When it comes to skin conditions such as eczema, it can often be hard to make the connection between your diet and the red, itchy rash that is on your skin.
However for many eczema sufferers, it’s this connection that is the answer to relieving their skin condition long term.
If you are struggling to get long term relief from your eczema, start taking a look at what you may or may not be eating that could be flaring up your skin.
Initially, changing anything in your diet may be difficult. So what we suggest you do, is begin with one step at a time so it is much more manageable and easier for you to stick to.
That way you can determine if each step is working for your skin.
Top 3 Eczema Diet Strategies
1. Avoid Foods You Are Allergic To
Eczema is often caused by something you are eating that you are allergic to which you may not have yet discovered. Studies have shown that eczema involves an IgE-mediated activation of cutaneous (skin) mast cells and late-phase infiltration of inflammatory cells following exposure to food allergens, particularly milk, egg, wheat, soy, cashew and fish. Other symptoms may also accompany food allergies such as gastrointestinal discomfort e.g. nausea, vomiting, bloating.
Food allergies associated with eczema are usually picked up from a younger age but it is possible to develop a food allergy or hypersensitivity later in adult life.
To determine what you are allergic or sensitive to, you could look at doing a skin prick test or an oral food challenge.
Once you have discovered what you are sensitive to, avoiding the food between 2-6 weeks will usually provide a significant improvement in your eczema.
2. Do You Have A Salicylate Sensitivity?
Have you ever reacted to aspirin medication? Aspirin is a salicylate analgesic medication which can cause allergic reactions in people that are sensitive to salicylates. If you are sensitive to aspirin it doesn’t automatically mean you will react to salicylates in your diet, but for many people with eczema (and especially those who also suffer with asthma)- consuming foods with high amounts of salicylates can trigger this itchy skin rash.
Salicylates occur naturally in fruits, vegetables and herbs and act as a natural pesticide to protect the plant from insects, assisting with plant survival. Some fruits and vegetables have higher amounts of salicylates than others, so usually it’s these foods that are triggers for eczema. Avoiding fruits and vegetables that are high in salicylates and opting for foods that contain lower amounts will help to reduce the skin reaction.
Unfortunately there isn’t currently a test to easily determine if you have a salicylate sensitivity. To gain an understanding of whether a salicylate sensitivity is a trigger for you, you can check out the list of symptoms that are commonly associated with with this sensitivity here.
3. Essential Fatty Acids – Are you Getting Enough?
Without enough essential fatty acids in your diet, you could be impairing your skin barrier function making you more prone to inflammation in the skin.
There is still on going research to determine which essential fatty acid has the better outcome in reducing eczema, however in a nut shell, both omega 3 and 6 have had beneficial reports in reducing eczema.
Omega 3 deficiency is more common than omega 6 due to low consumption of seafood such as fish which are naturally high in omega 3. Aim to increase your omega 3 intake by eating deep sea fish like salmon or small pelagic fish like sardines three times a week. Supplementing with a good quality, purified fish oil (low in heavy metals such as mercury and lead) supplement may also be beneficial in reducing your eczema.
Research has shown that eczema sufferers don’t have a deficiency in omega 6, but do have a poor ability to convert Linoleic acid (omega 6) to it’s active metabolite Gamma Linoleic Acid (GLA). Supplementation with high GLA sources such as evening primrose oil, have shown significant reductions in eczema and a partial correction of this abnormality.
Sampson, H., McCaskill, C. Food hypersensitivity and atopic dermatitis: Evaluation of 113 patients. The Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 107, Issue 5, Pages 669-675.
Devereux, G., Seaton, At. Diet as a risk factor for atopy and asthma. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 115, Issue 6, Pages 1109-1117.