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A Guide to Managing Eczema with Diet: Best Foods and Gut Health Tips

Learn how diet can help reduce eczema flare-ups and support clear skin.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin disease that occurs because of immune system malfunction and disruption of the skin barrier. The National Eczema Association reports that over 31 million Americans are affected by eczema. If you or your loved one is one of them, then you certainly want to discover a solution to the itching and scaling that come with it.

Finding and treating the root causes of eczema is essential for long-term success in managing the condition.

While your healthcare professional may prescribe any medications or topical creams for it, many people are always in search of home remedies and alternative therapies for it. As about half of eczema sufferers claim, they take supplementary or alternative medicine to alleviate their symptoms.

In their search for relief, more and more people are looking into the best foods for treating eczema. This is what we will be talking about in our article. How diet can play a vital role in managing eczema and improving skin health.

Understanding The Connection Between Gut Health and Eczema

Although eczema’s skin inflammation can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions, there is mounting evidence that an imbalance in the gut and skin microbiome contributes significantly to the disease’s source. That is why many specialists think that our digestive system could also be involved, and the makeup of our gut microbiota appears to be of paramount importance.

According to the evidence, adult eczema and gut health are directly related. The “gut-skin axis” is the technical term for this link. And people suffering from dermatitis usually have an imbalance between this gut-axis link. As per evidence, they have less diverse gut flora, with fewer beneficial bacteria and higher levels of harmful bacteria. In particular, eczema sufferers’ gut microbiomes are characterized by an excess of Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium difficile, and Escherichia coli and an absence of Bifidobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Bacteroides.

image showing gut-skin axis connection
Image Source: https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/22/8/4228

So, how does it influence the skin? To start, the composition of our gut microbiome plays a role in controlling how our immune system operates. Eczema symptoms are often brought on by inflammation, which is the result of a hyperactive immune reaction. Dysbiosis, an imbalance of gut bacteria, can cause an overreaction of the immune system, which in turn can worsen skin issues.

Secondly, this gut dysbiosis can make the gut more permeable. This can cause some foreign particles from undigested food particles to leak into the bloodstream, referred to as leaky gut. In addition, food allergies are common among people with eczema and particular foods can trigger an exacerbation of skin problems. According to a study from 2022, around 30% of children with eczema have food allergies. What this means is that our risk of acquiring eczema as children may be influenced by the food we eat when we are children.

Are There Any Diets for Eczema?

There is some data linking eczema to diet, which raises the possibility that modifying one’s diet might alleviate eczema symptoms by lowering systemic inflammation. But as per recent 2023 research, even if changing one’s diet helps some people, the research is still not clear. However, many people have found relief in their symptoms with changes in the diet, especially if it has a connection with food allergies.

No single diet can manage eczema. 

Here are a few recommendations for certain diets that are not yet proven according to research, but many people have been following them for their symptom relief.

Anti-inflammatory Diet

Reducing systemic inflammation is the goal of an anti-inflammatory diet, which may be helpful for eczema patients. In his diet, a lot of focus is given to foods that are high in antioxidants (like fruits and veggies), probiotics (like yogurt and kefir), and flavonoids (like green tea and berries). And cutting back on foods that cause inflammation, like processed foods, sugar, and dairy, is suggested. It can also help the skin and immune system feel better.

Yet the studies on this diet are limited, one 2023 study mentions that following an anti-inflammatory diet was linked to a lower incidence of asthma, sinusitis, and eczema in the children who took part in the research.

In terms of well-known methods, the Mediterranean diet may be the most advantageous for individuals seeking to reduce inflammation. Here is a recommendation shared in research,

Screenshot 2024 06 20 025421

Dyshidrotic Diet

A dyshidrotic diet is great for people who suffer from the dyshidrotic type of eczema. People with dyshidrotic eczema have small blisters on their hands and feet. Flare-ups can be caused by allergens, such as food allergens, and exposure to nickel and cobalt can increase the chances of flare-ups. These metals are commonly found in,

  • Whole grains, legumes, nuts/seeds
  • Meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables
  • Cocoa, chocolate, tea, and coffee

So, people on this dyshidrotic diet can restrict their consumption of certain metal-containing foods in an effort to lessen the frequency and severity of their flare-ups. (1)

Elimination Diet

If you suffer from eczema but have no idea what causes it, an elimination diet can be helpful. A recent analysis of the literature indicated that the elimination diet could help alleviate eczema symptoms for certain individuals.

To try an elimination diet, you would first cut out foods that might be a cause for your symptoms and then add them back in while keeping an eye on your symptoms.

A 2017 study found that specific foods such as ultra-processed meals, dairy, gluten, and white flour products contribute to eczema flare-ups. However, participants felt better after eating more organic produce. To begin with, some common allergens include,

  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Gluten
  • Wheat
  • Tomatoes
  • Tree nuts
  • Soy

But trying these diets for children isn’t recommended. Besides all this, the research on the effectiveness of the diet for the treatment of eczema is still in its infancy.

Also, remember that certain diets react differently to different people and one thing that works for others may not work for you. As a result, making dietary modifications should be approached with care and under the supervision of a medical expert.

Best Foods For Eczema

While we all know that there is no quick way to cure eczema, all that can be done is to reduce the symptoms. There are certain foods that are considered and researched for eczema, even if you don’t follow a specific diet.

In general, these are a few eczema-friendly foods that are

1. Quercetin

Quercetin is a plant-based flavonoid and an excellent antioxidant. It is responsible for the vibrant colors of many flowers, fruits, and vegetables. In addition to being an effective antioxidant, quercetin has the potential to reduce inflammation in the body. Some test-tube studies have found that adding quercetin-based food to your diet can actually help in the reduction of flare-ups of eczema and the reduction in symptoms.

