Eczema, sometimes referred to as dermatitis, causes inflamed, irritated skin that is alternately dry and scaly or blistered and wet.
The direct causes of this common skin complaint are unclear as many different factors can contribute to an outbreak. Stress, fatigue, allergic reactions to chemicals or fabrics and even temperature can be to blame, but one of the most significant is diet.
Eczema can be triggered or alleviated by excluding or including different foods which may vary from one sufferer to another. However there are some foods that are distinctly bad news for anyone with eczema, and they fall mostly into the acidic food category (as opposed to the alkaline food category).
So, let’s take a look at the best diet for eczema.
How Can Our Diet Cause Eczema?
Often, eczema is caused by inflammation within the body. Essentially, inflammation is a good thing - it's a natural immune response to infection, disease or foreign bodies that the body needs to fight or get rid of.
When we get a splinter in our finger, and the area goes red and warm, that's our inflammatory immune response at work. If we get a fever as a result of a cold, again, that's inflammation helping the body fight infection.
But sometimes, inflammation can build up, and become chronic. This can be caused by a poor acidic diet and lifestyle choices such as drinking alcohol regularly and smoking. By consuming acidic food, all our organs are under stress that leads to inflammation. Chronic inflammation can then lead to chronic inflammatory diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Chronic Inflammation and Eczema
Chronic inflammation can also lead to eczema. Eating pro-inflammatory acidic foods such as gluten, dairy products and animal proteins can make eczema prone skin flare up.
This is because certain foods can trigger the release of a type of white blood cells, called T cells, and also the release of an antibody called immunoglobulin-E, or IgE. Both T cells and IgE are part of the immune system and can be triggered by eating certain foods that the body mistakenly sees as a threat.
This then causes inflammation to build up, and leads to eczema flare ups in eczema prone skin.
Eczema and Food Allergies
Food allergies can also play a role in eczema flare ups, with the most common food allergies being to cow’s milk and other dairy products, eggs, wheat, soya and nuts.
A food allergy can be a serious condition and if you think you have one, it's important to speak to your GP for testing. Avoiding the foods that you’re allergic to will help to keep your eczema under control.
Foods to Avoid for Eczema
Grains such as wheat, barley and rye are known to be some of the most common culprits, mainly because of the yeast and gluten content. Dairy products made from cow's milk, particularly yoghurt and cheese, can also cause a reaction. Those with eczema can also benefit from avoiding sugary treats such as chocolate. Eggs seem to affect some sufferers and not others.
Some people also find that consuming soya products such as soya milk or tofu will make their eczema worse, whilst others notice flare ups after eating fish and shellfish.
So getting your eczema diet right can be tricky. To find out which suspected foods might be causing your eczema, eliminate them one at a time from your diet for at least a fortnight before reintroducing them to test the skin's reaction.
An easier option is to get a food intolerance blood test which will tell you which foods you should avoid. While this requires more of a financial investment it might help you get to the answers faster.
It’s advised that you consult a dietician first, before eliminating any foods from your diet on a long term basis for an eczema elimination diet. Eliminating bread and pasta for example, could put you at risk of becoming deficient in certain essential B vitamins and minerals.
So what are the anti-inflammatory foods that support eczema prone skin? What’s the best diet for eczema?
The Best Foods That Help Eczema
Certain foods are ideal for both supporting a healthy immune system, and for supporting eczema prone skin. They're healthy, nutritious foods that are all recommended as part of a healthy diet, so there's nothing special or outlandish when it comes to foods good for eczema. However, the alkaline diet, full of fresh fruits and vegetables and low on animal protein is considered the best.
They can also be useful alternatives when trying to replace sources of vitamins or alleviate symptoms. Here are a few of the best foods for eczema:
- Green leafy cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage contain anti-inflammatory carotenoids and flavonoids that can reduce oxidative stress, which is a consequence of chronic inflammation. Other foods that are packed with antioxidant flavonoids that help to reduce inflammation are brightly coloured fresh fruits and vegetables, such as berries, citrus fruits, kiwis and red, orange and yellow peppers.
- Buckwheat and quinoa are alternative grains that can replace high gluten grains such as wheat that are used to make pasta and bread.
- If fish doesn't cause a flare up of your eczema symptoms, oily fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon are an ideal source of omega-3 fatty acids that contain a powerful antioxidant known as astaxanthin. This can help to reduce inflammation in the body. Try to consume them at lunchtime to allow for digestion, and limit to 2-3 portions a week.
- Almond and rice milk make excellent alternatives to dairy products.
- High probiotic foods such as fermented goat yoghurts, tempeh, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut can also help to fight inflammation, leading to clearer skin.
Eczema Diet Plan Recipes
Here’s some of the best foods that help eczema go away, that make tasty, healthy and nutritious recipes.
- For a healthy anti-inflammatory lunch that includes high levels of vitamin A, C and E to boost the immune system, try salmon with a salad of radishes, carrots and lettuce.
- Sweet potatoes and green leafy vegetables served with fish or lean chicken and onions which are rich in skin friendly vitamin K can make a delicious evening meal.
- Add green salad to each meal Drink 2-3 litres of alkaline water per day
- A soup made from carrot and beetroot and flavoured with the powerful antioxidant spices turmeric and ginger, will benefit the skin by calming inflamed tissues.
- Cakes can be baked from quinoa, a gluten-free flour and raisins.
- Even eggs can be replaced by flax seeds and desserts can be made from carob flour, an alternative to chocolate.
Filling up on these fresh, whole foods means that you'll be eating a healthy, wholesome diet, that could also have the knock on effect of helping to clear your eczema prone skin. You'll need to give it some time, but hopefully, after a few months, you'll start to notice the difference.
Supplements for the Relief of Eczema Symptoms
In addition to the best diet for eczema, there are also dietary supplements that can be helpful for supporting eczema prone skin.
- Evening primrose oil is high in gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a fatty acid that supports healthy, hydrated, supple skin. GLA also has antii-nflammatory properties that helps to reduce angry, red, itchy swollen skin that can be common with eczema.
- Omega-3 fish oils are also rich in fatty acids that have an anti-inflammatory effect on the skin.
- Probiotics are the good bacteria that reside in our gut, helping to maintain a healthy gut and strong immune system. There is evidence that probiotics also have an antiinflammatory effect on the skin as well as helping to strengthen the skin's natural barrier function.
Skincare for Eczema
Eczema sufferers can have great difficulty finding skin care products that don't irritate them. Products such as Sönd's alkaline Calming Hydration Day Cream and Overnight Replenishment Night Cream are created from natural ingredients, such as shea butter and coconut oil, that have soothing properties.
Sönd Skincare for eczema contains oils made from argan, sunflower and hemp and include pomegranate extract and Himalayan salts to help to revitalise and regenerate the skin.
Our skincare products have a high pH rating of 7.3, which incorporates greater amounts of oxygen to help repair the most sensitive skin and our ozonated olive oil also nourishes and protects the skin.
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.