Allergic Disease: Eczema, Asthma, Food Allergies are the Same Disease

If you develop eczema, asthma, and food allergies, you used to see three doctors. A dermatologist for your eczema, a pulmonologist for your asthma, and an allergist for your food allergies. 

More and more, all three diseases are understood to be the same thing - “allergic disease” that shows up in different body parts, or organs. 

What’s changed? 

First, it’s become clear that all three conditions are driven by a single type of antibody, IgE. When this antibody is triggered, it sets off a domino-chain eventually creating a lot of the chemical histamine. You know this chemical histamine because it causes itchy inflamed skin with hives, an inflamed stomach (pain, vomit), or inflamed airways (coughing, sneezing, trouble breathing). 

Second, we know that when proteins cross a broken skin barrier, it can lead the body to become  sensitized to them, eventually developing into full blown food allergies, asthma, and eczema. A broken skin barrier is a big risk factor for atopic dermatitis, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergy in children.

Third, all three diseases started increasing in prevalence together. 50 years ago, very few kids had any of these conditions. Though food allergies get the most press, eczema and asthma rates have gone up with food allergies in a steady march. 

Lastly, the same interventions seem to be protective against all three conditions. High fiber diets of vegetables, low sugar diets, increased exposure to microbiome-building bacteria, low chemical exposures (like in detergents), and early oral exposure to trigger foods protects against all three diseases. 

If your child is developing signs of eczema, which typically shows up first, take it seriously. 

Having one allergic condition is the biggest risk factor for developing another!