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.
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.