Can Eczema Be Diet Related?

Reviewed on 5/27/2022
Can eczema be diet related?
Eczema is caused by a combination of immune system activation, genetics, environmental triggers, and stress.

No clear or authentic data proves that specific foods or diets can cause eczema or make its symptoms flare. Nonetheless, some people report that certain foods make their eczema worse.

The link between specific foods and eczema is conflicting. However, if you have a known food allergy (like most people with eczema have), it may act as a triggering factor (through the release of T cells and immunoglobulin E) that may cause or worsen dermatitis or eczema.

The best solution is to avoid that particular food (elimination diet). Some examples of common food allergies or intolerances include peanuts, dairy, eggs, fish, nuts, soy, sugar, alcohol, and gluten.

What are other common triggers of eczema?

Besides food, other most commonly found triggers that can make the symptoms worse include:

  • Certain chemicals
  • Stress
  • Hot water
  • Sun exposure
  • Synthetic wear
  • Some soaps and detergents
  • Pollen or dust allergy
  • Dry environment
  • Excessive sweating

What is eczema?

Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a common chronic, inflammatory noncontagious skin condition characterized by red, dry, itchy, scaly skin, sometimes with the occurrence of tiny blisters that can cause pain.

The term eczema originated from the Greek word “ekzein” which means to “boil over” or “break out.”

People with asthma or allergies and infants are more likely to develop this skin condition.

7 types of eczema

Seven types of eczema include:

  1. Atopic dermatitis
  2. Contact dermatitis
  3. Neurodermatitis
  4. Dyshidrotic eczema
  5. Nummular eczema
  6. Seborrheic dermatitis
  7. Stasis dermatitis

4 main causes of eczema

Eczema is caused by a combination of immune system activation, genetics, environmental triggers, and stress.

  1. Genetics: People with a family history of dermatitis or asthma, hay fever, and allergens such as pollen, pet hair, or specific foods may trigger an allergic reaction.
  2. Immune system: The immune system overreacts to small irritants or allergens causing inflammation of the skin.
  3. Environment: Exposure to tobacco smoke, air pollutants, harsh soaps, fabrics such as wool, some skin products, low and high humidity, and excessive sweating can cause the skin to become dry and itchy.
  4. Stress: Increasing stress levels can cause or worsen eczema symptoms to flare up.

Moreover, eczema damages the skin barrier function, making skin more sensitive and prone to infection and dryness.

QUESTION

Eczema (also atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis) is a general medical term for many types of skin inflammation. See Answer

What are the symptoms of eczema?

Eczema can occur anywhere on the skin although it is typically found on the hands, neck, inner elbows, ankles, knees, feet, and around the eyes.

The most commonly found symptoms of eczema include:

  • Irritation
  • Dryness of the skin
  • Itching
  • Red rash
  • Crusting and swelling of the skin
  • Bumps on the skin
  • Scaly, leathery patches of skin

Other associated conditions include:

How is eczema diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will take a close look at the skin to check for classic signs of eczema such as redness and dryness along with a proper questioning about the current symptoms and medical and family history.

To confirm the diagnosis, they may recommend the following tests:

How is eczema treated?

Eczema can be a lifelong skin condition, but symptoms can be managed with at-home remedies, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and prescription medications.

  • Avoid stress
  • Choose a well-balanced anti-inflammatory diet plan
  • Consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, and non-dairy foods such as almond, soy, or oat milk
  • Stay hydrated; drink at least eight glasses of water a day
  • Moisturize the skin using a cream or ointment to prevent dryness
  • Use a humidifier to avoid the effects of dry air
  • Avoid long, hot baths that can lead to dryness of the skin
  • Apply lotion immediately after bathing while the skin is still moist
  • Try to keep the room temperature as regular as possible
  • Try to be dressed in cotton
  • Avoid rubbing or scratching the rash
  • Avoid getting too hot and sweaty
  • Limit exposure to known irritants and allergens
  • Use lukewarm water to shower instead of hot water 
  • Use mild soaps and other skin products that are free of perfumes, dyes, and alcohol
  • Take OTC antihistamines for severe itching
  • Apply cortisone creams and ointments such as hydrocortisone to help control itching and redness
  • Take prescription medications such as steroid creams, pills, and shots as recommended by the doctor
  • Get phototherapy; ultraviolet (UV) light waves found in the sunlight are used to help certain skin disorders, including eczema

Can a food allergy cause eczema?

Food allergies to dairy products, eggs, nuts, soy, or wheat can sometimes cause allergic skin reactions (hives) that may resemble eczema, especially in children younger than three to four years.

Get a consultation from a pediatrician if you think your child has a skin disease that is flaring up or caused by some specific foods.

Can eczema be cured?

Eczema is a lifelong chronic condition, which cannot be cured completely. However, treatments are very effective in reducing the symptoms of itchy and dry skin.

Different phases of eczema include:

  • Remission: Eczema symptoms disappear completely
  • Flare-up: Eczema symptoms get worse

No diet or avoidance of particular foods will cure eczema, but modifying the diet plan can help keep the symptoms at bay.

What foods are good for eczema?

Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet may help lessen or reduce eczema symptoms including:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon and herring
  • Probiotic foods such as:
    • Yogurt
    • Sourdough bread
    • Miso soup
    • Naturally fermented pickles
    • Gouda cheese
  • Foods rich in quercetin such as:
    • Apples
    • Blueberries
    • Cherries
    • Spinach
    • Kale
    • Broccoli

10 potential complications of eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Ten potential complications of eczema include:

  1. Chronic itchy, scaly skin
  2. Bacterial skin infections such as:
    • Staphylococcal skin infection
    • Streptococcal skin infection
  3. Viral skin infections such as:
  4. Fungal skin infections such as:
    • Dermatophyte
    • Yeast
  5. Asthma and hay fever
  6. Sleep problems
  7. Cellulitis
  8. Scars; hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation
  9. Risk of depression and anxiety
  10. Impaired quality of life

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Reviewed on 5/27/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Image

Top Eczema Triggers to Avoid WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/ss/slideshow-top-eczema-triggers

Eczema Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9998-eczema

Diet and Dermatitis: Food Triggers NIH: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3970830/

Eczema Causes and Triggers National Eczema Association: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/causes-and-triggers-of-eczema/