Just the Facts
You may have seen the itchy, red rash that characterizes eczema, but do you know what it actually is? Eczema is an inflammatory condition that is often considered "atopic," or mediated by an allergic response. It's actually quite common and is thought to affect approximately 15 percent of kids. In many individuals, eczema often goes hand in hand with other atopic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. Symptoms may be acute (i.e. scaling and oozing of the skin) or chronic (i.e. thickened areas of skin or changes in pigmentation). Eczema tends to first appear during a child's first year of life.
Food and Eczema Link
The exact cause of eczema is still unclear, and there is no cure for the condition. Researchers have suggested a link between the development of eczema and food allergies. This link has lead to the use of different types of dietary exclusion as a means of treatment. The most popular type is simply eliminating likely allergenic foods, such as milk and eggs. There are also more specialized and restrictive strategies, such as the elemental diet. Here, whole foods are replaced completely with a liquid diet of broken-down carbohydrates, protein and fats. Research has yet to prove definitive benefits of either, especially in light of the potential for nutrient deficiency with these diets.
Impact of Maternal Diet
A woman's diet during the last month of her pregnancy can actually impact her child's potential for developing eczema. According to German researchers, this impact can either be positive or negative depending on the foods she chooses. High intake of polyunsaturated fats from margarine or vegetable oil and/or allergenic foods like citrus fruits may increase risk. Inversely, eating lots of omega-3 oils from fish can actually decrease likelihood that the child will develop eczema.
Sugar and Inflammation
There's one food that all eczema sufferers should try to limit. Sugar, especially in its more refined form, may be the common culprit behind many inflammatory conditions. When we consume foods that are high in sugar, our body releases insulin. Harmful free radicals are released along with the insulin hormone and then have the potential to damage our cells. This damage promotes an inflammation response as our immune system attempts to fight the free radicals. Cut back on sugar by choosing whole grains instead of more refined ones. Substitute fresh fruit for other desserts with lots of added sugars.
Heal Eczema from the Inside Out
Consuming healthy fats from foods like fish, nuts and avocados can help counteract all that inflammation. Avocados, in particular, are a great weapon for fighting eczema. That's because they can help treat the condition from the inside out--both as a healing food and a topical remedy. Adding avocado to your salad or sandwich provides lots of healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, like vitamin A. Applied topically, it helps to moisturize the skin and reduce the itching and swelling associated with eczema.