Quercetin-rich foods are,

  • Apples, berries, dark cherries, and red grapes
  • Broccoli, onions
  • Citrus fruits
  • Green tea

Besides eating more of these foods, you might also consider consulting your physician about taking a quercetin supplement.

2. Omega 3 Fatty acids

According to the research, dietary fatty acids may aid in eczema improvement. The

Fatty fish is an excellent way to get the omega-3 fatty acids that are known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, salmon, and tuna. If fish isn’t your thing, an omega-3 supplement is another option. As per research published in 2016, the symptoms of eczema were significantly alleviated after 12 weeks of using fish oil supplements.

Including fatty fish or omega-3 nutrients in your diet can help you control your eczema because they naturally reduce inflammation and make the skin condition feel better.

3. Probiotics

The use of probiotics as a dietary supplement to alleviate eczema symptoms is gaining popularity. Reasons for this interest include the possibility that probiotics might help the gut microbiota restore a healthy balance between beneficial and harmful microbes. Evidence suggests that dietary or supplemental probiotics have the ability to alleviate eczema symptoms by positively modifying the gut microbiota. In fact, probiotic use after birth has been associated with a decreased risk of eczema in children.

Adding these probiotic bacteria is a simple and effective way to boost the gut microbiota. Yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are just a few examples of fermented foods that are rich in good bacteria, like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. These are the most common probiotics with a positive effect on the gut microbiota. According to researchers, babies whose mothers consumed more yoghurt and fermented foods during pregnancy are less likely to develop eczema.

Studies in both adults and children demonstrated the positive impact of probiotics on eczema symptoms. According to 2018 research, after only three months of taking probiotic supplements, children with eczema had significant changes and needed less steroid therapy. Another human study mentions that probiotic usage causes an increase in skin smoothness and moisture and a reduction in flare-ups.  A recent 2023 study even found certain probiotic strains helped decrease steroid use in children with eczema within 6 weeks.

When it comes to eczema, certain probiotic strains work better than others. Among these bacteria, Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus rhamnosus have demonstrated encouraging outcomes. (1) Another strain that promotes healthy skin is Lactobacillus acidophilus. By calming inflammation and restoring harmony to the gut flora, these strains alleviate eczema symptoms.

There are numerous probiotic formulations available, and it may require some trial and error to identify the optimal one or combination. So consulting with a physician when employing probiotics to treat eczema is a must. Your doctor can advise you on the best probiotic strains to use for your eczema, taking into account your unique symptoms and conditions. Additionally, it is recommended that probiotic supplements be consumed with food to prevent the development of potential adverse effects.

4.  Vitamin D 

In addition to probiotics, vitamin D is another natural option that shows promise for soothing eczema flare-ups. A 2022 study by the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology found that individuals with less severe eczema had higher levels of Vitamin D, and supplementation of this vitamin can lead to symptom improvement. In accordance with the Nutrients journal’s complementary research, it may be sufficient to administer daily doses of 1600 IU to obtain this effect.

There aren’t many foods that contain vitamin D naturally, which is why supplements are usually recommended. Many adult studies mentioned that taking vitamin D supplements for two months has a drastic reduction in their symptoms. For more severe cases of eczema, it may be helpful to combine vitamin D with other skin-supportive minerals, such as vitamin E, or to take it in conjunction with drugs for the condition.

5. Vitamin E

Since vitamin E is an effective antioxidant, it shields your cells from harmful substances and may even help lower inflammation. In this way, vitamin E may be helpful as it can suppress an overreaction of the immune system.

Your body makes immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to fight off a food allergen when you eat it. This immune reaction causes inflammation and is thought to play a part in making eczema flare-ups happen. Researchers have found that giving people with eczema vitamin E lowers the amount of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies they have. This may help to ease their symptoms and stop flare-ups.

Here is a table outlining some good and bad foods for managing eczema:

Good Foods for Eczema Bad Foods for Eczema
Fatty Fish (salmon, sardines, tuna) – Rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids Dairy – Can trigger inflammation and worsen eczema symptoms
Fruits and Vegetables – Provide antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber to reduce inflammation Gluten and Wheat – Can cause gut inflammation and worsen eczema
Probiotic-rich foods (yogurt, kefir) – Help balance gut microbiome Processed foods – High in additives, preservatives, and refined carbs that exacerbate inflammation
Quercetin-containing foods (apples, berries, onions) – Have anti-inflammatory properties Citrus Fruits – Can be irritating for some eczema patients
Green Tea – Contains anti-inflammatory compounds Nuts and Seeds – High in nickel and cobalt, which can trigger flare-ups in some
Chocolate and Cocoa – Can be high in nickel and cobalt

Remember, your body may respond differently to certain foods than others; if this is the case with your eczema, you may need to make alterations to your diet. You may find the best diet to control your eczema by consulting with your doctor.

If you have any allergies to any of the above-mentioned foods, it is best to avoid them and consult a nutritionist for a plan that is best for your health.

Diet is an important part of a comprehensive strategy for managing eczema. And picking a healthy, balanced diet is your best bet for keeping symptoms under control. You can help your skin stay healthy and lessen the frequency of eczema flare-ups by eating anti-inflammatory foods, taking probiotics, and taking care of your gut.

Like always, never make major dietary changes without first talking to your doctor, especially if you have any preexisting health concerns. But if you are still curious about other effective eczema treatments, check out our previous article, where we explored various methods to soothe and manage eczema symptoms!

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Dr Aimen

Being a Doctor by profession, Aimen is passionate about helping people get better health in their lives. Aimen enjoys her research on Prime With Time subjects and strives to create better awareness of the problems and changes related to women's health.

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