The Detective Work Made Easy
Eczema has a dietary trigger(s) and certain foods can induce or aggravate eczema symptoms in your child. In The Unlikely ‘Everyday’ Suspects of Eczema Triggers, we have listed out a list of some of the most common foods that are known ‘sensitivity’ or ‘allergy’ in some people with eczema.
Before your child start avoiding them or begin an elimination diet, it is necessary to first make an obvious connection between her food choices and symptoms. In fact, this is also the more important step than the elimination diet itself because most adverse reactions to the food experienced by an eczema child are delayed and only appear gradually over a few days; and not picked up by a typical allergy test.
In a mix of environment and other factors, it has become very difficult or daunting for parents to detect what actually is the culprit. This explains why eliminating a food after being identified is much easier task than knowing what to avoid in the very first place.
Eczema Flares Follow Certain Patterns: They are Not Random!
Follow Logical Patterns and Track Them
Eczema flares can seem so random that it is hard to believe that breakouts do follow logical pattern and can be directly related to exposure to certain allergens from the foods, chemical or environment. Your role as a detective is to figure out and link these patterns. Once you do, the puzzles will fall into place.
1. Observe whether breakouts seem to be from something your child is touching (e.g. eczema becomes worse after using pacifier or from something the child is eating (e.g. after being introduced cow’s milk formula or certain solids).
2. The detective work is easier if your child is younger as the exposure to different foods, chemical or environmental agents is a lot more limited than older children’s and adults’. Therefore, it is going to be worthwhile to begin the investigation as early as possible, so you can arrest the condition at its onset. Remember in the case of fully breastfed babies, breast milk is the source of food for the infants; hence, mummy’s diet needs to be assessed, observed and considered.
3. Timing is important because contact-induced rashes can happen within few minutes or hours of touching the allergens and this usually occurs on skin where contact occurs (Food-induced flares can take up to a week to show up and can happen anywhere). Here, we are most likely looking at chemical exposures such as rubber, latex, etc. which can be found in toys, pacifier, clothing, etc.
4. Make a list of possible causes and note them down. A list of things your child touches, eats, breathes (e.g. fumes, tobacco smoke, smell from wall paint, etc). Arrange the list in the order of the most likely cause you suspect. Then think of ways to ‘test’ or ‘remove’ each possible cause.
5. Test each cause out and consider if the test is good enough for you to confirm or draw conclusion.
6. Most importantly, write everything down! We cannot stress enough that you will not remember them unless you write them down. It is also very highly likely that you will keep coming back to your records to analyze patterns and observations to understand the frequency of exposure of your child to suspected allergens.
7. Keep a detailed diary or journal of the foods, especially foods that are suspected to be allergens. Also useful to include what products are used on skin and other household surfaces, if there are contact rashes. Be as exact and detailed as possible when documenting the diary e.g. home-cooked “sweet and sour chicken” can also be described as “chicken braised in garlic, pineapple, tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, etc.”
8. The reason why keeping a food diary is a reliable way of noting what foods are consumed and what symptoms are experienced is that; by observing what you consume, a pattern of reaction to a particular food can be established. It makes your investigation approach more systematic rather than purely guesswork.
9. Eat as fresh, unprocessed, and organic as possible. And, eat only pure food. Say, if you are testing wheat for allergy or intolerance, do not test complex food like bread as your yardstick for wheat because bread is a concoction of multiple foods such as wheat, vegetable oil, butter, yeast, egg, etc.
It is important to understand that our body is unique in its own ways and not everyone will be sensitive or intolerant to the same foods! Triggers – be they food, environment or chemical – are also unique to each of us and our bodies.
It is therefore pointless to randomly eliminate foods from the diet unless you test and observe or believe you may be sensitive to them.
If you haven’t made any obvious connections between food choices and symptoms, it’s still not necessary to make really drastic changes yet; until you figure out what might aggravate your child’s symptoms even though it may take a bit longer.
Foods & Symptoms Journal
This is our free template of “Foods & Symptoms Journal” we offer to help you follow symptoms improvements over time and allow you to track certain patterns, which provide you hints to possibly identify foods or other triggers for your child.
Note: You are able to download the detailed Foods & Symptoms Journal in PDF by clicking on the image below.
Avoidance of foods that commonly cause a problem is advisable to avoid the symptoms. Typically, within 4 weeks (or sooner) of eliminating foods allergens or triggers, you should be able to start noticing some improvements in your skin health or condition (if that eliminated suspects are in fact the real allergens). When your child’s rash has cleared or no longer inflamed or itchy after few months, you can start to slowly re-introduce some of the food you previously eliminated to test if they are indeed triggers for your child.
That said, if there are multiple food sensitivities (which is common) then the avoidance of all foods will be difficult since the avoidance of major food groups may lead to an inadequate nutrition and other health issues; especially for children when they are growing up.
If you have identified multiple food sensitivities which may require or result in a severe exclusion diet (where all foods causing a reaction are to be excluded from the diet), please approach and work with your nutritionist or medical practitioner. As it affects the growth and development of young children, the diet will have to be undertaken under medical guidance and these are beyond what is covered in our article due to complexity of such circumstances.