Conflicting Information About Eczema and Dairy

I emailed my son’s pediatrician yesterday, requesting an appointment in a month so we could discuss his possible dairy sensitivities and what it might mean for starting formula. She wrote me back saying that eczema is almost never the result of food sensitivities or allergies.

What? But SO MANY people have told me that was most likely the problem.

So I went on WebMD and found this:

Eczema is not an allergic reaction. Even so, a large number of children who have eczema also have food allergies. That doesn’t mean that certain foods such as dairy, eggs, and nuts — common food allergy triggers in children with eczema — cause it or make it worse. Before removing particular foods from your child’s diet, talk with your health care provider to be sure your child’s nutritional needs will be met.

Now I’m confused. Why, if the medical establishment believes that eczema is NOT caused by food allergies, are so many people telling me that it is?

Is this one of those situations in which Western Medicine doesn’t attribute a connection but Eastern Medicine and/or homeopaths do? Or is it just a confusion about the correlation of children with food allergies being more susceptible to the condition?

I just want to do what is best for my son. I stopped eating dairy about two weeks ago, but have only really been dairy free in earnest for about a week. My son’s skin seems to have cleared up a lot in that time, but it also corresponds to when we started our skin “regimen,” and reduced baths. Plus I heard it takes two weeks for dairy to leave your system, AND I found out my inlaws have been using frozen milk almost every day this week, when their fresh stores ran out. So… it seems clear that the restricted dairy is probably NOT the cause of the recent clear up. Of course that doesn’t mean it isn’t helping and/or wouldn’t further help.

I guess the other fact that makes me suspicious is that Monito has never suffered from colic of any kind. The kid is as serene as they come–he barely even spits up. As I started to research hypoallergenic formulas, ALL the posts and comments were about severely colicky babies whose tummies were soothed switching to dairy-free, not their skin. Could my son really be dairy sensitive and yet have no tummy issues whatsoever?

Now I’m at a loss. Do I keep restricting dairy even though the medical establishment tells me it isn’t causing my son’s eczema, or do I keep it up, just in case?

If anyone has any thoughts or information about this (especially the people who originally told me it was probably a reaction to dairy) I’d be much obliged. The more I know the better!

9 responses

  1. My son has eczema and it is not allergy based. We tested and tried, and he just had plain old sensitive skin and eczema flares up on and off. He is 2 now. So we are one of those where eczema is not allergy based. As far as we can tell so far, he has no allergies (even tried most nuts, shellfish) etc. This won’t help you, but just my experience to share.

  2. this is a very good question…both of my kids have (had!) eczema..for both of them it was related to chemicals, harsh soap at day care, cloths washed with none hypoallergenic detergent (I now always travel with my own detergent) even a non hypoallergenic dryer sheet will trigger a reaction…milk was never a problem for my son but was for my daughter she outgrew it but I was never able to correlate it to her eczema…

  3. My dd never are dairy because we are vegan. But she had lots if food related eczema up to 2 years. Our pedi was the one who told us that’s what it was. It was obvious–try food for a few days–see eczema–stop food–goes away. Peas, rice cereal, potatoes, corn, grapes, honeydew, etc. finally after 2 she could eat anything. I’m a former scientist and I understand cause and effect and this was real. Strange that your doc is telling you no. Maybe just as to dairy?

  4. Hi! I’m an infrequent commenter and one of the ones who mentioned dairy intolerance. 🙂 my son had dairy issues when he was really young, and our pediatrician mentioned eczema several times as an identifier to cows milk sensitivity. So, with the conflicting info you’ve received, I wonder if its more of a correlation (babies with dairy intolerance also often have eczema) than causation. my son didnt hce ezcema as a symptom but I often hear about babies that do. A bit of Internet research (just now as I’m nursing!) makes it seem like the jury is out…

    Good luck figuring it out. 🙂 babies are so confusing sometimes!

  5. As someone with a dairy “allergy” I can tell you that I have never had stomach issues as a result. My allergy manifests in the form of a runny/stuffy nose and chest congestion/wheezing. It varies in severity, but I can almost guarantee that when I eat dairy – I will wheeze. It sucks because I LOVE cheese (thank God goat cheese is not off the table). My point: a lack of stomach issues doesn’t necessarily mean there’s not an allergy or sensitivity. Also, I have a friend with Eczema who was told to go gluten-free. She did and within two weeks her Eczema was gone! I was also told to go gluten-free for my endometriosis – which I did and I finally got pregnant, but I was doing Chinese Medicine AND ended up doing an IUI. So who knows if cutting out gluten really helped!? My theory is that allergans – wheat, soy, dairy – often DO go hand in hand with other immune system issues, meaning that the body is already producing histamines in response to Eczema and so dairy/wheat/soy may also aggravate an already aggravated system (and vice versa). It’s just a theory though! Good luck and I’ll be following your blog to see how things go.

    • I went gluten-free for over a month and it did nothing to help his eczema, in fact that was when it showed up. It was also when we started adding a daily bath to his bedtime routine, and back then we were using regular soap/shampoos. I’m starting to think THAT is what triggered the reaction, and not a food sensitivity.

  6. It seems like a pretty strong correlations that if the eczema started when you began daily baths…then that’s something to look at first. As for the dairy/eczema connection…it’s my understanding that some eczema is caused by food sensitivities, and some eczema isn’t.

  7. The quote that made all the difference for my family taking us seriously as opposed to thinking I’m a crazy helicopter mom (I am) hellbent on torturing my kid with a dairy free life (I’m not) for shits and giggles:

    “While foods do not directly cause eczema, several studies suggest that certain foods can worsen eczema. Some infants and young children with severe atopic dermatitis develop itchy hives and swelling after eating certain foods; these reactions can be dangerous. Studies show that eliminating the culprits from a child’s diet often leads to dramatic improvements within a short time.”

    This is from a pamphlet given to me by the dermatologist put out by American Academy of Dermatology.

    My take on this, my daughter has eczema with or without dairy in her diet. She will have flare ups with or without dairy in her diet. She does not have dangerous reactions to dairy when she eats it. But her flare ups of eczema are much much worse when she’s had dairy. Sunscreen is also a culprit. It is worth is to me to remove it from her diet. She will have to make that choice for herself as she gets older.

    I have never had a doctor tell me her eczema is caused dairy, or to remove it from her diet. This is 4.5 years of trial and error. Right now she’s doing fine with goat cheese, so we’re running with it. I’m not against trying cow milk products in future. But we’ll stick with this right now.

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