Dietary Do's and Don'ts to Control Eczema Naturally
Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions worldwide, so I’m sure you’ve heard about it before. It’s a term that is thrown around a lot in the skincare community and it’s widely known by people who don’t consider themselves “skincare junkies.” The biggest skincare tip: diet. These are the dietary do's and don'ts to control eczema naturally.
- Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a non-curable skin condition that is essentially the inflammation and irritation of the skin, usually through rashes.
- Eczema is very treatable and manageable. Most people find their symptoms lessen with age, but others find relief in cutting out excess soaps, hydrocortisone creams, or adjusting their diet.
- Try cutting out things like gluten, dairy, eggs, or soy one at a time for a minimum of 2 weeks to see if you notice an improvement.
Brief intro to eczema
Eczema, which is really a slang term for atopic dermatitis, is essentially a broad category that means itchy inflammation of the skin. It typically develops in early childhood and is highly linked to genetic causes. Because eczema is sort of an umbrella term, it can appear in many different forms and may look different and be triggered by different things for different people.
Most people who experience atopic dermatitis have rashes that appear or “flare up” occasionally when their eczema has been triggered. It is most common for these rashes to emerge on the arms and the back of the knees, but eczema rashes can really appear anywhere on the body.
Although eczema is a non-curable skin condition, it is very treatable and many people find that their symptoms get better over time naturally or by learning which things can trigger a flare-up.
The most common treatment dermatologists and allergists recommend is to steer clear of soaps. This may sound crazy, but soap or sulfate is a drying agent. The way it works is by stripping the skin of any dirt or oils to “cleanse” the skin. While this is necessary and fine for most people, sometimes the stripping of those oils can dry out your skin leaving you with inflammation and irritation. For those with eczema, dry and inflamed skin is the last thing you want.
There are also a number of creams and ointments both over-the-counter and prescription that are said to help with eczema symptoms. While some of these treatments have good reviews and help to manage flare-ups, they can only treat eczema when it has already arisen. And they often irritate sensitive skin further.
But, what if you could identify the dietary do's and don'ts to control eczema naturally?
Most common triggers for eczema
As mentioned above, the number one most common trigger of eczema is soap. Most soaps contain sulfates as the cleansing agent which works by drying out the skin. For many people, this is no issue, but for those with overly dry or sensitive skin, this stripping of oils leaves your skin in a more vulnerable state and increases your chances of experiencing an eczema flare-up. Even with consistent moisturizing, soap can leave irritated patches red, dry, and stinging for hours
Other than topical products, there are also internal triggers for atopic dermatitis. Certain foods and ingredients have been linked to increased eczema flare-ups such as:
- Citrus fruits
- Gluten or wheat
While there are definitely other common food triggers, these are the most commonly reported. Now, just because certain foods are listed as a trigger, doesn’t mean you need to immediately cut them out of your diet. All of this information is relative. However, if you consume any of these foods often and want to discover if it could be a leading trigger of your eczema, do a variable test.
The variable test is helpful in pinpointing what exactly triggers your rashes. As with any good experiment in science, remove one variable at a time and keep all else constant. Obviously, when discussing diet, it’s almost impossible to keep everything else constant unless you want to eat the same exact thing every day.
Instead, stay relatively true to your normal diet when conducting a variable test. It is recommended to cut out a food item or food group for a minimum of two weeks to really be able to evaluate results. Any shorter, and the effect may not be substantial enough to assess a trigger.
It is also highly likely that your eczema is triggered by multiple things. So don’t be surprised if your skin responds well to cutting out almost all of those items on the list. This doesn’t mean you can never consume those foods. Dietary do's and don'ts to control eczema naturally provide you with helpful information as to what exactly triggers your body. You can consume in smaller portions or know to cut out certain foods during certain times such as vacations, big events, or really stressful events.
Foods that help or can substitute
Obviously, no one likes hearing about the foods they can’t or shouldn’t eat. So, what about the foods that you can eat? If you are looking to design meals to help reduce eczema flare-ups, an anti-inflammatory diet will be your best friend.
We talked about how eczema or atopic dermatitis at its core is an inflammation of the skin, so any foods that are known to be anti-inflammatory can have a positive effect on your eczema. Foods such as:
I know this doesn’t sound like the most delicious or glamorous diet, but adapting your diet to consume more of these foods helps more aspects of your health than just eczema. Many people who struggle with eczema find that going fully plant-based or vegan helps them tremendously. It's whatever works for you and keeps you happy.
It’s important to remember that there is no cure for eczema. So, no amount of creams, prescriptions, or dietary changes will make it completely go away. Cutting out individual products and foods once at a time will help you to identify your personal triggers and find the relief of calm skin.
Written by Jordan Hammaren
- Photo by Elianna Friedman on Unsplash