Atopic Dermatitis, food allergy and dietary interventions. A tale of controversy * * Work performed at the "Attikon" University Hospital - Xaidari, Greece.

Dermatite atópica, alergia alimentar e intervenções dietéticas. Um conto de controvérsias

George V. Guibas Michael Makris Catherine Chliva Stamatios Gregoriou Dimitris Rigopoulos About the authors

Abstracts

Atopic Dermatitis has long been a controversial entity in regard its relationship to food allergy. Indeed, inter-discipline disparity in the way dermatologists and allergologists perceive the food allergy/atopic dermatitis interplay, hampers the design of concise therapeutic strategies and conveys conflicting messages to the patients. Within this conceptual frame, food exclusion regimes are rendered a contentious option. On the basis of this acknowledgment, we opted to put the emphasis on the discrepant perceptions surrounding such therapeutic regimes and to share our view pertaining to their appropriate implementation.

Dermatitis; atopic; Diet; Food hypersensitivity


A Dermatite atópica é uma entidade que há tempos tem levantado controvérsias quanto à sua relação com a alergia alimentar. Com efeito, a disparidade interdisciplinar que existe na maneira em que dermatologistas e alergologistas percebem a interação entre alergia alimentar/dermatite atópica prejudica a elaboração de estratégias terapêuticas mais exatas e transmite mensagens conflitantes aos pacientes. Nessa estrutura conceitual, regimes de exclusão alimentar são considerados uma alternativa discutível. Com base nessa percepção, optamos por colocar ênfase nas percepções controvertidas ligadas a tais regimes terapêuticos e compartilhar nossa visão quanto à sua implementação adequada.

Dermatite atópica; Dieta; Hipersensibilidade alimentar


INTRODUCTION

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic inflammatory skin disease characterized by pruritic eczematous lesions. AD is elicited by various stimuli including inhaled/food allergens, irritating substances and infectious microorganisms.11. Getmetti C. Diet and atopic dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2000;14:439-40. Among food allergens, cow's milk, hens' eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts and peanuts are the most commonly reported culprits.22. Darsow U, Wollenberg A, Simon D, Taïeb A, Werfel T, Oranje A, et al. European Task Force on Atopic Dermatitis/EADV Eczema Task Force. ETFAD/EADV eczema task force 2009 position paper on diagnosis and treatment of atopic dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2010;24:317-328. Nevertheless, a causal relationship between food allergy and AD is controversial.11. Getmetti C. Diet and atopic dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2000;14:439-40. Indeed, a dichotomy exists as to whether the increased prevalence of food allergy in AD patients is a parallel occurrence rather than an AD contributing factor.11. Getmetti C. Diet and atopic dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2000;14:439-40. , 33. Sampson HA. Food allergy. Part 2: diagnosis management. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999;103:981-9. Furthermore, even though food allergy is increasingly implicated in certain forms of AD, food exclusion is not a familiar concept in the dermatological setting and it is generally frowned upon.44. Yuh KY. Food allergy and atopic dermatitis: separating fact from fiction. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2010;29:72-8. , 55. Patel T, Gawkrodger DJ. Food allergy in patients with eczema: immediate symptoms are usual, with nuts and tomatoes the major allergens. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2011;25:865-7.

Impelled by this intra-field inconsistency we opted to assess the exposure of dermatologists and allergologists to pertinent information. To this end, we performed a Pubmed search using combination of the key words: "Atopic dermatitis", "eczema" and "food allergy" in six reputable scientific journals of dermatological orientation (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, British Journal of Dermatology, Journal of Investigational Dermatology, Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, Experimental Dermatology) and six of allergologic interest (Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology; Clinical and Experimental Allergy; Allergy; Annals of Allergy, asthma and immunology; International Archives of Allergy and Immunology; Clinical and Molecular Allergy). Our search in the dermatological journals returned 40 reports; 17 were irrelevant and 11 were case reports/short communications/letters to the editor. The articles collectively conveyed a rather negative message towards food exclusion diets. In sharp contrast, our search in the allergologic literature yielded 378 reports with the vast majority of them assuming a positive stance towards food interventions. From this perspective, although allergy-oriented journals publish numerous food allergy related reports ex vi termini, it strikes us as odd that the specialists primarily treating AD patients, i.e. dermatologists, are exposed to considerably limited relevant information.

Therefore our aim is to emphasize such controversial cross-discipline perceptions and to convey our views pertaining to the appropriate implementation of food exclusion regimes.

