A cure for eczema?
An eczema sufferer for six years says an alkaline diet is his solution.
BY: Eleanor Yap
KK Tan, 67, swears by an alkaline diet, which is mostly vegetarian. The theory behind such a diet is that by eating certain foods, it can help maintain the body’s ideal pH balance and can therefore be used to treat or prevent diseases, and in his case, eczema. Though such a diet may be healthy, experts say that the body maintains its pH balance regardless of the diet and what one eats does not determine the blood’s pH level.
Experts weigh in
Dr Michael Murray, a naturopathic physician and the author of “The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine”, has a different take on the subject. In an article in “Welcome Times” last year, he wrote: “There is growing evidence that the dietary acid-alkaline balance may influence certain disease states like osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and many others.
“For example, osteoporosis may be the result of a chronic intake of acid-forming foods consistently outweighing the intake of alkaline foods, leading to depletion of alkaline minerals (calcium and magnesium) from the bone in order to buffer the excess acid. The dietary goal for good health is simple – make sure that you have a higher intake of alkaline-producing foods than acid-producing foods.”
A further check with a dermatologist here recommends caution on such a diet. Said Dr Mark Tang, senior consultant dermatologist and head of the Eczema Clinic at the National Skin Centre (NSC), “There is no good scientific evidence that an alkaline diet can help improve or ‘cure’ eczema. However, patients with eczema should focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet and avoid foods that they themselves know worsen their eczema. Dietary advice should be individualised and planned together with their doctor or dietician. What is more important is that alkaline soaps (usually hard bar soaps) should be avoided in eczema patients as they can worsen the dryness and inflammation of the skin.”
Persistence pays off
Despite all these opinions, the father of one is not swayed. Tan credits his diet, as well as daily moisturising and a regular intake of fish oil, for helping him control his eczema or what is also called dermatitis. (According to NSC, eczema affects one out of 10 persons at some point in their lives, and it can be present in all age groups.) His condition started in 2007 while on holiday in Yunnan, China. He shared: “The weather there was dry and cold, and I got a red rash that I started scratching.” When he returned to Singapore, the rash as well as the scratching got worse.
He is convinced that besides the weather conditions in China, his unhealthy body from drinking regularly could be a contributing factor. With no family history of allergies or asthma, the itchy red patches that appeared on his arms and legs continued plaguing him. “When I scratched, pus would come out and the red patches were there all the time. My condition made me very uncomfortable,” said the manager of a trading company.
He decided to seek help and went to see some doctors, as well as a dermatologist. They prescribed him antihistamines, topical steroid creams and moisturisers, which he applied regularly but to no avail. “There was temporary relief but after a while, the itchy patches would return. The doctors kept telling me there was no cure.”
Tan wasn’t ready to give up just yet. He read up on books by Dr Murray and Dr Robert Young, an author of alternative medicine books promoting an alkaline diet including “The pH Miracle”, and found there might be a cure for his eczema if he followed such a diet. In 2008, he did just that and supplemented it with fish oil and wheatgrass capsules every morning, and after a bath, the use of moisturiser.
Said Tan: “I started eating more fruits and vegetables during meals such as during breakfast, I would eat a papaya and tomatoes from Monday to Friday. It just became a way of living and not really a strict diet. Now and then, I eat ice cream and cake, and I still drink.”
Today, he is still following this regime, and he has had positive results – “There has been no eczema recurrence. I have since thrown out the steroid creams and I have stopped taking antihistamine pills. I am happy to be on an alkaline diet. Not only did it cure my eczema, but it has kept me healthy.”
(** The quote in “Welcome Times” has been approved for use by DoctorMuray.com.)
(** PHOTO CREDIT: Fruit and vegetables, tonypowell, stock.xchng)