known to trigger the condition.

“Eczema is linked to stress, poor diet, nutritional deficiencies, candida albicans and other infections, poor liver detoxification of chemicals, under functioning liver, gut dysbiosis, chemical intolerance and food sensitivities,” explains Karen.

“When I ran my eczema clinic I helped people work out their specific triggers. I found most of my patients had undiagnosed chemical intolerances, and when they avoided these trigger foods their skin cleared up.”

Karen talks a lot about ‘trigger foods’ and the importance of knowing what these are to make sure you’re giving your child, or yourself, the best possible chance to keep eczema at bay.

“Your skin is literally made from the foods you eat, and this has been well established by the scientific community for the last century. For example, a diet devoid of vitamin C will result in scurvy where your skin develops bruises, old wounds reopen and skin rashes and skin haemorrhaging occurs,” tells Karen.

Unfortuntately, it’s not as simple when it comes to eczema.

“There is a lot of conflicting research on eczema and foods, because we all have different triggers there is not one ‘neat’ group of foods linked to every single case of eczema. So doing an elimination diet is the most accurate way for a person to find out their specific triggers. However, people also need check for chemical and food intolerances which are much more likely to be the real issue when it comes to eczema.”

No one knows this more than Karen, whose daughter was triggered by a chemical called salicylates; a natural chemical found in tomatoes, avocado, tea, oranges and many lollies.

“Research shows that a whopping 52% of people with eczema have a worsening of eczema when they consume salicylates.  When these people consume amines (rich sources include probiotics, fermented foods and cacao), 35% of them have a nasty flare up. This research from the RPA Hospital Allergy Unit, along with supplements and healthy foods, helped my daughter experience a normal childhood.”

With salicylate sensitivity being a very real trigger for a large percentage of eczema sufferers, Karen says there are certain foods that, if avoided, can help alleviate symptoms.

“They should avoid spinach, avocado, turmeric, teas and coconut. If a person has histamine or amine intolerance they should avoid nuts, alcohol, fermented foods, cheese and yoghurt. It’s easy to avoid these ingredients when you have the right recipes as there are plenty of healthy alternatives.

“On the other hand, foods such as red cabbage, mung bean sprouts, leeks, shallots and celery are alkalising and good for the blood. Fresh meats and fresh white fish are low in salicylates and amines so they are eczema-friendly.”

If you’re little one is suffering now, Karen has some great tips you can put into practise right away.

  • Keep their skin hydrated with gentle skin products to lock in moisture
  • Dress them in bamboo or soft 100% cotton clothing as other fabrics can make them itchy
  • Look for products that are free of problematic chemicals, colourings and mineral oils and include ingredients such as zinc oxide (especially for the nappy area), castor seed oil, evening primrose oil, shea butter and natural vitamin E, as they have soothing properties.

Nutritionist Karen Fischer is the founder of Skin Friend and her latest book is The Eczema Detox (Exisle Publishing). Karen can be contacted via www.skinfriend.com and @karenfischer.health. You can also find eczema-friendly recipes from Karen at www.skinfriend/blogs/recipes.

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