If you have eczema, you want to do all you can to try to stop the irritation and itching it can cause. So you may be eager to try eczema diets promoted in books or on the Internet.
How helpful are these eczema diets? Research about diet and eczema is conflicting.
This article will review what experts recommend when it comes to diet and eczema.
Diet and Eczema in Children
"Some young children have eczema caused by allergic reactions to certain foods," says Donald V. Belsito.
MD. Belsito is professor of clinical dermatology at Columbia University. "But after age 3 or 4, eczema caused by foods is very rare. Food can cause hives and other skin reactions, but not eczema."
If you are concerned that a food allergy is playing a role in your child’s eczema, talk with your doctor. Although you can have your child checked for food allergies, the results are often not reliable.
"Positive results [to food allergy tests] are very common, even if your child doesn’t have an allergy," says Lawrence Eichenfield, MD, chief of Pediatric Dermatology at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. "So while it’s sometimes helpful for children with severe eczema, I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone."
Diet and Eczema in Adults
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." Be sure to talk to your health care provider before eliminating any food from your diet, and before going on a special diet.
Cambio cautions that it is not always easy to figure out what’s making eczema flare. "Because we are exposed to many potential triggers in a given day, it is often hard to tell. Sometimes, it may seem to the patient that certain foods are making eczema symptoms worse. But then we find that something else, like stress, is actually the culprit."
Research Into Foods That May Help Eczema
Although most foods and supplements have not shown promise in eczema research, research is ongoing.
For example, some studies suggest that probiotics may help relieve the symptoms of eczema in children. Probiotics are a type of live bacteria. They can be found in foods like yogurt and in some supplements. Most of these studies were done in other countries and tested different kinds of probiotics. So it is not clear what type of probiotics are most useful. "More research in this area is surely needed before we can make a definite recommendation," says Cambio.
Another food being studied as a benefit for eczema is tea. Although there is no definitive evidence, a few studies suggest that drinking black, green, or oolong tea may help relieve eczema symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil, which help fight inflammation, are also being studied for eczema.
What Should a Person With Eczema Do?
Choose a healthy diet. Scientific research has established without doubt that a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains is good for your overall health. "A healthy diet and lifestyle are good recommendations for anyone with a chronic condition," says Belsito.