Table of Contents
- 1 How Diet Affects Eczema
- 2 Allergies are Misunderstood
- 3 Finding Out your Allergies
- 4 My Eczema Diet Plan
- 5 Intermediate Fasting
- 6 When your skin gets better
How Diet Affects Eczema
Diet. Now I can not say about what works for other people, only what works for me and how I figured it out. It took many, many years of trial and error so I’ll compress it all down to a single post. My suggestions are based on my personal experience. Please consult with a medical professional about your specific situation prior to eliminating food from your diet.
Although some adults report having worse eczema symptoms after eating certain foods, no studies have been able to establish a link.
“There is no science linking certain foods with flare-ups. But it can be an individual thing,” says Andrea Cambio MD, FAAD. Cambio is the medical director of Cambio Dermatology in southwest Florida. “For example, if a patient reports eating chocolate makes her eczema worse, then I would advise her to cut down or eliminate chocolate from her diet.”
There are two eczema types, Intrinsic eczema and extrinsic eczema. Intrinsic eczema has a propensity towards diet, whilst extrinsic eczema obviously is more related to the environment such as air. But in my experience people tend to have both but lean to one side of the spectrum.
In the beginning, I was getting eczema so badly I couldn’t tell what food was affecting me or what, but over time it became clear that some foods have a tendency to trigger eczema more than others.
Allergies are Misunderstood
Allergies are misunderstood. First of all there are many types of allergies, mostly think allergies is something that happens immediately and is visible. It doesn’t work like that. Allergies can creep up over time if you keep taking a certain food over a period of time and not be apparent and suddenly come out. That is why people with eczema get “flares”. Secondly allergies all lie within a spectrum – you can very mildly allergic to something, to something being fatal. Just because you suspect you are mildly allergic to something doesn’t mean you are not allergic to it, it could just be that it is so minor it’s not really linking the two together.
If you suspect it, it’s likely there is some truth to it, or the foods that usually surround the suspect.
Some allergies are not really allergies, but rather foods that trigger certain reactions in your body that promotes inflammation. We will get into this later. It is surprising how little doctors explain or understand this.[wl_navigator]
Finding Out your Allergies
When experiencing allergic reactions, people tend to rule out contact allergies and start with cutting out groups of food like diary. Each week they add another group back in. So I would suggest they cut what I have below and add them per week. IT IS IMPORTANT to wait a week after adding the food back in, because the allergy often takes a while to show up. A week is usually enough; and if they can, they should try to eat the “trigger” food in large amounts every day to see if it is going to trigger a reaction. Obviously if it is a dangerous level of known allergies, avoid those foods.
My Eczema Diet Plan
So here is my diet for eczema via trial and error. I assume everyone is different, but I think my diet would be a good starting point and reference for what a smart diet looks like. A dumb one being one that reduces you to eating cabbage everyday.
– Eat what I want on the weekends. Everything is good in doses. Going on a eternal good food ban will drive you nuts. I have tried it, it doesn’t work and won’t work for most people… unless you are absolutely allergic to certain foods. An example for me would be oils used in Chinese. I just recommend eating whatever you want every now and then. There is a reason why these guys who try to survive on protein bars never last long before they give in to normal food. Having a boring food menu will destroy you. It is bad enough I have to sacrifice my weekdays.
You will be surprised at the big one: Gluten
Things I always avoid during week days –
Gluten – Okay you might think that it is weird, since it’s associated with celiacs disease. I thought that too until I read The Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmutter. [Link to Book] It convinced me with stunning evidence that most things, including eczema, is caused by general inflammation, and that gluten is likely to cause inflammation in everyone but just in different spectrums. Gluten is not a natural thing humans are supposed to eat. Humans don’t absorb wheat well at all. The inability to digest causes inflammation. Gluten is found in foods that contain wheat, barley and rye.
In one study, Finnish researchers looked at candidates for eczema treatment who had suspected wheat allergies, found that four of the six adult eczema patients studied successfully treated their eczema by eliminating grains from their diets.
Even IF that wasn’t the case consider this – all gluten foods are high in sugar; and sugar is DEFINITELY the cause of many maladies including inflammation. Simply cutting gluten will cut a HUGE array of sugary and unhealthy tasty foods out of your diet. That and gluten is inherently more addictive than almost anything else on the planet, even sugar instead. Everyone knows that feeling when you crave something with gluten.
Gluten is in EVERYTHING. So avoiding it all is impossible, but limiting it is good. For example I wouldn’t care much about breadcrumbed chicken, or foods that can be contaminated with gluten in factories (unless you are an extreme celiac). Even then it is STILL IN EVERYTHING. Pizzas, noodles, breads, cakes, biscuits, muffins and pasta are all normally gluten based. Cutting these out alone will be the hardest thing you will ever do; but trust me, after it works you probably won’t go back. You also feel a hell lot better over the work week as well as you don’t get horrible sugar coma withdrawals. Without gluten it is much harder to overdose on sugar.
Of course it is also one of the most unavoidable and tastiest things, so I eat gluten over the weekends. Cakes and biscuits etc. Otherwise the inability to eat a hamburger will eventually drive me crazy. If you are looking for a recovery from really bad eczema. I would even recommend cutting gluten out of the weekends.
