In this exclusive edited extract from her new book on good nutrition and diet for eczema, Karen Fischer reveals the eczema-safe grains, milks and proteins that you should be eating.
Dairy products, especially animal milks (cow, goat, sheep), are not suitable for eczema sufferers.
Almond milk is rich in salicylates and may cause flare-ups so it not suitable for eczema sufferers.
For those of you who would like to consume milk in your porridge, smoothies and baked goods, here are the best options for you.
Organic Soy Milk
Like all processed food products, soy milk has its good and bad points and there are different qualities available. The best choice is any variety containing organic ‘whole’ soybeans as these are less processed and of the highest quality. Do not buy soy milk listing ‘soy isolate’ in the ingredients, as soy isolate was once considered a waste product and may contain aluminium. The ingredient barley malt, which is added to soy milks for added sweetness, contains gluten so if you are gluten intolerant look for ‘malt-free’ soy milk or use organic rice milk. If available, choose organic soy milk that is fresh (in the refrigerated section of the supermarket), and one that contains added fibre and calcium and has a low glycaemic index.
If you choose to drink milk, rice milk is a sweet, watery milk that is low allergy
and low in chemicals so it is regarded as eczema-safe. If purchasing rice milk,
favour organic rice milk that is ‘calcium fortified’, which means it has added
calcium. Rice milk often contains sunflower oil, which is usually eczema-safe.
Although naturopaths tend to favour rice milk over soy milk, be aware that rice
milk has a very high glycaemic index so it’s not suitable for diabetics or those with hypoglycaemia or energy problems of any kind.
A serve of oat milk is rich in fibre, calcium, vitamin A and if you are vegan it is a valuable source of iron. Oat milk is lactose-free and it contains gluten so don’t use oat milk if you are allergic to wheat or gluten.
The following grains are eczema-safe because they are low in natural chemicals and contain no artificial additives. If possible, soak grains before consuming them.
• spelt (G)
• buckwheat (GF)
• brown rice (not instant) (GI)(GF)
• basmati rice (GF)
• quinoa (not puffed) (GI)(GF)
• wholegrain or rolled oats (porridge) (G)
• oat bran (G)
• rice bran (GF)
• barley (G)
• rye (G)
The Eczema Diet is wheat-free. Going wheat-free for a few months gives the digestive tract time to repair and you might find that you are better able to tolerate wheat after having a break from it.
The Eczema Diet is not gluten-free but if you are gluten intolerant it’s easy to adapt this diet by avoiding all gluten-containing products including wheat, spelt, rye, barley and oats (denoted with a ‘G’).
Also avoid corn, polenta (cornmeal) and most commercial breakfast cereals while you have eczema as they are rich in irritating chemicals such as salicylates.
Amaranth, millet, tapioca, jasmine rice, instant/quick-cooking rice and Japanese
glutinous rice have an incredibly high GI, which triggers high insulin in the blood.
Why soak your grains?
Grains, legumes and nuts contain phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that reduces the absorption of zinc, copper, calcium and iron. Traditional methods of making
sourdough bread, such as fermenting, sprouting and soaking, reduce the phytic acid content, increase gluten tolerance and make minerals more available for skin repair and maintenance. While consuming grains, legumes and nuts in moderation should not cause deficiencies there is an increased risk when large quantities are consumed.
Soaking grains is optional during the Eczema Diet but it is highly recommended, it’s easy and it can quickly become a habit. The key is to think ahead and always have a couple of bowls of soaking grains on your kitchen bench. If the bench is bare, you know it’s time to soak some more grains.
Eczema-safe breads are generally easy to digest (or gentler on the digestive tract than wheat breads). If you can eat gluten then spelt bread is the top choice for eczema sufferers. Spelt bread tastes similar to wheat and spelt sourdough bread uses the traditional, non-yeast method of breadmaking, making it naturally lower in phytic acid and low GI (so it supplies energy slowly and does not trigger high blood insulin).
When choosing gluten-free bread refer to the eczema-safe grain (above) and flour (below) lists. Eczema-safe breads include:
• spelt sourdough bread
• gluten-free bread (if necessary)
• plain sprouted breads (may contain gluten)
• rye bread (no wheat)
• sprouted spelt loaf.
Baking with spelt flour is preferable as the gluten makes the recipes work brilliantly, and the kids can’t tell the difference.
Buckwheat makes a very nutritious flour but it is an acquired taste, best used in pancakes with rice malt syrup and sliced banana. If you need to use a packet of gluten-free flour check for additives and note that highly processed white cornflour is acceptable to consume in small amounts but corn or yellow maize are not eczema-safe. As flours are highly processed or ground into a fine powder, making them fast to digest, they usually have a high GI rating. If the flour is used in nutritious recipes containing protein, the GI may be reduced.
Other flours include:
• rice flour/brown rice flour (GI)(GF)
• oat flour (G)
• quinoa flour (GI)(GF)
• arrowroot flour (GF).
If you are looking for baking helpers, use gluten-free baking powder or bicarbonate of soda (baking soda, also gluten-free).
Animal and vegetarian protein
Your skin, muscles, brain cells, hair and nails need protein to function; without it your muscles would begin to waste, your skin, hair and nails would suffer and your body would swell with fluid retention (and children stop growing without protein).
On the other hand, if you eat too much protein — for example, if you follow a
high-protein low-carb diet for too long — you can end up with muscle wasting, constipation and an increased risk of bowel cancer, skin rashes, acne and/or kidney problems. Therefore, for optimal health of the skin and body, a balanced or moderate amount of protein is needed in the diet.
Here are some guidelines for choosing eczema-safe protein:
• Protein from animal sources should be free range or organic where possible.
• It’s essential to remove chicken skin and cut fatty pieces off meats.
• Buy only the freshest cuts of meat which are free of preservatives and low in fat.
• If buying mince, ask your butcher to grind it fresh as most packaged mince (and packaged fish) contains preservatives.
• Don’t consume meat or fish that has a strong or unpleasant odour.
• Don’t consume fish that has been frozen as they are rich in amines.
Choose from the following animal and vegetable protein sources:
• trout/rainbow trout
• white fish, fresh
• canned salmon or tuna in springwater/brine
• preservative-free mince (lamb, chicken, veal)
• canned or dried beans (not broad beans)
• green beans
• mung bean sprouts
• lentil sprouts
Raw egg whites
Avoid consuming products containing hidden sources of raw egg white, including:
• whole-egg mayonnaise
• some creamy salad dressings/coleslaw dressing
• raw cake/pancake mix
• some commercial dips including baba ganoush and tuna dip
• hollandaise sauce
• powdered egg protein shakes
• traditional chocolate mousse
• icing on traditional wedding cake
Protein foods to avoid
If you suffer from eczema it is best to avoid the following protein foods:
• deli meats such as salami, bacon and ham (which contain nitrates)
• sliced/processed chicken and turkey (contain flavour enhancers)
• sausages (nitrates)
• pork, bacon, ham and beef (strongly acid-forming)
• liver (rich in pesticides and vitamin A)
• frozen fish (rich in histamines)
• frozen meats and leftovers (can be high in amines)
• prawns (they are treated with sulfite preservative)
• vegan patties/sausages (additives, flavour enhancers and/or salicylates)
• eggs, if an allergy or intolerance is suspected
• all dairy products.
The Top 12 Eczema-Safe Foods
4.Potato (white and sweet potato)
6.Mung bean sprouts
The Eczema Diet: Eczema-safe food to stop the itch and prevent eczema for life by Karen Fischer is published by Exisle Publishing at £12.95. Buy it from Amazon (US) or Amazon (UK).
First published August 2014
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