Eczema is a chronic skin condition that not only produces a rash, but can be painful and crushing to deal with. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which is related to an underlying immune reaction that affects the skin. People with eczema can experience flare-ups at any time, and although sometimes there’s no reason for a flare-up, other times they happen due to eating the wrong foods, coming into contact with an irritant or experiencing elevated stress. Here are 10 of the worst foods for eczema sufferers so you can live better day to day.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes itchiness, dry skin, rashes and scaly patches. It’s common in young children, but can occur at any age. Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema can range from mild to severe and a “flare-up” can last from days to weeks. Eczema can sometimes be confused with other skin conditions, such as psoriasis, so it’s important to get a diagnosis from a dermatologist or other qualified healthcare professional. They can also help you develop a symptom management plan and a plan to prevent flare-ups in the future.
What Causes Eczema?
The cause of eczema isn’t completely understood, although it’s thought to be triggered by an overactive immune system. Eczema tends to flare when your skin is exposed to external irritants, which cause your immune system to overreact. Common eczema triggers include scented products, cigarette smoke, synthetic fabrics, chemicals in laundry detergent, temperature changes, animal dander and food allergies. Some people with eczema also don’t make enough of a protein called filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is responsible for helping your skin stay moisturized and healthy.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Eczema?
Symptoms of eczema can show up anywhere on the skin, however you’ll most likely notice them on your hands, neck, elbow, knees, ankles, feet, face, lips and in and around your ears. Here are the most common symptoms of eczema:
- Dry, cracked skin
- Skin rash (if you have dark skin, this could be purple, brown or grey. If you have light skin, it could look pink, red or purple)
- Bumps on your skin
- Thick, leathery patches of skin
- Flaky, scaly, or crusty skin
- Swelling of the skin
Is There a Link Between Diet and Eczema?
What you eat may not directly cause eczema, but it’s likely that it can trigger a flare-up of symptoms. Diet plays a role in our skin’s overall health, and people have different triggers, so identifying which foods work for you and which foods don’t is key. If you’re allergic or sensitive to certain foods, they’re likely playing a role in your eczema flares, so it may be beneficial to follow a diet tailored to your allergies.
10 Worst Foods for Eczema
Many people who suffer from eczema are allergic to eggs. It’s a common trigger in babies and young children, and although they may outgrow the allergy, careful consumption is still recommended. Keep in mind that you don’t just have to avoid eggs on their own, but eggs are found in foods like bread and other baked goods.
Dairy is another very common trigger of eczema. Dairy products can cause damage to the lining of the intestinal tract, which can lead to a leaky gut. It’s important to note that calcium deficiency can also lead to eczema. Be sure to take a calcium supplement and eat non-dairy foods that are high in calcium, like chia seeds, lentils and leafy greens, to make sure you’re getting enough of the nutrient.
Allergies to soy have also been linked to eczema. Soy sauce in particular is rich in amines and MSG, which can trigger eczema and other types of skin inflammation. Consuming soy sauce and fermented soy beans can cause a worsening of eczema symptoms.
Peanuts are a super common allergen in general, so it’s likely they could be contributing to your eczema flare up, especially if you’ve had issues with peanuts before. Avoid peanuts, peanut butter and anything else with peanuts in it as much as possible.
5. Deli meats
Deli meats like sausages, ham and bacon are high in nitrates, flavour enhancers and saturated fats, which can also worsen itchiness in eczema sufferers. Stick to quality meats like skinless chicken, lean lamb and beef instead.
If you think gluten may be exacerbating your eczema, you could be right. Gluten is found in plenty of different foods from bread, pasta and bagels, to soups, sauces and even candy. If you’ve noticed gluten is a trigger for you, start to look for gluten-free alternatives.
7. Fast food
Junk food and fast food cause a lot of inflammation in the body and can make you more prone to eczema, especially as a child. Fill your diet with healthy, whole foods as much as possible to prevent flare-ups.
8. Dried fruits
Dried fruits contain chemicals including salicylates, amines, MSG and sulfites. These chemicals are why dried fruit like mangos, apricots and dates are so flavourful, but will make you itch like crazy.
Tomatoes are often found to be irritants for those with eczema, and this includes tomato products like ketchup and tomato sauce. These packaged products are also often filled with salicylates, amines and natural MSG, which all trigger eczema.
10. Citrus fruits (especially oranges)
Citrus fruits contain an allergen called Balsam of Peru, which can be a trigger for some eczema sufferers. Oranges in particular are also a rich source of two itchy chemicals: salicylates and amines.
Eczema is no fun to deal with. Now that you know some of the worst foods for eczema, try tailoring your diet and see how your flare-ups improve.
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