When the number of people affected with skin condition eczema has steadily risen in the past decade, it's worth taking note.
Like most allergies, a combination of prescribed medicines and a healthy, clearly defined long term diet can help manage the worst symptoms.
Dr Sarah Schenker, dietitian and Cetraben partner, says: “Healthy skin depends on a well-balanced diet that provides enough of all the nutrients to meet the body’s requirements.“
Here are some foods and nutrients that can help strengthen your body against eczema:
1. Boost Beta Carotene
Schenker says: “Beta carotene acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body and is especially important for healthy skin as it is able to scavenge and neutralise free radicals.”
Get it from where? “The richest sources of beta-carotene are colourful fruit and vegetables such as carrots, peppers, tomatoes, mangoes, apricots, and butternut squash. Green leafy veg such as watercress and spinach also provide plenty of beta carotene.”
The green leaves of watercress have cleansing and anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve inflamed patches of sore skin. Drink it as a juice, by boiling it in water for 10 minutes, or buy it fresh to add to salads and sandwiches.
Carrots can help protect the skin and build its resistance against the dryness and peeling, common factors with dermatological conditions.
2. Top up Vitamin C
Schenker says: “Vitamin C is essential for healthy skin. One of its most important roles in the body is in the production of collagen, a protein needed for wound healing. It is also an important nutrient for the immune system which fights off invading bacteria and viruses and protects against disease. Healthy skin is dependent on good immunity.”
Get it from where? “The richest sources of vitamin C include citrus fruit (oranges and grapefruits) and their juices, peppers and kiwi fruit. Other good sources include broccoli, berries, melon, tomatoes and potatoes.”
Eat: Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potato root proteins and vitamin C content make it an excellent antioxidant which can protect the body from allergic responses. Its high levels of fibre and potassium can also improve the health of your skin.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” might be a bit of a simplification for anyone aspiring to lead a healthy life, but it can be a tasty and vital source of Vitamin C and quercetin, a crucial flavonol in fighting eczema's worst symptoms, such as dry skin and itching. Its also has anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties that can helpalleviate skin inflammations.
3. Enjoy Vitamin D
Schenker says: “Vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system and is essential for maintaining a good balance of healthy bacteria in the microbiota which in turn impacts the health of the skin.”
Get it from where? “Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the UK diet. Sources include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and mushrooms.”
This fish is full of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin D, which can improve the health of our entire body, including your skin. It contains astaxanthin, another antioxidant that can decrease the potency allergic reactions such as eczema.
Eat: Fortified Yoghurt
Alongside calcium and 'good' gut bacteria that can improve the functioning of the immune system, and consequently reduce the potential for allergic reactions, fortified yoghurts (check the label) also contain Vitamin D.
4. Load up on Vitamin E
Schenker says: “Vitamin E works with vitamin C and beta carotene to prevent damage to skin cells from ultra violet light. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant crucial for preventing free radical damage.
Get it where? “Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin so it is found in nuts, seeds, avocados, healthy oils and wholegrains. It is also found in green leafy veg such as kale.”
Walnuts can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body. They also possess rare forms of phytonutrients which can help battle the skin deterioration that commonly occurs with eczema.
5. Rely on fatty acids
Schenker says: “Essential fatty acids – linoleic acid and alpha linolenic acid - are needed in our diets as they cannot be made in the body. They are present in skin cells and needed to maintain the structural integrity of the cell.
Get it where? “Essential fatty acids can be found in wholegrains such as brown rice, quinoa, rye, oats and barley. They are also found in nuts, seeds, avocados and healthy cooking oils such as rapeseed and olive oil. Long chain omega 3 fats are found in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines and fresh tuna.”
Mash it on toast, use it instead of butter or mayonnaise and feel the benefits in your skin.
Eat: Olive oil
Drizzle it on roasted vegetables, dunk chunks of bread in it, use it as a butter replacement, the anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil are fantastic for skin.