Eczema can make life miserable for children as well as adults with red, dry, thick and scaly skin that is constantly itchy. For many people, eczema is triggered by an allergic reaction to specific foods, and avoiding these foods can relieve symptoms. Chinese Diet Therapy is a holistic treatment system, part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which looks at diet in a completely different way to our Western diets. Here I will give you my seven Chinese food secrets that will help your eczema and change your life.

1. Avoid cow’s milk

Eczema can often be triggered by cow’s milk, which is a common food given to children. Cow’s milk is very moist in nature and if the child’s digestive system is compromised it can cause itchy skin, rashes and oozing and weeping lesions. Milk is not a common ingredient in a Chinese diet and is used sparingly. But 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 suffers from eczema, you should really look for an alternative. Possible substitutes are soy or goat’s milk which is less moist.

2. Avoid moist forming food

Not only does cow’s milk form moist, but other foods can also form extremely moist. Interestingly, some of these foods are common eczema triggers such as wheat and peanuts. Other moisture-forming foods include orange juice, bananas, sugar, cheese and other dairy products.

3. Stop the fatty food

Fried, fatty foods are extremely moist forming and hot in nature. Eczema is Yang (hot) 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. Boiling, simmering, stewing, braising or steaming the food is preferable, as these cooking methods are more yin-like. Food prepared in this way is cooler in nature and more nourishing for the body and skin.

4. Eat more cooling and nourishing food

To treat eczema, you need to reduce redness, inflammation and itching of the skin by removing heat. In addition, you should moisten dryness and strengthen qi (vital energy) and blood. Cooling and hydrating foods include grapefruit, lettuce, seaweed, watermelon, cucumber, celery, barley, beancurd (tofu), pears, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and tomatoes.

Excellent foods for strengthening qi and blood are dark leafy green vegetables, dark red fruits and vegetables such as beets, kidney, aduki beans and blueberries. Meats such as liver, kidney and chicken are all qi and blood enhancers. A wonderful start to the day would be to have a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with a few dates.

5. Avoid raw and ice-cold food

Too much raw and chilled food (as opposed to cooling food) can damage the digestive system. The digestive system requires heat or digestive fire to function, and a prolonged and excessive consumption of raw or ice-cold foods will eventually weaken this digestive fire. You may have noticed that the Chinese do not eat a lot of raw or frozen food for this reason.

6. Balance your tastes

We’ve 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 the moisture balance, drain excess moisture and stimulate digestion. However, too much salt will dehydrate the body and cause dryness. Sweet foods (sugar, bananas, milk), gently stimulate the circulation of qi and blood, moisten and distribute dryness. But eating too much sweet food will lead to the formation of moisture and heat which can cause eczema. Therefore, a balanced diet that includes all 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 to overeat, undereat or not enjoy what we eat. Do not eat when you are angry because this affects the movement of qi and can cause it to stagnate. Qi stagnation over time can lead to a build-up of heat which can manifest as skin rashes and inflammation.

The Chinese know the benefits of chewing slowly and with concentration, so forget watching TV or reading while you eat – just focus on the food. Each mouthful should be chewed thoroughly as this helps our digestive system to work more efficiently.

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