In this article
Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) is a generalised disorder that leads to skin inflammation. People who suffer from eczema have red and itchy, often in rash patches of skin. In the short term, the skin develops blisters that in the long term thickens.
The area of skin affected by eczema varies from small patches to almost all surface skin. Most frequently disease develops on
- Backs or front of the knees
- Outside or inside of the elbows
- Around the neck
Common eczema triggers include stress, laundry, and other detergents, and even weather and different triggers might cause different eczema types.
Can diet cause eczema?
Babies frequently develop eczema before the introduction of solid food. In these cases, there is no proven connection between breastfeeding mothers diet and eczema development. The same applies to milk substitutes. In adults, also there is no proven link between diet and eczema development unless the person has an allergy.
However, if a person does have an allergy (often undiagnosed), it can trigger or exacerbate eczema. The allergens can be environmental such as
- Cold or dry weather
- Pet fur Pollen
- One of the most common allergens is dust mites
Food allergy that triggers eczema is most frequently are cows' milk, eggs, peanuts, soya, or wheat. Allergen(s) present in an everyday diet can cause disease in sensitive individuals.
Another food-related factor that correlates with eczema is drinking water hardness e.g concentration of calcium and magnesium dissolved in water. It's shown that the higher is water hardness and its chlorination, the more people in the area suffer from eczema.
Can food allergies cause eczema in adults?
Babies that have eczema have higher chances to develop allergies later in life. Most of the infant eczema cases resolve before they become adults, but eczema can reoccur later. There is also eczema that develops in adult age, most commonly in women of reproductive age (16 - 50).
If an adult has an established allergy, they need to eliminate the allergy-causing product from their diet. Likewise, adult eczema can be exacerbated by an undiagnosed allergy. It’s a good idea to try establishing if an allergy is an underlying cause of eczema by having medically-supervised allergy testing.
Can eczema be cured by diet?
In most cases, the diet does not cause eczema. Therefore, you cannot cure eczema by eliminating foods or taking nutritional supplements. In cases of allergies, elimination of the allergen from the diet will help to relieve eczema.
Common foods that cause eczema
Eczema is a result of the immune system malfunction similar to allergies and asthma. The current understanding links the disease to insufficient exposure of babies to antigens and harmless bacteria. Simply put, our living environment is too sterile. The immune system starts fighting harmless foreign proteins instead of pathogens.
Foods that cause allergies are more likely to cause eczema:
Eczema and cow milk
The allergen is cow milk protein, casein. To avoid eczema flares, it is vital to eliminate casein from the diet. Foods to avoid include not only milk, cream, yogurt, and other milk derived products, but any other products that contain dry milk such as shop bought cakes.
Eczema and peanuts
Peanuts is a strong allergen so you should avoid not only peanuts themselves peanuts-derived products such as peanut-containing butter and biscuits.
Eczema and wheat
Wheat is also a potent allergen that also causes eczema. Eczema sometimes associates with coeliac disease and itchy skin and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. A relatively easy way to eliminate wheat from the diet is to use food labeled “gluten-free.”
The other potential eczema triggers include tomatoes, citrus fruits, spices such as cloves and cinnamon.
Good foods to eat for eczema
General anti-inflammatory foods can relieve eczema. Examples of these foods are:
Oily fish are good for eczema
Oily fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These are salmon, mackerel, sardines and some types of tuna.
Probiotics can relieve eczema
Probiotics (live bacteria and yeast) are shown to relieve eczema in some cases. However, as probiotics are usually sold as a part of yogurts and other fermented milk products before you start taking them you need to make sure that you don’t have a milk allergy.
Fruits and vegetables can help eczema
Diet rich in fruits and vegetables is shown to cure or at least relieve eczema. On the contrary, fast food can cause eczema flares.
Some people might also benefit from supplements such as zinc, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B6, sea buckthorn oil, hemp seed oil, sunflower oil but the effect is not guaranteed.
Flohr C, Mann J (2014). New insights into the epidemiology of childhood atopic dermatitis. Allergy. 69 (1): 3–16. doi:10.1111/all.12270. PMID24417229.
Martin PE et al. (2015) Which infants with eczema are at risk of food allergy? Results from a population-based cohort. Clin Exp Allergy. 45(1):255-64. PMID: 25210971 DOI: 10.1111/cea.12406
Elbert NJ et al. (2017) Allergenic food introduction and risk of childhood atopic diseases. PLoS One.12(11):e0187999. PMID: 29176842 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0187999