One of the most common pre-conceived ideas is that atopic dermatitis is caused by food allergies.
If someone notices a link between a particular food and the condition of their skin, they interpret the connection with the only word available to them: allergy. Implicit in the notion of an allergy is the idea that a binary mechanism is involved, i.e. if the allergen is withdrawn then the condition will be cured. As most patients seek to find a single cause for their disease, they think they have found it in their diet.
Patients already have pre-conceived ideas about food, they have already been told that they should not drink milk, or eat gluten, but they do not know why and they have almost certainly tried excluding them from their diet. Shedding a little scientific light on these ideas can be of great help in the therapeutic relationship.
Diet is therefore a fundamental issue for AD patients. Doctors must build a climate of trust with their patients.
The aim of this information sheet is therefore threefold:
• To recap how the skin works using the tool suggested here,
• To show how food can affect how atopic skin works,
• To suggest some ways of refuting the idea that atopic dermatitis might be caused by a food allergy.
Drawings: Eric Van Wetter
The game of difference is a way of reminding patients of the basics of AD
• Atopic skin lets particles of ambient air in through breaches in the skin
• The biotope’s diversity collapses, to the benefit of the staphylococcus (they all look the same)
• Just one part of the immune system goes into action - the innate part, in flame-thrower mode
Diet can act on:
• The biotope, via perspiration - fast sugars and salt
• Inflammation intensity, via bad fats - industrial food products, cured meats, etc.
• Thus, diet can be a tool for treating atopic dermatitis but 90% of it involves sugar and salt while 10% is about cutting out bad fats.