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The Foods You Eat Everyday That May Be Causing Your Eczema

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Food allergies have been proven to cause eczema. Food allergy and eczema share some of the same symptoms and both conditions are driven by immunoglobulin antibody response to specific antigens. The two food allergies commonly associated with eczema are wheat allergy and milk allergy. This article provides a detailed discussion of the relationship between allergenic foods and eczema. It also discusses diagnostic tests to help you identify the food allergy responsible for your eczema as well as the diet to adopt in order to avoid food allergies.

Gut Flora and Eczema

The gut is the bridge between everything that comes from the outside and the insides of the body. It is chiefly responsible for breaking down foods and absorbing only the nutrients that are needed.

Therefore, the gut is a selective barrier that keeps out toxins, pathogens, and harmful foreign substances from reaching the blood.

The microbes that are native to the gut are important to its functions. They are responsible for breaking down foods, for keeping pathogens in check, for synthesizing important nutrients like vitamin K and for saving the immune system from getting overwhelmed.

There are more microbes living in your gut than there are cells in your body and most of these beneficial gut microbes are bacteria.

The predominance of these “good” bacteria ensures a healthy gut flora. However, the balance established by these probiotic microbes can be lost.

When the normal gut flora is destroyed, pathogens predominate and slowly break down the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. This reduces the efficiency of absorption and allows the passage of pathogens, toxins and partially digested food particles through the walls of the gut.

The result is known as leaky gut syndrome, a condition that describes the increased permeability of the gut lining.

Because most of the body’s immune system depends on the integrity of the gut barrier, a leaky gut introduces foreign substances into the blood that then trigger hypersensitivity reactions.

The immune system then scrambles to remove the pathogens, toxins and partially digested food particles seeping into the blood. The immune response to these foreign substances involves hypersensitivity reactions that can cause a number of allergy diseases including eczema.

Food Allergies and Eczema

Food allergies and eczema are both the result of hypersensitivity reactions to allergens. Studies show that eczema is triggered by food allergies in certain people.

The link between food allergies and eczema is not always there but for those who experience eczema flare-ups after ingesting certain foods, significant improvements in eczema symptoms can be achieved by avoiding these food triggers.

Food allergies are most likely to cause eczema in infants and in people who suffer from severe eczema.

Food Allergies Linked to Eczema
  • Egg allergy
  • Wheat allergy
  • Milk allergy
  • Soy allergy
  • Fish allergy
  • Peanut allergy
  • Tree nut allergies

Food allergies are triggered by specific proteins present in foods. These proteins are antigens against which the immune system produces antibodies in the form of immunoglobulins. Therefore, common symptoms of food allergies include hives, skin rashes, itching, swelling, breathing difficulties, gastrointestinal discomfort, and hypotension.

It is evident then that food allergies share the same set of cutaneous symptoms with eczema.

But how can food allergies cause or worsen eczema? One possible mechanism is via leaky gut. The passage of partially digested food particles through the lining of the gut introduces certain food proteins into the blood.

When the immune system recognizes these proteins as antigens, it releases antibodies to combat them. These antibodies include immunoglobulins such as IgE and are responsible for hypersensitivity reactions.

In addition, histamine and pro-inflammatory immune factors are also released from cells of the immune system.

The overall result of these reactions from the immune system is responsible for eczema-like dermatological reactions such as red and inflamed skin as well as rashes, itching and dry skin.

The two most important food allergies associated with eczema are wheat allergy and dairy allergy.

How Foods Trigger Eczema
  • Slow-onset Hypersensitivity Reactions – Slow-onset allergic reactions can take hours, days or weeks to present. Therefore, they are more difficult to link with the foods triggering the eczema breakout. This may be due to the fact that the immune system is just being sensitized to the allergens in the food. This type of allergic reaction is more commonly linked to dairy products and wheat gluten. While skin prick test may not detect this form of hypersensitivity reaction, blood test usually finds specific IgG antibodies to the offending food antigens.
  • Immediate Anaphylactic Reactions – This type of reaction occurs within minutes of consuming the allergenic food and it is the easiest to detect. This allergic reaction is responsible for cases of IgE-mediated eczema. It is easily detected with a skin prick test and treated by excluding the offending food from your diet.
  • Direct Irritation – This type of reaction is not strictly a hypersensitivity reaction although it may still involve cells of the immune system. It is more frequently associated with refined foods because of their food additive contents. Such additives include flavors, colors, textures, etc. These additives are chemicals that can irritate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and even reach the blood when the lining of the gut is breached.

Wheat Allergy

There are at least 27 allergens present in wheat although the most popular one is gluten, a composite protein.

Gluten is made of two proteins, gliadin, and glutenin. The most severe hypersensitivity reaction under wheat allergy occurs with gliadin but the most predominant wheat allergen is glutenin.

Furthermore, wheat allergy is commonly triggered by exercise and aspirin.

