If you suffer from eczema, you are not alone. An estimated 30 million people in the U.S. suffer from eczema. Another name for eczema is atopic dermatitis and it is characterized by red, painful, itchy skin patches. Conventional medicine claims the cause of eczema is unknown, yet in the integrative and functional arena we are finding that many times it is related to an underlying immune system malfunction or imbalance.
Eczema and the Immune System
One of the best ways to tackle eczema can be from the inside-out. Many clients are shocked to learn that their skin conditions are actually related to an internal imbalance in their immune system or digestive system (gut). I hear many people say that they have tried everything and seen numerous doctors to fix their eczema and itchy skin, but to no avail. Many doctors will attempt to fix or “band-aid” the symptoms by providing a topical or oral medication to temporarily stop the painful itching, redness, and flaking of the skin. The problem with this approach is it does not address the root cause as to why you skin is responding this way in the first place.
The way you eat can effect your immune system as 70% of your immune cells reside in your gut. There are certain foods that have been known to make eczema and skin conditions worse.
Foods That Can Trigger Itching in Eczema
Below are some foods that can potentially be fueling your itching and uncomfortable. sleepless nights dealing with eczema. Some of these foods are considered healthy, but as the saying goes “one man’s food is another man’s poison.” I firmly believe in bio-individuality and the fact that we all have different body chemistry’s and one food that may be healthy to one person can be detrimental to another.
Dairy products are known to be one of the most common eczema triggers. Dairy can cause excess inflammation and damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and therefore has a direct effect on the immune system.
The flip side of this is that many people who suffer from eczema are actually calcium deficient and may have depended on dairy for that, but there are other ways to get your calcium. People successfully take supplemental calcium paired with magnesium, which can even help promote relaxation and improve sleep.
Tomatoes are rich in salicylates which are known as an eczema trigger. Salicylate is a natural chemical made by many plants, especially those in the nightshades category. This natural chemical is often said to make the itching and redness of eczema worse.
I am sorry to share the bad news on this one, but grapes, raisins, and yes wine are known as a “triple threat” when it comes to eczema because they contain three itch-promoting chemicals: salicylates, amines, and natural MSG. They are also considered a highly-acidic fruit that can be irritating to the gut. This also includes children’s juice blends and boxes that contain grape juice.
Oranges are a strongly acidifying fruit, and a source of two itchy chemicals: salicylates and amines The acid from oranges and citrus fruits can also be irritating and cause inflammation in some people which can impact their eczema symptoms.
While avocado might be touted as one of the best health foods out there, it is also one of the richest sources of amines and itch-inducing salicylates. Many eczema sufferers say that avocado makes their itching and symptoms worse. It might be to your benefit to skip the avocado trend for now, if you suffer from eczema.
Broccoli, spinach, and other leafy greens like kale can actually worsen eczema symptoms because they are rich sources of salicylates, amines and natural MSG, all of which can contribute to worsened itching and eczema flare-ups.
This doesn’t mean you should skip out on green veggies all together, some greens are lower in salicylates that you could incorporate instead, including green beans, iceberg lettuce and celery.
Deli meats such as ham, salami, sausages and bacon contain nitrates and other chemical preservatives and fillers which are irritants to eczema and can worsen systemic inflammation. You can look for nitrate-free versions of these meats, but some people report better management of symptoms by just eliminating them all together.
According to a book called The Eczema Diet, more than 70% of eczema sufferers are allergic to eggs based on 'skin prick' and patch testing. For a long time, the media and nutrition experts have advised to only eat the “egg-whites” due to cholesterol, but this way of thinking is actually counter-productive to those with immune-conditions like eczema. We also now know that there is a lot more to maintaining cholesterol other than just lowering your consumption of it.
The proteins found in egg whites can act as carrier molecules for bacterial proteins to cross the gut barrier, which can then stimulate the immune system. Egg whites can transfer gluten proteins and other irritants to get into the blood stream. Once these undigested proteins cross the intestinal barrier, it can trigger an autoimmune type response, heightened inflammation and therefore worsen the symptoms of eczema.
Heal Your Eczema From Within
If you are really ready to heal and conquer your eczema once and for all, it might be worth looking into some of the above dietary triggers. Keep in mind though, everyone is different and what works for one person may not be beneficial in your case, and it can take some trial and error. Listed above are some of the most common eczema triggers based on their chemistry and feedback from those who suffer from the condition.
If you are seeking further advice on how you can change your lifestyle to improve your eczema symptoms and heal from within, contact me for a complimentary consultation.
Sources: Fischer, K., 2014, The Eczema Diet, Second edition, Exisle Publishing, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180306131759.htm, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/atopic-dermatitis-eczema/symptoms-causes/syc-20353273, https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/