You might have heard that eczema can be a sign of a food allergy or sensitivity in infants. The link between food allergies and eczema has been known for many years. It is typically assumed that the eczema is a symptom of the underlying food allergy. In other words, the eczema is triggered by the food allergy. However, a new study suggests just the opposite.
An article published in the July issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found evidence that it’s actually eczema which triggers the food allergy, rather than the other way around. The authors suggested that the breakdown of the skin barrier and inflammation in the skin that occurs in eczema could play a key role in triggering food sensitivity in babies. These findings might indicate that immune cells in the skin, rather than the gut, play a major role in the development of food allergies. The authors theorize that the breakdown of the skin barrier seen with eczema exposes immune cells in the skin to environmental allergens – For example, food proteins in this case — which then triggers an allergic reaction to foods.
So what does this mean for individuals with eczema and food allergies? Nothing yet, but these findings may help researchers develop better treatments or prevention tactics for food allergies in the future. If eczema and an exposed skin barrier lead to the development of food allergies, then perhaps repairing the skin barrier can help prevent or resolve food allergies.
King’s College London. “Eczema may play a key role in the development of food allergy in infants, study suggests.” ScienceDaily, 19 Jul. 2013. Web. 5 Nov. 2013