10 Foods that may Worsen your Eczema

We all know that diet is important for maintaining a healthy and well-nourished body, but for people suffering from eczema, the food you eat may be the difference between clear skin and a sudden and irritating flare-up.  

If you are experiencing eczema without knowing the cause, it may very well be that you’re eating the wrong food. 

In this blog post, I’ll explore 10 foods that may be worsening your eczema and offer some better alternatives so that you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner without the itchy aftermath. 

Please bear in mind that I am in no way a medical professional and while my suggestions may provide relief, you should always speak to a medical professional or nutritionist before making any dietary changes to ensure all essential nutrients are retained – especially when children are involved.  – Jennifer Roberge

Eczema in a Nutshell

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes a person to develop patches of dry, red, itchy skin on their body, most commonly appearing on the face, hands, feet, and back of the knees.  It occurs in both babies and adults and can be triggered by a number of factors.  

Typically, these irritants include house-hold products like soaps and detergents, extreme hot or cold weather conditions, stress, rough fabrics such as wool, and a variety of beauty products. Because eczema develops due to inflammation, one of the biggest culprits of the condition is actually food.


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Elimination Diet

Although there are plenty of natural creams and medications that offer soothing and calming relief for itchy skin, one of the best ways to relieve eczema is eliminating the triggers that are causing it in the first place.  In terms of diet, this means avoiding the consumption of foods that are known to make eczema worse for a certain period of time (usually about a month) and then slowly work these foods back into your diet to determine which caused a reaction.

A food-sensitive eczema reaction will likely occur within 6-24 hours of consuming the food but it’s possible that the reaction may be delayed. [1]  If you are having trouble ascertaining which foods exactly are triggering the condition, this helpful eczema elimination diet is a good place to start.  Please keep in mind that an eczema elimination diet is only a short-term diet, with the goal being to reduce the intake of the triggering food, if possible. 

Foods to Avoid

While there are common food culprits that may worsen your eczema, it’s important to remember that everyone is different and not everyone will experience the same issues with the foods listed below. Understanding your body and knowing which foods work and don’t work for you personally is crucial, keeping in mind that there is a difference between a food allergy and a food-insensitivity. 

  1. Gluten – Wheat is quite a common allergy in children but thankfully, it’s also one that most children will outgrow by age 10. Usually, the reaction will occur minutes after consuming the wheat, but it’s possible, in some cases, that symptoms won’t appear for a couple of hours after consumption.

  2. Nuts – Nut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children and adults. Nuts come in many varieties including pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, to name a few. If you are allergic to one type of nut, it’s highly likely that you’ll react similarly to other nuts as well – no matter where they grow.
  3. Soy Products – Unfortunately, soy is one of the most difficult products to avoid if you suffer from allergies as it’s found in many processed foods such as mayonnaise, vegetable broths, frozen meals, and meat substitutes. A soy allergy ranges from mild to severe and usually begins in early life.
  4. Eggs –  As eggs are found in most breads, pastas, cakes, cookies, and cereals, they are a hard product to avoid.  Unfortunately, they are also one of the most common allergens, with 2% of children reported as being allergic to eggs [3]. Some egg-free products include macaroni, marshmallows and other types of noodles.

  5. Dairy – Cow’s milk is the leading cause of allergic reactions in children.  Unfortunately, changing from cow’s milk to almond milk is not much help due to the fact that, as mentioned earlier, nuts are another common trigger of eczema.

  6. Citrus Fruits – Eating citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit, can irritate eczema.  In fact, even coming into contact with the peel of citrus fruit can initiate extreme itching, dry skin, redness or burning.
  7. Peanuts – Despite containing the word ‘nut’ in its name, peanuts are actually part of the legume family as they grow underground. That being said, the allergic reaction to peanuts is very similar to that of the tree-nut allergy.

  8. Shellfish – An allergy to shellfish can develop any time in a person’s life and can be caused by food that you’ve previously eaten with no issues whatsoever. Some shellfish to avoid include shrimp, crab, lobster, prawns, mussels, oysters and squid. Often, shellfish allergic reactions can be unpredictable as they can occur long after the person has consumed the allergen [3].

