Food affects eczema more than you think. If you’ve read my personal story or read my last post, “Diet & Eczema: Part 1”, we investigated how gluten can affect eczema in a myriad of ways. If this is the case, then we should focus on not just finding the best shampoo for eczema, but the right diet to cure your eczema.
Each and every food you eat has a different chemical effect on your body. From the moment you swallow your food, to the moment it is digested – food releases chemical properties that will either switch on your body’s inflammatory signal or switch off the inflammatory signal. What this means for eczema sufferers is that if certain foods cause inflammation in your body – this also means that certain foods can cause an eczema flare up in you.
Inflammation is the body’s response to injury, infection, or irritation, which can cause redness, soreness, heat, swelling or itchiness. Stress, lack of exercise, genetics, and exposure to toxins can all contribute to eczema and chronic inflammation, but nutrition also plays a big role as well.
This is why it is incredibly important to learn the difference between inflammatory foods and anti-inflammatory foods. Learning to eat more anti-inflammatory foods and eliminating inflammatory foods are key to managing eczema flare ups and other kinds of diseases.
What are inflammatory foods?
Inflammatory foods are found EVERYWHERE these days. In fact, for many people, 80% of their diet could be full of inflammatory foods and they don’t even know it!
Inflammatory foods are anything that can create more inflammation in your body. Eczema, psoriasis, arthritis, cancer, and diabetes are just a few diseases that can be linked to inflammation as well. The goal is to avoid these foods that create more inflammation in your body.
Inflammatory foods include:
- Refined grains
- Red meat
- MSG & other additives
- Feedlot-Raised Meat: Animals fed with grains like soy and corn can create high inflammation, especially because these animals also gain excess fat and are injected with hormones and antibiotics to grow bigger quickly. Always opt for organic, grass fed or free-range meats who are fed natural diets.
- Fried & Processed food
- Nightshade family of foods: tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, potatoes (they contain an alkaloid that can trigger pain in people. Some eczema sufferers can also flare up with pain or itching after eating nightshades)
- Junk food
- Any hidden allergies: Do you have eczema, or constantly feel headaches or low energy? Many people have a food allergy without even knowing it. Coffee, cheese, sulphites are just a few of the triggers that you may not even be aware of.
In essence, anything made with white flour is not great for you. When it comes to white bread, usually up to 70% of the nutrients are stripped away, which means that your body uses up resources to digest them (look for 100% whole grains instead – but even then, wheat is difficult to digest for most people and should be avoided when there are eczema flare ups. I try to avoid eating wheat in general.).
In addition, red meat is also a large source of inflammation because it contains arachidonic acid which is notorious for turning on the inflammatory signal in the body (that’s why many nutritionists or Chinese medicine practitioners encourage patients to avoid red meat during illness).
By focusing on avoiding inflammatory foods when we encounter an eczema flare up or inflammation of any sort can greatly help to resolve the situation.
So then – what anti-inflammatory foods should I be eating?
Good question. Anti-inflammatory foods are a gift from mother nature.
- All fruits and vegetables: Go wild on them! Avoid too much fruit if you suffer from eczema (as fruit still contains lots of sugar). Go for an unlimited amount of vegetables and aim for 6-9 veggies a day! Try to get all the colors of the rainbow – they’re loaded with vitamins, phytochemicals and antioxidants to prevent aging and to help your cells repair.
- Protein Sources: Anti-inflammatory protein sources include most wild fish and seafood. Avoid farmed fish due to poor farming practices. Wild fish (like wild salmon and sardines) are high in omega-3 fatty acids – which are exceptional in lowering inflammation in the body. Soy is not always recommended because 94% of soy in the US is genetically modified. Unless soy is non-GMO and organic, it is generally fine to eat. Walnuts, almonds, pecans and Brazil nuts are also great protein sources. Grass fed meats can also be full of omega 3’s and can contain anti-inflammatory properties.
- All beans and legumes
- Healthy fats: Extra-virgin coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts, avocados, hemp seeds, flaxseed, flax oil
- Spices: Ginger, turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, holy basil, rosemary.
