About 20% of children around the world experience symptoms of eczema. In the USA, almost 32 million people of all ages suffer from some form of the condition.
Respected nutritionist Karen Fischer is the author of five books including the award-winning The Healthy Skin Diet and The Eczema Diet, which featured on prime time news as a ‘breakthrough diet for eczema’. She has two children, including her daughter who previously suffered from eczema.
Her latest book, The Eczema Detox, makes combatting eczema fun, enjoyable and delicious, with easy, healthy recipes you can cook at home designed to return your skin to full health in rapid time.
In the extract below, you’ll discover six of the 12 ‘Eczema Fighting Superfoods’ Karen has identified. Enjoy!
6 Easy to Find Superfoods That Help Fight Eczema
Incorporate these 6 ingredients into your diet for healthy skin:
1. Mung bean sprouts
Mung bean sprouts are like little alkalizing ‘bombs’ when added to your meals as they are one of the few strongly alkalizing foods available. They contain magnesium, vitamin K, folate, potassium and vitamin C and they are salicylate-free. Sprouting your own mung beans is easy and the sprouting recipe is on p. 169.
2. Flaxseed oil
Flaxseeds, also known as linseeds, are small brown seeds best known for their rich content of anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils. The seeds are a source of phytochemicals including a moderate amount of salicylates and amines, plus silica, mucilage, oleic acid, protein, vitamin E and dietary fibre for gastrointestinal and liver health.
Flaxseed oil is more refined than whole flaxseeds so it contains fewer salicylates and amines and more of the beneficial oils, including 57 per cent omega-3 essential fatty acids. So I suggest beginning with a small bottle of organic flaxseed oil and using it in smoothies (or buy capsules). Then if you find the oil beneficial (and don’t react to the small amount of phytochemicals) you can progress to using the whole flaxseeds — these are great sprinkled onto breakfast cereals.
Anna before and after completing the Food Intolerance Diagnosis Program from The Eczema Detox.
3. Red cabbage
Cabbage is another alkalizing vegetable and a member of the mighty brassica family. It’s rich in vitamin C, folate and anti-cancer indoles. But it’s worth swapping from white cabbage to the red variety as red cabbage has double the amount of dietary fibre compared to regular cabbage and it contains protective purple pigments.
These pigments are caused by a group of antioxidants called anthocyanins (a type of tannin), which are powerful flavonoids that have a skin-protective effect against UV sunlight when consumed frequently. Anthocyanins help to protect blood vessels from oxidative damage, and their anti-inflammatory properties activate the production of collagen for healthy skin.
4. Spring onions (scallions, shallots)
Spring onions, also referred to as scallions and shallots, are part of the onion family and, like the onion, spring onions contain histamine-lowering, anti-inflammatory quercetin. They have a straight green stem, with no bulb (see the photo ‘Specialty ingredients’ on p. 51).
Like garlic (but in lower concentrations) spring onions possess antioxidant flavonoids that convert to allicin when cut or crushed. Lab experiments show that allicin helps liver cells to reduce cholesterol and has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties, so it’s a beneficial ingredient for preventing Candida albicans infestation.
Spring onions contain folate, vitamin C, beta-carotene and lutein and are one of the richest sources of vitamin K, which is vital for healthy skin. Just 50 g of raw spring onions provides 103 mcg of vitamin K, nearly double the daily adequate intake for adults.
Fish is a great source of protein, vitamin D, iodine and anti-inflammatory omega-3. High fish intake during pregnancy is associated with a decreased risk of eczema. Two to three servings of fish each week are beneficial for elevating mood and increasing the health of the brain, skin and heart.
Good sources of omega-3, EPA and DHA (these are the converted omega-3 fatty acids) include trout, salmon, sardines, herring and fish oil supplements. Other minor sources of EPA and DHA include low-fat seafood such as carp, pike, haddock and squid.
It’s important to favour eczema-safe fish that is low in mercury. The general rule is: the higher up the food chain and the bigger the fish (e.g. shark/ flake), the more mercury it may contain.
6. Beetroot (beets)
Beetroot, also known as beets, is an important vegetable for eczema sufferers as it has strong alkalizing properties which boost liver detoxification of chemicals. Beetroot is abundant in antioxidants, folate and iron.
It is a potent blood cleanser and research shows that beetroot consumption lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of blood clots. Beetroots are a rich source of betaine, a derivative of choline, which helps to prevent fatty liver and boost detoxification of chemicals. Betaine also has the important role of converting homocysteine, a harmful substance, into methionine, which is essential for proper liver function.
Discover storage and serving tips, 6 more superfoods as well as 50 delicious low-chemical recipes, and more in The Eczema Detox
From Eczema to Clear Skin - Read Karen Fischer's Story in Her Own Words
I know what it’s like to give up some of the foods you love because they are hurting you. Cooking is more of a chore than normal … until you get the hang of it. However, as a result of making dietary changes, my family and I no longer suffer from skin disorders and my children are calmer and happier.
My own teenage years were a series of stressful and embarrassing events thanks to having a range of skin problems, including severe hand dermatitis. I was tired and irritable most of the time. However, unknown to me, the foods I was eating were to blame. I thought being healthy meant drinking close to a litre of milk daily plus eating bowls of flavoured yoghurt. I was a fussy child and I lived mostly on milkshakes, toast, and meat and three veg or spaghetti bolognese. I topped it off with ice-cream for dessert each night. Tea and chocolate (caffeine) gave me body aches. I was dairy intolerant and deficient in a range of nutrients, but I had no idea.
In my late twenties, a chemical exposure when I flea-bombed the house triggered psoriasis which spread to over half of my body. I was sensitive to chemicals. I later found out, after gargling aspirin and being rushed to hospital with a swollen throat, I was also sensitive to a chemical called salicylates. After many tests, my doctor suggested (several times) that I should eat healthier and exercise. I was sceptical at first. I need scientific proof, and lots of it, before I will go along with any health movement.
So I studied to become a qualified nutritionist, then I completed a Health Science Degree, and read every diet and natural therapy book I could find, and I finally changed my diet. It was hard at first — I had never eaten salad before. However, my new-found energy was amazing and I had glowing, clear skin for the first time in my life.