DISCUSSION

The pathophysiology of AD remains unclear.11. Getmetti C. Diet and atopic dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2000;14:439-40. As there is no definite cure, patients often undertake avoidance of fish, seafood, beef, eggs and dairy products without medical supervision, hence triggering malnutrition-related pathology.66. Hon KL, Leung TF, Kam WY, Lam MC, Fok TF, Ng PC. Dietary restriction and supplementation in children with atopic eczema. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2006;31:187-91. Furthermore, various allergy tests are readily available in pharmacies and laboratories, where they are performed outside their medical context. Therefore, a false interpretation may erroneously drive a patient into obstinate avoidance of certain foodstuffs, a decision further instigated by conflicting cross-discipline medical guidance.44. Yuh KY. Food allergy and atopic dermatitis: separating fact from fiction. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2010;29:72-8. A recent Cochrane review questioning the efficacy of food exclusion diets - except for eggs - in unselected populations, further perplexes their evaluation.77. Bath-Hextall F, Delamere FM, Williams HC. Dietary exclusions for established atopic eczema. Cochrane Database Syst Ver. 2008:CD005203. Nevertheless, it does not conclusively refute dietary interventions in selected patients. Indeed, the ADaggravating capacity of food intake in certain clusters of patients, has been well documented.88. Sicherer S, Sampson HA. Food hypersensitivity and atopic dermatitis: pathophysiology, epidemiology, diagnosis, and management. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999;104:S114-22.

In regard to when such measures should be implemented, reports of consistent correlation of food intake with AD exacerbations are invaluable. Suspicion of a certain food should lead to skin-prick tests (SPTs) and serum specific IgE determination (RAST) to assess type I reactions or atopy patch tests (ATP) for type IV reactions - albeit usefulness of the later is controversial.99. Sampson HA, Ho DG. Relationship between food-specific IgE concentrations and the risk of positive food challenges in children and adolescents. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1997;100:444-51 If both history and diagnostic tests furnish information suggestive of food allergy involvement, dietary intervention could be undertaken. However, in vivo or in vitro identification of IgE sensitization to a certain food should not include barring it from the patients diet in the absence of indications of clinical relevance. Furthermore, disease abatement during an elimination diet could be coincidental, as AD runs a course of relapses and remissions. On the basis of this acknowledgment, symptoms should be reproduced following an oral food challenge (OFC). Double-blind-placebo-controlled OFCs comprise the cornerstone of diagnosis but their considerable cost and labor-heavy nature impede their routine use in favor of open-label or single-blind OFCs. If the medical history is inconclusive albeit nonspecific suspicion arises, an oligoantigenic diet, i.e. administration of low-danger foodstuffs, can be implemented. Duration of the diet should be limited and -if remission ensues- foods should be reintroduced gradually in order for an AD trigger to be identified

A link between food allergy and AD, albeit possible in infants, is questionable in adults.1010. Worm M, Forschner K, Lee HH, Roehr CC, Edenharter G, Niggemann B. Frequency of atopic dermatitis and relevance of food allergy in adults in Germany. Acta Derm Venereol. 2006;86:119-22. Furthermore, in adults, ingestion of histamine-releasing foods can confound accurate diagnosis of true food allergy. Nevertheless, AD aggravation by pollenassociated cross allergens and by non-typical mechanisms (f.e. food additives) should not be readily dismissed in this age group.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Most of the AD cases under self-imposed dietary manipulations most likely face malnutrition issues and uncontrolled disease due to poor skin care. This situation has the potential to bias dermatologists into readily dismissing well-designed food exclusion regimes. Within this conceptual frame we emphasize the need for food allergy testing and potential dietary interventions in refractory AD cases, where an topic predisposition is highly suspected. In a broader context, we prompt for allergological consultancy of such patients upon failure of conventional skin treatment.

REFERENCES

  • 1
    Getmetti C. Diet and atopic dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2000;14:439-40.
  • 2
    Darsow U, Wollenberg A, Simon D, Taïeb A, Werfel T, Oranje A, et al. European Task Force on Atopic Dermatitis/EADV Eczema Task Force. ETFAD/EADV eczema task force 2009 position paper on diagnosis and treatment of atopic dermatitis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2010;24:317-328.
  • 3
    Sampson HA. Food allergy. Part 2: diagnosis management. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999;103:981-9.
  • 4
    Yuh KY. Food allergy and atopic dermatitis: separating fact from fiction. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2010;29:72-8.
  • 5
    Patel T, Gawkrodger DJ. Food allergy in patients with eczema: immediate symptoms are usual, with nuts and tomatoes the major allergens. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2011;25:865-7.
  • 6
    Hon KL, Leung TF, Kam WY, Lam MC, Fok TF, Ng PC. Dietary restriction and supplementation in children with atopic eczema. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2006;31:187-91.
  • 7
    Bath-Hextall F, Delamere FM, Williams HC. Dietary exclusions for established atopic eczema. Cochrane Database Syst Ver. 2008:CD005203.
  • 8
    Sicherer S, Sampson HA. Food hypersensitivity and atopic dermatitis: pathophysiology, epidemiology, diagnosis, and management. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999;104:S114-22.
  • 9
    Sampson HA, Ho DG. Relationship between food-specific IgE concentrations and the risk of positive food challenges in children and adolescents. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1997;100:444-51
  • 10
    Worm M, Forschner K, Lee HH, Roehr CC, Edenharter G, Niggemann B. Frequency of atopic dermatitis and relevance of food allergy in adults in Germany. Acta Derm Venereol. 2006;86:119-22.

  • Financial support: None
  • *
    Work performed at the "Attikon" University Hospital - Xaidari, Greece.

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    Oct 2013

History

  • Received
    20 Aug 2012
  • Accepted
    11 Sept 2012
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