Some Types Of Food Additives
Could Affect Your Eczema,
Some More Than Others

All types of food additives, preservatives and chemicals added to our food and drink could cause a reaction to an eczema sufferer.

So many of the things we eat and drink contain some sort of chemical. 

They are added to make it taste better, look better or to give it a longer shelf life.

There are no specific reports that any of the additives in food will affect our skin.

But with the nature of these chemicals it would be surprising if they had no effect.

We all know about the link between some types of food additives and some children's behaviour.

But the link with dermatitis is not proven.

One problem with diagnosing if one or more of them are an irritant is that there are a vast number of different chemicals used.

There are reportedly around 300 different types of food additives. Some more widely used than others. Each one has a number. 

On food and drink packaging they are the E numbers.

The E means that it has passed a safety assessment that means it is safe to use in the EU. That is not to say that it means they will not cause a skin reaction.

Some E numbers are harmless. Some are natural and some are synthetic.

Different Types Of Food Additives

The numbers used are from 100 - 1999. Though not all numbers are used. They are grouped into different categories, depending on their job. The groups are below, and there is a brief description of the job they do.

  • E100 – 199 Colours – add colour
  • E200 – 299 Preservatives – increase shelf life
  • E300 – 399 Antioxidants – used like preservatives, e.g. stop fruit from browning Acidity Regulators – control and change acid and alkaline levels in food to make them edible
  • E400 – 499 Thickeners – thickens products Emulsifiers – help ingredients mix together that would normally separate Stabilizers – keep ingredients held together by emulsifiers
  • E500 – 599 Acidity Regulators – as above Anti-Caking Agents – used in powdered foods
  • E600 – 699 Flavour Enhancers – enhance natural flavours
  • E900 – 999 Miscellaneous E Numbers
  • E1000 – 1999 Additional Chemicals

Here are some of the more common ones that may aggravate a skin condition

  • E102 - Tartrazine (Yellow) - Colouring - In some fizzy drinks
  • E124 - Ponceau 4R (Cochineal Red) - Colouring - In some sweets
  • E151 - Black PN - Colouring - In brown sauce
  • E210 - 219 - Benzoate - Preservative
  • E322 - Lecithins - Emulsifier - In chocolate
  • E420 - Sorbitol - Stabilizer - In sugar free sweets
  • E621 - Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) - (see below)

E numbers are used in Europe, food additives are characterised differently in other countries.

You can find out more about US regulations at the FDA.

In Australia you can get more information at the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand.

E621 Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

I decided to be a little more in depth on this. It is a more well known E number because it has been reported to cause problems for some people. Some people suffer from a MSG allergy or intolerance.

I know from personal experience that it can cause irritation to the skin. I have an intolerance to it. If I eat or drink something containing it my skin can become slightly more itchy. I hadn’t noticed a connection until I was tested for intolerances and it came up.

There are reports that have said that it causes quite a few side effects. Although no studies have proved this.

The side effects are collectively known as 'Chinese Restaurant Syndrome'. As the name suggests it is used a lot in Chinese cooking.

It is also found in a long list of foods including

  • Crisps
  • Stock Cubes
  • Barbecue Sauce
  • Fast Food/Takeaway Food

Because it has had a lot of bad press in recent years some manufacturers have stopped using it. They even promote it on the packaging. This shows that people are wary of it and have started choosing products that don’t contain it.

This is a brief introduction to types of food additives and their yet unconfirmed effect on eczema.

The number of cases so far reported of side effects is very small. It seems to be rare and doesn’t compare with the number of reactions to some foods. You can read about Common Food Allergies if you suspect your skin reaction is caused by a certain food.

You can also read about Eczema and Food Allergy. There is information about what to do if you suspect you have a food allergy, and some of my personal experience which you may relate to.

If you worried about a certain chemical or you are trying to figure out if one is causing a flare-up or irritation, try keeping a detailed diary of everything you eat or drink. Also when any irritation or outbreak occurs.

The best way to reduce the number of chemicals you consume is to cook meals from scratch. Time consuming, but you have a better idea of what you are eating. Changing to organic food will help, but even better if you can grow your own. Fun for children to do too!

The less number of processed goods used, the less number of chemicals taken in. So if you suspect a problem it narrows down which one of the types of food additives it could be.

Health food shops and even some supermarkets sell additive free versions of some foods.

Cutting out as many chemicals as you can from your diet will not only help your skin, but your whole body's health.

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