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Nutrition and children's skin: Dr. Pavka explains the food-eczema connection to a concerned mom and offers up options for other new parents.

Q: Over the past three weeks, my 10-month-old little girl Ruby Jo has broken out in an eczema rash. Here's a little history: Ruby Jo was delivered via C-section, she gets the majority of her nutrition from my breast milk but eats some finger foods, and I have a history of Candida, but I no longer have any symptoms. (I tried eliminating sugar, gluten and dairy from my diet a week ago and haven't seen any improvements in Ruby Jo.) What more can I do to clear up this eczema? Should I give Ruby Jo probiotics, and which brand would be useful? What should I be feeding her right now? Is it safe to feed her cultured vegetables to help repopulate her body with beneficial bacteria?

--Anita D., Asheville, NC

A: Thanks for your questions, Anita. Certainly other new parents are struggling with these same issues. First, some background. Both the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the skin are channels of elimination. If the GI tract is not functioning properly, backed-up toxins will be more apt to be eliminated through the skin, thereby contributing to rashes. Thus the skin actually reflects imbalances in the GI tract. While there are certainly more, here are three pieces to the puzzle of Ruby Jo's skin problems: 1) unhealthy balance of probiotics in the GI tract due to probable overgrowth of Candida (yeast) 2) foods to eat more of and 3) foods to eat less of.

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Infants are born with a sterile GI tract. A normal vaginal birth exposes a child to a world of bacteria found in the vagina, as do breast milk, formula, nipples, fingers and toes. Every breath and touch brings more bacteria to colonize the skin, the mucous membranes and the gut. Babies born by C-section are often unable to colonize enough friendly, health-promoting bacteria. Yeast can form gases that cause GI pain as well as generate mycotoxins. This plus the resulting decrease of normal bowel flora and altered GI function eventually undermine immune function and contribute to the development of allergic and immune diseases such as eczema, allergy and asthma

To answer one question about Ruby Jo, I suspect she probably does have Candida overgrowth. Research is finding that mothers who have an overgrowth of Candida/fungal infections give birth to babies who are also afflicted by Candida. Even though you state that you no longer have symptoms, you may have what is called systemic Candida, where your body has adapted to the Candida and shows few overt symptoms.

I recommend a book titled Digestive Wellness for Children: How to Strengthen the Immune System & Prevent Disease Through Healthy Digestion by local doctor and author Elizabeth Lipski, Ph.D., CCN. The book contains a "Yeast Questionnaire for Children" that may prove helpful.

During the first one or two years of life, the most important probiotic is Bifidus infantis. Two good brands are HLC Neonate by Pharmax and Udo's Choice Infant's Blend Probiotic. The usual amount for infants is a fourth of a teaspoon powder mixed with a few drops of water and put on the tongue twice daily. Since you're breast-feeding, take half of a teaspoon twice daily yourself.

Congratulations on continuing to breast-feed Ruby Jo. For now, that's her primary source of nutrition, and it's the easiest way you can get more nutrients to her. But, there are foods she can eat more of. You can offer her cultured vegetables. If she doesn't like them, offer them later. You and other breast-feeding mothers reading this, on the other hand, should be eating lots of them. I also recommend that breast-feeding mothers consume low-mercury fish, such as wild salmon, weekly and take supplements of quality fish oil and flax seed oil to provide the types of essential fatty acids that reduce inflammation.

Eliminating sugar for a week is not usually long enough to see any differences, so I'd suggest that you commit to consuming as little sugar as possible for three months. Other foods that can contribute to children's skin problems include wheat/gluten, dairy and corn. You may also want to stop eating those yourself. Observe Ruby Jo's skin during this time. For these three months, offer Ruby Jo only fruits (not fruit juices, which are concentrated in fruit sugars) and vegetables.

Columnist Elizabeth Pavka, Ph.D., RD, LD/N, a wholistic nutritionist with more than 27 years' experience, provides nutritional counseling for a wide variety of health issues. Dr. Parka helps her client prepare an individualized eating plan and often recommends vitamins and mineral supplements, digestive enzymes, probiotics, etc. that support health. She teaches classes, writes articles for local and national publications, consults with organizations about nutrition and wellness, and speaks before professional and lay audiences; she can be reached at 828-252-1406 or epavka@main.nc.us.
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Title Annotation:HOLISTIC NUTRITION Q&A
Author:Pavka, Elizabeth
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2009
Words:800
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