The Allergy & Nutrition Centre

Eczema and Psoriasis

by Michael Franklin

Painful and disfiguring skin complaints like eczema and psoriasis are often the result of diet

"If only I'd known before", said my patient Jane Taylor. "I had dermatitis all those years and spent all that time putting creams and lotions on my skin. What I should have done was look carefully at what I was eating. After cutting out foods I was allergic to and cleaning up my diet, my skin is better than it's been for years."

Many people with skin problems still don't look to their diet even though, as Liz Earle says, "What you put inside your body is much more important than anything you put on it."

The tragic death of that iconographer of the 1960s, fashion photographer Terence Donovan, shows just how insidious some treatments can be.

Side-effects from steroids - still often prescribed for many skin conditions - were blamed by Donovan's relatives after he was found hanged. The photographer of beautiful people had been taking them for eczema.

Eczema agony
The treatment of eczema has a lot to do with food and nutrition. Many patients have relatives with eczema and also suffer with asthma or hay fever.

Why? The common link is allergy and food intolerance. Once offending foods are identified and excluded from the diet, improvement is likely.

Eczema often starts in childhood. The best thing any parent can do as a first step is to remove all dairy products from the child's diet. Often this alone will be sufficient. If not, a visit should be made to a clinical nutritionist specialising in food intolerance since, almost certainly, other foods will be involved.

Vitamin A and zinc, both of which are crucial to healthy skin, are particularly helpful in cases of eczema. So are essential fatty acids.

But food allergy investigation - and supplementation with vitamin A and zinc and with products such as quercetin and burdock root - should all be part of the package along with increased amounts of fish oils.

As with many common skin conditions, hives, also called urticaria, are mainly caused by allergy. The effects can vary from mild marks on the skin which go away after a few minutes, to huge raised and swollen welts - both painful and embarrassing for the sufferer. About 15-20% of people get hives at some stage with the young most affected. Unlike other allergy-caused illnesses, a person with hives sometimes presents no other symptoms. Suddenly someone in radiant good health, who has never had a skin problem before, can develop major urticaria.

Drugs are a principal cause with penicillin and aspirin being the main offenders. What's not so well known is that a sensitivity to tartrazine, the orange coloured food dye, is prevalent in people sensitive to aspirin. So anyone reacting to aspirin should avoid any food containing tartrazine (E102).

Salicylates - aspirin-like compounds - are found naturally in many foods. Hives sufferers who are sensitive to aspirin must look carefully at their intake of all berries, raisins, prunes, licorice and peppermint as well as spices like paprika, curry powder and turmeric.

The Candida Connection
When it comes to food, the worst offenders for patients with urticaria are usually fish and shrimps, because these often contain high quantities of the preservative benzoate. But the condition known as 'cold urticaria' has nothing to do with food. It's simply an urticarian reaction of the skin when it comes into contact with cold objects, water or air.

One of my patients had hives which seemed to appear for no reason but often came on shortly after a meal. Eventually we decided she was all right as long as she stayed indoors at least half an hour after eating. Racing out too quickly into cold air brought an immediate case of hives. People with chronic hives which fails to respond to any of the above measures often have other symptoms such as bloating, alternating constipation and diarrhoea - and sometimes thrush.

If so, candida should be looked for. It's an important factor in at least 25% of patients with urticaria and, if candida is present, it's extremely important not to rely just on anti-fungal drugs alone. The right sugar-free, yeast-free diet must be adhered to for at least three to six months, in addition to the use of anti-fungal agents, or symptoms will never be completely cured.

Psoriasis is usually considered extremely difficult to treat. Yet if more patients and practitioners knew of the links with candida and bowel toxicity, there would be fewer problems. The right detoxification programme and correction of any liver problems can be extremely helpful. Psoriasis has been linked to several microbial by-products and if the liver is overwhelmed by an increasing number of these toxins, psoriasis gets a lot worse. So liver detoxification is an important part of the treatment.

Acne rosacea is fairly common in adults aged between 30 and 50 and, here again, food allergy can play a considerable part. A lack of B vitamins may play a role, so high doses of vitamin B2 along with one B complex capsule daily can be of great benefit. But it's important for a B complex to contain nicotinamide rather than niacin, since niacin on its own can sometimes produce flushing. Supplementing with digestive enzymes can also be very helpful because acne rosacea patients have a low output of hydrochloric acid.

© Michael Franklin

The Allergy and Nutrition Centre
London, Sussex and Oxford

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