Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a skin condition affecting as many as 35 million people in the United States alone. Known to cause itchiness, rashes, skin irritation, and even oozing blisters, it develops as a result of inflammation in the body. Because of this, diet and eczema are actually closely related: what you eat affects your body’s reaction.
In this post, we delve deeper into the relationship between diet and eczema, inspired by the new eczema diet book, The Eczema Detox by award-winning author and nutritionist Karen Fischer. Read on for tips on finding natural relief from inflammation typically found in eczema.
Please keep in mind that although these tips and information have worked for several sufferers, we are in no way medical professionals. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms or have a topical infection, it is always best to seek medical advice immediately.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that involves red, flaky, and extremely itchy patches of skin. Resulting from a damaged skin barrier that has difficulty retaining moisture, these patches are typically dry and inflamed. Over time, the patches can develop a leathery texture, especially as a result of persistent scratching.
Heredity and environmental factors play a role in the development of eczema, but the exact cause of the condition is actually unknown. That being said, eczema can be triggered by a number of different factors - including the food you consume.
Eczema and Diet
Eating certain foods does not “cause” eczema, but it certainly plays a role in your body’s reaction. That's why maintaining an eczema-friendly diet is essential to managing your condition overall. Eating anti-inflammatory foods may help reduce eczema symptoms whereas other foods may trigger a bad flare-up.
It’s important to remember that not everyone will have the same reactions or experience flare ups to the same foods.
Try an Eczema Elimination Diet
A food-sensitive allergy will likely occur within 6-24 hours after consumption. It’s possible, however, that the reaction will be delayed.
If you don’t know which foods are triggering your flare-ups, we suggest trying an eczema elimination diet. As the name suggests, this involves removing certain foods from your diet for a specific amount of time (usually a month) and then slowly reincorporating. Monitoring the results and determining which caused a reaction can help you pinpoint exactly which foods are triggering your eczema.
Before attempting an elimination diet, we strongly recommend you speak to your doctor or dietitian, especially if children are involved. This is to ensure that your or your little one’s diet is still well-balanced with all essential nutrients.
Foods to Avoid
If you notice a flare-up after eating a certain food or you know that you are particularly sensitive to something, it’s best to limit or avoid that food. Typically, these common food culprits include:
- Citrus fruits (such as lemons, grapefruit, and limes)
- Gluten or wheat (such as barley, pasta, baked goods, and beer or malt beverages)
- Spices (such as vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon)
- Dairy products
- Red Meat
Other foods known to trigger inflammation include processed foods containing preservatives and artificial ingredients.
The next time you go grocery shopping, stay clear from packaged deli meats, microwavable dinners, and even canned fruits and vegetables. Aim to avoid refined sugar as well, since sugar causes your insulin levels to spike, which can lead to inflammation. Examples of food high in sugar include soft drinks, fast food, and sweets.
As mentioned earlier, everyone is unique and may experience different reactions to foods. That’s why it’s so important to understand your body.
Recommended Anti-Inflammatory Foods
An anti-inflammatory diet focuses on fiber-rich foods. It consists of lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats, and fresh produce. Here are some of our favourites:
- Fruits (cherries, blueberries, grapes)
- Vegetables (brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens)
- Olive oil, flaxseed oil, and coconut oil
- Fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, shrimp, trout)
Foods that are high in probiotics, such as miso soup, sourdough bread, and tempeh are also good for eczema as well as foods that are high in quercetin. Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant and antihistamine and can be found in apples, kale, and spinach.
The Eczema Detox
Unlike a regular "detox" which involves removing unhealthy foods and drinks from your diet for a certain period of time, the Eczema Detox written by Karen Fischer is specially designed for those with itchy, red skin. How? By focusing on reducing your intake of natural chemicals. This includes salicylates and amines - including those found in "healthy food" such as avocado, tomato, citrus fruits and kiwi fruit. It might sound shocking, but the whole purpose of reducing these natural chemicals is to give your liver a break from chemical overload and correct these imbalances.
Karen's Top Eczema-Friendly Foods
- Mung Bean Sprouts
The Eczema Diet Book
To give you a more thorough understanding of your body and its relationship with food, we highly recommend you read The Eczema Detox by Karen Fischer. In it, she not only explores how natural food chemicals can trigger eczema but also shares her low chemical elimination diet for healing eczema from within.
Plus, it features delicious eczema diet recipes that the whole family can enjoy.
Bio: Laura is a contributor and content developer for The Eczema Company. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes.