With Eczema quickly becoming a common complaint in kids and babies, let’s have a look at the contributors from a Natural Health perspective.
You may have read articles discussing cortisone creams, heat stimulated baby eczema as well as bathing techniques for your child, and whilst some of these are valid considerations; I find they are very reactive rather than proactive approaches.
I’ve written this article to help you navigate what it is, how to actually get rid of it in the long term and treat the outbreaks short term. To do this, we’re going to work internally and target the drivers of childhood eczema as well as externally, to minimise and clear off the outbreaks.
Firstly, lets have a look at the symptoms of baby eczema. Typically eczema or atopic dermatitis is a red, hot, dry and itchy skin rash that, on babies, usually breaks out on the face, primarily the cheeks and chin. As children become older it has a tendency to diminish or move away from the face and further down the arms and often, later developing into hay fever and/or asthma. Before you read on though, please, please be sure that your baby actually does have eczema and not something else by going to a GP and getting a professional diagnosis.
Where Eczema Comes From.
Although a family history of eczema has long been recognised as a driving factor, we also need to take into account that it is primarily an allergic response, which is what we mainly need to address if we want long term relief from the outbreaks. Scientifically, we know it is an allergic response because; all eczema sufferers have positive allergy test results, with 80% also having heightened ‘IgE’ activity, which is a type of allergic antibody in our system. Another indicator of allergic activity is that ‘mast cells’ (a specialised white blood cell) on patients’ skin releases a higher than usual amount of histamines and other allergy related compounds So, what does this mean?? To put it simply it means that we need to remove the allergy causing substance.
Step 1: Treating the allergic response; long term.
Breastfeeding is well renown for supporting the emotional development of children and the significant protection against immune conditions, developmental problems, disease as well as baby eczema (1 & 2) and other allergic responses. Yes, absolutely. However, if you are breastfeeding and your child is susceptible to eczema you absolutely need to eradicate the common food allergens in your own diet so as to prevent the presence of these antigens in your breast milk.
It’s no real surprise that studies show the main culprits to avoid are once again: Dairy milk, eggs, peanuts and to a smaller degree fish, soy, wheat and chocolate.
Here’s the kicker; if breastfeeding, maternal avoidance of these foods, results in a complete turnaround and resolution in the majority of baby eczema cases. No word of a lie, the research (3, 4, 5, 6) has been done and released and I’ve seen it myself in a clinic. For non-breastfed and older children, studies show the same food culprits to avoid; again- dairy milk, eggs and peanuts.
If your child has eczema, the quickest and most effective diagnosis and treatment is simply the elimination of these foods. It doesn’t have to be forever, some can be added back into your or your child’s diet after 6-12 months, others will be indefinite if the same allergic response is present.
With my kids, it was always egg whites. This eased over time however, we avoided egg whites for a few years until their guts healed.
Short Term Relief Of An Eczema Rash.
While the long term and underlying problems are being addressed, you can relieve the symptoms quite quickly and very effectively by following the next steps.
Step 2: Incorporate Essential Fatty Acids Into Your Diet
Incorporate Essential Fatty Acids into your child’s diet if you are breastfeeding. The strongest and best results have been found to be from Omega 3 fatty acid stemming from Fish Oil 1000-3000 mg providing EPA and DHA daily. These have been found to be very significant in providing protection and relief from allergy development. The studies can be seen here and here. Find a reputable brand such as Bioceuticals or better yet- get in touch with a Naturopath
Step 3: Licorice Root
This contains a component called Glycyrrhetic- Acid that, applied directly on the skin, as well as digested has shown very significant and powerful anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory effects. Several other studies found the effects were very similar if not better than hydrocortisone cream, one finding the Licorice root group had a 93% of an improvement using this, over the 83% using cortisone. Another study found that 9 out of 12 patients that were unresponsive to other treatments noticed marked improvement in their symptoms. If you look here you’ll see two thirds of the test patients preferred this formula to the placebo and reported improved sleep, relief from itching with no side affects! Yay!! Your little one really will sleep like a baby!
Step 4: Probiotics and more probiotics!
Specifically, 5-10 million viable Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria cells per day; in both yours and your child’s diet in order to strengthen gut flora which, as we know has immunity and protective qualities generally. Fermented foods are the holy grail in terms of probiotic variety and stomach acid survival through to the intestines. An easy fermented food to get into kids is Milk Kefir. Either purchased or make your own then blend it in a daily fruit smoothie.
The Last Step:
Which I’m sure you already do is use mild detergents and soaps. Both on skin and clothes and ensure to rinse off well of course. Read the labels and reduce all fillers.
References and Studies:
- Saarinen UM, Kajosaari M. Breastfeeding as prophylaxis against atopic disease: prospective follow-up study until 17 years old.The Lancet 1995;346:1065-1069.
- Isolauri E, Tahvanainen A, Peltola T, et al. Breast-feeding of allergic infants. Journal of Pediatrics 1999;134:27-32.
- Arvola T, Moilanen E, Vuento R, et al. Weaning to hypoallergenic formula improves gut barrier function in breast fed infants with atopic eczema. Journal of pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition 2004;38:92-96
- Effect of maternal dietary exclusion on breast fed infants with eczema: two controlled studies. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1341170/
- Peanut protein as a major source of adverse food reactions in patients with atopic dermatitis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2792753#
- Randomised controlled trial of advice on an egg exclusion diet in young children with atopic eczema and sensitivity to eggs. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9560837
- Dietary supplementation with very long-chain n-3 fatty acids in patients with atopic dermatitis. A double-blind, multi centre study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8011502
- Atopy risk in infants and children in relation to early exposure to fish, oily fish, or long-chain omega-3 fatty acids: a systematic review. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19997989
- Efficacy of traditional Chinese herbal therapy in adult atopic dermatitis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1351600