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Relief is in Sight

Irritated skin can be the cause of great distress, from sleepless nights to days when you can’t bear to face the world with itchy patches that will not go away. Although treatment is not clear-cut, certain foods can help.

Relief is in Sight

It’s an itch that, unfortunately, often just won’t go away and definitely shouldn’t be scratched – much to the dismay of sufferers. Atopic dermatitis (more commonly referred to as eczema) is a chronic and recurrent skin condition that causes great discomfort for those who experience it. Considered the most common inflammatory skin condition in childhood, eczema may come and go from infant years, continuing through to adult life. Varying in its severity from one person to the next, eczema symptoms may range from a subtle pink patch that causes little discomfort to more severe cases of an ongoing, unbearable itch. It is not clear as to why certain people develop eczema, but a family history of eczema or other allergies can certainly increase the likelihood of it occurring.

According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, up to three in 10 infants with eczema and a family history of allergy will develop a food allergy and up to four in 10 develop asthma and/or hayfever. Clearly, the condition is more than skin deep, with the capacity of a person’s ability to repair damage to the skin barrier impaired. Research by Professor Irwin McLean of the University of Dundee connected a genetic mutation of a protein called filaggrin to this problem. If someone has the mutation and the skin is exposed to irritants, the skin can then become dry and scaly with a limited ability to repair any damage.

Regulating the immune system may provide some relief and studies suggest long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may help. Recent research published in the Journal of German Society of Dermatology found that supplementation with long-chain omega-3 fatty acids represent a promising approach in prevention of allergic disorders such as atopic dermatitis. Further research is needed before this approach is used in a therapeutic setting. Although research is still ongoing regarding the causes and treatment of eczema, general good health will help keep symptoms at bay along with controlling environmental triggers such as temperature changes, contact with irritants and possible allergic reactions.

Keeping the right balance of bacteria within the digestive tract is also important as these bacteria have a lot to do with the health of skin. Avoiding refined carbohydrates such as sugar while increasing complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and fruit and vegetables for their antioxidant content is recommended.

Stress and worry are also known to be common triggers for eczema, so keeping the nervous system calm is a must. A balanced diet can help maintain healthy skin and contribute to overall wellbeing in an effort to keep that unbearable itch under control. Here are some foods to keep an eye out for:

Zinc

Zinc is needed for the proper growth and maintenance of the human body. It plays an important role in a healthy immune function, wound healing, blood clotting, thyroid function and much more. Meats, seafood, dairy products, nuts, legumes and whole grains offer relatively high levels of zinc.

Vitamins a, D and C

Vitamins A, D and C are all useful in maintaining healthy skin due to their antioxidants. Beta-carotene, a natural source of vitamin A, is found readily in foods such as pumpkin and sweet potato. Egg yolks make a good source of vitamin D, so long as no egg allergy is suspected. Vitamin C is found in papaya and berries.

Polyphenols

A cup of green, black or any tea could be beneficial as they contain polyphenols that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that could help improve symptoms.

Fish oil

Although the role of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment and prevention of eczema is still being researched, it won’t hurt to up your consumption of oily fish such as tuna and salmon as well as walnuts, canola oil, and flaxseed. Omega-3 fats encourage the body to produce anti-inflammatory compounds, which may help inflammatory skin conditions.

Evening primrose oil

Evening primrose oil is a good source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid which has been shown to reduce inflammation. It’s actual impact on eczema is up for debate. It comes as a supplement, but talk with your doctor before adding supplements to your diet.

Fish

Including fish in the diet provides good amounts of protein with low amounts of inflammatory arachidonic acid which is present in red meats. Fatty fish such as anchovies, mackerel and sardines will increase omega-3 essential fatty acids. Eat oily fish three times a week.

Buckwheat

This highly nutritious and gluten-free pseudo grain high amounts of fibre, helping the bowel to eliminate waste and so relieve the skin, with good amounts of magnesium to keep the nervous system in check.

Banana

Bananas contain magnesium and B6, both of which play a role in helping to keep the nervous system calm. Banana skin contains essential fatty acids and one home remedy is to apply the peel topically to ease eczema.

Papaya

An enzyme in papaya called papain has been used traditionally to heal wounds and rashes. It also helps to break down proteins and so may help reduce eczema symptoms related to food intolerances.

Oats

Oats are like a hug for the nervous system. Not only will eating oats regularly help to keep you calm, but applying directly on the skin will sooth the itch as well. Try an oatmeal bath to relieve physical symptoms.

Flaxseeds

Providing the body with high amounts of omega-3 is one way of helping to reduce inflammation. Flaxseed oil can be purchased and drizzled over salads of any variety, just don’t heat it.

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