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Eczema is an inflammatory common skin condition also known as atopic eczema, atopic dermatitis and allergic eczema. About 16% of Australians will experience eczema in their lifetime, with many also experiencing asthma, conjunctivitis or allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, food allergies and mental illnesses.
Eczema is caused by an inability to repair damage to the skin due to a mutation in the gene called filaggrin. Mutations in the filaggrin gene reduce the amount of filaggrin protein in the skin or lead to its complete absence. This generic mutation results in cracks in the top layers of the skin. When the lower layers, which are normally protected are exposed to allergens, it causes inflammation triggered by the immune system and what we know as eczema.
People with eczema also have different bacteria in their gut and on their skin compared to people without eczema, and sometimes they have inflammation in their gut. The composition of the microbione is closely related to the function of the immune system and since an imbalance in the microbiome is associated with eczema, there has been significant research into the use of prebiotics and probiotics in the treatment of eczema.
Some people may find their eczema flares up when they are exposed to triggers such as chemicals, artificial colours, preservatives, chlorine, perfumes, soap, sand, carpet, woollen or prickly fabrics, heat, a viral infections or feeling stressed.
Eczema, hayfever and asthma often occur together and are known as the atopic triad. This is particularly due to having a shared genetic origin and common risk factors. The progression, also known as the atopic march, typically begins with eczema, followed by food allergies, and then the development of asthma and hayfever.
These conditions all involve inflammation and the immune system so nutritional management can be helpful for treating eczema, hayfever and asthma.
There are many ways to treat eczema flare ups including using steroid creams, wet-wrap therapy and minimising itching with antihistamines or a cold compress. Some dermatologists recommend ultraviolet light (PUVA) and anti-inflammatories if your eczema is severe.
‘Prevention is better than cure’ applies for eczema flare ups. Avoiding triggers, keeping skin well moisturised, and particular supplements have reduced the intensity and duration of flare ups. These supplements include:
Please consult with your healthcare practitioner if you’re interested in trying supplements for your eczema to make sure you get the right dose and form for you.
When treating eczema in breastfed little ones, it can be helpful for mum to remove allergens from her diet to reduce the transfer and exposure through breastmilk.
Common allergies and triggers associated with eczema include:
Foods that are beneficial to include for eczema include:
If you’re interested in taking any supplements, please discuss this with your practitioner to ensure you’re taking the correct dose and form for you. This article is not intended to be medical advice and is purely for education purposes.