Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The holiday challenge begins

Tomorrow in America, the first wave of the great tide of holiday craziness will wash over us-- beginning with the inevitable turkey dinner. I'm not a native-born American, so although I have come to love Thanksgiving, I'm still not used to the idea of the entire month of December being given over to overeating and indulgence. At work, the holiday parties start the Monday after next. It's almost impossible to avoid eating or drinking all kinds of things that trigger eczema: chocolates, booze, spices. More booze. And eggnog. I used to like eggnog--in fact, I still do--but a few years ago, after having had a skin prick test that showed I reacted to raw egg white, I suddenly realized that eggnog has RAW EGGS in it, and that's why I was always scratching like a monkey after a glass or three. (Sometimes the eggnog has booze in it, too.)
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I'm always interested when there's a story in the news about someone with eczema. Here's a recent one from Scotland, about a five-year-old girl in Linlithgow (outside Edinburgh).
Despite being so young, Gaelle, a primary one pupil, has used her experiences of atopic dermatitis to educate her classmates and teachers, who have to help her apply her skin cream and bandages every day at school.

She even used her birthday party to fundraise for the cause.
At five years old, she can't have come up with these ideas on her own. She's got some parents who are taking the offensive. It's a good idea. When the kids in Gaelle's class are older and start to cast about for others to tease, they'll at least have had some hands-on experience with eczema and some understanding of what it means to someone who lives with it, and they may not be so quick to treat her as an alien.
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Another news item: UAS Labs, a probiotics company in Minnesota has won an award for "Probiotic Customer Value Enhancement." Thrilling stuff, you will agree. What caught my attention was that UAS makes five "formulations" of live bacteria for specific conditions, and one of them is atopic dermatitis. What's in the AD formulation? A mix of Lactobacillus acidophilus (the yogurt bacterium) and Bifidobacterium lactis. Both are common gut bacteria, but also common probiotics. UAS worked with a scientist in Ukraine on a study to explore how their formulation might improve AD in kids aged one to three. It's not clear whether UAS funded the study; I expect they did, because otherwise there'd be no need for someone in Ukraine to obtain UAS's formulation. Still, the results of the study--presented at a symposium, not published in a journal--showed that eczema symptoms were reduced by 34% on a standard scale for kids taking the probiotics, versus being reduced 19% for kids taking placebo.

If these results are real, which is not at all certain, then it's interesting to think how intestinal bacteria could help reduce eczema. Are they helping the body digest milk proteins or sugars that would otherwise cause an inflammatory response that, in susceptible people, manifests in the skin? Lactose intolerance is widespread. Perhaps it's linked to milk reactions in eczema. I don't know at this point.
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And a novel topical anti-inflammatory cream/ointment is entering phase 2 trials in eczema patients. Anacor is a San Francisco Bay Area company that makes drugs based on its trade secret, a "boron chemistry" platform. Phase 2 is VERY early in drug discovery, but it's interesting to watch this sort of thing emerge. They seem to have a good idea of what their drug is doing to reduce inflammation.

I'll be off tomorrow. We may be lucky and hear from Dr. Sib. She's Canadian and had her Thanksgiving about a month and a half ago. Unless she's working the midnight-to-8 am ER shift, what possible excuse could she have for not writing?


  1. I've tried taking probiotics and eating lots of live yoghurt to try and control my eczema but it doesn't seem to have worked. I think maybe I should be cutting other foods out at the same time but it's so hard!

    Glad to have found your blog :)

  2. At least you tried it. From what I've learned, as far as food goes, if you have eczema you're much more likely to improve your condition by leaving stuff out than by eating something new. I'm sure you know the major trouble-causers: dairy, wheat, eggs, tree nuts, fish (I have a feeling there's one more, maybe soy). Give it a good try--leave off eating one of these groups for at least two weeks. See if it makes any difference. I tried a restriction diet for a while and it opened my eyes to some triggers. I don't always avoid these triggers (e.g. spicy food, alcohol, coffee; raw eggs; aged cheeses) but at least I'm aware they cause problems.

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