Common Symptoms of Wheat Allergy
  • Atopic eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Urticaria
  • Asthma
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps
  • Joint and muscle aches
  • Arthritis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Tissue swelling due to angioedema
  • Swollen throat or tongue

Eczema can be triggered by the reaction of wheat allergens with the immunoglobulin, IgE, in skin tissues.

To determine whether your eczema is caused by a wheat allergy, it is important to test for the wheat allergens. There are a number of methods by which doctors investigate wheat allergy. Besides taking patient history to monitor diet, diagnostic tests such as skin prick test, atopy patch test, and specific IgE test can be ordered.

However, these tests are not definitive. To fully confirm that your eczema is due to a wheat allergy, you may consider an elimination-challenge test.

The superiority of food challenge (by gradual elimination) test over the other diagnostic tests has been confirmed by a number of studies including a 1999 study published in the journal, Allergy, which compared the accuracies of wheat allergy tests and, more recently, a 2011 study published in the journal, Acta Medica.

A food elimination-challenge test involves the introduction of different foods (including those prepared with wheat) without telling the test subject the constituent of each diet (double-blind).

If the test subject experiences an eczema flare-up after eating food prepared with wheat, then wheat allergy is confirmed as the cause of his eczema.

Milk Allergy

Milk allergy is an adverse immune reaction to one or more components of milk. The most important allergen in cow’s milk is the protein known as casein (specifically alpha S1 casein).

Milk allergy is different from lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is simply an inherited inability to properly digest milk lactose, a carbohydrate. In contrast, milk allergy is a hypersensitivity reaction to milk proteins.

In addition, a much smaller amount of milk is needed to trigger milk allergy.

Furthermore, unlike lactose intolerance, allergic reactions to milk can be immediate or delayed for weeks.

Fortunately, milk proteins may look similar between different species but they are functionally different. Therefore, although people develop allergic reactions to cow’s milk, they can safely consume breast milk.

However, individuals with milk allergy will likely suffer from dairy allergy too. This means that they are still allergic to the dairy products made from cow’s milk because the proteins found in the milk can survive the processes involved in manufacturing and be present in some dairy products.

Symptoms of Milk Allergy

Gastrointestinal Symptoms

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach pain
  • Flatulence
  • Colic
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Allergic colitis

Dermatological Symptoms

  • Skin rashes
  • Hives
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)

Respiratory Symptoms

  • Wheeze
  • Rhinitis

Because milk allergy is the most common food allergy among infants, it is one of the leading causes of childhood eczema.

Like wheat allergy, milk allergy involves anaphylactic reactions mediated by IgE and involving the release of histamine from mast cells.

Experts advise diagnosing milk allergy early in order to prevent the kind of sensitization that promotes chronic eczema later in life. Once identified as a cause of eczema, milk allergy is simply addressed by avoiding milk and dairy products.

Milk Alternatives

Because milk is central to the human diet especially during childhood, milk substitutes can ease the inconvenience of cutting out cow’s milk from your diet.

Alternatives to cow’s milk for children and adults include rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and oat milk. Milk substitutes are commonly fortified with calcium and vitamin D to replace the ones found in cow’s milk.

Calcium and vitamin D are important to bone development and for reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Goat’s milk is also sometimes considered as an excellent substitute for cow’s milk. Although cow’s milk is the most popular form of commercial milk in the US, goat’s milk is actually more popular globally.

There are a number of advantages to consuming goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk. For one, goat’s milk is less allergenic.

Goat’s milk contains a much lower level of alpha S1 casein than cow’s milk. A 1996 French study found that 9 out of 10 infants who were allergic to cow’s milk safely tolerated goat’s milk without experiencing allergies such as asthma, eczema or gastrointestinal discomfort.

Besides being less allergenic, goat’s milk also rarely causes lactose intolerance.

It is also more easily digested because it has smaller fat globules than cow’s milk as well as a higher concentration of easily metabolized medium-chain fatty acids.

In contrast to cow’s milk, goat’s milk is naturally homogenized and does not need to undergo the process of industrial homogenization.

Lastly, goat’s milk is more closely matched to human nutritional needs than cow’s milk. It contains more of the essential fatty acids and vitamins needed for rapid development with none of the bovine growth hormones much suited to the fattening of calves.

GAPS Diet, Food Allergies and Eczema

GAPS or the Gut and Psychology Syndrome links the state of the gut flora to a number of chronic conditions including autism, depression, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and schizophrenia.

The basic tenet of this theory is similar to leaky gut syndrome. Proponents of both theories believe that the gut is key to the immune system as well as the prevention and treatment of a number of diseases.

To help the gut heal and promote a healthy gut flora, the GAPS diet was formulated by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

The GAPS diet is especially suited for preventing eczema flare-ups. The recommended composition of the GAPS diet includes a number of healthful foods ranging from fruits and vegetables to fresh meat and fermented foods.

There is also a list of foods to avoid including refined foods and drinks. Also on the banned list are wheat and milk, the two foods that can cause eczema.

Therefore, adopting the GAPS diet is a good way to avoid food allergies especially the kind of food allergies that can promote eczema flare-ups.





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