It is heartbreaking to see a baby or child with severe eczema.
The constant itch disturbs sleep, and can be very frustrating (and as we all know, a frustrated child is a very grumpy child!)
Unfortunately, eczema is a very common condition.
Your child is more likely to suffer from eczema if there is a family history of eczema, hayfever or asthma. Going to day care can make it even worse, and the dry climate we have in Australia can make the skin more sensitive.
The frequent treatment is steroid cream, but this can thin the skin over time, making it even more sensitive.Food allergies are a major trigger for eczema. Environmental allergies can also be to blame. Poor immunity and chronic stress are also important factors.
Healing has to come from within.
Topical treatments can be nourishing and relieve the symptoms, but until you can get to the root cause, you will have to apply topically for ever.
Don’t just accept it.
Sure, there could be a family history which is contributing, but you need to ask, why?
Maybe Mum or Dad also have candida which is why they have eczema.
Or maybe the whole family has a cow’s milk allergy which is causing the eczema.
Or maybe grandma’s gut was damaged by having multiple courses of antibiotics, which caused her eczema.
Natural treatments for eczema
Diet is one of the biggest factors to consider, and also one of the most complicated. There are a few ways you can approach it.
Elimination / reintroduction
The most common food allergens leading to eczema are cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, fish, soy and wheat.
You could try removing all of these at once, and see if eczema resolves. If it does, you would then systematically reintroduce one at a time with a few days break in between each food. This will be useful if your child is reacting to one of these common triggers.
In reality, any food can be causing a reaction. For example, it could be plums that are causing the issue. An elimination diet which goes through every single possible food is not realistic.
You can’t do an elimination diet of all foods!
If choose elimination / reintroduction, it is crucial that you do the reintroduction stage, not just the elimination stage.
Food sensitivity testing
Testing your child is another option. This will cost money, but you get to the answer much more quickly. There are a few different ways to test your child for food sensitivities, including a skin prick test, a blood test or a hair test. It is important to talk to a nutritionist about this, different types of reactions will need a different type of test.
For example, the skin prick test might come back with no allergens, but it only looks for what is called an IgE reaction. This the type of allergic reaction which you can see instantly. Like when a child eats a peanut and immediately get hives or swollen lips
Your child could have an IgG reaction to a food. This sort of reaction doesn’t happen immediately. It could happen after a few hours or a few days. That makes it really hard to pinpoint and makes testing the best option.
Or your child could have a reaction which isn’t strictly an allergy, but more of a sensitivity, for which they would need a hair test.
Testing is a useful method, as it will find out if it is the random food, such a plum. This can be a short cut to getting solution.
When it comes to babies and eczema, breastfeeding is still best. It helps build up your babies immune system and has all the nutrition they need. The flip side of this is that if you are eating foods the child is allergic to, these will be passing through your milk to your baby. In that case, you need to look at your diet and eliminate the trigger foods.
Gut health is talked about a lot these days and rightly so.
Health really does begin in the gut.
If your child’s gut health isn’t the best, it means that parts of food which shouldn’t be passing through the gut wall into the body, are getting through.
This creates inflammation, increases food allergies, and the child’s immune system gets completely overwhelmed.
Addressing gut health is essential to treat eczema naturally. Healing the gut will take time, but ultimately leads to a child being able to eat a much wider range of food.
This will also reduce sensitivity to environmental allergens such as dust mites.
Certain probiotics are really useful in the natural treatment of eczema.
The best ones to look is Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. Studies show that it is the most effective for treating eczema and allergies in general. These are available in therapeutic doses from health care practitioners such as Nutritionists and Naturopaths.
A child with eczema most likely has gut issues so gut repair supplements such as those containing glutamine may be helpful.
Taking essential fatty acids in the form of evening primrose oil or fish oils will help the skin. Some children respond better to evening primrose oil, some to fish oil. So you might need to try both. If you try one and your child’s eczema flares up, stop using it again.
Zinc is crucial for healthy skin, and healing the skin. Vitamin E is useful for reducing eczema, and asthma. Vitamin D will reduce the severity of eczema. When choosing supplements, it is best to buy from a practitioner such as a Naturopath or a Nutritionist. Not only do they stock the high quality ones, they are also able to advise you what dose to take, and what interactions you need to be aware of.
Skin conditions respond slowly to supplementation, as the skin must regenerate which takes time. So be prepared to take supplements for at least a month before you see an improvement.
Fill an old sock with whole oats, tie a knot in it and put it in the bath. Put your child in the bath as usual, with the sock of oats. Give it a squeeze now and again to release the oat milk. The compounds in the oats are very soothing to irritated skin.
Removal of phthalates
This chemical is very difficult to pronounce (and even more difficult to spell!), and is found in many household goods.
But you’re thinking – I’ve never seen it listed on a cosmetics?
No, that’s because companies know that it isn’t very appealing, so it can just be included under ‘fragrance’. No never use a product with ‘fragrance’ on your child’s skin. Essential oils are different, some may be helpful in calming your child’s skin.
Phthalates are also found in plastic bottles, cutlery and plates. So phase out the plastic. You can get glass babies bottle, and stainless steel water bottles. My kids use stainless steel cutlery, and the younger ones have stainless steel plates and bowls. Check out camping shops or op shops for these.
Microwaving food in plastic releases the phthalates into the food. If you choose to microwave, always transfer the food to a pyrex or ceramic bowl first.
To reduce your child’s exposure to phthalates:
Don’t expose your child to solvents (paint etc)
Buy chew toys from natural materials such as wood or natural rubber
Don’t use glad wrap (cling film)
Don’t use air fresheners
Don’t use insecticides.
An overgrowth of candida in your child’s bowel can cause eczema.
How do I know if my child has candida?
Candida is just the technical term for thrush. Did you child ever get thrush in their mouth when little? Have they had nappy rash that you needed an antifungal for? Has your child had antibiotics?
All these could be clues to candida. To be sure, you could send some poo away for analysis through a Nutritionist or Naturopath,
If your child does have a candida infection, again, diet will need to be looked at.
Public enemy number one is sugar. Sugar feeds yeast. Sugar, fruit juice, honey and maple syrup will all need to but cut out to starve the candida. Even the sugar in milk, lactose, is a favourite food for candida. Foods that contain yeast such as cheese, dried fruits, peanuts and melons will all exacerbate a yeast infection. Food allergies can also promote candida.
So remember, try to find out what is causing the eczema in your child, don’t just accept it!
Focus on finding the root cause and resolving it.
If you’d like to talk to me about your child’s eczema, get in touch here.