Like any mom of a child with eczema (or “ecze-mamas,” as I like to call us!), I’ve read my fair share about this seemingly widespread skin issue. I’ve recently been fascinated with the link between eczema and food allergies and learned a lot from this episode of the After On podcast with Dr. Kari Nadeau, one of the nation’s leading experts in adult and pediatric allergies (who is also a mother of five! #momboss). Dr. Nadeau spoke about the fundamentals of food allergies, and the new reasoning behind how they can be associated with eczema. Among many other important findings, her research suggests that preventing and/or treating eczema early in life could be one way to reduce a child’s chances of developing food allergies!
—Sweta Doshi, Bubbsi founder
Here are 7 things we learned about eczema and allergies while listening to the pod:
1) Food allergies have grown at an exponential rate in both adults and infants.
This probably comes as no surprise to a parent, but since the 1940s, the amount of people with food allergies has been steadily increasing. Just 0.1% of the population under the age of 21 had a food allergy in the 1940s. In the 1970s this increased to 0.4%, and in the 1990s this became 0.8%. As of the 2000s, 8% of the population has some kind of food allergy.
2) People with eczema are more prone to food allergies.
Normal skin provides a barrier between us and the outside world, keeping moisture in, and preventing irritants and allergens from getting through to stimulate the immune system. In dry, cracked, or eczematous skin, the opposite occurs. Water is lost, and irritants are able to penetrate the skin to cause allergic inflammation and itching. So, it makes sense that children with eczema are more susceptible to allergies when their skin simply can’t keep out allergens.
3) Many food allergies can stem from the skin’s exposure to an allergen.
Scientists now believe that allergies can begin when allergens penetrate through weak skin barriers (like eczematous skin) and enter the bloodstream. Once there, the body’s immune system activates and begins to produce antibodies that protect against the allergen. However, some antibodies get confused, and that’s when food allergies are created.
4) Food allergies are distinct to their environment.
Allergens that are specific to your environment play a key role in the food allergies you could potentially develop. For example, in Arizona, kids with environmental allergies to pollen often test positive for food allergies related to corn, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes and rice. In Arizona there’s a lot of pollen in the air, and because the foods listed above have proteins similar to that pollen, the immune system often cannot distinguish between the two proteins (non-dangerous food vs. pollen). And this is how most food allergies work—your immune system attacks the proteins in good food, thinking they are bad protein particles.
5) Gut exposure is a way to mitigate allergies through diet.
Our digestive system plays a central role in immune system regulation. About 70% of our immune cells are found in the gut’s muscle tissue. In a baby’s first year, her digestive system gets educated faster than any other group of organs. That’s why gut exposure is so important. Through diet, antibodies can learn that these foods aren’t bad. One of the best methods of gut exposure are food challenges, when you eliminate food from a patient’s diet in a controlled setting (with an allergist or physician), and then reintroduce the food slowly.
6) Past U.S. guidelines misunderstood aspects of food allergies.
The U.S. guidelines in the 2000s informed parents to delay exposure of foods like peanuts, shrimp and soy to their children. It wasn’t until 2009 that researchers started learning that other countries had exposed kids to the same foods, and those children mostly avoided the associated allergies. New national guidelines were released in 2011, letting parents know that exposure to some of these foods was, in fact, a good thing. Doctors now recommend introducing allergens like peanuts as early as 4 months so that the gut can learn to recognize it.
*Shameless plug: our friends at Lil Mixins make early introduction of peanut & egg super easy with their powders! Just add into breastmilk or food.
7) The Five D’s of Food Allergy Prevention:
In addition to diet, there are four other factors that researchers believe could prevent food allergy incidence, two of which have to do with skincare!
Dirt: We’ve become so clean that our immune system forgot about good bacteria, so exposure to dirt can be beneficial, helping the immune system distinguish good and bad.
Dogs: Dogs do the same thing as dirt. Getting exposed to dogs early in life can also help train the immune system.
Dry skin: Cracks in babies’ skin can allow exposure to allergens, leading the immune system to become maladaptive. Moisturizing and treating dry, cracked skin during early childhood can repair the skin barrier and prevent potential allergens from entering through the skin.
Vitamin D: Exposure to sunshine causes the production of vitamin D in the body, and a low intake of vitamin D showed an increase for allergy risk, according to Dr. Nadeau. So days spent in the sun, with proper sunscreen, are not only fun, but they’re preventative measures for food allergies!
Diet: We should diversify diet early on to aid in gut exposure. In fact, Dr. Nadeau’s studies have found that when a pregnant mother eats common foods associated with allergies, she is exposing herself and her baby to these particles for the better. This gut exposure helps antibodies learn early on how to differentiate good food from bad allergens.
As we’ve discussed in a previous blog post, separate research suggests that early moisturization can help prevent eczema. The above research suggests that it could even help prevent food allergies down the road. That means that childhood skincare can impact health even later in life. Bubbsi’s naturally-derived products are formulated to moisturize your kiddo’s delicate skin.
While everyone’s skin is different, many Bubbsi customers have seen success with our products on dry, sensitive, and eczema skin. Here are some testimonials:
“I bought this as a last, very desperate attempt to help with my daughters out-of-control eczema. After trying pretty much EVERY lotion, soap and topical prescription medication, nothing was helping my 5-year-old’s skin. Her dermatologist wanted her on steroids, and I REALLY did not want that. After just 3 short days her redness was gone, and the dry patches are shrinking. I could not be happier. I 100% recommend this to any other parents who have kiddos with sensitive or troubled skin. Thank you, Bubbsi, for helping my daughter, and making such an amazing product!” —Francesca
“Our 6-month-old developed eczema, as many babies do. Bubbsi cream and balm have been far more effective than anything else we have tried. The benefits of coconut oil, without all of the greasiness and stains on clothing. Regular application of the cream followed by the balm keeps his skin from drying out, and relieves itching. He also loves to play with the bottles. Fantastic products, a must-use for children with eczema!” —Amar