I often hear people complain about eczema and looking for options on how to cure it. Before looking for ways to resolve eczema, it’s important to first have a definition of what it really is. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) define eczema as “a long-term (chronic) skin disorder that involves scaly and itchy rashes.” Also known as atopic dermatitis, symptoms of eczema can include: “Blisters with oozing and crusting, dry skin all over the body or areas of bumpy skin on the back of the arms and front of the thighs, ear discharge or bleeding, raw areas of the skin from scratching, skin coloring changes — more or less color than the normal skin tone (See: Skin abnormally dark or light), skin redness or inflammation around the blisters, thickened or leather-like areas, called lichenification, which can occur after long-term irritation and scratching.”
In children, an eczema rash can appear differently depending on the age of the child. In children who are under two, the skin lesions will typically begin on the face, scalp, feet and hands—they are usually itchy and accompanied by crusting, bubbling and oozing. Older children and adults will likely see the rash on the inside of their knees and elbows or their neck, hands or feet.
Gluten Free Diet– It seems like gluten-free diets are “all the rage” lately, and for good reason. While people with celiac disease must avoid gluten because it causes intestinal damage, non-celiac gluten sensitivity has only recently been accepted as a separate disease. It’s estimated that approximately 1 in every 150 people suffer from celiac disease. Dr. Alessis Fasano, Director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research, estimates that 6-7% of the US population suffers from gluten sensitivity. One of the symptoms of gluten sensitivity is eczema-like symptoms. This is why a gluten-free diet may work. However, it’s important to note, that it is “eczema-like symptoms” that are caused by gluten, so it may not work if your child (or you) have true eczema. A gluten-free diet eliminates all products derived from wheat, rye, barley, oats, and a few other lesser-known grains.
Probiotics When considering probiotic use to treat, or at least minimize eczema symptoms, it’s important to look for certain strains of probiotics that have shown positive results in the fight against eczema. Two strains in particular are most commonly used for eczema treatment— actobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacteria. In 2008, the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology published a study by Dr. Susan Bard et. Al., “A prospective randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled pilot study of lactobacillus GG in the treatment of atopic dermatitis” which found that probiotics show to be promising for both preventing and treating eczema. You should be able to find some good probiotics for children in a health food store, just make sure choose a brand that contains one of the two aforementioned strains in it. I would also recommend against buying from a pharmacy, just based on my own experience, I’ve found them to be less effective than the ones found in health food stores.
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)—GLA is an Omega-6 Fatty Acid found primarily in plant seed oils like evening primrose oil and black currant seed oil. Omega-6 fatty acids are also known as polyunsaturated fats—are great for your health (when consumed in moderation). While I often see GLA recommended to alleviate symptoms of eczema, more research suggests it has only a placebo effect. That said, according to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, GLA “was once widely dispensed for this purpose (eczema) by the British healthcare system.”
If your child’s eczema symptoms persistent, I would recommend seeing your pediatrician, who may refer you to a dermatologist or possibly an allergist. Since often times, eczema is the sign of an allergy, it’s important to determine what that allergy is, and alleviate it so your little one can move on with an eczema-free life.