Experts have uncovered a few links between your diet choices and skin health.
There are many lifestyle changes you can make to help manage eczema —from picking the right moisturizer to tweaking your shower routine—so diet is an obvious factor to consider. But don’t clean out your pantry just yet. Experts have not yet found clear evidence that your diet choices can cause or exacerbate eczema symptoms, like dry, itchy skin.
One notable exception has to do with food allergies. Some 37 percent of children with moderate to severe eczema have some type of food allergy, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, compared to just 8 percent of general population of children.
The most common food allergies among people with eczema are dairy, nuts, and shellfish, according to dermatologist Suzanne Friedler, MD, of the Mount Sinai Hospital and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. Just don’t confuse eczema symptoms, like rashes and flaky skin, with allergy symptoms, like hives. For eczema patients with food allergies, eliminating those foods from your diet should also help minimize eczema symptoms and flare-ups. But there’s no proof that eliminating these foods from your diet if you don’t have allergies will make a big difference.
Some people with eczema attempt elimination diets, in which you completely cut out certain kinds of food for weeks at a time to see if there’s a change in eczema symptoms. Dr. Friedler doesn’t recommend these as a matter of course, but if you do suspect that certain kinds of foods are aggravating your skin, keep a food diary to spot potential eczema triggers, she suggests.
Though relatively rare, another allergy that can trigger eczema symptoms is nickel. You’ve probably heard of children being allergic to jewelry made of nickel, but this metal actually shows up in the diet, too. Nickel can leach into foods through the soil, cans, manufacturing equipment, faucets, and cookware. If you have a nickel allergy, a nickel-free diet, which involves lifestyle tweaks like avoiding canned goods or not cooking in stainless steel cookware, may help treat your eczema symptoms.
You may have heard about making specific dietary changes like eating more anti-inflammatory foods, like omega-3 fatty acids, to reduce eczema symptoms. (Here are some top sources of omega-3 fatty acids to try.) While there isn’t solid evidence to show this treats eczema specifically, it’s eating more anti-inflammatory, whole foods is solid general health advice, so it doesn’t hurt to try.
Dr. Friedler is a dermatologist and clinical instructor at The Mount Sinai Hospital and St. John's Episcopal Hospital.
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For most people, diet doesn't play
a big role in managing eczema symptoms.
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There's not a lot of research that shows
that certain food, causes eczema to flare,
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unless you already have a food allergy.
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For example, children with atopic
dermatitis, which is the most common kind
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of eczema, often have allergies to dairy,
nuts, and shellfish.
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But avoiding this foods if you
dont have allergies to them
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is unlikely to affect plazma symptoms.
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Some people with eczema have neclologies,
there is no nickel free diet for patients
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with nickel contact dermatitis, but
that is a very small portion of patients.
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Some of my patients are asking about
elimination diet per eczema, but
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i don't typically recommend them.
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An elimination diet is when you try to
completely cut out one or more foods
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in your diet like gluten or eggs or cow's
milk to see if it improves your symptoms.
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If you think you're having a reaction
to certain foods keep a food diary.
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If you notice you have flare ups
every time you have say milk or
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wheat talk to your dermatologist about it.
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You may have heard that it's a good
idea to eat an inflammatory diet
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such as lots of omega-3s and
antioxidants in whole foods.
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This hasn't been shown to relieve
the eczema symptoms per say, but
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it's just good general health advice.
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Bottom line, for
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most people making dietary changes won't
have a big impact on your eczema symptoms.
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It's never a bad idea to eat healthier,
and cut out sugar and processed foods, but
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don't expect this to work
miracles on your skin.
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- Nickel Allergy: How to Avoid Exposure and Reduce Symptoms. Rosemont, IL. American Academy of Dermatology (Accessed on December 30, 2020 at https://www.aad.org/nickel-allergy)
- All About Eczema. Allergy & Asthma Network. Vienna, VA, 2020. (Accessed on December 30, 2020 at https://allergyasthmanetwork.org/what-is-eczema/)
Atopic dermatitis: Who gets and causes. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on August 29, 2017 at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/atopic-dermatitis#causes.)Eczema in children: Overview. Location: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (Accessed on December 30, 2020 at http://acaai.org/allergies/who-has-allergies/children-allergies/eczema.)