Healing Eczema with Food
Eczema is a very common skin condition that causes the skin to become inflamed, irritated, dry and itchy. The most common treatment is through topical steroid creams. This may provide temporary relief but does not address the root cause of eczema and flare-ups will continue to worsen as time goes on.
Foods to avoid
Because eczema is an inflammatory based condition, foods that promote inflammation should be avoided.
Dairy, particularly from cow’s milk, contains large protein molecules that are difficult to digest. This is the first food group that should be eliminated for eczema as it is the most common culprit. Some people are able to reintroduce sheep and goat milk in small amounts after an elimination period but if your eczema is not clearing up dairy should be avoided completely.
There are lots of choices available now for non-dairy milk and milk products that make dairy-free living easy. Almond, cashew and coconut milks make great replacements.
Besides being pro-inflammatory, a high sugar diet contributes to dysbiosis of the gut microbiome. Dysbiosis is a catch-all term for an alteration of the gut microbiome. The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, collectively referred to as the “gut microbiome”. These microorganisms are essential for good health because they take care of the immune system, synthesize vitamins and minerals, convert inactive hormones to active hormones and keep your digestive system healthy. With a high sugar diet, a yeast organism called Candida Albicans can overgrow and cause eczema and digestive symptoms like gas and bloating.
Up to 70% of people with eczema have Candida overgrowth.
While alternative sweeteners to refined sugar like honey and maple syrup are a better choice, it is still important to not go overboard with them.
Food dyes, additives or preservatives like BHA and BHT are found in processed foods like candy, margarine and junk food. Not only are they pro-inflammatory, they are also found to be carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting.
Check out the Environmental Working Groups list of Dirty Dozen Additives to avoid.
Fried foods (along with processed oils like soy, corn, cottonseed and canola) are not good for anyone’s health, not just eczema sufferers. It is important to consume healthy fats though. Keep reading to find out which fats you should be eating.
Alongside dairy, gluten is a common allergen that is found to contribute to eczema symptoms. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, barley and spelt. Focus instead on non-glutinous grains like quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth. Oats are technically gluten-free but there is a lot of cross contamination in the processing process so be sure to look for oats that are labelled “gluten-free”.
Other Common Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities are problematic with eczema because they can result in a condition called “leaky gut”. When the integrity of the intestinal barrier is compromised from repeated exposure to food allergens or sensitivities, it becomes permeable meaning undigested food particles and proteins can pass through and leak into the blood stream. This provokes the immune system which considers these undigested food particles and proteins to be foreign invaders. So, every time we eat this same food the immune system is going to attack it. This results in a chronic inflammation cycle which can show up as eczema symptoms.
The most common food sensitivities are dairy, gluten, corn, soy and eggs. It is possible to have a sensitivity to any food that you consume often (I’m seeing more and more almond sensitivities!). To find out if you have food sensitivities, you can get a blood test through our clinic or do an elimination diet.
Bonus: Body Products
Most common store-bought soaps contain ingredients that aggravate eczema. Watch out for these ingredients:
- Sodium Laurel Sulfate
- Coconut Diethanolamide
- Dextran sodium sulfate
Okay but what do I eat?
They key here besides an unprocessed, whole foods diet that avoids the foods mentioned above is a good dose of healthy fat every day. Omega 3 fats will help reduce inflammation: be sure to include hemp seed, flax seed, walnuts and their oils. Be careful with your cooking oils- avocado and coconut oils withstand higher heats so are your best choices for cooking. Never cook with flax or hemp oil. Nuts, seeds and avocado are a great way to get a dose of healthy fat along with fiber.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that keep your gut microbiome robust and healthy. Foods to incorporate are sauerkraut, kimchi and pickles. Be sure to look for these foods in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and check that they do not contain vinegar. Real fermented foods are fermented with salt, only. While dairy yoghurt is off the menu, there are lots of non-dairy yoghurts available. Be sure to choose one that does not have added sugar.
Kombucha has gained popularity for being a probiotic-rich beverage. While this is true, it is not the best choice for eczema sufferers as it is fermented with yeast and sugar: not a great combination is yeast overgrowth is present.
Fiber is important for many aspects of good health but it is especially important in keeping the gut microbiome healthy. Simply put: bacteria eat fiber and having a variety of fiber in the diet keeps them healthy and robust. Research shows that the gut microbiome starts to improve just 72 hours after eating more fiber in your diet. Where do we get fiber? Non-glutinous grains like millet, quinoa and oats, nuts and seeds, vegetables and fruit. The more variety, the better.
Jessica Mosiuk, Registered Holistic Nutritionist.
Please call the clinic 604-929-5772 to book your appointment with Jessica!