Does your child experience eczema or a related skin disorder? You may be surprised to know that these disorders can be caused by a lack of beneficial bacteria in the body. Our bodies generate helpful bacteria in the digestive tract, and these are used by the immune system to support well-being.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome, writes about the link between compromised intestinal flora and digestion, and toxicity from chemicals created by undigested substances that come into the digestive tract. These issues can have a profound effect on all aspects of health.
How digestive disorders can contribute to health issues
Dietary habits have a direct impact on digestive function, and this affects the rest of the body and organ systems. If your child consumes substances or food products containing toxins and that lack critical building blocks of health – that is, vital nutrients – these can all directly contribute to gut permeability, toxicity and overgrowth of pathogenic yeast in the body.
Gut permeability is defined as material passing from inside the gastrointestinal tract during the digestive process through cells lining the gut wall, into the rest of the body. This permeability can lead to an auto-immune reaction from the immune system, triggering responses such as eczema and other issues including food allergies, ear, respiratory, and other chronic infections, asthma, and digestive disorders.
Where does health balance begin?
When health balance becomes disturbed, a variety of health issues can occur. The foundation of gut health starts at conception, with the parents. If parents have healthy flora in their bodies, so will the child. If the parents do not have an adequate supply of beneficial bacteria during the time of conception and this condition continues throughout pregnancy, it can adversely affect birth and your child’s future health.
After birth, symptom are exacerbated in children when they consume a diet of processed foods and refined sugars, and don’t receive enough nutrients. In particular, a diet high in wheat and dairy (the triggers being gluten and casein from these foods) have an adverse effect on health, blood sugar, and metabolism. These problems can pre-dispose your child to numerous health concerns, including eczema, respiratory and ear infections, as well as respiratory, urinary tract and other infections.
Consuming commercial, industrially-produced foods such as animal foods from animals/birds raised in confinement operations that are administered antibiotics, hormones, and consume feed exposed to pesticide/herbicide/chemical fertilizer and produced using genetic modification or treated with chemical herbicides (corn, soy, grains, and others) and fruits, vegetables, and grains produced with pesticides and herbicides have a profoundly adverse effect on immunity, digestive health, growth and development, and emergence of chronic illness. Switching to real, organic, whole foods can truly make a difference in health outcomes.
Other factors in gut health
Medications or immunizations (both by the parents before conception and during breastfeeding, and the children afterward) can alter optimal gut health. These substances contribute to disturbances in the digestive tract, leading to more illness, allergic reactions, and infections:
- Steroids and antibiotics
- Contraceptive pills
- Over-the-counter drugs such as Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen
- Other pharmaceutical drug use such as pain medication, anti-depressants, SSRIs, stool softeners, and others
- Exposure to chemicals in the environment such as chlorine or fluoride in bathing, drinking or swimming pool water, detergents and cleaners used in the home, clothing, and furniture; pesticides/herbicide use; commercial cleaners/detergents for dish and clothing wash; flame retardants, formaldehyde, and other chemicals in mattresses, clothing, furniture, carpet, paint, etc. Be sure to wash clothing and bedding with chemical/perfume-free ingredients and using environmentally-safe soap/cleaner/detergents.
- Use of chemical/commercial antibacterial or anti-fungal substances is destructive to beneficial bacteria and probioitics in and on our bodies.
- Avoidance of natural environments such as dirt, vegetation, grass, sunshine, and clean, natural sources of water. We need exposure to natural bacteria and minerals and from the outdoors and Vitamin D from the sun for optimal health.
Allergies and intolerances
Food allergies and intolerances express themselves in the symptoms your child experiences, such as through skin irritation occurring with eczema. These reactions are a continual source of stress to the immune system, especially for a developing and growing child.
When your child has trouble digesting food, symptoms manifest not only in the digestive tract with stomach upset, diarrhea, or abnormal bowel movements, but also can appear in seemingly unrelated symptoms such as food “allergies” and intolerance, eczema, pain in the joints, asthma, behavior and mood disorders, headaches, and infections.
In cases where food causes symptoms to occur, one of the best ways to deal with this issue is to use an “elimination” diet to heal the body.
How does a healing diet promote recovery from conditions such as eczema?
- Promotes gut healing by providing necessary nutrients by:
1) Avoiding substances or foods that create irritation and inflammation
2) Consuming foods that heal and nourish.
Repopulates beneficial bacteria in the gut
By avoiding substances and foods that encourage growth of pathogenic or harmful bacteria/gut flora, the digestive tract can regain friendly bacteria that enable the body to maintain health.
