- Eating certain foods can trigger eczema flare-ups
- Follow a diet that includes more anti-inflammatory foods and less proinflammatory foods to reduce flare-up frequency and intensity
- Stay well hydrated for both skin and overall health
- A healthy diet can complement over-the-counter and prescription treatments
While there is not yet a cure, there are several effective over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription treatments to manage severity and frequency of eczema symptoms. Equally important is to create and follow an eczema diet.
Eczema is a type of atopic dermatitis and is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition characterized by redness, swelling and irritated skin. Oozing blisters form, crust over and result in hardened plaques of skin with scaling. You may experience one single symptom or more.
There is evidence to support avoiding specific foods to reduce symptom severity in those with eczema. So too can consuming more foods that support a healthy immune system and protect the skin barrier.
Drinking adequate amounts of water each day will keep your skin well hydrated and your other organs functioning smoothly.
Taking your prescribed medication and following an eczema-friendly diet can provide a strong means of support to keep eczema symptoms under control.
Researchers believe eczema is the result of the interplay between an overactive immune systems and specific triggers. One of these triggers has been identified as food, therefore maintaining an eczema-friendly diet can play a role in symptom management.
Eating certain foods doesn’t cause eczema, but instead prompts a flare-up if you already have the condition. Also, it’s important to note that you may either have a food sensitivity or a food allergy. Food sensitivity is triggered by the digestive system, the latter by the immune system.
It can be a challenge to identify the foods that trigger your symptoms, and often it is a process of eliminating and reintroducing that food back into your diet, one food at a time.
Removing known food triggers from your diet may not eliminate flare-ups completely, but they will reduce them.
Foods to Avoid
As eczema is an inflammatory skin condition, it is important to eliminate or reduce proinflammatory foods when creating an eczema-friendly diet.
Red and processed meats are damaging to the body primarily because of their high saturated fat content which is associated with inflammation. Other foods high in saturated fat include coconut and palm oil, and whole-fat dairy products.
The other main dietary contributors to inflammation are refined carbohydrates and added sugars.
Refined carbohydrates include foods such as white bread, crackers, pizza dough and pasta. Added sugars can be found in everything from sodas and energy drinks to salad dressing and pasta sauces.
Common foods identified in triggering eczema flare-ups as follows:
- Aniseed (less common)
- Banana (less common)
- Celery (less common)
- Cow’s milk and other dairy products
- Garlic (less common)
- Seafood and shellfish
- Soy products
- Tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts and pine nuts
Foods to Eat
Consider eating more of the following foods as they can effectively boost your overall health and calm an overactive immune system.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Choose anti-inflammatory whole foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients help fight inflammation by suppressing inflammatory protein production.
Excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Chia seeds
- Fatty fish, such as herring, salmon, mackerel and sardines
- Flax seeds
You can also receive the same benefits in supplement form.
Flavonoids are a group of phytonutrients found in most fruits and vegetables. This is another valuable group to consider, as they are thought to provide strong benefits for overall health.
They have anti-inflammatory effects and protect the body from antioxidative damage by eradicating harmful free radicals.
Look for flavonoid-rich foods such as:
- Citrus fruits
- Leafy green vegetables
Vitamins and Nutrients
Choose healthy foods that contain good sources of vitamins to support both the skin and a healthy immune system.
Some key vitamins include:
- Vitamin C is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that protects skin and reduces inflammation; found in citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers and broccoli
- Vitamin D protects and repairs the skin and destroys free radicals; found in fatty fish, egg yolks and certain fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals
- Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that supports a healthy immune system; found in olive oil, nuts and seeds
Certain minerals and other nutrients can also contribute to the health of your skin and immune system.
Among the most important are:
- Fiber, found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- Selenium, found in poultry, brown rice, nuts, seeds, beans, oatmeal and bananas
- Zinc, found in poultry, beans and nuts
To help you create your eczema-friendly diet, look to the established Mediterranean diet, a regimen that supports cardiovascular and cognitive health.
A recent study examined the effects of this diet on psoriasis, a very similar skin condition, and found that those who didn’t follow the diet were more likely to have severe psoriasis than those who did.
Many of the key foods to protect against eczema are also within this diet:
- Healthy fats, such as olive oil
- Leafy green vegetables
- Little to no red meat
- Moderate portions of non- or low-fat dairy products
- No processed foods or foods with added sugars
- Nuts and seeds
- Poultry in small amounts
- Whole grains
The gut is home to a vast number of bacteria that provide benefits to the gut and the body as a whole. Some experts believe that it is an impaired gut microbiome that is responsible for the eczema flare, due to diet and reduced systemic intolerance.
Many people take probiotics, and feel a healthy balance of gut bacteria is associated with a healthier immune system.
However, in a recent review of studies that focused on probiotics and eczema, little evidence was found to support its efficacy as a treatment for eczema.
But, it can be effective in the case of mothers consuming probiotics while pregnant; this has been shown to significantly lower the risk of eczema later developing in the child.
In addition to the course of action prescribed by your dermatologist, you can add another valuable component to your treatment regimen with the addition of an eczema-friendly diet to reduce flare-up frequency and intensity.
An eczema-friendly diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet as it focuses on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and oily fish. Ensure you drink plenty of water each day to keep your skin hydrated and maintain your body’s balance.
Take stock and eliminate those foods that cause flare-ups. Include foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, vitamins C, D and E, and selenium and zinc minerals. These foods can support a healthy immune system and the skin barrier, and effectively reduce inflammation.
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