Are you suffering from itchy skin?
Is itchy skin getting you down? Let’s face it, everybody itches and we all scratch for different reasons. For instance, whether it’s bug bites, rashes, allergic reactions, or that chunky wool sweater Grandma gave us last Christmas, we all itch. Above all, there are many different triggers that cause these annoying irritations. Subsequently, in this post we explore whether there is a connection between itchy skin and food.
Some common triggers include:
- Irritants such as soaps and detergents, including shampoo, washing up liquid, and bubble bath
- Environmental factors and allergens, such as cold and dry weather, dampness, and such as house dust mites, pet fur, pollen, grasses, and moulds
- Food allergies and intolerances to cow’s milk, eggs, nuts, soya, wheat (gluten), citrus, food additives, shellfish, and seafood.
- Certain materials worn next to the skin such as wool and synthetic fabrics
Firstly, our bodies respond to these triggers because they are filled with nerves. These ‘itching’ nerves are activated during times of an allergic reaction where our bodies release a protein called histamine. After that, this information is transferred to the brain via the spinal cord. The main purpose of a histamine caused inflammation on the skin is to help the body fight infections (for example, from bites or abrasions). Critically, multiple areas of the brain, including those that control emotional, sensory and motivational patterns, are activated by the itch sensation. In addition, the antihistamines the body products are designed to block the protein from telling the brain about the itch. In turn, this helps us to stop scratching. For millions of people around the world living with itchy skin conditions, this constant itching can be debilitating.
Getting the right treatment
The frustration of watching a loved one suffering from itchy skin can be hard and we seek help. For instance, we usually seek the advice of our doctor who will recommend a given topical lotion (often steroids) to apply to the affected skin. Unfortunately, often the root cause, or potential triggers for the itchy skin are never discussed as part of the diagnosis. As a result, the symptoms are treated in isolation. At worst, the symptoms are attributed to a viral illness. Or, a genetic predisposition for itchy skin like eczema. And at times, can be passed off as something that you will grow out of, or symptomatic of getting older.
Therefore, the result of misdiagnosis, is that the topical cream prescribed only provides at best temporary relief for a few weeks, or months. Only for people to have their pre-existing condition such as eczema flare up again, thereafter. The common misunderstanding many people have is the cream has stopped working. Subsequently, they then switch to another product only to have the cycle repeat. What they are unaware of is, that there could be a trigger in their home or work environment that is the root cause of their skin condition flaring up. However, without any awareness of triggers (beloved family pet, washing powder, or a favourite pasta dish) their skin condition continues to be aggravated.
One of the most common triggers for itchy skin is food. However, generally this is a link that is not routinely made with skin disorders. In other words, could the food you eat be making you itchy?
You are what you eat
Everyone has heard this old adage, you are what you eat. However, never before has this statement been truer than today. Over the last 50 years, we have seen a significant rise in food intolerances, disease, allergies, and behavioural disorders. Above all, many of which have been linked to food and poor dietary choices. Therefore, it’s largely thought these changes are largely environmental. Mostly, arising from increased pollution, chemicals in water, insecticides, heavy metals, toxic cleaning products, and refined foods, preservatives, and colourings. None of which were not present in our grandparents generation, for instance. The reality, is these environmental factors have compromised our food eco-system (soil, water, genetically modified seeds etc.). Similarly, the consequences, are that in addition to the introduction of processed foods, the quality of the foods we eat have seriously been impacted.
What are food allergy or food intolerance symptoms?
The symptoms of food allergies and intolerances are wide and varied. Especially, because people can have different reactions based on their genetic, biochemical, and metabolic make up. For example, two members of a family may have a common allergy to shellfish. However, each person will have an individual response to the trigger food.
Dr Rodney Ford, a pediatric gastroenterologist and allergist consultant internationally recognised as an expert on adverse food reactions, has complied a “Big List”. If you recognise any of these symptoms, he suggests that you could have a food allergy or intolerance.