- Teas: White, green, oolong
Tumeric is an amazing spice that is involved in 100 different anti-inflammatory pathways. I remember when I used to take tumeric everyday and would notice a big difference in my eczema flare ups! This is because it’s spice with strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Start a routine of making cooking fun – and find a way to cook new recipes in a way that will help you e enjoy eating anti-inflammatory foods! 😉 After all, they are loaded with vitamins and nutrients to help your cells repair. In fact, Kale is considered by many to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet. Containing only 36 calories a cup, it gives us the biggest “bang for our buck” when it comes to vitamins and minerals. The indole-3-carbinol (I3C) found in kale will also help our body detoxify, repair and protect us from chronic diseases. Plus – it’s so low in calories that it will slim you down and reduce the inflammation in your body.
If you’ve been eating an inflammatory diet for most of your life – it can be time for a change, especially if you have eczema. My diet used to consist of eating McDonalds every week, drinking coke almost daily, and eating chocolate and processed foods frequently. Since food has such an impact on our body, this can also affect your eczema, especially if your diet is largely based on eating lots of wheat, sugar, red meat, milk, and sulphites. Follow a diet based mostly on anti-inflammatory foods and your body will thank you!
You may have read my story of how I used to be given lots of topical and internal steroids and cortisone creams, but the medication never worked. It wasn’t until I completely changed my diet that it had a profound healing effect on my body.
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Abby is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who helps clients achieve optimal health. She is passionate about seeing people use health and nutrition to transform lives. She hopes that her experiences and knowledge can help educate others on natural remedies that will help eczema. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or YouTube for more updates!
Disclaimer: All the information found on this website should be used for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace proper medical advice. Always consult a qualified health care provider before embarking on a health or supplement plan.
I definitely consume more of an inflammatory diet…it will definitely need some changing although it is hard! Hoping to have my eczema get better when I incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods.
I have a lot of eczema that needs to be improved…I’ll try adding more anti-inflammatory foods to my diet! Can u share what other makeup or skin products help?
steeven caton says
hi, I am extremely thankful that I had found this website for me and my little sister. I am 17, and my younger sister is 14. we have had eczema since we were babies and its been the worst! for our entire lives and it is today, me and my sister have severe eczema head to toe, literally, and we have tried every doctor, every cream possible. even allergenic tests! this elimination diet is something my entire family is doing now and I cant wait to share me and my little sisters healed skin with you. one thing I have learned over my entire life, is that most Dermatologists may be “certified” in skin care but all of them always say “I’ve never seen it this bad before”, so they give us strong/steroid type creams and pills that help but, once you are off of them, your body becomes dependable on them and you break out even more. I know this will be a tough process to endure but I know it is for the best and I cant wait to see the day when I see my beautiful young sister not suffer and not feel insecure about her skin and have a normal teenage life.
thank you so much for your story, and ill keep you posted on our progress!:)
Hi Steeven! Thanks SO much for stopping by my blog and I’m so glad that my posts were able to be of some sort of help and encourage you! Also sorry to hear that you and your sister’s skin isn’t doing too well – hopefully it can improve after this! I saw your email and will try to reply it soon 🙂
You and I are going through the same thing! I’m 18 and my sister is 15 and we both have eczema- although my sister’s isn’t as severe as mine we still suffer from it occasionally. I just wanted to drop by and say that you’re not the only one going through it as a teen. I had it throughout my whole life and right now I’m at the bottom with it being the worst I could ever been. 🙂 Stay strong and don’t let this stop you from achieving your dreams and goals in life!
Thank you Abby for creating this blog. You have brought light and courage into our lives. We have a 10 yr old daughter that has been struggling with eczema for the last 8 months or so and were losing patience before my wife Martha found your blog to the point where we were considering to bring our daughter to one of those medical centers that supposedly treat eczema (children’s hospital in Boston, a jewish center in Denver and I believe another center in Chicago). Your blog reminded us about a very important step when treating eczema, which is changing the diet, which we were supposed to do a while ago, but we lost control of it. We are now going to work on a diet plan for our daughter. Thank you again and God Bless you.
