Nutritional Remedies for Eczema
Eczema is a common skin disorder characterized by chronic inflammation that causes itchy rashes and dry, scaly patches that come and go. Although it is not contagious, more than 15 million Americans have eczema. Most of these people have a family or personal history of allergies. Other common signs of eczema include blisters, oozing, crusting, thickening and redness of skin. It is common among young children, where it usually affects their cheeks, knees and elbows. It also affects adults, and skin changes appear on the inside surfaces of their knees and elbows.
The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but scientists believe that genetic and environmental factors play a role in triggering its symptoms. Exposure to allergens and irritants, stress and temperature changes often make the symptoms worse.
Many people who have eczema also have food allergies, but doctors warn against removing some foods from the diet, especially in young children, who need milk and other dairy products to support growth. Many scientists have also dispelled the belief that diet is the culprit in causing eczema, saying that restricting a child’s diet can harm his health and growth. Studies show that eliminating foods like milk or eggs from young children’s diet only helps when there is proven food sensitivity, as shown by formal allergy tests.
Dr. Donald V. Belsito, professor of clinical dermatology at Columbia University, New York, says that although some young kids have eczema associated with allergic reactions to some foods, food-related symptoms are very rare after age three or four. Foods can cause hives and other symptoms, but not eczema. Parents who are concerned that a food allergy is causing their child’s eczema should talk with their doctors.
The association of diet and eczema in adults has not been established, even if some adults report having experienced worsening of eczema symptoms after eating certain foods. However, even if there is no solid evidence that links certain foods with eczema flare-ups. Dr. Andrea Cambio, medical director of Cambio Dermatology in Florida says it may be an individual matter and patients who report eating some foods that make their eczema worse must cut down on those foods. She also advises people to talk to their health care provider before excluding any food from their diets or going on a special diet. Other experts also advise eating less sugar and fewer refined foods, which contribute to inflammation and eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and essential fatty acids.
Nutritional Remedies for Eczema
Aside from eating a healthy, balanced meal to promote healthy skin, experts recommend taking some foods and health supplements that are especially good for preventing or improving eczema symptoms. These include:
- Fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, can help to significantly reduce symptoms of eczema within weeks of regular intake. Researchers found that fish oil helps reduce an inflammatory substance in the body called leukotriene B4, which is involved in eczema. Consult your doctor before taking supplements with fish oil if you are using blood-thinning medications or vitamin A.
- Probiotics containing lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, which may boost immune system function and control allergies, in children. Probiotics are live bacteria that are found in foods like yogurt, and help balance good and bad bacteria in the gut and skin.
- Evening primrose oil, which has been found to help reduce itching in eczema. People who take blood thinners should consult their doctors before taking this supplement.
- Borage oil, which contains the GLA, and essential fatty acid, which has an anti-inflammatory role. Studies suggest that GLA helps reduce symptoms of eczema, but like evening primrose oil, it can interact with medications like blood thinners.
- Vitamin C, which may act as an antihistamine and help reduce symptoms of eczema.
- Rose hips and palmitate, which are hypoallergenic.
- Bromelain, an enzyme that comes from pineapple, helps by reducing inflammation.
- Dark berries, like blueberries and blackberries, contain flavonoids or antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce allergic reactions. They also help strengthen connective tissues.
- Some studies suggest that drinking tea (green, black, or oolong) may help relieve symptoms.
This information should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.
WebMD. Diet and Eczema: The Facts. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/treatment-11/eczema-diet
UMMC. Eczema. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/eczema
Science Daily. Eczema In Children Is Increasing, But Diet Is Not The Cause, Study Suggests. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090320112110.htm