A nutritional approach to beating the itch – Eczema

Are you or are you caring for a loved one who is suffering with painful, dry and cracked skin? Do you find yourself constantly scratching and feeling the need to apply moisturiser?

Eczema is an inflammatory condition that can effect us at anytime in our lives and the root cause can be complicated.  My own son suffered with this condition as a young child so I know first hand how distressing it can be, to not only suffer but to be a parent and feel helpless as your child suffers.  The usual solution is to resort to steroid creams, whilst this may relieve the issue short term it doesn’t get to the root cause and this can be complicated, as it could include or be a combination of, exposure to irritants, unidentified allergies and food intolerances, stress and anxiety or a poor diet high in foods that could trigger and mediate the condition or lacking in the important nutrients to nourish the skin.

Over 90% of the body’s immune system is located in the gut and inflammatory conditions which are an immune response, in most cases stem from issues within the gut.  Identifying an individuals causes, triggers and mediators is the best way to manage this condition and this means looking at………..

      • Testing for food, chemical and airborne allergies
      • Check gut health, digestive function and intestinal permeability (Leaky gut)
      • Reducing production of inflammatory chemicals such as histamine
      • Balance blood sugar
      • Reduce stress or manage anxiety
      • Ensure a good anti-inflammatory diet


So where to you start? ………

Testing for allergies would be a good place to start and your GP can arrange for a fairly comprehensive test to be carried out, but it is also possible to have a comprehensive food intolerance test done with a pin prick blood test and this would analyse over 200 food and drinks, both cooked and raw.  A comprehensive stool test is the simplest way to determine if there is a problem with digestion, gut permeability and gut health.

However, if the thought of going through an array of tests is not for you or your child then a dietary programme of elimination, repair and reintroduction could be an option.  We can react potentially to any food, but the most common foods are, gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, citrus, peanuts and yeast.  A 2-4 week elimination programme of these foods as well as the reduction of the intake of histamine containing or promoting foods could help to identify the trigger foods.  Foods to avoid would include canned fish, cashew and walnuts, smoked food, vinegar, picked food, mature cheese, beans & Pulses, shellfish and sorry to say it, but chocolate.

It is also important to improve the body’s ability to deal with a predisposition to inflammatory conditions and following a more anti-inflammatory diet is going to be beneficial.  Some things to consider are, adding turmeric, pineapple, red onions, berries, garlic, ginger, papaya, green tea and spirulina to your diet. 


Getting the balance right between your fat take is important too.  Meat and dairy are high in an omega 6 fat which can promote inflammation but flax and chia seeds as well as oily fish are high omega 3 which is anti-inflammatory.  There is however, always some confusion regarding a good balance between omega 3 & 6 fatty acids as some omega 6 fatty acids are also anti-inflammatory, such as Gamma-linolenic acid GLA which is found in evening primrose and borage oil.  A typical western diet sadly contains high levels of the pro-flammatory omega 6 fatty acid and ensuring a good balance of the right fatty acids is not only important for inflammatory conditions but also heart and mental health, weight management, brain development in children and skin health as every single cell in the body has a membrane jam packed with fatty acids.  The skins cells need a good membrane to protect the body and dry, scaly skin could be an indication that the cells are not nourished.   With Eczema nourishing form the inside out is vital but to relieve the itch an oil based moisturiser may be more beneficial than a regular cream based as it can penetrate deeper through the layers of the skin and feed the newly forming skin cells below the surface.  Supplementingwith evening primrose oil, a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), the most potent omega 6 fat, could help to reduce both the itching, redness and swelling in eczema.

Sulphur in our diet is particularly useful for our skin, connective tissues, collagen production and health of our hair so including good food sources such as leeks, onions, garlic and cruciferous vegetables in the diet would be good or a supplement may be worth trying. MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a sulphur based natural component found in certain foods. MSM also helps the beneficial bacteria in our gut with the manufacture of  anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory sulphur-containing amino acids, such as methionine and cysteine.  So as well as MSM it may be worth adding in certain probiotics and certain strains may be more beneficial than others – Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) and other Lactobacillus strains have been shown to be helpful in preventing eczema. If after either testing or following an elimination diet and it is found that you are not reacting to histamine then consider making your own fermented foods to take daily as well. 

Nutrients containing Anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties include Vitamin C so add in citrus fruits, red pepper, kiwi fruits, berries, leafy green vegetables.

Foods rich in beta carotene and lycopene may also be nourishing and healing for the skin – so add in plenty of red and orange vegetables and fruits – tomato, butternut squash, apricots, sweet potato, watermelon and of course leafy greens are good sources.

There is an increased interest in the role that vitamin D plays in the immune system and, in particular, allergic diseases. It is known that vitamin D receptors are found in multiple tissues and cells in the human body so keeping your level optimal can help lower inflammation in the body and support healing.   

Vitamin E intake has also been shown to improve asthma or allergic diseases, so including some good food choices such as avocado, nuts and seeds, oily fish and leafy greens, could be helpful too.

All supplements recommended can be bought via The Natural Dispensary which is an online supplement company. Set up an account and put Eatwell2livewell as your practitioner and use discount code DJS05 to get a 5% discount off the RRP.