  9. Spices – Vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon are common types of spices that cause allergic reactions
  10. Tomatoes An allergic reaction to tomatoes will typically occur immediately following exposure to the allergen.  As tomatoes are beloved in many dishes (such as pizza and pasta!) they might be frustrating to avoid but thankfully, alternatives such as alfredo sauce and bechamel sauce are tasty replacements

What To Eat Instead 

Fortunately, there are anti-inflammatory foods that reduce eczema symptoms. This includes foods that are high in probiotics, such as miso soup, sourdough bread, tempeh, and naturally fermented pickles, as well as foods that are high in quercetin, such as apples, blueberries, kale, broccoli and spinach. 

Quercetin is effective in reducing inflammation because it is a powerful antioxidant and antihistamine. 

Finally, salmon and herring contain high-levels are omega-3 fatty acids, making them anti-inflammatory and ideal for those suffering from eczema. 

e hope this list is helpful in giving you a better understanding of how the food you consume can affect your eczema.  Remember to always seek the advice of a medical professional or a nutritionist before making any dietary changes.  

References: 

[1] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320855.php

[2[ https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/shellfish#foods-to-avoid

[3] https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/egg#1

About the Author

Jennifer Roberge is the founder of the award-winning Its An Itchy Little World blog and The Eczema Company. Propelled to find a solution for her son’s struggles with eczema, allergies, and asthma, Jennifer has established herself as the go-to resource on integrative and holistic methods, and the best natural products for healing both inside and out.

Environmental factors causing Eczema Flares

Index

Environment and Eczema

Though the exact causes of Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) are unclear it is widely accepted that Eczema is aggravated by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Eczema flareups are due to defensive actions of the immune response cells of the body reacting to foreign factors. These foreign factors are called triggers. These triggers can be apparently harmless aspects of your daily life. Some of these triggers can be controlled by patients but many of them are beyond their easy control. Triggers such as specific food ingredients, clothes, perfumes, etc can be controlled or avoided easily. However, some triggers such as pollen count, humidity, temperature, etc. are beyond a patient’s control or cannot be avoided easily. Some of the weather and other environmental triggers have a dramatic impact on the severity of an eczema flare-up.

Our skin is the outermost organ of our body which senses conditions and adapts accordingly for e.g. if the climate is hot it perspires to make it cool and has a layer of fat under it to keep the body warm in cold weather. But these adaptation functions of the skin despair to an extent in people with Atopic Dermatitis The skin affected with eczema loses more water than it should and gives an open ground for microbes, allergens, and other irritants. Climate or weather affects each person differently even if two individuals are suffering from Atopic Dermatitis both of them will react differently to different triggers. The exact relationship between weather and Eczema has not been defined, but experts consider that the damage to the skin’s barrier may hamper the ability to adapt to the changing weather. Let’s check out some important environmental factors and how do they affect eczema.


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– Humidity

Humidity is one of the vital factors in the environment, to which skin reacts almost immediately and it plays a major role in how your body handles eczema.

Dry and Low humidity: The dry air pulls moisture from the skin making it dry worsening the eczema plaques further.

Hot and High humidity: The hot and sticky climate makes your skin sweat a lot making eczema-prone skin itchier and more irritated resulting in a flare-up

Humidity level for Eczema

A perfect level of humidity can be different for each person but climate with 50% humidity in the air is ideal. Both Low and High humidity is bad for eczema wherein Low humidity triggers your eczema or intensifies a flare-up, whereas hot weather worsens an existing outbreak intensifying the itch.

Tips

  • If possible and feasible with your work-life balance, move to a place better suited for your eczema
  • Take necessary precaution while moving out of home and try avoiding a condition in which you will sweat more such as congested rooms or trains.
  • use humidifiers/dehumidifiers and indoor AC/heating, to control the climate at least inside homes and set it at an ideal condition for eczema

– Winter

Experts found that people with Eczema experience greater itchiness in cold weather than summer season and that maybe the reason your flare-ups occur predominantly in winter. Changes between cold and hot environments also worsen Eczema.

