Curing Eczema!

Yes! Eczema can be cured!

That is my experience!

I see hundreds of children with eczema. Many have seen a variety of doctors and specialist who all prescribe more and more creams. They come to see me because this approach is nit helping they want a cure! Most times I can help them with this. This is what I do.

Who is Rodney Ford

I have been dealing with food allergies and food intolerances for all of my professional life. I trained in Australia (Melbourne), UK (London) and NZ (Christchurch). I have been associate Professor in Paediatrics. I am a gastroenterologist, allergist and nutrition consultant. I run a very busy clinic. I see a lot of children with food allergy and eczema.

My research has been in milk, egg and gluten reactions. These food allergies cause a wide number of different symptoms (where you get attacked depends upon how your immune system is dealing with these food allergens). I have subsequently discovered that gluten (a protein in wheat, rye and barley) is now one of the commonest causes of adverse food reactions.

What is eczema

Eczema is an inflammation of the skin. In children it is usually due to some sort of allergic manifestation. In children it is also has the name atopic dermatitis . About one in five children are troubled with eczema. Some get it really badly. In my experience about 80% of eczema is due to food allergy – so it can be cured.

Most infant eczema is related to food allergy

The eczema progression

Baby eczema usually starts as dry skin, little cracks behind the ears and a rough dry face in the first six weeks of life. Cracks and irritations often occur on the cheeks. It is associated with cradle cap. The cheeks are often bright red and can be rubbed raw. After a few months the eczema rash might progress to the chest and back and then in the creases in the arms and legs. During this time the eczema can be infected, weepy and crusty. As the child learns to scratch, the skin will deteriorate even more.

Creams just cover

The most usual strategy for eczema is to smother it with creams. Moisturising creams will help retain the water in the skin. The Hydrocortisone creams reduce the inflammation a bit – and the stronger steroids will reduce the inflammation even more. Unfortunately, the steroid creams are harmful to the skin in the long-term. Elidel cream also is used to reduce inflammation but it is very expensive. But none of these creams solve the underlying problem. All they do is try to reduce symptoms. A cover-up.

Curing eczema

I repeat that in my experience, 80% of children s eczema is driven by food reactions. However, this view is not held by the adult dermatology field. The simplest way to identify the offending food is by skin prick test.

Skin prick tests

Skin prick testing is simple and should be pain free. Small drops of oil that contain specific foods are put on the skin. Then, the skin is very gently pricked through this blob of oil. A positive skin test occurs within 5-10 minutes: a small wheal (like a mosquito bite) develops. It is a little itchy and settles down in about an hour. In children, skin prick testing is very accurate. As the person gets older, the skin testing tells you more about past allergies rather than present clinical intolerances.{mosimage}

Skin prick tests might identify to food allergen

In my practice, I do skin prick testing on all children with eczema. This is especially helpful in breastfed children with eczema. Very frequently, these children are reacting to a food that is coming through in their mother s breast milk. By seeing what the child reacts to, I can then advise the mother what to avoid in her diet. Usually the eczema will completely get better.{mosimage}

Food exclusion diets

If the baby is exclusively breastfed, then it is the mother s role to go on the exclusion diet. Usually this will involve removing egg, peanut and perhaps dairy. If these are the offending foods, then the child s skin will dramatically improve within a few weeks. Usually the skin heals completely. These children do have naturally dry and itchy skin. Mild flare-ups do occur.

Blood tests might be needed

If all of the skin tests are negative, then dairy or gluten should be suspected. To make a diagnosis of gluten-sensitivity, blood tests are needed. Should the eczema not settle again blood tests are needed to check out immune function.

Acidophilus

Perhaps the biggest leap forward in the curing of eczema is giving acidophilus supplements. Lactobacillus acidophilus is a probiotic – a good bug that should be living in the bowel in high numbers. It has been shown that children developing eczema have relatively low levels of acidophilus. By supplementing these children with acidophilus on a daily basis: their gut health improves; their immune health improves; and the inflammatory activity in the skin is reduced.

Acidophilus supplements make a huge difference

Studies have shown that regular acidophilus will improve most babies troublesome eczema. In combination with the appropriate food exclusion diet these children s eczema will get cured.

Preventing asthma

The last step in curing these babies is stopping them getting asthma. The ETAC Study (Early Treatment of the Atopic Child) was a multi-country double blind randomised placebo controlled trial. Children were treated with Cetirizine (Zyrtec) or a placebo. The children in the study had severe eczema, had not developed asthma and had positive to the skin prick tests to grass pollens or dust mite. Thirty percent of the Zyrtec treated group developed asthma compared to sixty percent of the placebo group. Giving Zyrtec for 18 months (from the age of one year) was shown to reduce the chance of developing asthma by 50% – a huge reduction in asthma.

Preventing eczema

Not only eczema be cured, but it can be prevented by giving acidophilus. Studies have shown now that if there is a strong family history of eczema, then by treating the mother in the last trimester and the child from day zero with acidophilus, then the chance of eczema ever developing is halved.

Holly s happy at last story

Holly is three years old. I saw her last month because she had terrible eczema. She was using creams and lotions but not getting any better. Skin tests showed very big reactions to milk, egg and peanut. She is already getting better since her diet was changed.

You might need another opinion
Mum said that she was very cross about her dermatologist: When Holly was about a year old, we took her to a skin specialist. We were told that there was only very small percentage with food-related eczema. We were told that it was too hard to find out which foods could be possibly causing the problem. This specialist also told us that the skin tests were very painful.

In retrospect, we now know that Holly, at age three years is food intolerant and that her eczema is definitely related to food.

So, I still feel very angry that we are now two years down the track. It has taken us another two years to get to that stage to find out that food intolerance is a factor for Holly and her eczema. It makes me cross!

In Summary

In my clinical experience, by identifying the foods that cause eczema, by improving the immune reactions with acidophilus, and by treating some children long-term with Zyrtec, their allergies can be cured.

Gluten can cause eczema get a blood test

Gluten intolerance

Recently, I have found that gluten intolerances are very common and also worthwhile looking for. Gluten-sensitivity can drive eczema. But do not go gluten-free without first getting your blood tests. There is no room to discuss this here. In my opinion, blood tests are the most accurate way of diagnosing this. I have written about this extensively in my recent books which you can access at www.drrodneyford.com.

Rodney Ford. M.B., B.S., M.D., F.R.A.C.P.
Paediatrician
Specialising in general paediatrics, gastroenterology, allergy and nutrition.

www.DrRodneyford.com