Eczema, sometimes referred to as ‘atopic dermatitis’, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition estimated to affect between 10-12% of the population, with most cases occurring in children under the age of five.
What causes eczema can seem a little mysterious due to a wide variety of potential triggers – diet, environment, genetics, lowered immunity and allergies may all contribute to the development of this frustrating dermatological condition.
Addressing eczema in children can be a challenging process but very necessary, as the common symptom of itching and cracking skin can be extremely irritating for the child and can also leave them prone to skin infections.
Identifying the cause or triggers of eczema in your child is key and may involve some investigative work – allergy testing, an elimination diet under the close guidance of a health professional and looking carefully at household irritants such as soaps and laundry products are the best places to start.
Some of the most common food allergies in children include cow’s milk, wheat, gluten, eggs, soy products, tree nuts, peanuts, fish and shellfish – however, this is by no means an exhaustive list and each child’s triggers or allergies will be different.
Fortunately, a variety of herbal and nutritional support also exists which can help to address the underlying causes, including inflammation, environmental sensitivities, and gut bacteria imbalances, as well as relieve the symptoms of itching, redness, swelling, dryness and sensitivity.
Chamomile – This calming herb also works as an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory and can be used internally (typically as a tea), as well as topically to calm the skin. Chamomile can also be soothing to symptoms of mild eczema. One partially double-blind, randomised study using a topical chamomile extract discovered that chamomile was slightly more effective than hydrocortisone cream in reducing symptoms of eczema after just two weeks.
Licorice – Licorice has been traditionally used in Western herbal medicine as an anti-inflammatory, as well as for its soothing effects on skin when applied topically. Topical application of licorice also helps to reduce itching, redness and swelling.[5,6]
Probiotics – Children with allergies have been found to have altered gut microbiomes compared to children without allergies, including lower levels of bifidobacterium (one of the major good bacteria strains in the gut). A number of studies have found that treatment with the probiotic species Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium lactis led to an earlier recovery than standard treatment.
Glutamine – A lot of fuss has been made about gut health in the past few years and for once we can believe the hype! Hippocrates said that ‘all disease begins in the gut’ and the research is beginning to catch up – studies are now linking a damaged gut lining with atopic eczema and food allergies.[8,9] As a major source of fuel for the cells in the gut, glutamine works by soothing the damaged tissue along the gastrointestinal tract, ‘sealing and healing’ to ensure nothing can enter the gut via the bloodstream that shouldn’t be there.
Foods to include:
- Bone broth and good quality gelatine
- Probiotic foods: Water kefir coconut kefir, yoghurt, (cow’s milk alternatives such as coconut yoghurt or goat’s milk yoghurt if necessary)
- Prebiotic foods: bananas, asparagus, oats, apples, ground flaxseeds and cacao
- Anti-inflammatory foods: turmeric, plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables, healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, oily fish
Foods to avoid:
- Any foods that trigger individual allergy or intolerance
- High sugar, highly processed foods such as store-bought cakes, biscuits and lollies.
- Trans-fatty acids (margarine, some processed foods)
- Soft drinks or other high-sugar drinks such as cordial, some juices
[1,3,5] Leach M in Hechtman L. Clinical Naturopathic Medicine, 2019.
 John Hopkins Medicine. Food allergies in children, 2019. Accessed 15 October 2019 from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/foodallergies-in-children
 Patzelt-Wenczler R, Ponce-Poschl E. Proof of efficacy of Kamillosan® cream in atopic eczema. Eur J Med Res, 2000;5(4):171-5.
 Saeedi M, Morteza-Semnani K, Ghoreishi MR. The treatment of atopic dermatitis with liquorice gel. J Dermatol Treat, 2003;14(3):117-21.
 Ouwehand AC. Antiallergic effects of probiotics. The Journal of Nutrition, 2007;137(3):749S-797S. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/137/3/794S/4664755
 Wollina U. Microbiome in atopic dermatitis. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 2017;2017(10):51-56.
 Isolauri E. Intestinal involvement in atopic disease. J R Soc Med, 1997;90(30):15-20.
 Kim M, Kim H. The roles of glutamine in the intestine and its implication in intestinal diseases. Int J Mol Sci, 2017;18(5):1051.
Written in partnership with BioCeuticals