Eczema is one of the most common childhood conditions, with one in five infants being diagnosed. Although it might seem like a simple skin irritation, eczema is a sign that there is something going on below the surface.
The good news? There are simple ways you can address your child’s eczema naturally.
What is eczema?
Eczema is a skin condition that causes a red and itchy rash on the skin. There are several types of eczema, but children commonly experience atopic (allergic) eczema.
Although the symptoms occur on the skin, eczema is not a surface condition. It is an indication that there are internal issues leading to allergic symptoms on the skin.
If you seek advice from your GP, they will usually offer a topical steroid cream to relieve the symptoms. But this does not address the underlying issues – in some cases, it could even make symptoms worse in the long term.
Risk factors for eczema
- Allergic conditions such as a food allergy
- A family history of eczema
- A family history of other allergic conditions such as allergies, asthma, and hayfever
- Living in a colder climate
- Exposure to pollution, allergens and tobacco smoke
Studies suggest that boys are more likely to experience eczema in infancy, but girls are more likely to have eczema in adolescence.
There is a strong genetic link to eczema. But genes alone won’t cause eczema – there also needs to be an immune system that is triggered by something your child is exposed to.
The link between gut health and eczema
There are two major components of eczema – an immune system that is prone to overreacting and a trigger that causes that reaction.
The trigger varies from child to child – it could be dietary, environmental or a combination of different factors. But when it comes to a sensitive immune system, the first place we always look to is the gut. This is because the gut and immune system are closely linked. In fact, most of the ‘immune system’ is located in the gut!
Research confirms that gut health plays an important role in eczema. People with eczema have a different balance of gut microbes compared to those without eczema. There is also evidence that increased intestinal permeability (commonly known as leaky gut) occurs in children with eczema.
Another gut-related issue that contributes to eczema is food allergies and intolerances. Research suggests that 1/3rd of children with eczema have one or more food allergies – and this could be even higher once you include intolerances.
How can I manage my child’s eczema?
Looking for ways to alleviate your child’s eczema naturally? There are a few key steps you can take.
Address gut health
If we want to take a holistic approach and tackle the underlying causes of eczema, we have to work on gut health.
My #1 tip for supporting a healthy gut is to feed your child a diet rich in wholefoods, including 5 serves of veggies every day. The fibre in vegetables feeds the good bacteria in the gut, leading to a healthier happier tummy.
Navigating gut health can be confusing, as so many factors influence it. This is where working with a nutritionist can help you to develop a realistic plan tailored to your child’s needs.
Identify food intolerances
Food intolerances and eczema go hand in hand. As food intolerances can cause inflammation and affect the balance of microbes in the gut, they are a common trigger for eczema flares. That’s why I always look for potential food intolerances when I see clients with eczema.
Depending on the client and their symptoms, I may recommend IgG testing or an elimination diet removing the main dietary suspects. Elimination diets can be tough to tackle with kids, so it’s best to work with a practitioner.
Consider dust mites as a trigger
In my experience, dust mites can be a huge trigger for eczema symptoms. You can go to your GP to get testing for a dust mite allergy.
In the meantime, to reduce dust mites, you can:
- Wash bedding weekly in hot water
- If your child sleeps with soft toys, add those to the weekly wash with the bedding
- Vacuum regularly, including any upholstered furniture
- Dust using a wet or electrostatic cloth to prevent the allergens from becoming airborne
Use natural topical options for symptom relief
Steroid creams might alleviate the itch, but they come with side effects. That’s why I recommend opting for natural topical relief instead.
Adding a handful of oats into a muslin bag and popping it in the bath is a simple and affordable option for relieving itching. You can also blend the oats into a fine powder and add it directly to the bath. Although it might seem simple, research has shown that oat baths can alleviate symptoms of eczema.
Another good option is chickweed. You can add it into a bath, or make a salve and apply it to the affected area.
What about probiotics for eczema?
Probiotics can be beneficial for eczema. But it’s not just picking up a probiotic from the supermarket or pharmacy. You want to make sure you’re using the right strains and in the right dosage for your child’s needs.
There are several specific strains that have evidence for alleviating eczema symptoms. L. plantarum CJLP133, L. paracasei, L. fermentum, and L. sakei are some of the strains that have been shown to help with eczema. But these strains are not available in the supplements you can buy over the counter.
This is where working with a practitioner can be useful. Get in touch today to start the journey to health with your child.