Eczema and Diet: The Top 8 Food Triggers| Updated: May 07, 2019
Watch, smile, and be inspired! Then continue reading to learn about the eczema and diet connection, including the top 8 foods that trigger an itchy outbreak. Avoidance of these foods has a very good chance of greatly improving eczema and diet-related problems in your home. This strategy provides relief while you work long-term to improve the overall gut environment and immunity. Hopefully, these foods can be successfully reintroduced at a later time.
The Eczema and Diet Connection
While there are many different triggers for eczema, food is a big one. Sadly, the eczema and diet connection is often overlooked for two reasons:
- Many people and most dermatologists simply don’t believe food has anything to do with eczema and diet changes are unnecessary.
- If food allergy tests come back negative, most people assume food isn’t connected to their itchy, dry skin.
The reality is that you or your child may not be allergic to any specific food, but can still be sensitive to certain foods and I know from firsthand experience how some food choices can really wreak havoc on the body and trigger very severe eczema flare ups. As a personal example, my son initially tested negative for most food allergies, yet when we eliminated certain key foods from his diet – many from the list below – his skin improved by 95%!
Now, keep in mind that with eczema, nothing is ever easy, so if you determine certain foods do trigger your eczema but your skin is still inflamed, it’s likely food isn’t the only trigger. But, identifying and eliminating the foods from your diet that cause your skin to flare will certainly provide you with welcome relief.
The best way to determine if foods are triggering your eczema is by eliminating each of the most common eczema food triggers for one month to see how your skin reacts. Then add each food back into your diet one at a time. Keep a diary and watch for reactions, knowing they can occur up to four days later!
Top 8 Eczema Food Triggers
Keep in mind an elimination diet is always best to do while under a health practitioner’s supervision. This is especially important when small children are involved.
While many of these foods are also common food allergens, please remember that we are only discussing possible eczema triggers. They are not to be confused with actual allergies, which can be life-threatening.
If you have ever experienced any instant reactions (within 20 minutes) after eating one of these foods, it’s best to speak with a doctor to rule out potentially dangerous food allergies. This list of foods to avoid with eczema applies for everyone and for some, may include foods well beyond this short list.
Dairy includes milk, cheese, yogurt, and whey from all grazing animals, although you may find you can tolerate goat or sheep’s milk products better than cow’s milk-derived products. And, while raw milk is easier to digest and therefore healthier than pasteurized milk on many levels (and raw milk even clears up eczema in some people due to the beneficial probiotics and enzymes), unpasteurized, raw milk may still trigger eczema for some individuals if it’s actually the casein protein you’re sensitive to.
So, it’s best to avoid commercial dairy altogether and use raw dairy only if you’ve tried it and know it is not an eczema trigger for you. Otherwise, stick with nutritious milk alternatives.
Wheat, barley, rye, einkorn, farro, Kamut, and spelt are gluten based grains. Three common places where hidden gluten can be found are in spices, oats, and lentils, so make sure to buy only certified gluten-free products in these cases. Some gluten-free whole grain substitutes you should try are quinoa, millet, amaranth, teff, buckwheat, and sorghum. These make excellent gluten-free flours as well. Our favorite pancakes are made of teff and they are delicious! This recipe details how to make gluten-free flour yourself for use at home.
Watch out also for products containing seitan. This is a hip-sounding word for vital wheat gluten. Stay away!
Chicken eggs are a big eczema trigger for many people. In some cases quail, goose, and duck eggs can be tolerated, but it’s best to avoid all eggs at first. Although eggs seem like a staple for baking, thankfully products like chia and flaxseed make wonderful whole food based substitutes. This video shows you how to make egg substitutes very easily using flax seeds.
Tofu, soy milk, miso, tempeh, natto, and edamame beans are some examples of products containing soy. But beware, hidden soy can be found in so many processed foods on the shelf. Watch out for ingredients like vegetable oil, vegetable protein, vitamin E and so much more. Hidden soy is another reason to stick to a simple, whole foods based diet and to limit your processed foods as much as possible. Also note that while eggs from soy-fed chickens can be a problem, many can tolerate eggs from pastured chickens on a soy free diet.
Peanut oil and peanuts are usually pretty easy to spot these days. Many manufacturers are now proudly and clearly labeling when their food is peanut free. Many Asian foods contain peanuts, so be extra cautious when dining out.
#6 Tree Nuts
Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pine nuts, pistachios, and brazil nuts. Although some nuts may be well tolerated, others may not be, so it’s best to avoid all tree nuts at first and reintroduce one at a time carefully noting reactions. When you do begin to reintroduce, be sure to always soak raw nuts first!
#7 Nightshade Vegetables
The nightshades family of vegetables includes all varieties of peppers and their spices (like paprika, chili), eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco, and even super-food goji berries. Don’t forget that ketchup and pasta sauce, favorite foods for many children, can definitely trigger eczema!
This is a surprising list of foods for many people. This is particularly true since it contains healthful vegetables. However, nightshades contain low-level toxins that are known to cause inflammation for some people. Those with auto-immune disorders are especially at risk.
#8 Acidic Foods
Foods like citrus, pineapple, and tomatoes are highly acidic and commonly cause eczema to flare. While you may not be sensitive to them, if your skin is already inflamed, these foods can make things much worse very quickly.
Eczema is Complex!
Keep in mind that eczema can be complex. While you may see results in your eczema with diet changes alone, sometimes it’s not enough.
You may need to repair your gut through gut healing protocols like the GAPS Diet or Autoimmune Paleo and you should certainly look for environmental, seasonal and other potential allergens that could be triggering you or your child’s eczema. This article may be helpful for additional information: Tips for Eczema Relief NOW.
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Jennifer Roberge is mother of two, blogger and founder of the Eczema Company. She hopes to inspire parents raising a child who is suffering from eczema, allergies or asthma, as well as adults who are personally suffering, to heal from within via holistic means.