As a reminder … In July, Adrianne Watts from Group 37 was asked to write an article for Parentsource.ca on managing eczema. She managed to parlay the article into a five part series. Here is the first of the installments. Way to go, Adrianne! This article was originally posted in Parent Source late September.
How diet can affect eczema sufferers: Eating for Eczema
We’ve heard it countless times, ‘You are what you eat.’ For some this may not be so glaringly important, or more so apparent. For an eczema sufferer this ideal is paramount. Eczema sufferers are sensitive individuals, sensitive to changes in weather, temperature, diet, social changes; essentially everything our bodies can revolt at given the slightest provocation.
You’ve also heard this one quite often; ‘your best defense is a good offense.’? This is what eating for eczema comes into play, this is but one of many tools in your eczema management arsenal.
In this segment we will explore the equally important idea of taking foods out of your diet before we begin to add in the super foods, vitamins and supplements. Why? Because no matter what you add to your diet it won?t help if you continue to consume items that you are sensitive or allergic to. It is important to start with a clean baseline with environmental and food allergens eliminated (where possible) and then we will begin to build a plan for eating to boost the immune system.
Approximately 1 in 10 children with atopic eczema have a food sensitivity (allergy), which can make symptoms worse. The most common foods, which trigger eczema symptoms, are cow’s milk, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, and nuts. Food journaling is the first step in helping you zero in on a food sensitivity (allergy) that may be acting as a trigger. So if you’ve done your homework from the last article we can begin the process of analyzing the results to see if we can detect any patterns.
Now you’re asking, how do I know if a food is making eczema worse?
Immediate food sensitivity occurs in some cases and symptoms often develop within two hours of eating the trigger food. Itching and scratching may worsen shortly after eating the trigger food. A common sign is redness, swelling and irritation around the mouth. Other symptoms may occur such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, wheezing, itchy eyes and sneezing. Delayed food sensitivity can occur in some cases, with symptoms developing 6-24 hours after eating the trigger food. Some symptoms may not be so obvious, even more frustrating some people with sensitivities do not present any easily detectable symptoms.
Everyone is different so it is important to evaluate even the slightest changes to be a possible indicator of a trigger food. For example when my daughter eats a trigger food (wheat, dairy) she becomes irritable and irrational and she begins to rub her eyes incessantly. Within two hours the itching and outbreak occurs fully developing into an eczema outbreak within 24 hours. When I eat a trigger food I begin to shut down mentally and can no longer cope with simple tasks.? I experience abdominal pain and eczema outbreak presents itself within 12 – 24 hours post consumption and severity depends on the amount of trigger food I’ve eaten.
Food journaling is the first step in helping you zero in on trigger foods. Further testing can be done via exclusion diets and sensitivity testing through your family doctor or your naturopath. You can conduct your own elimination diet by completely excluding a single food item from your diet for a two weeks and then reintroducing the food, all the while journaling to document your symptoms from elimination stage through reintroduction stage. If you’ve done it right it will be obvious if the food is a trigger.
Elimination Diet Instructions:
1. Completely eliminate the food from your diet for two weeks. While you are in the ‘elimination’ phase eat simple foods that you prepare at home to avoid the possibility of cross-contamination. For example, if you are eliminating dairy, eat fresh fruits, veggies, and meats rather than anything that comes in a package or is prepared in a restaurant, unless it has been made in a dairy-free facility.
2. Track your symptoms in a food journal (along with the food you eat) to see if they improve. If they don’t improve, then the food you eliminated was most likely not the problem. If they do improve, re-introduce the food in its most basic form to see if you have a reaction. This is called a ‘challenge.’ In the case of dairy a good challenge would be plain milk, rather than prepackaged food with multiple ingredients.
3. If your symptoms get worse after eating the food, try the process of elimination and challenge again to confirm the results. It is possible that the first time was a coincidence. For example, perhaps the food you used for your challenge is greasy and upset your stomach, but you can tolerate the food in another form.
Removing food allergens from the diet can prove to be difficult as they can hide in packaged foods and in places you least expect. Dairy exists in various forms in many foods you wouldn’t expect: whey, lactic acid, modified milk ingredients, casein etc. If you have a problem with gluten you may have a problem with other grains containing gluten, or grains that have been processed in a facility that also processes gluten. So extreme diligence in label reading is paramount to ensuring your completely removing the allergen from your diet.
Once you’ve removed all of the potential food triggers from your diet you can begin to add foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals and can help to strengthen your immune system, further helping you on your journey to an eczema-free life.
Tune in next month when we will discuss how you can add super foods and supplements to help strengthen the immune system and help you manage your eczema, naturally.
Adrianne Watts is a natural living advocate and founder of Nurish Organics, a skin care company that focuses on creating wholesome organic skin food. She has a lifetime of experience in dealing with eczema and other health issues, naturally. Adrianne believes that sharing knowledge helps empower others to become partners in their own health. Visit her at www.nurishorganics.com or for more articles and tips on eczema and natural skin care follow us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NurishOrganics and twitter: http://twitter.com/EmilysOwn