I went on a journey to heal my eczema at the end of December and I had came across your site as well as a few others. I love your spirit and your dedication especially in regards to God. I feel like he speaks to me and tells me what’s the next step. I started out with juicing and did that straight for two weeks. It was really bad but by the third week it started to clear and get smooth. I began adding solids back like salmon and quinoa and continued to do well. I added kombucha which made me react briefly but then made my skin much smoother and clearer. I decided I was ready to start going back to the gym so I thought I could add some eggs. I also added organic lean ground turkey as well as chicken. Needless to say it started to come back around the time I ate the eggs. I immediately stopped but it still hasn’t gone away, it seems to be spreading but not getting worse if that makes sense. I’m frustrated because I don’t want to fail. I’ve been battling this for so long to the point where I almost had both of my legs amputated from infection. I know in my heart that I can get back to where I was even though I still wasn’t fully healed, but I get scared that I will never be able to get back to having glowing skin. I talk it over with God everyday but I’m human an d I get worried. I’m terrified no one will ever live me because my skin isn’t what it once was and I’m afraid to have to explain to someone what I’m going through. My birthday was on Tuesday and I tried to put on makeup but my face became puffy and swollen and I just walked around and cried for about 2 mins. Now it has tiny little bumps. All these different diets say to eat this and not that and I do get confused. I trust God, I’m just really tired of bring sick. P.s the eczema is mostly on my hands , inner elbow, and lower legs. I know this is long but you have such am amazing spirit and I just needed to vent and get some guidance
Thank you so much for your kind words! I hope your skin heals – and I know you’re on the right track to do so! 🙂
I was wondering what you meant by “taking tumeric.” Did you ingest it in a pill form? Mixing the powder in a drink? Also, I’ve been seeing some girls who had eczema taking 2 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil to help clear their eczema, what are your thoughts on that?
Hi Darlene, by “taking tumeric” you can either ingest it in a pill or mix the powder in a drink, or even cook with it! It’s hard to absorb tumeric on its own, so you may want to add the powder to fats (e.g. coconut oil) if you want to absorb it better. Sometimes pills are more powerful, though. With regards to extra virgin olive oil, it’s generally ok to take it but coconut oil is usually better, as it also contains lauric acid, which is also antimicrobial!
Would applying e.v.o.o. to your skin be okay too? or would you still recommend coconut oil? or rather just stick to the actual moisturizers you recommended in this post Best Body Moisturizers. Also, from that post, which would you recommend for really dry eczema, as i don’t have the money to buy and try every single one =/. I would like to email you for further information and help with my diet because i’m allergic to so many foods and it’s not recommended to eat fish all day and i’m allergic to chicken (which is weird cuz it didn’t show up on my skin prick test, but when i eat it, i flare up) so i’m trying to find a different protein source that will be filling besides salads and veggies (don’t get me wrong, i can eat veggies all day, i love them!) but at 25 years of age i’m only at 83lbs and i would really like to gain weight but still stick to the elimination diet. Thanks! Sorry this post is all over the place!
Applying e.v.o.o. is okay, but I find that it clogs the pores. I found that my skin was a lot less dry when I stopped applying it. Coconut oil is great but not moisturizing enough for some people. I love castor oil – that one is my favourite for super dry skin! Regarding the diet – yes you can email me. I would be careful about doing the elimination diet since you’re only 83lbs! You should definitely make sure you consume enough calories to give you the energy that you need 🙂
You say Dairy is inflammatory. What about RAW dairy. I had terrible digestive syptoms but when I switched to Raw milk I improved dramatically. Do you have experience with Raw dairy?
Yes raw dairy can definitely help, depending on the person (since it contains the beneficial bacteria)!
Hi Abby, your post was truly amazing. I have this eczema since I was born till today (26 years of suffering) and somehow I ended up at this site. I’m starting to have my diet like you suggest, haven’t reach the first week..(still long way) 🙂 but i believe this kind of diet will cure me soon enough.
The things that I want to ask you is, what kind medication or what should i do when in the diet process my skin get flare up? any kind of moisturizer or soap somehow did not work very well when its flaring up. usually in this kind of condition, i will go to the doctor, and yes, i will end up using some oral steroid, or cream that maybe also some topical steroid things. do you have any recommended action to cure or at least to cooling down the flare?
