Recent research from Southampton General Hospital reinforced evidence that eczema, which afflicts 1 in 5 children and 1 in 12 adults in the UK, is passed on through parents.

That’s no great surprise.

It’s long been known that eczema is partly, if not solely related to diet – and in particular, I believe, to the fats in food.

Fats are fundamental building blocks of life – and essential for creating new life, which is why it’s so important to eat the right food if you’re contemplating starting a family,

As a potential mum or dad, what you eat will be passed on to your child. Diet is the quickest way to change basic structures in the body (it is my understanding that four generations of poor eating is all it takes to alter your family’s DNA), so you owe it not just to your children, but your grandchildren to think carefully about your food.

Nature is not at all interested in the mother when new life is in the offing. All of her resources are given to the baby, which often leads to a depletion of omega 3, the raw material for anti-inflammatory hormones. If you continue to eat as you did before you were pregnant, the likelihood is you’ll be consuming high levels of omega 6, which is the raw material for making pro-inflammatory hormones.

The baby needs both, but it is the imbalance of these important cell-membrane-making fats that is in my view responsible for the rise in eczema among infants. Eczema in babies and very young children is particularly distressing because they find it very difficult not to scratch, which can result in infections and pain. It leads to broken nights, tired, irritable babies and parents and can go on to affect young children’s confidence.

The rise in incidents of childhood eczema corresponds to changes in our eating habits over the last 60 years. Those changes gained momentum in the late Fifties and early Sixties as industrially manufactured food replaced meals being prepared from known ingredients in the home.

The mantra over the last three decades has been that saturated fats – from meat and dairy foods – are the enemy as manufacturers persuaded us to use all their lovely oils, many of which are naturally high in omega 6.

Saturated fat in moderation is not the enemy, but replacing it with cheaply produced omega 6-rich oils in our food wreaks havoc with all our bodily systems.

It is not that oil is bad, but man’s fooling with it causes changes to its structure that the body is unable to deal with. Damage to oil can be caused in the extraction process – solvent-extracted oils, including corn and soya - are to be avoided at all costs, while hydrogenation (the introduction of hydrogen ) creates trans fats – or Frankenstein fats, as I like to call them, They were unknown in the body until the arrival of old-fashioned margarine and even some modern spreads, which start out as liquid oil, are hydrogenated to turn them into a solid. My question is why would you want to let these unnatural creations loose in your body?

The high heat frequently used in manufacturing processes also damages oil.

Yet there is little or no information on labels to tell consumers the balance of oils in a product nor how the oil was used – both vital pieces of information to keep you healthy.

When fat information is available it is given as saturated, mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated. But the impression given that all mono and polyunsaturated fats are healthy for you is plainly not true. The evidence is all around us. Eczema is just one of a number of inflammatory illnesses that plague us.

So, if you’re keen to hear the patter of tiny feet, what’s the advice?

  1. Avoid buying products made from solvent extracted or hydrogenated oil.
  2. When cooking at home, always roast of fry with saturated animal oils and fats or use coconut oil if you are vegetarian – raising mono or polyunsaturated oils to high temperatures means it cannot perform one of its other important functions, which is helping oxygenate the blood.
  3. Boost your omega 3 by using oil cold on your food after cooking, as a plain dip for bread, or by making your own vinaigrette. Remember you should aim for the Stone Age hunter-gatherer’s balance of one omega 3 to one omega 6. A few more omega 6s will not be too harmful but continued levels of 10 to 15 times more omega 6, as is common in western diets, does long-term damage to your health.

As a farmer producing linseed oil, which is high in omega 3, I can pass on this information based not only on common sense, but also on the evidence from a number of customers who have found relief from their eczema by including linseed in their diet. Even stubborn cases, that remained resistant to creams and pills, have responded to including linseed in the diet.

* It is important that fresh, natural oils, such as linseed, which have not been subject to harsh, industrial processes, are consumed fresh. If any oil tastes bitter, do not try to disguise it… use it on the fence.

Durwin Banks

Durwin Banks
The Linseed Farm