If you or someone you know suffers from allergies and eczema, you know it can suck. The goal of eczema and allergy care is to minimize symptoms and improve lifestyle, but the chronic nature of the condition can become very frustrating, especially for parents who want to help their children.
Allergies, eczema (which is also called atopic dermatitis), hives (urticaria), and asthma are all part of a condition called atopy. Atopy tends to run in families and can present as any combination of allergies, eczema, hives, or asthma. There has been an increased incidence of atopy-related conditions, especially in children, over the past twenty years. Research has not been able to identify the reason for the increased rates of these conditions, and the cause is likely multi-factorial.
What we do know about atopy is that all these conditions are caused by inflammation. The inflammation affects the skin in eczema, the lining of the lung airways in asthma, and the linings of the nose and eyes in allergies. This inflammation causes swelling and irritation, which lead to itching and skin redness in eczema; wheezing and coughing in asthma; and sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eye in allergies. Individuals with atopy have inflammatory cells (white blood cells) in their skin, nasal passages, and lungs which will react whenever the immune system flares up resulting in eczema, allergies, or asthma. Typically this inflammation is riled up by pollens, grasses, pet saliva or dander, dust mites, certain foods, smoke, stress, and weather changes. Illness and infection can also cause flareups because inflammation begets inflammation in the body. Chemicals and hormones released by white blood cells in response to illness and infection stimulate inflammation, even in distant locations, where inflammatory cells are lying in wait.
Proper nutrition can help. The macronutrients in SuperFoods are not only antioxidants, they have anti-inflammatory effects as well. Eating oranges, berries, tomatoes, carrots, and other fruits and vegetables are a start, as taking in fish or fish oil, and yogurt with active cultures.
“Omega-3,” or omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid, is a type of fatty acid found predominantly in fish. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, which means it is required for normal cellular functioning and yet cannot be made in the body. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are used as precursors in the production of inflammatory hormones and signals for white blood cells. The problem is that when omega-6 fatty acids are used to make inflammatory hormones they tend to cause more inflammation than hormones made from omega-3. Since our western diets rely more on animal protein, our diets are higher in omega-6. Including fish and seafood in our diet improves the relative amount of omega-3 and helps limit inflammation.
The active cultures in yogurt are “good” bacteria that help balance the intestines. Our immune system is hard at work in our intestines protecting us from toxins and bad bacteria in the food we eat. Bacteria in our intestines are a normal and healthy part of digestion, covering the entire lining of the intestine. The important thing is to ensure that the bacteria are “good.” If yeast or unhealthy bacteria cover the intestines, the immune system flares up to protect the body. If “good” bacteria cover the intestine, the immune system can remain healthy and avoid causing unnecessary inflammation.
Adding SuperFoods to a diet will not totally cure someone’s eczema, allergies or asthma; however, a good diet containing lots of SuperFoods, fish oil, and the active cultures in yogurt will help minimize flare-ups and help the medicines control the inflammation better. These simple changes may help keep the household sane and prevent middle-of-the-night scratch fests.