Baby eczema is a very common condition with 1 in 8 children suffering from red scaly itchy skin. Babies are more likely to develop eczema is more likely if there is a family history of allergic conditions like atopy, eczema, asthma or hay fever.
Eczema tends to appear on the face and neck and behind the ears as well as in the back of knees and elbows. Most babies grow out of it but in the meanwhile there is plenty you can do from a nutritional perspective!
Food allergies and intolerance have been identified as triggers in approximately one-third of children suffering from eczema. Cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, nuts and fish are responsible for more than 90% of food allergies in children with skin conditions 2 . That is why it is so important to introduce solid foods after at least 4 months of age and ensuring that potential allergens like those listed above are introduced every few days and watching any potential reactions.
Plenty of fluids
Nothing is an important for your baby’s skin as having enough fluids. Breastfeed and bottle fed babies tend to be well hydrated unless they are not feeding well or are sick, especially if vomiting and diarrhoea have been an issue for a few days. In this case, please do contact your GP as soon as possible to ensure your baby is not at risk of dehydration. Also, remember that when the weather is hot, your baby may need to feed more often.
Once you start weaning and your baby drinks less milk, keep an eye out for hydration (dry skin, lips, tiredness) especially as your baby drops milk feeds in favour of solid foods. Babies and toddlers should just drink water or milk, juice is not a good option, not even diluted as it creates a taste for sugary drinks that can harm tooth enamel.
Good fats support your baby’s skin
After you start weaning, ensure baby gets plenty of good fats, especially omega-3 from oily fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, pilchards, ground flax and chia seeds. These fats help reduce the inflammation associated with eczema.
Other important fats like those in olive oil, avocado and almonds are known as monounsaturated fats and can also help reduce inflammation.
Fruit and vegetables for skin health – and the wider the variety, the better!
All fruit and vegetables, especially green leafy veg, peppers and citrus fruit, contain Vitamin C which is not just a fabulous antioxidant but also a building block of collagen, a fundamental component of healthy skin. So be generous with your spinach and add them to pesto and smoothies to avoid reducing the vitamin C levels as you cook them. Peppers are great as a finger food with a little hummus or cream cheese so another good idea to get your little one involved in feeding him or herself. Fresh fruit makes a great snack and cherry tomatoes are great finger foods as long as you cut them in small pieces to reduce the risk of choking.
Vitamin E is found in abundance in avocados, seeds, nuts and olive oil. Vitamin E is an anti-inflammatory that supports the immune system and promotes growth in children. Vitamin E and defends the skin against free radical damage.
Pump up the antioxidants!!
Beta-carotene in dark coloured fruit and veg like oranges, spinach, butternut squash and sweet potato, is a fabulous anti-inflammatory that can also be transformed into vitamin A that the body can use to prevent dryness and itching in eczema.
Foods high in quercetin like onions, apples, kale, green beans and broccoli can inhibit the formation of histamine and other allergic compounds involved in eczema 4. On the other hand, citrus fruit can to release histamine directly from tissue mast cells, even if they themselves contain only small amounts of histamine causing an allergic reaction that can trigger eczema 5.
Other foods high in antioxidants, like nuts, seeds and olive oil can also help reduce the inflammation associated with skin conditions such as eczema 6
The sunlight vitamin, Vitamin D, helps modulate baby’s immune system and reduce the symptoms of eczema, atopy and food allergies. Vitamin D is produced by the skin when in contact with sunlight. Since we don’t get that much sun in the UK and babies should not be exposed to the sun without sunscreen, it is advisable to supplement from birth as recommended by the NHS 7.
What foods can worsen your baby’s eczema?
Refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta and refined sugars in sweets, cakes and cookies can suppress the immune system. The increase insulin in response to the surge in glucose from sugar can have a pro-inflammatory effect that can worsen your little one’s eczema 8.
Saturated fats 9 like those in meat and dairy 10 can increase inflammation and worsen your baby’s eczema. If your baby suffers from eczema it may be worth removing dairy from his or her diet for a while and make notes of how eczema evolves. If your baby is bottle-fed, try a non-dairy milk for a couple of weeks to check if milk is worsening the symptoms. Importantly, if you think that your baby is reacting to dairy, please talk to your GP about it to ensure he or she is still getting all the necessary nutrients even if you reduce or eliminate dairy.
Written by Purple Carrot Nutrition: https://purplecarrotnutrition.co.uk/