Eczema, commonly known as a form of dermatitis, is a skin disorder that affects the epidermis layer of the skin. Some of the notable symptoms of eczema include skin reddening, inflammation, irritation, crusting, blistering, crusting, cracking, and bleeding. Based on the manifested signs and symptoms, there are several types of eczema, out of which atopic eczema is the most common. As per statistic records, about 10 - 25 percent of Americans suffer from atopic eczema at some stages of their life.
The exact cause of eczema is not known to medical science. However, it is believed that hereditary factors coupled with oversensitive immune system are responsible for causing the condition. Though this skin ailment is caused due to several factors, medical researchers opine that food allergies often exacerbate the symptoms of eczema. Giving importance to this aspect, let's discuss in brief about the diet for eczema patients, which types of food cause eczema, and the food items to be excluded from the eczema diet.
Planning the Eczema Diet
There is no exact eczema diet as such, and correct eating habits may vary depending upon the sensitivity of the individual towards certain foods. For example, dairy products may trigger eczema symptoms in some persons, while they are safe for other people. Thus, eczema diets vary from one person to another. Also, some people exhibit immediate food allergy, i.e., they manifest skin symptoms within two hours of consuming a specific food, while others show allergy after several hours. Thus, for planning the eczema diet, the first important step is to identify the type of food items that cause eczema flare-ups.
Foods Causing Eczema
As per the responses towards different food items, certain food items are believed to trigger eczema condition in patients. The most common causes are casein (protein present in milk) and gluten (protein present in wheat). However, as mentioned before, the type of allergenic food for one patient may differ significantly from that of other patients. So, every person afflicted with eczema needs to adopt the trial method for identifying sensitive foods.
Following are some of the food items that may worsen eczema disease.
- Milk and dairy products like yogurt, and even chocolate that contains cow's milk
- Wheat based products and cereals like bread, bagels, crackers, donuts, pancakes, barley, oats, and rye, etc.
- Nuts such as peanuts, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and pistachios
- Seafood like shellfish, salmon, tuna, lobster, mussels, calms, crabs, etc.
- Acidic fruits like tomatoes, oranges, lemons, strawberries, plums, blueberries, and prunes
- Other foods items that worsen eczema are eggs and soy products
- Food colorings, preservatives, and additives such as tartrazine, sodium benzoate, and glutamate
Foods to Avoid
In order to determine the food items to be avoided with eczema, follow an elimination diet plan. Under such programs, you should exclude the foods that you think worsen eczema symptoms. You can recall the food items consumed prior to the onset of eczema symptoms. Properly plan and follow the elimination diet for a few week. It is best to maintain a diary and note down the type of foods consumed and the timings. That way, monitoring the symptoms and planning the diet will become easier.
If eczema condition improves during the elimination diet period, then you are allergic to the specific food items. Again, for confirmation about the food items to avoid for eczema treatment, you can reintroduce them to check for recurrence of symptoms. But, make sure that you include one suspected food at a time. If the skin remains health unaffected (no exacerbation of symptoms) even after including the specific foods, then they are safe to eat.
Besides adopting the eczema diet free of allergenic foods, you can consider adding zinc rich foods, flaxseed oil, and evening primrose oil for effective management of the skin condition. While zinc helps maintain healthy skin, the latter two supplements provide essential fats. But, one word of caution is to take them in safe doses. As with any nutritional supplement, using in excess amounts causes adverse reactions. So, the safest approach to take them under the doctor's supervision.
Drinking lots of water and healthy fruit juices will also help in combating eczema. Adequate water and fluid intake keep the skin hydrated, thereby minimizing the symptoms of eczema. Lastly, moisturize the skin daily and do mild cleansing to improve the symptoms. In any of the cases, the prime cause of eczema is weak functioning of the immune system. Hence, the most effective way to minimize the risk of developing eczema is promoting the immune system.