The combined effect of low temperatures, less humidity and dry air with a reduced or negligible amount of sunshine in winter aggravates eczema flare. The dry air drains and evaporates moisture from the skin making it dry and triggering a flare. Low temperatures demand insulation which comes in the form of increased clothing. Some of the warm clothing is made from wool and other fibers which reduce ventilation of skin and also cause irritation increasing the itch and need for scratching worsening eczema.

Eczema Winter Tips

Tips

  • Moisturize skin at least twice a day. Lock the moisture in the skin to help hydration and repair the skin barrier
  • Use lukewarm water for bathing and keep baths short.
  • Avoid harsh soaps, which can further dry and irritate the skin
  • Use humidifiers to increase the amount of moisture in the room.
  • Wear suitable clothes while going outside. Hats, scarves, and gloves may be required but avoid those made from wool, which can increase itching and scratching.

– Heat

When an eczema patient is exposed to heat, and the temperature reaches a certain level, it gives an itching sensation exacerbating eczema. The normal mechanism of the body’s sweating in hot condition to cool down actually worsens the condition in eczema. Moreover, when the sweat evaporates leaves the sodium in the skin making it drier and itchier.

Apart from hot weather conditions other causes that overheat the body include exercising, wearing non-breathable fabrics and overdressing

Tips

  • Avoid Overheating
  • Avoid overdressing, wear breathing fabric such as cotton.
  • put on moisturizers and sunblock when outside, and try not to get into situations where you sweat

Take a shower after exercise or whenever you sweat a lot due to traveling, playing, etc.

– Sunlight

Sun acts as both the healer and as a culprit for Eczema flares.

Sunlight can act as a treatment for eczema. People with severe cases can benefit from ultraviolet ray treatments. Sun exposure leads to increased vitamin D production, which can be great for the health of the skin.

For Many people Sun can be an irritant and may cause you sunburn and be a reason for increasing your itch, raising your body temperature, causing you sweat ultimately causing your eczema flare.

Tips

  • use an eczema-safe sunscreen when in sun for extended periods.
  • shield yourself with breathable clothes and a hat.

– Pollutants

Pollution or pollutants don’t directly cause Eczema but definitely can be a trigger that may cause an eczema flare worsening the condition. The correlation between air pollution and the prevalence and severity of atopic dermatitis is well known. The mechanism behind this is, itch causes scratching, disrupting the skin barrier function, and opening the entry for antigens (pollutants) to penetrate. This results in the patients being sensitized to antigens and subject to allergic diseases, in this case, Atopic Dermatitis.

This apart you may also be subjected to indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, Pollen, mold, etc.

If allergies are a trigger for your eczema, take steps to control them.

Tips

  • Keep your home clean. Dust often and be sure to vacuum carpets frequently.
  • Get rid of dust mites by washing bedding, curtains, blankets, etc. at least fortnightly with very hot water.
  • Keep pets out of your bedroom
  • Close your windows during peak allergy season to avoid exposure to mold and pollen

To live a healthy life with eczema it is important to keep your symptoms and triggers under check. While tracking Eczema triggers keep in mind that eczema flare can appear even after some time to exposure, the lag time appears as a challenge to narrow down the trigger.

Approach a Physician

In case your eczema suddenly gets out of control it could be possible that you have developed an allergy or an Infection. In such case better to approach for medical health.

It is also advisable to approach a dermatologist if your symptoms are proving very hard to manage on your own.

Take away

As already mentioned, under tips section of each category of environmental factors, the best way to deal with your local weather is to move to a weather location less averse to Eczema and wear appropriate clothes, put on moisturizers and sunblock when leaving the house, and avoid situations which will make you sweat. Make sure that your bedroom is at the perfect level of humidity and heat using humidifier/dehumidifier, AC / heater, etc.  This ensures that you will be more comfortable at least when you sleep and help keep eczema flare-ups calm through the night.

Try out EczemaLess App to keep a track of Environmental Triggers as the app automatically records the most common weather triggers such as pollen, humidity, etc. Users can log suspected triggers through the intuitive user interface. The app comes pre-populated with the most common triggers, users can add custom triggers.