Many people have read my personal story of how I overcame very severe eczema, and usually when people read my story, I receive countless emails from people who ask me to describe what foods I ate and eliminated to help me become eczema free. I thought it would be simpler to finally make a post and a video on this 🙂
Please note that the elimination diet has helped me to overcome “severe” eczema, but it has not not completely cured all of the eczema forever. This diet has definitely helped to helped to manage the symptoms and to heal my body immensely. However, I still need to do my part in managing my body to keep it healthy and clean.
I should mention that diet can help to heal your eczema naturally. But of course, you must also combine it with other lifestyle factors that can affect your eczema as well, such as:
- Reducing stress
- Improving sleep quality/quantity
- Eating anti-inflammatory foods
- Implementing good digestion tips
- Improving your gut health
- Taking proper supplements to adequately nourish/repair your body and skin cells.
For example, if the root cause of your eczema stems from something like stress, you’ll need to address your stress and other lifestyle factors hindering your eczema healing. The last 5-10% of my eczema was the most difficult to heal. Although I was exercising and eating an almost “perfect” diet, I had an incredibly stressful job, and everything I tried to do to help my eczema get better would not work.
Once I quit my job, the last 5-10% of my eczema naturally healed itself so quickly, and my sleep also improved 100-times as well!
Did you know that?…
Eczema in anyone is usually a sign that a person’s gut health is impaired or that there are nutrient deficiencies going on in the body. In fact, it’s a clear sign that something in your body is imbalanced. The elimination diet helps to allow the digestive system and immune system to rest and heal itself, which is why it can be very effective in helping to bring eczema relief.
Healing Crisis and Eczema
One crucial thing to note is that most people who do the elimination diet will also encounter something called the “HEALING CRISIS” (read my blog post here that explains more about it), which is when the skin gets worse before it gets better because the body is purging toxins that have been hidden in the body for years. This is very common and can last anywhere from a few weeks to months.
Some clients tell me they get very scared because their eczema flares up significantly. Others get frustrated that they haven’t noticed a significant difference and want to give up after 1-2 months of doing the diet.
Keep in mind that just as it’s taken a lifetime for the eczema and toxins to build up, healing doesn’t take place overnight and it can take up to a few months to heal. Keep persevering and you will see results!
The Elimination Diet is a strict diet that people go on to reduce inflammation and help balance the body, skin, and eczema. A list of suspected or potentially problematic foods are removed for a short period of time (usually a few weeks), and once that period of time is over, the suspected foods are then reintroduced back into the gut, one at a time. You can skip down to see a list of foods allowed on the Elimination Diet.
The diet can seem very strict and overwhelming at first – but your palette will change and you will adjust to it. Some people who do it experience the healing crisis very severely (as mentioned before), and others don’t follow it strict enough and don’t notice a difference. The goal is to monitor for any reactions or symptoms and to also allow your digestive system, gut, and immune system to rest and repair itself. To understand more, read my post on why a healthy gut will lead to improved eczema.
After all, food is the best medicine.
You may or may not need to do the elimination diet depending on how severe your eczema currently is. Please make sure you find a certified practitioner who can walk with you through this.
What was my personal experience like doing the Elimination Diet?
A lot of people who have read my story usually email me and tell me they were really inspired by my story and want to try the elimination diet after. To be honest, I was really skeptical before trying the Elimination Diet. I had tried so many things over the decade (or more) of having eczema that I was really discouraged – especially when I heard that food could help.
Being a food lover, I also did not want to give up on food that I loved. My friend also originally asked me if I wanted to do the diet with her (to help her eczema get better as well) – and I had said no, because I didn’t believe that diet could change anything. After a couple of weeks of disbelief, my eczema had gotten so bad; every time I moved, it was unbearably painful, and my body was so messed up that every time I ate the wrong foods, I would feel a tingling sensation in my fingers or body. I know – it was very strange!
I decided that I had nothing to lose, so I went ahead to do it – cold turkey. You see, my eczema was so bad, that I was so determined to do whatever it took to help my eczema get better. I wasn’t even sure if what I was doing was working, because it just kept getting worse and worse. I went through a very serious healing crisis, and was really scared that I wouldn’t be able to make it. I was flustered, many people were very worried about me, and I even had to cancel a trip to Uganda in fear that my numerous open wounds would catch an infection there. To this day, it is the best decision I ever made.
