While creams are typically the first line of defense, many people suffering from eczema begin to wonder if there may be a connection between eczema and diet.
Because eczema is an inflammatory condition, reducing general inflammation in the body often helps to manage the unwanted symptoms that come along with flare-up. One way to reduce inflammation is to eat anti-inflammatory foods…
So, while there still isn’t significant enough scientific research to draw a clear connection between eczema and diet, a lot of anecdotal evidence points to the ability of your diet to play a role in the itchy skin condition.
How Food Affects Inflammation
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that not all inflammation in the body is bad. Inflammation is actually your body’s natural way of defending itself from foreign invaders. For example, when you’re sick or injured, inflammation works to protect the body.
However, while this short-term reaction is beneficial, long-term inflammation is connected to a number of conditions like eczema and increases your risk of disease.
Certain foods have been shown to release T cells involved in your immune response as well as immunoglobulin-E (also known as IgE), which is produced in response to threat and often indicates allergic reaction. These are the foods you’ll want to avoid, as they contribute to long-term inflammation when eaten regularly (read more on that later).
Diet for Eczema: Foods to Eat
Eating a healthy, balanced diet full of nutrient-rich foods can have a positive effect on inflammation levels in the body, impacting the severity and frequency of eczema flare-ups. Anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Foods high in omega-3s — mackerel, salmon, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds, herring, albacore tuna, sardines, anchovies
- Quercetin-rich foods — broccoli, kale, spinach, apples, blueberries, cherries, black and green tea, cranberries, asparagus
- Foods with probiotics — kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, naturally fermented pickles, miso soup, natto, kombucha, apple cider vinegar, kimchi
Along with anti-inflammatory foods, it’s important to receive a balance of important vitamins from your diet. Zinc, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, and vitamin D are all especially important for eczema.
If you can focus on consuming more fresh, whole-food meals, you’ll be on the right track to helping manage eczema flare-ups through diet.
Diet for Eczema: Foods to Avoid
While you want to focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables along with healthy fats and protein, there are also foods you want to consider avoiding.
Eliminating processed junk foods will help to reduce inflammation in the body that’s linked back to eczema.
However, it’s also not uncommon for people suffering from eczema to have food intolerances (they may not even know about) that are contributing to long-term inflammation.
Common food intolerances include:
- Cow’s dairy
Because everyone’s body reacts differently to specific foods, it’s almost impossible to provide a generic eczema diet that would appropriately support everyone. That’s why with the help of your health care provider, you’ll want to determine which foods you may be reacting to.
Eliminating foods that you’re not sensitive or intolerant to may actually do more harm than good by creating deficiencies in important nutrients. One way to avoid this and accurately ID what foods may be triggering inflammation, and therefore eczema flare-ups, is through an elimination diet.
How to Do an Elimination Diet for Eczema
Determining what foods are connected to your eczema flare-ups isn’t always straightforward. You can experience reactions to foods you eat hours — or even up to two days — after it goes into your mouth.
That’s why it’s important to first eliminate all potential triggers from your diet and slowly reintroduce them one-by-one through an elimination diet.
Not sure how to follow an elimination diet? Here are 4 easy steps to follow:
- Determine what you’ll cut out. The list of foods to avoid provided above can be a good starting point. You may also want to try keeping a food journal for a few days to determine if there are any other foods you may personally be reacting to.
- Remove these foods from your diet. For two to four weeks, remove these food groups from your diet entirely. If you slip up and enjoy one of the eliminated food groups, it’s important to restart your timeline.
- Slowly reintroduce these food groups one at a time. Introduce one new food group at a time every three days to allow your body time to react. If your experience flare-ups during a reintroduction phase, add that food to your list of foods to avoid. Continue until you have tested all eliminated food groups.
- Establish a well-balanced diet moving forward. Once you’ve finished the elimination and reintroduction phases, you’ll have feedback on how your body responds to each food group and know which foods contribute to flare-ups. Going forward, make sure you’re accounting for any potential nutritional gaps from eliminating a food group from your diet.
While doing an elimination diet and after, it’s important to consult with your health care provider and a dietitian or nutritionist to make sure all of your nutritional needs are being met in a safe and healthy way.
Without proper nutrition fueling your body, eczema symptoms can become worse. Working with a professional will help reduce risks of malnutrition and enhance your likelihood of experiencing positive results.
What to Consider Besides Diet for Eczema
Knowing what foods to eat to help reduce inflammation in the body and which foods may be triggers for eczema is helpful knowledge in managing eczema flare-ups… but eating an eczema diet isn’t typically the end-all-be-all for eczema treatment.
Besides being rooted in inflammation, eczema is also often triggered by an imbalance in the skin microbiome, specifically an overgrowth of Staphylococcus aureus (commonly referred to as “staph A.”) bacteria. That’s why it’s also important to treat the skin directly.
Dr. Peter Lio, board certified dermatologist, explains, “One of the important things we know now is that there are certain undesirable bacteria that we really are on the lookout for. And particularly with eczema, we can see some of these strains growing out of control. And when that happens, it can throw everything into disarray. Historically, we thought that this was more of a response to other factors like the skin barrier being broken, or the immune system being out of whack. But now, we're learning more than ever that this can be a primary issue, that the bacterial imbalance can drive the eczema itself.”
It’s important to address an imbalance of bad bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus without killing off all of your good bacteria and damaging the skin microbiome by using antibiotics that contribute to resistance and have other undesirable effects in the body.
That’s why we created Gladskin — to restore skin balance gently and effectively through the use of endolysin Micreobalance™ (our patented smart protein). It brings balance back to the microbiome gently and effectively, while moisturizing at the same time… Learn more.