What is Eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition where the skin gets irritated, dry, red, and potentially itchy. There are different forms of eczema but the most common is atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is usually a chronic condition and can flare up periodically. It is also quite common in infants and children (usually occurring before the age of 2).
What causes eczema?
Medical professionals don’t really know what causes eczema, however, they believe that has to do with an individual’s immune response (meaning how the child’s immune system reacts to different triggers). Sometimes eczema early in life is also associated with the development of allergies but this is not always the case.
As a dietitian/nutritionist I often get asked about the role diet plays when it comes to eczema. I will start by saying that everyone’s experience with eczema will vary, including what works to prevent triggers and what doesn’t. When it comes to eczema there are a few things you can try. In this blog, I will discuss a few options to try from a dietary perspective and a few things a soon to be mama can consider during her pregnancy.
Does a mother’s intake influence eczema risk?
There is some pretty interesting research that studies mother’s diets during pregnancy and how that might influence the risk of developing eczema.
- Research suggests that a maternal diet rich in omega 6 fatty acids and lacking in omega 3 fatty acids lead to an increased risk in their babies developing eczema (Sausenthaler et al, 2007).
- A healthy maternal diet with a wide variety of foods, in general, is associated with a lesser risk of baby developing eczema and/or allergies (Montes et al., 2013).
- A maternal diet rich in green, yellow, and citrus fruits and vegetables during pregnancy was associated with reduced risk of baby developing eczema (Miyake et al., 2010).
Bottom line: what mom eats while pregnant can influence baby’s risk of developing eczema. However, what seems most important is including more omega 3 fatty acids in your diet and fruits and veggies.
Omega 3 fatty acids come from fatty fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, as well as plant-based sources like chia seeds, hemp seeds, and algae.
Can what baby eats trigger an eczema flare-up?
Research has found associations between exclusive breastfeeding for the first 3 months of life and reduced risk of eczema. In addition, there are many research studies that link probiotic intake with reduced risk of developing eczema and/or reducing the incidence of flare-ups.
Bottom line: probiotics might be beneficial in helping your little when it comes to eczema.
What about dairy, should it be avoided?
Often one of the common foods you hear about cutting out to help with eczema is dairy. That is because dairy foods are a common allergen and sometimes common allergens create flare-ups in babies with eczema. In addition, the presence of fat and hormones in dairy products can create inflammation and cause a flare-up in those with eczema. Dairy doesn’t always influence eczema in children but it is something to consider.
Common allergens include cow’s milk, eggs, soy products, wheat, gluten, nuts, fish, and shellfish.
Something to try: if your baby is getting regular eczema flare-ups, make note of what you ate that day or the previous day (if breastfeeding), did you have some common allergens? If your baby is not breastfed, take note of what they are eating. If you notice a potential trigger you can try to eliminate that food and see if your baby’s flare-up subsides.
Another tip: eczema is often scaly and dry. It is important to keep moisture on the skin but also in the body. Ensure your little is hydrated well by either getting lots of water and/or breastmilk and formula throughout the day.
Bottom line: dairy or other common allergen foods could be a trigger for your child and their eczema, however, this is not always the case. If you have made many changes to your child’s environment and nothing seems to be working it is worth exploring some dietary changes too.
When it comes to eczema it can be difficult to figure out exactly what is triggering your little, be patient, be mindful about what is being put in and on your child’s body, and seek additional support if needed.
If you have any diet/food related questions when it comes to eczema and your little, please feel free to connect with me directly. I offer a free 15-minute health chat and would be happy to chat with you further.
Cheers to happy and healthy eating,
Angela Wallace, MSc, RD
Eat Right Feel Right
For helpful tips on how your family can eat healthier, you can follow Angela on Instagram @eatright_rd and on Facebook @angelaeatrightfeelright