I can now eat anything without having eczema flareups and without feeling tingling in my body. The reason is because I removed offending foods that were aggravating my digestive system, and I filled my body with proper nourishing foods to allow my body to heal and repair itself.
I never knew how to eat properly, I didn’t realize that the foods that I was eating and being marketed to were junk. I ate sugar everyday, and never treated my body well. I had an unhealthy addiction and obsession to food. Nowadays – I feel like it was a blessing in disguise. I have a new-found passion for healthy food, and it turned my life for the good. After this, I became a holistic nutritionist to help others. If you are really determined to try this diet as well to help your eczema, I would encourage you to do it (alongside a certified practitioner).
So, what foods can I eat and not eat on the Elimination Diet?
The first step in any nutrition 101 is to remove anything dead (i.e. any junk foods or processed foods). These foods have no life force, and therefore have no “life” to give to you. Instead, we want to eat foods that are alive, natural, and unprocessed – as they contain living nutrients to help feed your cells and nourish your skin so it can repair itself.
For example, instead of pizza and chips (that create inflammation & use up more nutrients and resources in your body to digest), reach for something whole and unprocessed – such as kale, an apple, or almonds. These foods are alive and will feed your body the nutrients it needs to repair the eczema and calm the inflammation in your body.
Below is the full list (or click here for a larger version of the list). Note: Every site you go on may have a slightly different version of the elimination diet. Mine has been adapted from Dr. Junger’s work, which I highly respect and have heard a lot of great reviews from people and friends who have followed him (you can also read and buy his book here).
Disclaimer: This is information that is not meant to replace medical advice from your certified practitioner – please make sure to work with someone certified to give you appropriate medical advice.
Foods to Include Foods to Exclude
|Fruits & Vegetables||Unsweetened fresh or frozen whole fruits, fresh squeezed fruit juices, sea vegetables (seaweeds), avocados, olives, and raw, steamed, sautéed, juiced, or roasted vegetables||Packaged juices, corn, creamed vegetables, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers)|
|Gluten Free Grains & Starch||Brown, red, black and wild rice, millet, amaranth, teff, tapioca, buckwheat, quinoa||White rice, wheat, corn, barley, spelt, kamut, rye, triticale|
|Vegetable Protein||Split peas, lentils, legumes, bee pollen, spirulina, and blue-green algae||Soybean products (soy sauce, soybean oil in processed foods, tofu, soy milk, soy yogurt)|
|Nuts and seeds||Walnuts, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, brazil nut, nut and seed butters (such as almond and tahini)||Peanuts, peanut butter|
|Meat and fish||Fresh/water-packed cold-water fish (trout, salmon, halibut, tuna, mackerel, sardines, pike, kippers), wild game (rabbit, pheasant, bison, venison, elk, etc.), lamb, duck, organic chicken and turkey||Pork (bacon), beef, veal, sausage, cold cuts, canned meats, frankfurters (hot dogs), shellfish, any raw meats and fish|
|Dairy products and milk substitutes||Hemp, rice, and nut milks (such as almond, hazelnut, walnut, etc.) and coconut milk, coconut oil/butter||Dairy and eggs: including milk, cheese, cottage cheese, cream, yogurt, butter, ice cream, non- dairy creamers, ghee|
|Fats & Oils||Cold-pressed olive, coconut, flax, sesame, almond, sunflower, pumpkin, walnut, coconut||Butter, margarine, shortening, processed oils, canola oil, salad dressings, mayonnaise, spreads|
|Drinks||Filtered water, green tea, herbal teas, seltzer or mineral water, coconut water||Alcohol, coffee, caffeinated beverages, soda pop, soft drinks, fruit juice (unless fresh pressed)|
|Spices and condiments||Vinegar, all spices, all herbs, sea salt, black pepper, carob, raw cacao (dairy & sugar free), stone-ground mustard, miso, coconut liquid aminos, wheat-free tamari, unsweetened whole fruit jam||Regular chocolate (with dairy and sugar), ketchup, relish, chutney, traditional soy sauce, barbecue sauce, teriyaki, breath mints|
|Sweeteners||Stevia, coconut nectar, whole/fresh fruit, dried fruit (in moderation), raw honey, maple syrup||Refined sugar, white/brown sugars, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, Splenda®, Equal®, Sweet’N Low®, juice concentrate, agave nectar, brown rice syrup|
Why are some natural foods that look healthy banned from this diet?
