When my first son was born he had cradle cap─patchy pieces on his scalp which I tried to oil and wash off painstakingly. He also developed a rash on his stomach, then on his arms and legs. I creamed this using a prescription cream from the doctor. Had I known better then I’d would have stopped eating and drinking dairy products─as he turned out to have a dairy allergy that has lasted for seven years thus far. I breastfed him and believe that the protein from dairy irritated his body. I often also wonder what other kind of discomfort it caused him. Did it give him cramps? Gas? Make him cry more? I finally figured out he had a dairy allergy and removed all dairy before he was a year old. His eczema was greatly reduced though his skin was still a bit dry, especially in the winter. Now, for the past year, since introducing fish oil into his diet, his dry skin isn’t a problem at all. We occasionally use a little cream, but mostly just on his hands and only in the winter.
I’ve heard friends talking about the oozing red rash behind their child’s elbow or knee. Or they talk of the variety of creams they’ve tried. One of the mothers interviewed in my book was so adamant about finding the cause of the eczema or rash on her infant that kept him and her up at night for weeks from the probable burning and itching feelings that she asked herself and her doctor over and over until she found the solution herself. She found her son was allergic to dairy by removing it from her own diet and seeing his eczema “clear up by ninety percent,” in her words. Sometimes the discovery can take place by accident. In Robyn O’Brien’s book, The Unhealthy Truth, she discovered her son’s eczema cleared up when they went on vacation and he didn’t drink the many cups of milk that he normally consumed. Upon returning home and to his old habits, the eczema returned, as well as his cough and earaches. Eventually Robyn weaned him from milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products, which healed him.
Over the years, I read a lot about itchy, red, bumpy rashes to try to understand why eczema and food allergies are created. I developed the following layperson’s understanding: Eczema is caused by the inability of the infant’s immature digestive system (or a child's or adult's digestive system) to digest certain proteins, such as the dairy proteins, which can be hard to break down. These hard-to-digest proteins travel through the digestive system and go into the blood stream undigested. The liver then tries to cleanse the blood stream of this undigested protein. This works for a while, but then the liver becomes overloaded and cannot clean the bloodstream sufficiently. As a result, the immune system comes to the rescue and builds antibodies to attack the foreign proteins. Once the immune system creates antibodies, the allergic reaction is in place. The immune system’s antibodies tell the body to attack that foreign substance as if it were a virus or disease, which can cause the body to go into overdrive, possibly resulting in anaphylactic shock, or less severe yet equally devastating delayed allergic responses that can contribute to asthma, ADHD or autism. In the meantime, this foreign substance still needs to be excreted from the infant’s body, so the skin is used for excretion rather then the digestive system. Thus the skin becomes the cleanser of the body and shows a rash as the foreign substance comes out.
I am sure that other things can irritate the skin. Environmental factors such as pets, dust mites, pollen can all contribute and make eczema worse, not to mention that there are other unrelated rashes caused by things like poison ivy─my worst nightmare. But I think people often overlook the fact that much of eczema can be caused by the food allergies to dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. No matter how old you are or your child is, it can be a worthwhile experience to try to eliminate on of these foods for a week and see what happens. If nothing seems to change, try eliminating a different food for the next week. You may be pleasantly surprised at what problems you can solve without any medication or cost.
 Robyn O’Brien, The Unhealthy Truth, Broadway Books, NY, 2009, p 147-150.
 A. Anderson, Flourishing with Food Allergies, Papoose Publishing LLC, CT, 2008, p. 35.