Eczema is a common condition where the skin does not produce enough natural oil to form a protective barrier, so it becomes dry, itchy and inflamed. There is a genetic susceptibility to the condition, but individual people have different triggers. These range from heat or cold to stress, or exposure to certain foods or chemicals.
Eczema is most commonly seen in children, currently affecting 1 in 5 children in the UK, however many grow out of it as they enter adulthood when the rate falls to 1 in 12.
Treatments offered for eczema by your GP normally include petroleum-based emollient creams and topical corticosteroids. Whilst these are effective in controlling the symptoms, they can have side effects such as thinning the skin, and they don’t deal with the root cause of the problem.
Here are some more natural ways to support your skin health through your diet that may also improve your eczema:
There is a strong link between gut health and skin health, and taking a good probiotic (such as Biocare BioAcidophilus Forte or Biocare Infantis Powder for babies) can ensure the right balance of gut bacteria. This should lead to an improvement in skin health, in particular, reducing dryness.
It is especially important to take them after a course of antibiotics, which can upset the natural balance of gut flora.
2. Food intolerance
To identify any foods that may be triggering your eczema, you can take an IgG food intolerance test, with the guidance of a nutritional therapist. Or if you already suspect a particular food, just eliminate it for 2 weeks, then reintroduce it and monitor your symptoms.
It is also helpful to keep a food and symptom diary which can highlight any likely culprits in your diet.
3. Anti-inflammatory foods
Include these foods in your diet to help reduce inflammation:
Blueberries: Add them to smoothies, breakfast bowls or just as a snack. They contain anti-inflammatory anthocyanins, and vitamin C to help build collagen
Spinach: Eat it in green smoothies, in salads or stirred into a soup or stew. It is packed with carotenoids, which protect the body from inflammation
Ginger & Turmeric: Use the fresh root in a stir-fry or marinade, or grated into hot water as a tea. They contain gingerols and curcumin, powerful anti-inflammatory compounds
Essential fats: From oily fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds. These fats have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, compared to the pro-inflammatory saturated fats found in meat, dairy products, processed and fried foods
Zinc: This mineral is commonly deficient in eczema sufferers, and has many roles to play in the body. It assists with balancing gut flora as well as helping to metabolise fats. The best food sources include sesame and pumpkin seeds, seafood and quinoa, or you can take a good quality zinc supplement.