Eczema can make life a misery for children as well as adults with red, dry, thick and scaly skin that is constantly itching. For many people, eczema is triggered off by an allergic reaction to specific foods and avoiding these foods can relieve the symptoms. Chinese dietary therapy is a holistic system of treatment, part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which looks at diet in a completely different way from our western diets. Here I will give you my Seven Chinese Foods secrets that will help your eczema and change your life.
1. Avoid cow’s milk
Often eczema can be triggered off by cow’s milk which is a common food fed to children. Cow’s milk is very damp in nature and if your child’s digestive system is compromised can cause itchy skin, rashes and oozing and weeping lesions. Milk is not a common ingredient in a Chinese diet and is used sparingly. However, in the West we tend to over consume milk which is why more and more people are experiencing an allergic reaction to it. If your baby is suffering with eczema then you really should look for an alternative. Possible replacements are soy or goat’s milk which are less damp forming.
2. Avoid damp forming foods
Not only is cow’s milk damp forming, but other foods can be extremely damp forming as well. Interestingly, some of these foods are common triggers for eczema such as wheat and peanuts. Other damp forming foods include orange juice, bananas, sugar, cheese and other dairy products.
3. Stop the greasy food
Fried, greasy foods are extremely damp forming and warm in nature. Eczema is Yang (warm) in nature which means that if there is an excess of heat in the body it will cause symptoms such as redness, inflammation and thirst. Cooking methods such as roasting, grilling, baking, deep frying, stir frying and sautéing are all yang cooking methods. It’s preferable to boil, simmer, stew, braise or steam your food as these cooking methods are more yin in nature. Foods cooked in this way are cooler in nature and more nourishing to the body and skin.
4. Eat more cooling and nourishing foods
To treat eczema, you need to reduce redness, inflammation and itching of the skin by clearing heat. As well you should moisten dryness and strengthen the qi (vital energy) and blood. Cooling and moistening foods include grapefruit, lettuce, seaweed, watermelon, cucumber, celery, barley, beancurd (tofu), pears, strawberry, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and tomatoes.
Excellent foods to strengthen qi and blood are dark, leafy green vegetables, dark red fruits and vegetables such as beetroot, kidney, aduki beans and blueberries. Meats such as liver, kidneys and chicken are all qi and blood strengtheners. A fantastic start to the day would be to have a bowl of oat porridge sprinkled with a few dates.
5. Avoid raw and ice cold foods
Too many raw and chilled foods (as opposed to cooling foods) can damage the digestive system. The digestive system requires warmth or digestive fire to function and a prolonged and excessive use of raw or ice-cold foods will eventually weaken this digestive fire. You may have noticed that the Chinese do not eat many raw or ice-cold foods for this reason.
6. Balance your flavors
We have often heard that too much of one thing is bad for you and this is true in a Chinese diet. In most Chinese recipes you will find a balance of flavors – salty, sour, bitter, sweet and pungent. For example, salty foods (seaweed, pork, fish) regulate moisture balance, drain excess moisture and stimulate digestion. Too much salt, however, will dehydrate the body and cause dryness. Sweet foods (sugar, bananas, milk), mildly stimulate the circulation of qi and blood, moistening and benefiting dryness. However, eating an excess of sweet foods will lead to the formation of damp and heat which can cause eczema. Therefore, a balanced diet including all the flavors is beneficial. You can increase or decrease a particular flavor according to your needs.
7. Chew slowly and enjoy your food
Quite often eczema is caused by emotional stress. When we are stressed we tend overeat, under-eat or not enjoy what we are eating. Do not eat when angry because this affects the movement of qi and can cause it to stagnate. Qi stagnation over time can cause a build up of heat which can manifest as skin rashes and inflammation.
The Chinese know the benefit of chewing slowly and with concentration, so forget the television or reading while you’re eating – just focus on your food. Every mouthful should be chewed thoroughly since this helps our digestive system to work more efficiently.