Most of the foods that are not allowed are either potentially allergenic, can create sensitivities, are inflammatory, or hinder the liver from its detoxifying functions. I won’t go through all of them (as it would fill up an entire page) – but foods like red meats (like pork and beef) tend to be very inflammatory and are usually pumped with antibiotics, so they are not allowed on this list. In addition, corn and soy can create food sensitivities and are 95% GMO (in the US), meaning that they’re injected or sprayed with an herbicide called “roundup” to make the stomach of bugs explode. We want to stay away from these as this may affect the human gut as well.
Coffee and alcohol are also not allowed (unless it is an herbal tea), as it can hinder the detoxifying function of the liver.
How do you do the Elimination Diet?
Instead of going into the diet cold turkey (like I did – wasn’t a very wise move), start to ease into the diet by picking a day to start the elimination diet. Choose a few foods and start to eliminate a few each week, until you’re fully following the list of foods to eliminate.
- In week 1, you can eliminate soy and corn.
- In week 2, you can eliminate gluten and dairy.
- In week 3, you can eliminate sugary foods and processed meats (i.e. sausages, beef, pork).
Keep eliminating more and more every week until you’re fully following the Elimination Diet List.
How long do you do this for?
Many practitioners recommend doing this for 2-4 weeks. I personally feel that if you have moderate to severe eczema, this is too short a time for your body to notice significant difference and truly be able to rest and repair itself.
One skin cycle takes about 1 month to fully renew itself, so I recommend that if you’re doing the Elimination Diet to calm your eczema down, you should do it for at least 4-6 weeks (or longer), to ensure a full skin cycle has renewed itself (and also to help your inflammation calm down so that your skin can heal itself).
It may take longer to notice a difference if your eczema is more severe.
I personally did this diet for 2+ months, and I recommend that if you’re still having a flare up while you’re on the Elimination Diet, then you should continue to do it until your inflammation calms down, as going back to eating potential offending foods may slow down your healing of your gut and immune system.
Keep a Food Journal
Make sure that you keep a food journal to record everything you’re eating at each meal. Try to write down the major ingredients you eat – e.g. “stew” will not be as helpful as “stew made with beef, potatoes, carrots, rosemary and garlic.”
Use a food journal like the one below (which you can click to enlarge and print), or use a food app like MyFitnessPal or even Google Docs to record your levels and notice any patterns of flare ups or itchiness.
Preparation is KEY
The key is to being successful with this diet is preparation. People who spend a week in advance preparing for this (and look up recipes for the elimination diet) generally do much better than people who just jump into it.
For example, cutting up vegetables, making a ready-made meat, quinoa, and seasonings ahead of time can increase compliance when you get cravings and have few options nearby.
Also, be sure to clean out your kitchen! Get rid of the foods that are not part of your elimination phase. It’s tricky when you know a food is hiding in your house and you’re tempted to reach for it.
Q&A: Can I just eliminate a few foods and not eliminate everything?
Yes….but you might not notice a difference. Depending on how severe your eczema is, your body may or may not respond (and be able to heal if only a few foods are removed). Generally, the more severe your eczema is, the stricter your diet should be to help your body heal. I know of people who have tried to eliminate only a few food groups, and for some people, it is not as effective as eliminating all the offending foods at once.
Another instance is when people only remove one food group each month. For example, if you only remove sugar for one month, and the next month you remove dairy and start eating sugar again, you could potentially be aggravating your immune and digestive system if you’re sensitive to both food groups.
As mentioned before, the Elimination Diet alone will help, but often needs to be done in combination with other things (such as improving gut health) and other lifestyle factor changes.
Best of luck! 🙂
Have you tried the elimination diet? How did it work for you?
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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.