"My son has always had dry, sensitive skin - rashy, rough areas, sometimes in patches, sometimes all over - which he couldn't help but scratch, occasionally drawing blood, so I tried to keep his nails short. It never progressed to the full-on eczema that I've seen some children suffer with, more a substainal irritation. I tried pharmaceutical brands with fancy French names, bathtime emollients and creams from the GP, basic oils, nothing would bring it down. Then a friend came to dinner and mentioned she was no longer eating dairy because of her eczema and she'd notices a big improvement, and it got me thinking.. maybe I need to look at this issue from a different angle.
Dry, sensitive skin can trouble many families - according to children's skincare brand Childs Farm, 82 pe cent of parents in the UK believe that their child has sensitive skin and one in five children suffer from atopic eczema. The majority of eczema is inherited and may also be known as atopic dermatitis. It tends to run in families so having a parent or aunt or sibling, with atopic dermatitis, asthma, or hay fever raises the chances a person will develop atopic dermatitis. It's a chronic condition where skin feels red and itchy and can have periodic flare ups, and triggers can be environmental as well as dietary and genetic.
We know we are what we eat, but to think we can combat chronic conditions through diet is powerful motion. Lucinda Miller, a top child's nutrition expert and founder of Nature Doc Kids, is passionate about gut health and its impact on our bodies. "If you have eczema triggered by diary products, then your child is likely to have the same trigger. The microbiome, the gut's bacteria dictates your immune system. Mothers who take probiotic, during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, are more likely to have babies who are protected from eczema. I have a saying, 'Itchy on the outside equals itchy on the inside'. The gut is the core of so many illnesses. You need a good bacteria to develop an immune system that does not overreact to the environment because the immune system can tag certain things as alien, for example, house mites, animals and dairy. Also if your baby had antibiotics at birth, this could have disrupted the microbiome to be more susceptible."
I dairy is the trigger and you're considering cutting it out, it's important you seek support from a nutritional therapist to ensure your child still gets the right amount of calcium, iodine, vitamin D, magnesium and zinc they need to support healthy growth and development - dairy free milk doesn't have much of those. I told Lucinda that my son has recently had preference for soya milk over nut milks but, as he's 10 years old now, she was quick to inform me that soya milk is high in oestrogen and, with the beginnings of puberty no far off, it was preferable I switched him to oat milk instead to avoid hormonal imbalance as now is an important development stage. It was powerful lesson in understanding that expert help is so vital when thinking about cutting out food groups. Since then, he has been under the care of one of Lucinda's practitioners and we have totally eliminated diary. After two months, his skin is soft and smooth, providing the strong barrier his body needs, and no longer scratches all day and in his sleep at night.
As eczema is an inflammatory condition, you can help oil the skin from within through what your child eats. Healthy, helpful oils can be found in salmon, mackerel, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds, organic whole milk (if dairy isn't an issue) and omega 3-rich eggs. Consider a fish oil supplement, too, and avocados, olive oil and tahini will also help."