We caught up with nutritionist Karen Fischer to discuss her latest book, The Eczema Detox. Read the interview below and try some of Karen’s delicious recipes for yourself.
What causes eczema?
Eczema triggers vary and include chemical sensitivity, nutrient deficiencies, allergies, poor digestive health and an overburdened liver. An under-functioning liver, which is perfectly normal in children under age two, can cause children with eczema to adversely react to the natural chemicals in foods, but when their liver function kicks in at age two, their eczema often clears up, especially if they have not overused topical steroids which can burden the liver.
How can a person’s diet affect their skin and why should we try dietary changes over prescriptions?
If a person has an under-functioning liver or leaky gut, the foods they eat can trigger a range of skin problems. A gentle, restorative diet that reduces a person’s exposure to irritating chemicals can give them fast relief from the itch. For young children with eczema, feeding them a gentle diet that does not burden their developing livers, is an easy way to improve their comfort and promote normal sleep, growth and development.
How long does it generally take before changes are visible?
It can take as little as a week and up to twelve weeks for people with normal eczema to have significant or complete relief while following The Eczema Detox. For people with head to toe eczema or psoriasis who have relied on topical steroids for 20, 30 or 40+ years, it can take eight to twelve months to have clear skin, but it’s worth it!
What are the top foods to relieve and remove eczema?
Drink vegetable juices that are gentle on the liver (i.e. low to moderate in salicylates and low in amines), with ingredients such as celery, pear, carrot and beetroot (avoid kale, spinach and citrus!). It’s often what you avoid, rather than what you eat, that helps to prevent eczema so working out your triggers can be the most important step. Allergy tests are often inaccurate and they cannot diagnose chemical sensitivity or food intolerances. That’s why I recommend the Food Intolerance Diagnosis Program from The Eczema Detox.
And the top supplements?
Nutrient deficiencies can cause or contribute to eczema so it’s essential to take calcium, zinc, vitamin C, magnesium, molybdenum, and low doses of B vitamins (as high doses can have the opposite effect). As supplements often contain irritating additives and fruit flavourings which are rich in salicylates, I developed Skin Friend AM to prevent my daughter’s eczema and I have been prescribing it to eczema patients for years with great results.
How can exercise help?
Exercise is an important part of managing stress and delivering nutrients to the skin via the blood, but it can make a person with eczema feel hot and more itchy so it’s essential to keep cool during exercise.
What are some other natural ways to alleviate symptoms related to eczema and remove it?
It’s important to avoid scented skin care products, perfume, nail polish and foaming products such as bubble bath and shampoos with sodium lauryl sulfate. Manage stress with tools such as hypnotherapy and laugh more, as laughter triggers anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body. Remember that your skin is made from the foods you eat so a holistic approach that includes both internal and external therapies can help to manage and prevent eczema for life.
IF YOU SUFFER FROM ECZEMA, TRY THE FOLLOWING RECIPES FROM The Eczema Detox
Healthy Skin Juice
Juicing is an important part of healing your skin. This highly alkalizing drink is designed to reduce inflammation, restore the acid-alkaline balance in the body and aid liver detoxification. Add parsley for extra body deodorizing benefits and fresh breath. Use these ingredients in any combination and in any amounts to suit your tastes.
Serves 2 or 2 days’ supply for 1 adult, preparation time 5 minutes
Serves 2 or 2 days’ supply for 1 adult, preparation time 5 minutes
Choose from the following:
• 4 stalks celery
• 2 peeled pears (must be ripe; avoid Asian/ Nashi or Ya pears) (s: the skin contains salicylates)
• 2 carrots, tops removed (s)
• 1/4 small beetroot (beet), scrubbed (s)
• 1 cup iceberg lettuce
• 1/2 cup red cabbage
• handful of fresh parsley
• 1/2 cup fresh mung bean sprouts, rinsed
• Skin Friend AM (optional)
Wash and scrub the chosen vegetables and pears. Using a juicing machine, juice the fruits and vegetables, ending by adding a splash of filtered water.
• Using a slow juicer retains more of the enzymes from the fruit and vegetables, but any type of juicer is better than none!
• If you are allergic to pears, use 1 red/golden delicious apple (contains medium salicylates — note all other apples contain high salicylates so should be avoided during the program).
