Learn the root cause and why your baby really develops eczema. Making changes by adopting an elimination diet with nourishing homemade baby food recipes is the key. Learn what foods to avoid and what foods are important for improving your baby’s eczema.
Baby Eczema And Food Link
One in five children are now affected by eczema, which is often associated with an allergy but often it could also mean a food sensitivity.
Many people believe that foods are not responsible and cannot make the symptoms worse, but this is not true. I witnessed my own child plus many other children getting better after eliminating the triggering foods and adopting a different food approach.
A recent study (2019) came out that identified a unique subtype of eczema linked to food allergy, where skin abnormalities were found to be extended beyond the visible lesions – being more prone to water loss, and with an abundance of pathogenic bacteria, indicating a unbalanced skin microbiome.
What’s really fascinating is that many doctors do not know what causes eczema in babies but still they don’t take mothers seriously when they claim that the symptoms improved with dietary changes.
What Baby Food To Avoid For Baby Eczema
Commercial Baby Foods and Purees
Many of the commercial pre-made baby food options are definitely not the best first foods for babies.
The idea of giving a artificially fortified food rather than a real fresh food that naturally contains those nutrients, just doesn’t make sense to me. But that’s what is promoted right now, by baby food manufacturers and pediatricians as well (with some exceptions).
An alarming study was released by The Clean Label Project. They tested 530 brands of baby food products, including infant formulas, toddler drinks and snacks and even the organic ones.
They found that 65% of them tested positive for arsenic, 36% for lead, 58% for cadmium and 10% for acrylamide, which according to scientists, are connected to slowed growth, behavioral problems, hearing issues and anemia.
That’s another reason why baby food manufacturers lost my trust for a very long time.
Rice cereal has traditionally been the first food for babies for a very long time. The baby cereal, might not be the best food to start as well. Why?
Because it’s usually high in (added) lab made synthetic vitamins that are hard to digest and not bio-available.
Plus, babies don’t make enough of enzymes to break down and digest grains until they are 6-8 month old. It can be irritating to baby’s digestive system and contribute to gut damage later in life.
Common foods that can cause eczema flare-ups in babies (including breast-fed babies) are:
- Tree nuts
- Wheat and gluten
- Tomatoes (or other nightshade family vegetables).
- Artificial dyes
- Artificial flavors
- Highly processed ingredients (as additives).
If you suspect your baby’s eczema is triggered by any of those foods, make sure to eliminate them for at least a week and then reintroduce them one by one again and see if the reaction is the same. If it confirm, eliminate it until your baby feels better.
What Really Causes Baby Eczema
You might already know that there are many factors that can cause eczema in babies. And there is likely a complex interplay between genetic factors predisposing to eczema and environmental triggers and/or exacerbants.
Aside from barrier disruption, some common environmental exposures may be pruritogens in atopic dermatitis, meaning they can directly or indirectly worsen itch.
Some external factors could be: products you’re using (laundry detergent, creams, shampoos etc.) vaccines ingredients, domestic animals, house renovation, pollen, molds and other .
But most of the time eczema can be triggered by internal factors. That’s why you need to explore and ultimately adopt a long term solution not just to cover it with a cream.
It was found that infants with eczema had less bacteria with anti-inflammatory properties and more bacteria responsible for disturbing the intestinal barrier function.
They all recognize a significant association between fecal bacterial diversity and eczema during the first few months of life, suggesting that a more diverse gut microbiota early in life might prevent allergy development later.
Medical research also observed that patients with atopic dermatitis (eczema) have increased colonization with Staphylococcal aureus and decreased microbial diversity. This was the case with my daughter, as well. We found that out through a throat swab culture.
The composition of bacteria in a child’s gut depends on its environment and the food he eats. So if a child’s diet changes, so will the bacteria present in the gut.
Additionally the bacteria diversity (microbiome) depends on:
- Early life antimicrobial exposure;
- Method of delivery (caesarian/vaginal);
- Formula feeding or breastfeeding;
- Maternal exposure to pets or livestock during pregnancy;
- Maternal consumption of antimicrobials (antibiotics) during pregnancy.
The microbiome is usually transmitted at birth to the child so if the mother has a poor bacteria diversity and has a damaged gut barrier, then it’s more likely that the baby will develop sensitivities early in life.
Sometimes exclusively breastfed babies develop eczema as well, especially in IgE-mediated food allergy. This is a result of presence of food allergens in mother’s milk.
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How To Treat Baby Eczema Through Food And Elimination Diet
Finding the root cause is the best thing you can do for treating your baby’s eczema. Making environmental and dietary changes should be the first step.
Some studies show that restrictive diet without milk, eggs, nuts or fish during lactation have a protective effect on children against eczema.
The best way to identify a sensitivity is with an elimination diet. This is done by removing the suspected food for a month and then adding it back.
There is no list of “foods that every nursing mom should avoid” each baby is unique – what bothers one may not bother another.
The symptoms of a food sensitivity in breastfed babies aren’t always easy to spot – in fact, they’re often missed because the reaction is much slower.
They can take hours to days (between 12 and 24 hours) to show up since it takes a while for mom to digest the food and then to enter baby’s system.
So keeping a food journal with a record of foods eaten (and when) and baby’s behavior/symptoms, may be helpful when trying to find a problem food.
Sometimes very healthy foods can trigger eczema too. So I recommend experimenting.
