What is the Eczema Elimination Diet?
Eczema is a common skin condition that can flare up in response to various substances and environmental factors. This article explores how food can affect people with eczema and whether an eczema elimination diet is a viable solution. We will also explore the best foods to eat and foods to avoid for people with eczema.
How Diet Can Play a Role for Eczema Patients
Food can affect people with eczema in several ways. For example, people with a common eczema subtype known as atopic dermatitis often have allergies too.
Eating something that triggers an allergic reaction causes the immune system to initiate an inflammatory response. In severe cases, this can lead to anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal condition that requires immediate treatment. However, in milder cases, allergens can cause skin symptoms, such as hives or eczema flare-ups.
People with another eczema subtype called contact dermatitis are sensitive to certain substances, such as nickel. Usually, these substances cause inflammation when they come into contact with the skin. However, consuming food that contains them can also cause a systemic reaction, leading to eczema flare-ups.
Reactions can happen within minutes of consuming the trigger food, although they may not occur until two days later. This can make it challenging to determine what is causing the issue.
Medical assessments such as skin prick tests can help some patients identify allergens, but they are not always accurate. Therefore, methods such as eczema elimination diets are becoming more popular.
What is an Eczema Elimination Diet?
An elimination diet involves cutting out certain foods or food groups and monitoring symptoms to see whether they improve. The foods can then be gradually reintroduced to identify possible triggers.
Generally speaking, the process is as follows:
- Keep a diet diary for several weeks to record food and drink intake and symptom changes
- Look for a pattern to identify any potential triggers
- Cut out the suspected trigger foods for two to four weeks
- If the symptoms improve, reintroduce these foods one at a time
- Leave at least three days between reintroducing one food and the next
- Keep recording any symptom changes throughout the process
Elimination diets can be a helpful tool for identifying eczema triggers. However, they are not suitable for everyone and should be carried out under the supervision of a qualified dietician. This will help the patient to ensure that they are still meeting all of their daily nutritional needs.
How Does an Eczema Elimination Diet Work?
An eczema elimination diet works by removing trigger foods from the diet long enough for the symptoms to subside. Then, as foods are reintroduced one by one, it is possible to get a clearer picture of what is causing a reaction.
Therefore, while following an eczema elimination diet, it is essential to leave enough time between reintroducing one food and the next.
It is also important not to consume even small amounts of suspected trigger foods during the elimination period. Patients should check food labels carefully to avoid hidden allergens, such as milk and soy.
The Best and Worst Foods for Eczema
Eczema trigger foods can vary from person to person. However, there are some common culprits to watch out for. There are also some foods that may help to calm inflammation and provide patients with some relief.
Some of the best and worst foods for eczema are listed below.
4 Types of Foods That Are Good for Eczema
1. Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, such as flavonoids and carotenoids. They also contain many different vitamins and minerals that play a vital role in skin health. Choose organic varieties to avoid chemical pesticides and fertilizers that could cause reactions in some individuals.
2. Healthy Fats
Healthy fats play an essential role in keeping the skin healthy and controlling inflammation. Good sources include oily fish, olive oil, nuts, and seeds.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D has immunomodulating effects that could help to keep inflammation at bay. It can be found in mushrooms, yogurt, egg yolk, and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals.
There appears to be a link between gut health and skin health. Both rely upon a population of helpful microorganisms known as the microbiome. Probiotic foods can help to improve the microbiome, influencing immunity, inflammation, and more. Some good examples include live yogurt, fermented foods and beverages, and some pickles.
Probiotic supplements are also an option but avoid probiotic drinks with a high sugar content.
7 Types of Foods That Are Bad for Eczema
1. Allergen Foods
People can be allergic to almost anything. However, there are some foods that cause allergic reactions more frequently than others. They include:
- Tree nuts
- Cow’s milk
- Fish and shellfish
Other allergens that can potentially trigger eczema include propylene glycol, chamomile, and formaldehyde.
Plants in the nightshade family, including tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and potatoes can cause reactions in some people.
There could be a link between eczema and celiac disease, a condition that causes the immune system to react to gluten. Furthermore, celiac disease can cause a rash called dermatitis herpetiformis, which some people could mistake for eczema.
4. Processed Foods
Processed foods, including white flour, processed meat, snack foods, and fast food are pro-inflammatory. Therefore, they could contribute to eczema flare-ups.
Sugar can also increase inflammation. Eczema patients with a sweet tooth should opt for natural alternatives, such as stevia or honey and snack on fruit rather than cakes and candy.
6. Nickel-Containing Foods
Some foods have a high nickel content, which can be problematic for those with contact dermatitis. Examples include certain grains, beans, peas, lentils, soy, canned foods, chocolate, and black tea.
7. Balsam of Peru-Related Foods
Some people with eczema are sensitive to a chemical called balsam of Peru. It comes from a tree and contains several potential allergens. People who are allergic to balsam of Peru may also react to citrus fruits, tomatoes, and some spices, including cinnamon, vanilla, and cloves.
Eczema Diet Recommendations
Aside from avoiding any allergens, the best diets for eczema focus on organic whole foods. They should be rich in fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats, and low in inflammatory processed foods and sugar. Some good examples include the Mediterranean diet and anti-inflammatory diet.
However, we recommend consulting a dietician before making any major dietary changes or embarking on an eczema elimination diet.