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Star foods for eczema: almond, apple cider vinegar, apricot, avocado, breast milk, butternut squash, cantaloupe melon, carrot, Evening Primrose oil, fresh tuna, game, green leafy vegetables, herring, linseed (flaxseed) oil, mackerel, mango, nuts, oats, pumpkin and pumpkin seed, salmon, seeds and their oils, sunflower seed, sweet potato

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by areas of dry, flaky, red and itchy patches of skin. It is extremely common in young children, with as many as one in four of those under eight years old suffering. It is also called dermatitis and comes in several varieties.

The most common form is atopic eczema, which is more often found in families with a history of allergic conditions such as asthma, hay fever, migraine or eczema itself. This type of eczema often starts in the transition from breast to bottle or when solids are first introduced. Children with atopic eczema usually grow out of the condition by the age of 15. Other types of eczema include nummular dermatitis, often triggered by a nickel allergy, causing circular, scaly lesions on the limbs. Dermatitis herpetiformis is a very itchy form of eczema and often accompanies bowel disorders. It is thought to be triggered by consumption of gluten and/or dairy products. Seborrhoeic eczema commonly affects the scalp and face.

Eczema can be triggered by a wide range of potential irritants, such as house dust mites, pets, soaps and detergents, bubble baths, shampoos, chlorine, food allergies, wool and synthetic fibres. Stress and viral infections can exacerbate symptoms. If you suspect that your child has eczema as a result of a food allergy, try undertaking an exclusion diet, with the assistance of a qualified nutritionist, in order to identify, and then avoid, the culprits.

Medicinal foods for eczema
Eczema often appears in the transitional period of weaning. If your family has a history of allergies, or your baby shows signs of eczema, delay introducing solids until six months of age. Breastfeeding provides protection against allergies owing to the unique nutritional profile of the breast milk. Early exposure to foods increases the likelihood of allergic reactions owing to the baby's undeveloped digestive system. When you do start weaning, begin with fresh fruit and vegetable purées, progressing to rice, millet and other grains, beans and pulses, seeds, fish and poultry. Avoid cow's milk, egg, wheat, tomato and citrus fruits until after the age of one.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are vital components of your child's diet, as every cell in their body requires them. They are also anti-inflammatory so can be used in treating eczema. Breast milk is a rich source of EFAs, whereas an infant diet of dairy and commercial baby foods contains very little. To incorporate EFAs into your child's diet, you can add a teaspoon of linseed (flaxseed) oil to your baby's food once a day from the age of six months. Other good EFA food sources are safflower oil, sunflower seeds and their oils, pumpkin seeds, evening primrose oil, walnuts and oily fish. Some EFA sources can also be administered externally. If your child has eczema, rub the contents of a 500 mg capsule of evening primrose oil into her tummy or inner thighs (wherever there is no eczema) up to six times a day.

Eczema sufferers tend to have low levels of certain nutrients including zinc, magnesium, B-vitamins and vitamin C. If your child develops eczema, it may be worthwhile to ask a nutritional therapist or doctor who practises complementary medicine to carry out a sweat test or hair-mineral analysis test (both non-invasive) to establish mineral levels. You can then incorporate foods rich in any of the minerals your child is lacking into her diet.

Foods rich in the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin E and selenium are all important for skin healing. Include lots of red and orange fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds and their oils, in the diet to provide plenty of these nutrients.

A great remedy for itchy skin is to add 1¼2 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1¼3 cup of cold-pressed oil (try sunflower) to your child's bath. Pat your child dry to retain some of the oil on her skin.


Extracted from Immunity Foods for Healthy Kids by Lucy Burney, text © 2004, published by Duncan Baird Publishers, London.


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