Eczema is one of the most common inflammatory skin diseases of childhood in developed countries and the number of children who have eczema has risen over the past few decades. Even though it is unclear why this is happening, it is now believed that food allergies could be one of the culprits. The possible reason for this could be that so much of our food is exposed to chemicals, preservatives and additives causing our immune system to react.
It is quite common to hear that someone has food allergies or food intolerance, but what is the difference between the two? Simply put, if you have a food allergy, you will react almost immediately on eating a particular food with symptoms such as skin rash, itchy nose and eyes, wheezing, itching and swelling. This can be a serious condition which needs immediate medical treatment. Common foods that can trigger an almost immediate allergic response include eggs, milk, peanuts, fish, shellfish, strawberries and tomatoes.
In the case of a food intolerance, your reaction will be delayed, usually between six and twenty-four hours. Having a food intolerance is rarely harmful, but may cause uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea, bloating, belly pain and diarrhea. Many of the foods that people become food intolerant to are those that are part of their everyday diet. Foods like milk, eggs and wheat products are found in nearly everything that we eat. Quite often you can eat these foods for years and not have a response, and then suddenly you can have a reaction. It has been noted that if you crave a particular food, you may be intolerant to it.
Drinking coffee can also be a trigger factor. It has been reported that when heavy coffee drinkers with eczema avoided coffee, their eczema symptoms improved.
If you think you or your child has a food allergy or intolerance, then there are various steps that you can take to identify it.
1) Keep a note of the trigger foods
The first thing you can do is to record your eating habits in a notebook. It would be useful to write down what you ate, when you ate it and how much you had. It may seem tedious at first, but by keeping a detailed record you can identify which foods are possible culprits.
2) Exclusion Diet
You could also try an exclusion diet where you avoid foods that you think you are allergic or intolerant to. For example, if you think you are allergic to milk, you should exclude milk and all milk products from your diet until your symptoms disappear. You could then reintroduce the food into your diet and if the symptoms return then you know for sure that you are intolerant to this particular food. In fact, research has shown that a strict avoidance of suspected culprits, can improve atopic eczema where conventional treatments have failed. If you are thinking about trying an exclusion diet, this should be done with the full knowledge of your healthcare practitioner because there could be risk, especially in children, of malnutrition.
3) Allergy Testing.
To know for sure whether you have particular food allergies or food intolerances, you could have an allergy test. There are so many types of allergy testing available, some of which are expensive and not particularly effective. It is probably best to starting by consulting your GP who can advise you on the best course of action.
The fact cannot be ignored that the rise in the prevalence of atopic eczema in childhood is now being linked to food allergies. Now that you are aware that certain foods can contribute to eczema, you can use any of the various methods suggested in order to identify them. By doing this you will be able to avoid these foods and keep eczema symptoms at bay.