Diet and Eczema

Are you aware of the link between the foods that you eat (or don’t eat) and certain diseases of your skin?  Let me start by recognizing that the relationship between what you eat and your skin health is complex; and there is no one-size fits all answer as to what you should or shouldn’t eat. 

There is enough information on the effects of foods on your skin to fill a book.  I want to break it down to more specific posts so that you can identify the information that is relevant to you (and skip over the rest).

Eczema, also know as atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory condition of the skin that is often genetically inherited.  The symptoms of eczema include itchy, thickened, red or dark patches that appear on the skin.  Common locations for eczema in children include: around the mouth, behind the knees, on the wrists, and in front of the elbow joint.  Adults may have eczema in the same locations and also commonly have patches on their legs or arms. 

Many factors can flare eczema including stress, environmental change (i.e. cold weather), allergens (certain foods or environmental pollens, grasses, etc).  Diet can also have an impact on eczema. 

Some, but certainly not all, individuals who have eczema may note a sensitivity with certain foods.  Eczema flares that are linked to food ingestion may occur immediately (within minutes to hours; type I reaction) or up to 48 hours after consumption (delayed type; type IV reaction).  Because of the different immune system responses to certain foods, the offending food cannot always be identified by a skin prick allergy test.

The most common foods that can trigger an eczema flare include: soy, eggs, wheat, dairy, nuts, and seafood.  If you or a loved one has eczema, pay attention to the affect that certain foods have on the inflammation.  Keep a food diary. 

Maintaining healthy gut flora is important in managing eczema.  To optimize your gut health, minimize intake of processed foods, and increase fiber, fruits, veggies, whole grains, and healthy fats (nuts, avocados, flax seed, etc).  Consider probiotic foods or foods that have active cultures.  Synbiotic supplements may be beneficial, but the medical evidence is still not specific on this due to the various different strains, options for amount of ingestion, and duration of treatment. 

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