Removes toxins which contribute to health issues
Detoxifying is one of the most important benefits of any “elimination” diet. When an overgrowth of yeast occurs, fungi, harmful bacteria, parasites and other issues related to gut dysbiosis (an improperly functioning intestinal tract) occurs and the takeover of harmful toxins ensues. These toxins have the ability to alter the physiology of our bodies and cause auto-immune reactions which suppress immunity against infections and illness.
By focusing the diet to foods which are easily digested and eliminated, strengthening the gut and adding beneficial bacteria and essential nutrients, the rate at which toxins are eliminated is increased.
A high quality, therapeutic probiotic supplement can also help boost beneficial bacteria balance (see recommendations below under Stage two) to support digestive tract function while at the same time, nourishing the body and starving harmful bacteria.
Using a healing diet to treat your child’s eczema and other health issues
Many children react to wheat and/or dairy foods. You may need to eliminate these foods from their diets to promote healing and recovery. Because of digestive tract compromise, it may be necessary to these and other foods and focus on healing digestive health in your child’s body. This can take 2-3 years (or longer), depending on the individual health condition. For more details on this healing diet, please read Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride’s book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome.
Focus on healing foods for the digestive tract such as easy-to-digest home-made meat or fish stock, homemade soup with homemade meat or fish stock, and probiotic foods including cultured vegetable juice combinations made at home with a juicer (not a blender).
If dairy is tolerated, raw, homemade sour cream, yogurt or kefir can be used at this stage, but proceed with caution and add small amounts at first (1/4 teaspoon a day for 5 days and gradually increase). Adding in homemade whey, sour cream, yogurt or kefir can be extremely beneficial to those experiencing diarrhea or very loose stools. Lactic acid found in these foods provides soothing and healing effects on the gut. If dairy is not tolerated at this stage, put off until later.
Do use homemade cultured probiotic juices but avoid the vegetables themselves at this stage, which are likely to be irritating and too fibrous to the digestive tract. Cultured juices will restore normal normal stomach acid production. Ensure foods are not too hot when adding probiotics to retain the beneficial bacteria’s positive effects on restoration and healing.
Children with severe eczema and other reactions should adhere to meat stock cultured probiotic juices made with vegetables. Over time, your child will begin eating other nourishing foods as tolerated such as soups, stews, and casseroles with meats and animal products from animals/birds on pasture, and cooked vegetables.
Ginger, mint or chamomile tea is recommended daily between meals. If honey is tolerated, add a small amount to each cup.
Food sensitivity testing
Use this test when you suspect foods which cause eczema. At bedtime, take a drop or small amount of the food you are testing and place it on the inside of the wrist of your child. Let the food dry on the wrist and allow your child to go to sleep. In the morning, check for any noticeable rash or irritation. If there is no reaction, the food is acceptable to eat. If there is a reaction, eliminate that food from your child’s menu for the time being.
Continue with soups made with bone marrow, boiled meats and fish with soft, connective tissue from bones. Continue with meat stock and ginger tea. Add some type of probiotic food into each cup of meat stock or bowl of soup daily. Juices from fermented vegetables including sauerkraut or other vegetable combination, or homemade dairy foods.
Add organic raw egg yolks to soups and meat stock. Try one egg yolk daily and then increase as tolerated with one yolk per bowl or cup of soup/stock. Gradually add in soft-boiled eggs to soups/stocks. Use food sensitivity testing on the wrist when wondering about tolerance of any new food.
Introduce stews and casseroles with meats and vegetables. At this stage, use salt and fresh herbs only, avoiding spices for the time being. High fat content in meals is key to recovery, and will provide healing for digestive function, with probiotic food with each serving.
Each day, increase homemade sour cream, whey, kefir and yogurt if in use. Also increase amounts of homemade vegetable juices including sauerkraut or vegetable combination.
Introduce fermented fish or Swedish gravlax beginning with a small piece per day and slowly increasing over time. See recipes in GAPS book.
At this stage, begin serving homemade ghee, one teaspoon daily and slowly increasing thereafter. This is an important food, even if other dairy foods are not tolerated and many GAPS patients have success with it.
After your child has been on a healing diet for a period of weeks or a couple of months, the foods which may have caused reactions may be tried again. If you have avoided dairy, re-introduce (raw only). Choose homemade, raw yogurt and kefir at first. As time goes on, you may add in butter and sour cream made from raw milk. If your child is under 1 year of age and you have been giving him or her cow’s milk (even raw), discontinue until after the age of 1 years old.