I wish I can tell you the diet gets better, but it doesn’t…
Things I try/mostly to avoid in week days, but not an absolute rule:
Beef and Shellfish – Prawns and shellfish should be on anyone’s radar, and beef. Again these things don’t tend to happen immediately; but if you have a reaction and you don’t stop eating them they will inevitably stack up and create chronic flares that seems unrelated to beef and shellfish but actually are. I did this by eating steak for a week, and my eczema got worst. It’s not a killer but everything adds up. Some people are very allergic to just these two alone and cutting these two out will make a huge difference.
Oily or spicy food, there is a really simple reason behind this – oils travel to your skin. If your digestion is bad you are likely to get acne. These things are itchy anyways, and they basically promote you to scratch them which creates the whole itch cycle. And because you have eczema, it is worst than normal. Most oils are okay though. I just stay away from deep fried or very very oily food. For example potato chips are probably okay; but fried tempura is not a good idea. I have no idea why but deep frying does something with the oils that make it a lot worst. It could just be because the oil is hot. I don’t know.
Dairy – I am okay with cheese, and some amounts of milk. But lots and lots of milk will trigger eczema. I think this is something to do with how well you digest milk which is different depending on the person. But most people find Dairy to be allergy inducing, so experiment with this.
Asian soup – Again I have no idea why I am okay with tomato soup, but I have found Chinese or Japanese soups like miso to be allergy inducing, again it’s probably because of the general complexity with asian foods as well as the tendency to add flavour enhancers.
Alcohol – This is a difficult one. Alcohol CERTAINLY is likely to make your eczema worse. In fact it will make anyones skins worst by inhibiting the liver’s function and a whole bunch of other things. Also, flushing blood around your body when they are full of histamines isn’t a great idea.
However, alcohol is a lot of fun, and an essential part of social life for many people. Drinking alcohol in moderation is generally recommended by medical professionals. But, alcohol is actually pretty bad for eczema; and if you drink consistently it’s likely to impair the rest of the diet. If you have to drink then I suggest to limit to 1 on weekdays, at most 3 drinks on weekends. What I do is I drink diet coke, then 1 drink, then diet coke or redbull.
Things I avoid all the time (weekends included):
Deep fried foods – Often contain bad oil. There is a lot of oil; which if you are bad at digesting turns into acne anyways. Some food containing oil are good for you, in moderation.
Beetroot – I am just allergic to this, and have no idea why. I just wanted to put this here because it just shows you vegetables are not invincible. I knew a person who was allergic to strawberries for real…
Chinese Food – Very funny since this is one of my favourite cuisines. Unfortunately, through years of experiments and even up to recent experiences, Chinese food definitely has more chances of triggering something bad. In fact it’s often caused my worst flare ups, and is the only food capable of making me go brain fog for weeks. I think it is something to do with either the complexity of how chinese food is made (e.g. lots of sauces, soups etc, frying in high temperatures) or just basically what a lot of restaurants add like flavour enhancing oils and sometimes super doses of MSG.
Nothing wrong with MSG – MSG is over criticized. It is actually a safe salt it is usually actually everything else you add you don’t know about such as meat tenderisers and other spices and ingredients.
Overly processed foods – Okay there is nothing inherently bad about processed foods, in fact I quite enjoy it. I love microwave meals. You should generally read the label, basically the more longer the ingredients list – it is pretty logical – the more likely there is something you are going to be allergic to. Now if you have eczema the chances are you are allergic to A FEW THINGs, so look at this ingredient list for instant noodles for example:
Here is an example:
First the noodles are deep fried which is a bad thing itself. And then this whole list of about 50 different ingredients, most of which we know are processed but have very idea. The more the ingredients the more likely you are going to just be allergic to something. So watch out for highly synthetic foods.
This could be a whole article, but generally it’s just if there is nothing in your stomach you are going to have less going on in your body. So if you are inflammed all the time, fasting is good. Intermediate fasting is when you don’t eat for 16 hours. Usually it’s best to do this after dinner, so by the time you wake up you have already done half of it.
However if you do this all the time, you will end up in ketosis instead. For some people this process itself can lead to flares. But you don’t enter full ketosis after doing intermediate fasting and not eating carbohydrates for a few days. So doing it every now and then or every week day (if you have the willpower) is fine!
Before engaging in any fast or diet alteration, you should consult with a medical professional.
When your skin gets better
Finally the better your skin becomes, the better the barrier of your skin is. And the more inflammation it can actually endure. Ironically having good skin allows you to eat most of things above and not get a reaction provided you don’t do it too much. Eventually you will get to a point where eating a steak or whatever you can’t eat every now and then isn’t a big deal, because your skin would not be as itchy as it would be if there were already open wounds in the barrier.
Unfortunately, what I found over the years is that I am allergic to a lot of foods. But the almost complete vanishing of my eczema is worth it. Admittedly you will have to test the diet out, I found this diet above works quite well.
Have more suggestions? Feel free to comment below.
NOTE: The above article was written from a patient’s perspective. Be sure to consult your medical professional before eliminating any food from your diet, and before going on a special diet.