Thanks so much for your fantastic blog! I was wondering, how long does it take to flare after you’ve eaten a food that your body reacts badly too? Is it fairly instantaneous or does it take a few hours? It’s so hard to figure what causes my flares sometimes!
It can be anytime from mins to hours, or even up to 3 days. Sometimes it can even take a week for a reaction to show! This is why a food journal can come really handy.
I am so happy I stumbled upon your site, no matter how late I may be. I am 10mths into steriod withdrawal and am desperate for fast healing. I suffer from eczema since 9 years old and used steriods for 25 years. Your story is very inspirational and I hope to achieve your results in the next 2 mths.
However, I do have difficulties doing a v strict elimination diet. And would like to seek your help in clarifying some doubts please ??
Should I b overly concern that I can’t eliminate the below?
1) gluten-free, preservative-free soy sauce
2) asian soy milk, home made
3) pork because I have low blood pressure and its the pork bone broth for healing the gut
4) traditional chinese herbs
5) rice noodles
or can I just do the best circumstances allow ans not b overwhelmed with it? I can still see remarkable results ya????
Hoping for ur reply, thank you in advance
Hi SueAnne, every person is different – it depends how your body responds to the food. But, of course, the stricter you are, the more it allows your immune system to heal, and usually this also means it will also help you heal quicker as well.
Hi Abby, thanks for replying. Understand now it really depends on damage from the foods I do not eliminate….. hmmm……
so its the sped of healing affected…….
Keep writing! !!
Thanks for such good information. This is SO helpful and all in one place. I have battled eczema in my adult life, not at all as a child or teenager. My main question is about the anti-inflammatory list protein options. I am vegetarian but also workout in the gym so my main source of protein is eggs. I use free range natural fed eggs. I eat well in general and my staples are: oats, apples, bananas, carrots, avocado (when I can get them), cucumber, green peppers, spinach, kale, black beans, black eyed peas, chick peas, hummus, brown rice, peanut butter, peanuts almonds, non MSG natural salad dressings, honey. Spices: turmeric, garlic, salt pepper, cumin, curry spices, cinnamon, etc.. Once in a while: squash, eggplant, seaweed but its salty, etc. flax when I remember.
I feel like I eat well in general, no processed foods / no MSG, no fried foods – RARELY when I eat fried food it is a gluten free pancake with only egg banana and cinnamon fried in olive oil. I get an ice cream or cookie once in a while but I exercise and eat well in general so I feel like I can have an occasional snack. I cut out most gluten but once in a while have a sandwich eating out at a bakery, or bake a loaf of wheat / buckwheat bread.
Question #1 – What is a good protein for vegetarians that doesn’t trigger eczema if they workout (muscle building) and don’t eat meat or fish?
Question #2: Do you think I should be stricter on my diet with the gluten, eggs and occasional processed snack food? i can’t imagine living without eggs When I train I actually often crave chicken and just adjust more eggs, beans/ brown rice since I am vegetarian. Meat /fish is not an option for me.
Question 3: when you say avoid sugar does that include honey? I do eat honey.
Ginger makes the body hot and makes me itch. Also my functional medicine doctor and ayurvedic doctor said to avoid it.
Karen Fischer of Eczema Diet writes: “We have had hundreds of reports from eczema sufferers who say avocado worsens their eczema.
While avocado is a healthy addition to your diet when you don’t have eczema, avocado is one of the richest sources of amines and itch-promoting salicylates.”
Also eat the rainbow? Ehm no.
No grapes. No spinach. No broccoli.
Please, google and read the itchy dozen.
Abby i think your video’s are great. sometimes I just don’t agree because of different information I’ve read.
Abby Lai says
Hi thanks so much for sharing this. Yes everyone’s body responds so differently to each food, so it’s completely okay that you have different thoughts about it! This is why different diets exist – so that we can find out what’s best for our bodies 🙂 one diet may not work the same for each person. Karen Fischer also recommends eating bananas, but I have found that not many of my patients can tolerate it. Hope you have found a great diet that works for you! 🙂