Karen Fischer is a nutritionist, skin health specialist, health writer, author and a busy mum. Her daughter previously suffered with eczema and allergies.
Eczema (pronounced ex-ma) is also known as atopic dermatitis and skin symptoms include flaking, red patches, cracks, weeping, crusting and itchiness. Bleeding and bacterial infections can also occur. Having a family history of eczema, hay fever or asthma increases your child’s chances of inheriting eczema. Eczema can easily be controlled or eliminated through dietary changes, especially if your child is over the age of one.
Here are four basic steps that work synergistically to prevent eczema:
If you suspect your child has allergies, ask your GP for a referral to an allergy specialist. However, allergy testing is not 100% accurate and it does not identify food sensitivities. Allergy avoidance may decrease eczema but it does not treat the underlying cause (this is why the other three steps are necessary).
Get a Probiotic that is Specific for Eczema
Probiotic supplements contain micro-flora that can help to improve a child’s digestive health. There is also excellent scientific research showing that certain strains of probiotic bacteria can successfully treat eczema. When buying a probiotic, look for ones that contain L. fermentum PCC; L. rhamnosus GG (it must be the GG variety) or Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 (it’s now called Bifidobacterium animalis) as they are specific for improving eczema.
- If your baby is under the age of one and you are still breastfeeding then you can take the probiotic yourself (as it may alter the flora in your breast milk) and/or you can put a few grains of probiotic on your nipple before they suckle (do this twice a day).
- If your child is over the age of one or is bottle fed, you can add the probiotic to their bottle or cup. Refer to the manufacturer for the appropriate dosage.
Implement Dietary Changes (for two months)
I have found (through research and client feedback) that the most common flare-up foods* include dairy, tomato, grapes, dried fruits, citrus, strawberries, kiwi fruit, stone fruit, soy sauce, avocado, mushrooms, spinach, chocolate, spreads and sauces containing chemicals, and additives such as food colouring (especially yellow and red), artificial flavours and preservatives. Eliminate them from your child’s diet for two months then slowly reintroduce them one by one. If a flare up occurs, then limit the offending food and consult with a nutritionist or doctor who has studied nutrition.
- As a nutritionist, I only recommend a dairy-free diet for children who are over the age of one year (or from birth if the child has been diagnosed with dairy allergy). Before taking dairy out of your child’s diet, speak to a nutritionist to get advice on calcium and protein alternatives that are suitable for your child’s age and development.
These are sensitivities, not allergies.
Give Your Child ‘Moisturising’ Foods
Healthy fats are needed for smooth rash-free skin as they literally moisturise skin from the inside out. If your child has eczema, he or she is likely to either have problems digesting fats or is not getting good fats in the right ratios (this can easy occur in modern Western diets). Moisturising foods include flaxseed oil and oily/cold water fish such as sardines, salmon and trout.
- If your child is under the age of one, speak to a nutritionist about adding flaxseed oil to your child’s bottle (a nutritionist can also give you the appropriate dosage). If you are breastfeeding then you can consume flaxseed oil and eat oily fish 2-3 times a week as they will increase the essential fatty acid content of your breast milk (however avoid foods you are allergic to).
- For children over the age of one, you can mix 1/2 a teaspoon flaxseed oil into cold foods and drinks.
- If your child has nut or seed allergies, then consult with your allergy specialist before using flaxseed oil (allergic reactions to flaxseed are rare but possible so be cautious).
- If your child is over the age of one (and not allergic to seafood) then introduce sardines or boneless trout and salmon into his/her diet, 2-3 times a week.
For more information about feeding the family, go to Karen’s health website www.healthbeforebeauty.com