Eczema and Your Diet: What to Eat and Not Eat to Avoid Flareups

The National Eczema Association https://nationaleczema.org/research/eczema-facts/ estimates that about 10% of women, men, and children in the U.S. have some form of eczema, which usually shows up as itchy, scaly skin lesions.  Although many types of eczema exist, the most common types —such as atopic dermatitis — are caused by a overly reactive immune system combined with specific triggers.

Your diet and eczema

Eczema is a diverse condition and no specific food triggers have been identified as being at the root of the disease, nor as causing flares in all or most people with eczema. But by being aware of the types of foods that can cause an immune reaction, as well as knowing which types of foods calm down inflammation, you can take control of your flares.

Dr. Kristen R. Aguirre, an expert dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Advanced Skin Care Medical Center in Fullterton, California, helps her patients avoid painful, itchy eczema flares by teaching diet awareness and encouraging them to keep a food diary. For Eczema Awareness Month, she offers the following dietary tips:

Avoid allergenic foods

Even if you or your child’s tested negative for food allergies, you may still be sensitive to ingredients in food — such as histamines — that can cause irritation, itching, and other symptoms. While medical tests are important and can give you valuable information, noting your own reactions to foods is just as valuable.

You can test your food sensitivities by eliminating the following foods from your diet:

Dairy

Cow’s milk, cheese and yogurt may trigger flares. If Dr. Aguirre gives the OK, try sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, or raw milk as an alternative.

Gluten

Gluten is a protein that appears in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten can be difficult to digest and may trigger an immune reaction. Try gluten-free grains, such as buckwheat, millet, or spelt.

Eggs

For some people, the protein in the whites of the eggs is even more likely to trigger a reaction than the yolk. Cut out eggs, and then, to test your tolerance, try yolks only.

Soy

Even if you don’t drink soy milk, soy is a nearly omnipresent ingredient in processed foods. Check the ingredient list, and avoid products such as soy sauce.

Peanuts and tree nuts

Peanuts are a legume, but they can be difficult to digest and may trigger life-threatening conditions in some people. When it comes to actual tree nuts, such as walnuts and cashews, one may bother you while another may not. Try adding back one at a time, or soak the nuts overnight in water to make them easier to digest.

Nightshades

Potatoes, eggplants, and tomatoes belong to the nightshade family, which can trigger allergic reactions due to low levels of toxins. Peppers and goji berries are also nightshades. Don’t forget to check for tomatoes, peppers, and other nightshades on ingredient labels

Foods high in acid

Tomatoes get a double- no, due to their presence in the nightshade family and high acid content. Also avoid citrus fruits and pineapples.

Shellfish  

Shellfish such as shrimp and scallops contain a protein called tropomyosin that can trigger an allergic reaction. You may be sensitive to one type of shellfish, but not another.

Add in these foods instead

Now that you’ve gotten the bad news, the good news is that plenty delicious foods out there support your immune system and reduce the likelihood of an eczema flare. Dr. Aguirre recommends adding in the following delicious treats:

Omega-3 oils

Try rich, fatty fish filled with anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils, such as salmon, herring, and tuna. Non-animal sources include ground flaxseeds and walnuts (check if you have a nut sensitivity, though!).

Unrefined carbohydrates

Avoid processed grains and carbs, and turn your attention toward the cornucopia of colorful fruits and vegetables that change with each season. Perfect for autumn, sweet potatoes are delicious, filling, and are a low-glycemic treat whether roasted, boiled, or transformed into soups or custards.

Green beans, carrots, leafy vegetables, and dark, rich berries are all ways to add more flavor and nutrition in your diet. Some fruits and veggies — including broccoli and cherries — also contain the anti-oxidant, anti-histamine ingredient quercetin.

Spices

Many worldwide cuisines rely rich, colorful spices to add flavor and boost health benefits. Look for recipes that feature turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger.

If you have eczema, Dr. Aguirre takes a detailed medical history and designs a personalized treatment plan. Avoid itching and heal your skin by calling us for an eczema consultation today or using the online booking form.

How is eczema treated?

Dr. Aguirre offers customized treatment plans to control your symptoms. Your plan may include a combination of oral and topical medication, injectable biologic medicine, light therapy, and behavior modifications.

Dr. Aguirre can prescribe corticosteroid ointments or oral anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation in your skin. If your skin is broken or if it becomes so dry it cracks, she may also prescribe antibiotic creams or oral medicines to fight infection. If your eczema symptoms are resistant to treatments, Dr. Aguirre may prescribe dupilumab, an injectable biologic.

Light therapy can also be helpful in reducing eczema symptoms. When your skin absorbs natural sunlight or controlled doses of UVA and UVB light, it can calm the parts of your immune system that cause your rash.

How can I prevent eczema flare-ups?

Dr. Aguirre gives you personalized advice to prevent flare-ups and reduce their severity. For example, you may benefit from taking cooler showers with gentle soaps and moisturizing your skin at least twice a day. Dr. Aguirre can recommend products for you to try. You should also learn about what triggers your eczema and do your best to avoid those triggers.

If you or your child have eczema, contact Dr. Aguirre today by calling our office or using the online booking tool to schedule a consultation at Advanced Skin Care Medical Center today.

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