If your baby deals with really severe eczema, gastrointestinal issues, asthma and many food allergies then I strongly recommend you read this book: Gut and Physiology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Allergies, Autoimmune Illness, you will get answers for so many questions.
Another helpful resource for me was “The Eczema Diet” book. It contains some recipes and explains how to eliminate triggers, detoxify and heal the body.
I wish doctors could offer such kind of information, usually they are not taught the influence of diet in medical school.
Foods That Help Heal Baby Eczema
When people ask me what food recipes I used for treating my baby’s eczema (first solid food). I tell them: homemade meals mainly made with steamed vegetables and soups with homemade bone + meat stock.
This is better than starting with fruits and cereals. Vegetables have a much higher nutrient content and less sugar than grains and hence a less chance of an allergic reaction. Plus vegetables have a higher vitamin content and are easier to digest.
My baby started to show eczema signs at the age of 2.5 – 3 months even when she was exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months.
When I started an elimination diet at 4-5 months (I tested what foods triggered eczema flare-ups) the rashes improved significantly but didn’t go away completely right away. But I kept going and testing.
When I started solids at 6 months, I knew I had to prepare the meals as healthy as possible in order to help the digestive system to heal.
Besides vegetables I also incorporated plant fats, like avocado, hemp and flax seed oil (rich in omega 3,6,9 fatty acids needed for heart, metabolic and cellular health), and animal fats from organically grown animals.
For an extra boost (at 8 months) I started to supplement with wild fish oil (she wasn’t allergic to fish), I was adding it in purees and soups. Fish oil helps reduce leukotriene B4, an inflammatory substance that plays a role in eczema.
I also added to her diet, herbs (herbal teas: dandelion, plantain, chamomile) all diluted with water, and supplements like probiotics (special for infants + dairy free) which I think expedited the healing process.
After she got close to 12 months I started to make recipes with leafy greens (green smoothies) and gluten free grains like amaranth, millet, buckwheat, quinoa etc. Sometimes I added to her oatmeal (gluten free/organic) some homemade hemp milk for creaminess.
I introduced fruits (as a snack) only after she got accustomed with vegetables and other unsweetened foods. Sugar promotes inflammation, so less is better. Afterwards, I started slowly to incorporate more probiotic rich foods like fermented vegetables and water kefir.
I never fed her boxed foods, everything was prepared from scratch at home with fresh, real, organic ingredients.
I started to see eczema improvements at 12 months (even though a few red patches behind her knees wouldn’t go away). And is probably because I couldn’t stop myself indulging in some cheese or bread sometimes.
I stopped breastfeeding at 14 months. Around 16-18 months her skin cleared completely. Moreover she didn’t have sensitivities to eggs, honey, dairy and gluten anymore.
How To Prepare The Food For Babies With Eczema
The idea is to start at the basics: allow the body to heal through nourishing foods and build a strong immune system.
Beginning with the right food will form a good basis for recovering and improving the baby’s gut health.
Food recipes made from scratch with whole, real, organic ingredients, rich in anti-inflammatory components is the key. Although the method of preparing your baby’s food is important too.
Steaming is the most preferred methods of cooking homemade baby food. Nutrient loss is minimal and this help the food retain high levels of water soluble vitamins.
Vitamin C for example is an important water soluble vitamin that helps aid in the absorption of iron. In general the longer any type of food is exposed to high temperatures and immersed in water, the higher the nutrient loss.
After steaming the left over water may be used as stock or for pureeing, it contains some of the veggies nutrients that have leached into the water, so don’t discard it. And whenever your baby feels constipated try these prune purees, they are really helpful.
I cannot even imagine the nutrient loss in commercial baby foods. They are cooked at high temperatures, most part being diluted with water and added different preservatives to help prolong shelf life.
Baking and Roasting
Baking and roasting is the second best methods to use when making homemade baby food recipes.
As for the use of a microwave I would say is potentially unhealthy. Besides that, nutrients are destroyed. Most people fail to realize that it also causes a change in food’s chemical structure – distorts and deforms the molecules of food.
I put together in the videos below some of the food recipes that helped treat my baby’s eczema. They are suitable for gluten, dairy, egg and sugar free diets, great for skin healing and helping the liver to work properly, which is really important for kids with allergies and eczema.
Baby Food Recipes For Babies With Eczema
- Here I have a video with examples of healthy baby food (purees) for babies with eczema.
- Bone and meat stock – an important nutrient dense food needed for intestinal wall healing.
- Prune Avocado Cauliflower Puree For Baby (Stage 2)
- Soft Beef Meatballs For Baby (BLW) Toddler, No Egg
- Sweet Potato Fritters (Latkes) For Babies & Toddlers
- Sweet Potato Apple Broccoli Puree For Baby Stage 2 (6 month +)
- Banana Pancakes For Babies & Toddlers (GD, DF Egg Free Option)
- Blueberry Pancakes For Babies & Toddlers (Dairy Free & Egg Free Option)
- Finger food ideas – all gluten free, dairy free, nut free and egg free.
If your baby has severe eczema and food allergies, please learn more about GAPS diet for babies (whether you’re breastfeeding or not).
I have another blog dedicated to baby food recipes entirely (trying to add more each day), including egg free, dairy free, gluten free or grain free versions. They are suitable for babies from 6 months and up.