For relief of eczema distress as a result of irritation to the digestive tract and immune system, consider the following supplements and other products:
Ther-Biotic Children’s Chewable broad-spectrum, hypoallergenic probiotic for children 2 years of age and older. 25 billion CFUs in a base of inulin. Contains eight total Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species intensively researched and clinically shown to support gastrointestinal health and immune function in children. Broad spectrum gastrointestinal and immune support, potent daily 25B CFU chewable, sweet, natural cherry flavor ideal for children.
HLC Neonate Probiotic by Pharmax. Supports intestinal health and immune response. Imbalances in the flora of the neonate may significantly increase the risk of childhood allergy and susceptibility to infectious disease. Specially formulated for the newborn infant 0-12 months and is ideal for food sensitivities to certain foods, including dairy. Scientific and usage evidence show HLC organisms as safe to use from birth+, and is soluble in milk or water. Contains no wheat or gluten.
Recommended dosage: Bottle-fed infants: Mix approximately 1/16 tsp into baby bottle (half of 1/8 tsp) once or twice daily. Breast-fed infants: Press clean finger into powder and have baby suckle finger. Or use a tiny plastic spoon (i.e. used at the ice cream/gelato store for flavor tasting). These fit perfectly into the Neonate bottle and easily into a small mouth, and can also be smeared onto the tongue. Follow with a little breast milk, or allow infant to mash around in mouth with saliva. Approximately 33 mg (1 billion viable cells) will naturally adhere to the end of your finger. Repeat 3x daily.
HLC Child Chewable Probiotic Tablets by Pharmax. With a typical dosage of only one tablet per day, HLC child will provide children with 4 billion viable probiotic bacteria. Research suggests that the immune system may be supported by providing high numbers of probiotic bacteria and that their supplementation may be particularly important during childhood.
Green Pasture Products fermented cod liver oil in a variety of flavors. Cod liver oil contains naturally-occurring vitamins A and D. Amounts of these nutrients vary from dose to dose as fermented cod liver oil is a natural product. It is also a natural source of Omega 3, 6, 7 and 9 Fatty Acids plus many important fat-soluble nutrients. The butter oil included in this combination product contains Vitamin K2 which enables the body to absorb Vitamins A and D.This entire product line is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which ensures that the cod livers we source have been sustainably wild-caught.
Continue with foods consumed in Second stage. Add ripe avocado into soups. Add pancakes made with organic nut butter, eggs, and some type of squash. Prepare small, thin pancakes with ghee, duck or goose fat. Scrambled eggs are another food to introduce, cooked with ghee, goose, or duck fat, served with avocado. Cooked onions are also beneficial for the digestive system cooked with several tablespoons of animal fat and ghee in a pan for 20-30 minutes until translucent.
Sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables can be introduced at this stage, starting small and gradually increasing. Give 1 – 4 teaspoons of fermented vegetables with meals.
Continue with previous foods and begin to add roasted and grilled meats. Slow, and well but not over-cooked meats and poultry with vegetables are easy-to-digest and nourishing. Serve with fermented vegetables, as in the Third stage.
Add cold-pressed organic olive oil to food, starting with a few drops per meal and gradually increasing to 1-2 tablespoons at each meal.
At this stage, bring in fresh-pressed juices such as a few tablespoons of filtered carrot juice. This can be served with a bit of warm, filtered water and/or mixed with homemade whey or yogurt. When these amounts are tolerated, increase to a cup serving per day. When this is accomplished, add to it celery, cabbage, lettuce juice and fresh mint leaves. Drinking juice before or between meals is optimal, such as morning before breakfast and afternoon between lunch and dinner.
Continuing with previous foods, add cooked apple puree by peeling and coring the apple, prepared in a pot by stewing with filtered water until softened. Add a few tablespoons of ghee and mash together. If ghee has not been used or tolerated, use other animal fat such as duck, goose, beef or lamb). Add honey to taste if apples are too sour. Add in raw vegetables beginning with softer pieces such as inner core of lettuce and cucumber. Next add carrot, tomato, onion, and cabbage. Instruct the patient to chew these vegetables well as these can end up undigested in stool. Monitor this process and slow down on these vegetables if the patient returns to diarrhea or undigested food shows up.
For juices, begin adding fruit to the carrot, celery, cabbage, lettuce and mint mixture (if tolerated) such as apple, mango, pineapple. Avoid citrus fruits in this stage.
When all previous foods are well-tolerated, try adding in peeled raw ripe apple. Over time, slowly introduce other fruits and honey.
Slowly introduce home made cakes and other sweets made with fruit as sweetener and blanched, ground almonds, squash,
After Stage six, your patient may be ready for the Full GAPS Diet from Dr. McBride’s book Gut and Psychology Syndrome. See her book for more details, recipes and more to support recovery on this healing, nourishing diet.