Diet May Improve Childhood Eczema
Researchers are investigating whether excluding certain foods from the diet can help treat childhood eczema.
Dr. Fiona Bath-Hextall and her team from Nottingham University, UK, explain that allergic eczema is a very common inflammatory skin disease of childhood. Its symptoms include dryness and recurring skin rashes with redness, swelling, itching, crusting, flaking, blistering, cracking, oozing, or bleeding.
The experts say that food sensitivities may predate allergic diseases such as atopic eczema in up to 20 percent of cases. Previous research suggests that elimination of specific foods can significantly improve children’s eczema. Animal studies also suggest that eczema may be caused by food allergies.
“It is important to investigate whether the elimination of dietary triggers could help to alleviate the symptoms of atopic eczema,” the team write in the journal Allergy, especially as dietary interventions “address one of the primary causes, as opposed to merely suppressing the symptoms.”
The researchers performed a systematic review of all relevant randomized controlled trials. They found nine suitable studies involving a total of 421 children. Six studies excluded eggs and milk, one a range of foods, and two were studies of an elemental diet, that is, a liquid diet of the basic nutrients.
Unfortunately, there appeared to be no overall benefit on eczema symptoms. But the team writes, “There may be some benefit in using an egg-free diet in infants with suspected egg allergy. This perhaps highlights the importance of allergy testing beforehand. Not showing any benefit from such dietary exclusions in unselected people does not mean they are not helpful in people with proven allergy to that particular food.”
They conclude, “Despite their frequent use, we find little good quality evidence to support the use of exclusion diets in atopic eczema.”
They also warn that elimination diets can be difficult to follow, and there can be serious consequences to any changes in diet which leave the child low in calories, protein or minerals such as calcium. “Many parents experiment by excluding particular foods suspected of causing a reaction,” they write, but “avoidance of multiple foods is potentially hazardous and requires continued pediatric and dietary supervision.”