Part 1 – Helping Eczema from the Inside
Firstly, know that you are not alone! Australia has one of the highest incidences of eczema world-wide and is most prevalent in children, with up to 90% developing symptoms by age five and 60% of these developing the condition in their first 12 months of life. However, despite how common the condition is, having an eczema baby is often an isolating time and finding a treatment for eczema in babies or toddlers is an exhausting journey for parents.
This two part series will help you tackle eczema from both inside and out, hopefully helping bring together the pieces of the puzzle for other families more quickly than it did for ours. Much of this information has been gleamed over the past three years with my own child’s eczema as well as through helping and also learning from many hundreds of customers seeking eczema solutions for their children.
Is it an allergy or intolerance?
Eczema is quite commonly an inside job – I wish someone had told us this first and foremost!
Eczema in babies and toddlers is in many cases caused by underlying issues such as food allergies or intolerances, but determining what this might be for your child is the overwhelming part.
It’s worthwhile discussing the options with your doctor who, in Australia can refer your child to a specialist allergy or eczema clinic. While there are many private specialists in these areas, most major hospital also run their own specialist outpatient clinic too where they can perform allergy tests like ‘scratch tests’ or blood tests to test against a variety of common allergens. These types of tests are called IgG tests and will however only show results for true allergic reactions and not intolerances. There are some naturopaths who can test for intolerances and these tests are called IgE tests and are worth considering if your child has had the initial IgG tests done and they showed little or no reactions. An IgE test can be carried out by many naturopaths and results processed by laboratories.
This was the case for our baby who was allergy (IgG) tested at 6 months of age when severe eczema covered his face and entire body. We anxiously awaited the results from the test only to be told there was nothing but that perhaps it ‘could’ be milk intolerance. It turned out that he did in fact have a quite severe intolerance to cow milk protein, which also explained the struggles we’d had getting him to drink milk and the hours upon hours of unsettledness after each bottle resulting in minimal sleep for anyone day or night.
A gut issue
There has been a lot of recent research showing the link between gut health and conditions like eczema, with the most recent research uncovering new evidence that children who suffered eczema in early childhood presented with a diverse and adult-type range of microbiota (gut flora) in their systems, compared to non-eczema suffering children, showing that this type of intestinal gut flora diversity may contribute to the onset of eczema.
According to the research study, the differences between these types of gut flora are influenced by diet, inclusion of probiotics and drugs like antibiotics.
Studies have also highlighted the important role probiotics can play in not only helping children who already have eczema but will also reduce the risk of eczema in children when mothers take probiotics during their pregnancy.
Chemists and health food stores usually all stock quality probiotics for babies and children, many which can simply be added to their bottles or drinks.
You could spend a good part of a lifetime researching and discovering all the various foods that are both good and bad for ensuring good gut flora and which are most agreeable for most people with eczema, however The Eczema Diet: Eczema-Safe Food to Stop the Itch and Prevent Eczema for Life written by Karen Fischer (Exisle Publishing, 2012) after research spanning the past ten years is a great place to start and is becoming a bible for eczema sufferers.
It also provides this handy ‘Itchy Dozen’ List of foods eczema sufferers should avoid::
- cow’s milk and dairy products
- grapes including wines, sultanas, raisins and grape juice
- oranges and orange juice
- tomato and associated products
- soy sauce/tamari sauce
- dark green leafy vegetables
- dried fruit such as apricots, figs
- deli meats such as salami, bacon, ham, sausages and meats containing flavour enhancers
- corn and associated products
- junk food or lollies
The Eczema Diet also then highlight’s the ‘Top 12 Safe Foods’ for eczema suffers containing nutrients that help to decrease inflammation, promoting skin repair:
- Banana (avoid sugar bananas)
- Papaya contains antioxidant carotenoids and vitamin C
- Broth (home-made) has skin-repairing amino acid.
- Potato (including sweet potato)
- Buckwheat rich in antioxidant flavonoids rutin and quercetin
- Mung bean sprouts are strongly alkalising (and what a fantastic activity it would be to teach kids how to sprout their own and make eating them so much more fun after growing them!)
- Oats contains vitamin E and minerals
- Linseed/flaxseed rich in omega-3
- Brussel sprouts
- Spring onions
- Fish, but avoid large fish which have high mercury levels.
Other internal triggers – Stress, Sickness & teething It is a cruel fact that there are often other internal battles within the body such as stress, sickness and teething that can also cause flare-ups. Many parents report that sometimes it is the onset of a flare-up which becomes their warning signal right before their child becomes sick or a new tooth pops through! It is possible that these things all place strain on an immune system triggering eczema in those already prone to it and probably is also exacerbated by the sleeplessness that also goes hand in hand with all three of these triggers.
By Kelly Northey
Kelly Northey is the designer of the Bamboo Bubby Bag™ a one size fits 000-2+ baby sleeping bag made from the softest blend of bamboo and organic cotton fabric, designed especially for eczema babies and toddlers. Its unique enclosed, adjustable sleeve will grow with your baby throughout their entire first 2-3 years, allowing delicate skin to heal naturally while also providing a goodnight’s sleep.
The Bamboo Bubby Bag™ and a new range of ScratchMeNot flip mitten sleeves are available for sale worldwide online at: www.bamboobubby.com.au
Kelly is always happy to talk more about eczema or Bamboo Bubby products on her Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bamboobubby.