One reason that diet and eczema is not well understood it that there are three parts to what I call “Diet detective work”. Often families with eczema consider the second part and much of the third part.
The first part is the exclusion of the suspect additives and natural chemicals, which include salicylates, amines and mono sodium glutamate. These should be seen as chemicals which “aggravate the underlying condition”. Many people note that spicy food, citrus or high additive food make the eczema worse, but do not realise they can do more. However reactions to these suspect chemicals can be tricky as the symptoms only become worse when the total sum of several additives and natural chemicals add up to that person’s tolerance threshold. The normal diet contains suspect foods such as apples, tomatoes, spice, as well as chocolate, and additive colour and flavour.
The second part of dietary investigation is minimisation or exclusion of whole foods to which the person is allergic. These are known when a reaction occurs to a food introduced in infancy, such as dairy foods, soy, wheat, or eggs, or from allergy tests preferably done with an allergist, immunologist or dermatologist. The other indicator of a whole food being suspect is if a close relative reacts, even if their symptoms are not eczema.
The third part of dietary investigation is to exclude non dietary suspect allergens and chemicals in the environment. The allergens, such as dust mite, pollen or dander, are also found from allergy testing. The chemicals to be minimised include all smells, perfumed products and plants, products with benzoate preservatives, skin contact with coloured finger paint or playdough. Other environmental factors that aggravate symptoms include infections [as well as the additive flavour and colour in the paediatric syrups used to treat them], stress, insect bites, hormone changes, and, in babies, teething.
Many of these aggravators are known to eczema sufferers. Yet the diet component is often dismissed, as if it should be magic on its own, rather than be part of what I call the “Total Body Load” of suspect items.
Families with eczema know that it takes time to work out what medical treatment suits their own child. “Diet detective work” is the same. The trick is to reduce all the suspect items at the same time for a month and do challenges. This can take a little effort at first, but if symptoms are reduced then the additional effort required for treatment is minimised.