Eczema is a chronic skin condition, characterized by dry, red, flaky patches of skin. Eczema appears most commonly on the face, neck, elbows, wrists, knees, behind the ears, and on the scalp. During acute episodes, the patches become oozing, inflamed, and itchy. There are currently two recognized classifications of dermatitis: atopic and contact. Contact dermatitis is typically aggravated by direct skin contact with allergens, such as chemicals, wool, lanolin, soap, or cosmetics. Atopic eczema is usually triggered by inhaled or ingested allergens, such as certain foods, pollen, dust, or animal dander. Some literature discusses a third classification, “dysregulatory microbial eczemas.” This category refers to eczema caused by the introduction of microflora into the horny layer of the skin, and a breakdown in the epidermis, resulting in inflammation.
Food allergies appear to play a significant role in atopic dermatitis. The presence of severe eczema has been associated with an increased tendency to produce food-specific IgE antibodies. Although the subject is debated, maternal antigen exposure during pregnancy and lactation may increase the chance of eczema in infancy. Studies have confirmed that women who avoid antigens during pregnancy and lactation, and exclusively breast feed have reduced occurrence of infants with atopic eczema.
Antioxidant nutrients help support the immune system especially when the body is under stress, thereby, reducing the risk of many illnesses including cancer, cardiovascular disease and other chronic degenerative diseases. It is not advisable to take large amounts of one or two antioxidants while excluding the rest. For optimal protection, a nutritional supplement program should include multiple antioxidants. The primary antioxidants are vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, selenium, coenzyme Q10, and lipoic acid. Also, there are other powerful antioxidant sources such as selenium, grape seed extract, and green tea. There are many other nutrients that also function as antioxidants.
A case-control, population-based study was published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition to investigate the link between antioxidant nutrient intake and the risk of atopic dermatitis (AD) in children. The researchers enrolled 180 children with atopic dermatitis and 242 without AD all being five years old. Their diets were assessed by using a validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire and fasting blood samples were used to analyze fat-soluble vitamins such as retinol, alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene and vitamin C. The results were a reduction of AD by 56 percent in children with the highest intake of beta-carotene in comparison to children with the lowest intake. There was a similar association with vitamin E at 67 percent, folic acid at 63 percent and iron at 61 percent reduction in AD risk. Highest levels of alpha-tocopherol were associated with a 36 percent reduced risk of AD and retinol was at 26 percent lower risk. The researchers stated “These findings suggest that higher antioxidant nutritional status reduces the risk of AD and that such risk-reduction effects depend on nutrient type.”
1 Oh SY, Chung J, Kim MK, et al. Antioxidant nutrient intakes and corresponding biomarkers associated with the risk of atopic dermatitis in young children. Eur J Clin Nutr. Jan2010.