Eczema and food
Sent: February 7 2006
Subject: contact me form
Place: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Comments: Ms. D—: Been suffering from terrible, raw eczema on the back of my right hand every winter for 10 years. Wondering if it might be the exposure to sunlight in the summer months that prevents me from suffering year-round: I spend a lot of time outdoors May – October, but not nearly so much from November – April. This winter my eczema has been terrible. Am not spending less time outdoors than previous winters, and am actually experiencing less stress, so figure it must be the diet. Notice horrible reactions up to 36 hours after consumption of cow cream, butter, and high-fat cow milk; also suspect reactions to beef and excess protein. Just wondering if you’ve solved your eczema condition thru diet, and if you’d be so kind as to let me know what seems to help. Gratefully, H [name removed for privacy]
I think the first thing you should do is visit this website http://www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info and read everything!
This site is also very useful: http://www.allergy-clinic.co.uk
Depending on who you listen to eczema is either “idiopathic” (“we don’t know what causes it”), or it is caused by food allergies and intolerances. Allergies are caused by proteins or by chemicals that bind to proteins ( e.g. sulfites), intolerances are broader and can be caused by numerous additives or natural chemicals like salicyclates in plants. Some fats can provoke existing inflammatory problems (omega 6 vegetable oils, arachidonic acid in beef, lamb and dairy).
A lot of people who have eczema don’t have enough GLA (evening primrose oil), or omega 3s from fish oils, or zinc. They didn’t work for me (zinc makes me really flake), but as eczema can have numerous causes, it’s worth a try. I too find that sunlight really helps my eczema and I’m looking forward to the spring!
My sister suffers from eczema on her hands during the winter. She is actually eczema-free this year and has been helped by the following combination of things:
- Maintaining good circulation and warmth in her hands
- A low carbohydrate diet of natural wholefoods (no additives or junk food allowed!) based on Weston A. Price foundation principles.*
- Vitamin A cream
- These vitamins:
- A standard multivitamin
- Vitamin C (1 gram)
- Vitamin A (5-10,000 i.u.)
- Vitamin D (2-400 i.u.)
- Vitamin E (2-400 i.u)
- B12 (1000 mcg)
- Folic Acid (400 mcg)
- B6 (10 mg)
I am taking the above vitamins plus these,** which I’m having quite a bit of success with:
I am also having to avoid wheat, potatoes, dairy, red meat (particularly beef), fish and shellfish, the onion family, garlic, tomatoes, and anything that might contain sulfites! So I’m currently living on chicken, green veg, carrots, parsnips, nuts, fruit and eggs (which strangely I don’t react to)!*** I’d say that I’m 90% of the way there in identifying the foods I am reacting to. The fats I use are limited to coconut oil, olive oil and goose/duck/chicken fat. I also drink a lot of redbush tea**** and chamomile tea because they have an anti-inflammatory effect. Apparently sodium bicarbonate and calcium carbonate are both very good for soothing reactions, haven’t had chance to try them yet. Too much or too little carbohydrate and too much protein do cause me flare ups, but I think this is due to increased stress hormones rather than anything deeper. The thing that helps most is to keep your macronutrients regular rather than yo-yoing, (which is what I used to do because I was scared of gaining weight).
I have a long history of asthma and eczema and I’ve had a chronic eczema-like inflammation in my right ear for the last ten years or so that is connected to shampoo use. My facial eczema appeared after I got a very nasty bout of bronchitis about a year and a half ago, I think it upset my immune system. I had also developed an intolerance to sulfites (in red wine) a couple of months before, and that was associated with food poisoning. I think it is all connected. Hydrocortizone has never worked for more than four days, then I get worse than when I started!
Because it’s an autoimmune problem it’s pretty difficult to control purely through diet as there are so many other factors involved (stress, sleep, sunlight, airbourne allergens, infections, weather, hormones), and I sometimes it feels as though it’s flaring up for no reason at all. It’s pretty important to keep a food diary and remember that a reaction can be immediate, or it can take up to 48 hours to appear or peak. The positive thing about food allergies and intolerances is that they usually go away of their own accord with anything between 3 months and 2 years abstinence.
So far I’ve managed to completely clear up my eczema on three separate occasions for weeks or months each time, but then something has happened that has set my immune system off again (stress, illness, a takeaway meal, lapsing on the diet, etc.). With the vitamins and the careful diet, I’m very close to clearing it up for a fourth time. I know I’ll eventually beat it if I keep at it and keep a positive attitude!
Everyone has different foods that they react to. Start out by eliminating the foods you know cause a problem, keep a diary, try an elimination diet or a rotation diet. Once you start looking for things it’s amazing what you will find. Try the vitamins. Sometimes it’s very simple to fix, other times (like me), you have to be pretty persistent!
Hope this helps and good luck!
Notes from October 2007
It’s really amusing reading this back now. I had only just found the Fed Up site and it was all starting to make sense, but I still wasn’t thinking straight and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was reacting to. I was still trapped in the idea that I had suddenly become sensitive to food chemicals – when looking back today I can remember numerous incidents where I became quite ill or had strange reactions to food. The clue that led me to the idea of food chemicals in the first place was a very bad reaction to red wine – which I wondered might be caused by sulphites.
It would be another six months before H, the correspondent in this email, would think about trying the failsafe diet.
* I don’t know why I included the Weston A. Price Foundation principles in this, since they’d only ever made me worse. That’s how strong my belief was. Fortunately I’m a lot more skeptical now.
** These are enormous doses of vitamins and I would never take this much today. I suspect I tolerated such massive doses of vitamins because salicylates were antagonising them so much. I still felt like hell all the time because my diet was so high in chemicals – but I felt marginally better on the vitamins than off them.
*** As you can see I was still very confused about what I was reacting to. Before Christmas I had spent the whole of December not eating any green vegetables. At this time I was off dairy, beef, and wheat and grains, and my diet largely consisted of chicken, potato, eggs, minimal added fats apart from tallow, horse chestnuts, and, strangely, dates. I got very ill after Christmas – I suspect due to the combination of low vitamin D levels and taking methyl donors – methylcobalamin never fails to give me a cold. A week after New Year, I ate a curry and my eczema and brain fog came back within 12 hours. I promptly forgotten that I had cut out green vegetables and reintroduced them again and cut out potatoes – this resulted in broccoli induced hangovers and eczema flare ups. During the period when I wrote to H., I was on the verge of realising all this.
**** Redbush tea is absolutely sky-high packed with polyphenols – even more than green tea. Reading this makes me laugh, because I remember going through periods of cutting out redbush tea (for example, I never drank it in France), and feeling much better for it.