If you suffer from eczema, you're probably aware that common food allergens—like peanuts, dairy, and seafood—can trigger an eczema flare.
What Is Eczema?
Eczema is a condition effecting patches of skin that become inflamed, itchy, red, cracked, and rough.
But food sensitivities can go beyond the obvious list to seemingly healthy diet staples you haven't yet given up. Nutritionist Karen Fischer, author of The Eczema Diet, who has spoken on the top food triggers for eczema, or "the itchy dozen," shares her list of foods to avoid on Eczema Life, and some of the food triggers are quite surprising. Fischer has used her particular list of no-no foods to help people who've suffered from eczema for 20 to 40 years finally achieve clear skin.
Meet the Expert
- Karen Fischer is a nutritionist and author of The Eczema Diet.
- Melissa Perry, RD, is a registered dietitian at Orlando Health.
We rounded up some of the top trigger foods for eczema, as well as dietitian-recommended, eczema-safe foods to help you get some relief. Keep reading to find out more below.
How Does Diet Effect Eczema?
If you've ever been recovering from a weekend of alcohol, fast food, and sugary treats, you may know just how important diet is for not just overall health, but your skin as well. "Diet can play a significant role in the overall health of our skin. Identifying any food triggers and minimizing inflammation may help minimize eczema symptoms," says Melissa Perry, RD, a registered dietitian at Orlando Health. "Eating more whole foods and consuming less processed foods can aid in reducing inflammation in the body and promote a healthy gut. Eating a healthy diet reduces inflammation and promotes a healthy immune system."
Foods That Can Prevent Flare-Ups
Below are also foods that can help fight eczema, though you should always make sure to listen to your body, as what works for one person may not work for you.
Banana: Because bananas are high in potassium, they can be helpful for those suffering from eczema.
Seeds: Sunflower seeds and almonds are good sources of Vitamin E, says Perry. "Vitamin E has antioxidant properties and may help boost the immune system and reduce swelling."
Beef or chicken broth: Make a soup or drink the broth plain, because both beef and chicken broth contain skin-repairing amino acid glycine.
Bell peppers, strawberries, and cauliflower: Perry likes these ingredients because they're rich in Vitamin C. "Vitamin C aids in the synthesis of collagen for healthy skin," she explains.
Flaxseed oil: Eczema is dry skin, so moisturize your skin from the inside out with flaxseed oil.
Oats: Oats contain vitamin E, zinc, and silica, which combine to help strengthen your skin.
Salmon: Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation, explains Perry.
Red cabbage: Even if you don't like cabbage, try to learn to like it. Red cabbage is alkalizing and naturally anti-inflammatory.
Turmeric: This ingredient is recommended by Perry, as it's known for its anti-inflammatory properties. She recommends implementing turmeric into your diet by sprinkling it over your meats or vegetables or even mixing it into a tea. Be sure to mix it with black pepper because the active ingredient piperine increases the bioavailability of curcumin.
Oatmeal: Perry also recommends getting in your daily dose of fiber. "Fiber can help promote a healthy gut and is mainly found in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Try adding oatmeal to your morning routine as it is a great source of fiber. Boosting gut health can boost your immunity and in return decrease inflammation," she says.
Blueberries: These berries have a "high source of quercetin, which is a plant flavonol with antioxidant properties, which may reduce inflammation," says Perry.
Foods That Can Trigger Flare-Ups
Before sharing her list on Eczema Life, Fischer notes that every person reacts differently. One of the food triggers could cause a bout of itching in one person, yet leave another entirely fine. Tune into your body's signals to take note of particular ingredients you begin to associate with setting off your skin's discomfort. Keeping a food journal could help you identify areas of your diet that could use a tweak.
Perry adds, "Potential food triggers for one person may differ for another person and it can be very individualized. There could be food exacerbated eczema in which ingestion of certain foods may cause flare ups. Consult with a health care provider or allergist to inquire about food allergy testing or if a food is an intolerance or causing flare ups. Elimination diets should be used with caution to prevent any nutritional deficiencies." She recommends to avoid highly processed foods like potato chips, foods high in sugar like cookies and candy bars, as well as fried foods that are rich in trans fat since these can promote inflammation in the body.
Avocado: If eczema is a problem for you, you may want to hold off on that avocado toast. "While avocado is a healthy addition to your diet when you don't have eczema, avocado is one of the richest sources of amines and itch-promoting salicylates," says Fischer.
Broccoli: This superfood might come as a big surprise. "Broccoli, spinach, silverbeet, and kale can worsen eczema symptoms," says Fischer, due to the fact that they are rich sources of itch-promoting salicylates and amines. Instead, Fischer suggests getting your greens from celery and green beans.
Dried fruit: This snack hosts a range of "problematic chemicals," says Fischer, including salicylates, amines, MSG, and sulfites.
Oranges: Both oranges and orange juice are strongly acidic and contain salicylates and amines, which cause itching.
Tomatoes: Like dried fruit, tomatoes contain salicylates, amines, and natural MSG, which are a recipe for itchiness.
Do Any Specific Diet Plans Work for Eczema?
The important thing to note about your diet and eczema is that there really isn't a one-size-fits-all blueprint. " Maintaining an overall healthy diet can aid in reducing inflammation. Minimize highly processed foods and focus on eating more whole foods, says Perry. However, if you are looking for a specific diet to try, Perry recommends the Mediterranean diet. "The Mediterranean diet consists of whole fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of antioxidants and foods high in omega-3 fats, such as salmon and walnuts, which may aid in anti-inflammation. Diet may influence the inflammation associated with eczema flare-ups so it can be helpful to eat more anti-inflammatory foods and monitor any food triggers," she explains.
The Final Takeaway
If you've been dealing with eczema flare-ups and haven't been able to find relief, it might be worth it to take a look at your diet. Consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet or if you're dealing with severe cases of eczema.