We wish that simple changes to your diet would get rid of eczema forever, but that little skin condition is a bit more stubborn than that.
Food allergies or intolerances don’t cause eczema, but if you suffer from it, certain foods may cause you to flare up. In this article, we’ll help you identify foods that cause itching, redness, and flare-ups and will make you scratch more.
Often when children under two years old suffer from the condition, a flare-up can be attributed to a food intolerance of some kind. The specific food varies from person to person.
For example, when my son was eight months old, eggs would cause him to come over all red and itchy. Not feeding him eggs was relatively easy, however, a bit more challenging was stopping myself from eating eggs and then passing their effect onto him through my breastmilk.
It turns out that eggs are in everything! Anything with mayonnaise in it, most baked goods, fresh pasta and surprisingly, red wine (it’s true, check it out!). Once at a party, I asked if an egg sandwich had mayo in it, and because it didn’t, I ate it! I was so busy looking for hidden eggs that I forgot to avoid the eggs themselves!
What foods should you avoid if you have eczema?
For adults with eczema, again it will vary from person to person which foods might cause you to get scratchy. But some of the likely causes could include:
- Cow’s milk products
- Soy-based products
- Fish or shellfish
Food that is high in processed sugar, trans fats or preservatives are also common culprits for eczema flare-ups. This includes deep-fried food, junk food, doughnuts, soft drinks and all sorts of frozen and convenience foods.
It can really pay to get good at reading the nutrition labels on your food to see what things are hidden in them. Ingredients are listed in order of the percentage of the food they make up, so whatever is listed first is the main ingredient. Watch for things that start with sugar, fructose, or anything ending in ‘ose.
Some diets that you could try for eczema
The first culprit could be cow’s milk products, as many people who suffer from eczema concerns have reported a positive response to a dairy-free diet.
You could start by eliminating all cow’s milk products from your diet, and instead look for goat’s or sheep’s milk yogurts and cheese, or soy-based or plant-based milk products like soy milk, rice milk or almond milk.
Both soy products and nut products can sometimes cause problems too, however, so giving up cow’s milk alone might not be enough, you may need to cut out more. If you are lowering your calcium intake this much be sure to take a supplement for this or look for other sources of calcium such as leafy green vegetables.
Many people suffer from eczema for a very long time, only to find out later in life that it wasn’t really eczema, but in fact celiac disease, which is an intolerance to gluten. Both conditions seem to go hand in hand.
Gluten is contained in wheat, rye, and barley based products, most notably flour, bread, cereal and pasta. Some very tasty gluten-free options of all of these are readily available, fortunately, including pasta that is corn-based, or cakes baked with coconut or almond meal. Look for gluten-free cereals such as muesli or oats.
You’ll be happy to know that the best brownies and mud cakes are gluten-free; we are not complete savages!
The best diet may be to eat your food in as natural a state as possible, with the least amount of processing or additives.
Aim for healthy oils and proteins, fruit and vegetables and whole grains such as brown rice, and chia and other seeds. Look for foods that are high in antioxidants, like broccoli, blueberries and green tea.
The Mediterranean diet is a good one to try which is very high in fruit and vegetables, fish and healthy fats.
Try an elimination parts of your diet to figure out what triggers your eczema flare-ups.
Now that sounds like an awful lot of things that could be causing your eczema to get nasty, and fortunately, very few people react to all of them. You don’t have to give up everything.
An allergist may be able to test you to tell you what specific foods you should avoid, or you can figure this out for yourself by trying an elimination diet.
You can do this by excluding one food group at a time for at least three days and noting if there is any positive or negative reaction in your skin. Bear in mind that a whole variety of things can cause inflammation, including stress, environmental factors, external allergens such as dust, grass and wool, cleaning or laundry products, and central heating.
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Are there foods that you should be eating to improve your skin?
While not technically a food, one of the best things you can diet-wise is making sure that you are well hydrated. Recommendations used to be that adults consume 8 glasses of water a day, but this does depend on individual circumstances. For people with eczema, dry skin is your enemy, so more is always better when it comes to drinking water.
This also includes watching your intake of things that will drain your body of water, including alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
You could also increase your intake of things high in water, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Adults who replace at least one meal a day with entirely fruit and vegetables (such as a colorful smoothie or salad) report much improvement in their skin in general.
Foods high in Omega-3
FISH IS PACKED WITH OMEGA-3
Omega-3 Fatty Acid is an excellent source of anti-inflammatory properties in your diet, so increase this whenever you can. People with eczema are recommended to try and take 6g of concentrated omega-3 fatty acids daily.
You can take a fish oil supplement, or increase your intake of the following foods:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and herring
- Olive Oil
Note, if you’ve worked out that fish or nuts cause you to flare-up, then continue to avoid these sources of omega-3.
Foods containing quercetin
Quercetin is a plant-based flavonoid, which is what gives flowers, fruits, and vegetables their vibrant color. It is also an awesome antioxidant and antihistamine which can reduce your levels of allergens and your inflammation levels.
Foods high in quercetin include:
- Red wine
I’ll bet those colorful smoothies for breakfast are looking like an even better idea now, aren’t they?
Foods high in probiotics
Probiotics are live cultures, or good bacteria, which help build a strong immune system and may reduce flare-ups.
The best source of probiotics in the western diet is yogurt, but make sure you check that it is one that contains live cultures, as not all yogurts do.
Sourdough bread and soft cheeses such as cottage cheese and gouda are also great sources of probiotics.
Cuisine from a number of other cultures has given some incredible food choices that contain probiotics as well, including:
- Miso soup
- Pickles (in salted water, not vinegar)
Again, if you are struggling to source what you need through diet, you can take a daily probiotic supplement to make sure you are getting what your body needs.
Try not to let all of this information overwhelm you; stress isn’t good for your skin either, as you probably know. Rarely do people react to all of the foods we’ve mentioned, and with a little trial and error, you might find some simple diet fixes can make a huge amount of difference. And if it lessens the itch somewhat, then it will all be worth it!
We wish you itch-free eating!
Carl & Lindsey
Great recipe books for people who suffer from eczema and psoriasis
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