Mung Bean Sprout Pancakes
Makes 6 small pancakes, preparation time 5 minutes, cooking time 15 minutes
• 200 g (7 oz) mung bean sprouts
• 3/4 cup filtered water or more for thinner consistency
• 1/2 teaspoon quality sea salt, or to taste
• 2 tablespoons arrowroot flour
• Parsley Oil (see below), for frying
Rinse the mung bean sprouts, drain well, then place into a blender with the water and salt. Blend on medium–high speed until it is almost a smooth consistency. The consistency should be that of a thin pancake so slowly add extra water until you reach this. Add the flour and blend again until smooth.
Place a frying pan over medium heat and drizzle in a little oil. When the pan is ready, add about 1 cup of the pancake mixture, swirling the pan slightly if you want thinner pancakes.
When browned on one side flip and cook until slightly brown on both sides. Repeat the process. Serve warm. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and reheat before serving.
Recipe by Katie Layland.
Makes ½ a jar, preparation time 4 minutes
Parsley contains protective antioxidants that help to reduce the formation of glycation end-products, which can form when meats are cooked. Use this oil to baste chicken or lamb before roasting or grilling (broiling), or use it any time a recipe requires cooking oil.
• 2 teaspoons fresh parsley
• ½ cup rice bran oil (see notes)
Blanch the parsley in hot water for about 1 minute, then drain and dry with paper towels. Combine the parsley and oil in a high-powered blender until well blended. Then strain the oil using cheesecloth or muslin. Store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator and use within a couple of weeks.
• If you are sensitive or allergic to rice or rice bran oil, use other low-salicylate oils such as sunflower oil or refined safflower oil.
• Important: check the oil does not contain artificial antioxidants such as E310–312, E319, E320 (BHA) and E321 (BHT) — they will make you itch like crazy.
Potato and Pesto Pizza
Serves 2, preparation time 20 minutes, cooking time 15 minutes
• 2–3 pieces Spelt Flat Bread (see below)
• 1 portion Parsley Pesto (see below)
• 3–4 white potatoes, peeled and finely sliced into discs
• Caramelized Leek Sauce (see below)
• quality sea salt, to taste
• 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
• handful of cashew nuts, chopped (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Insert a pizza stone into the oven before pre-heating or line a large flat baking tray with baking paper. Make the Spelt Flat Bread, Parsley Pesto and Caramelized Leek Sauce if not already prepared.
Place the flat breads onto the baking tray, spread with the pesto and add a thin layer of potato. Top with the leek sauce, adding dollops intermittently, and season with salt. Place the pizza in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the potato is soft. Remove from the oven, top with chives and raw cashew nuts and serve.
Spelt Flat Bread
Makes 6, preparation time 10 minutes, cooking time 20 minutes
• 1 1/4 cups plain spelt flour, plus extra for kneading (wholemeal if available)
• 3/4 teaspoon finely ground quality sea salt
• 1 tablespoon Parsley Oil (see below)
• 2/3 cup boiling water
In a bowl, mix together the spelt flour and salt. Add the oil and hot water, and mix using a knife. The dough should not be sticky — if it is, add extra flour until it can be kneaded without sticking to the board.
Lightly flour your chopping board and turn out the dough onto the board. Knead the dough for approximately 3 minutes, until smooth and elastic (add more flour if dough is sticky), then cut into six balls of similar size. Add more flour to the chopping board, then flatten each ball with a rolling pin to make large, very thin circles — each flat bread should be about 20–22 cm (8–81 in) in diameter. You will need to add more flour as you go along to ensure the flat bread does not stick and can be rolled out paper-thin.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and cook each flat bread for about 1 minute each side, or until bubbles appear and the bread becomes browned in spots. For soft wraps, don’t cook them for too long. The longer they are left in the pan, the crunchier they will be.
Recipe by Bianca Rothwell.
Caramelized Leek Sauce
Makes 4 servings, preparation time 5 minutes, cooking time 10 minutes
• 1 small leek, green part removed (about 2 cups chopped)
• 1 tablespoon Parsley Oil (see above)
• 2 tablespoons real maple syrup (adjust to taste)
• quality sea salt, to taste
Thoroughly wash the leek layers to ensure they are free of dirt. Finely chop the white parts and palest green parts of the leek. Heat the oil in a saucepan on medium heat and sauté the leek until very soft and slightly golden. Add the syrup and sea salt to taste and cook on low heat for another few minutes until sticky and golden.