The inflammatory skin condition eczema typically follows periods of flare-ups and remission. The exact cause remains unknown, but the Mayo Clinic.com reports a malfunctioning immune response that mistakenly attacks skin tissue likely triggers this problem. Many people with eczema also have allergies of some kind. While no definitive guidelines exist on foods to eliminate without question, the actions of certain foods could make eczema worse, and experimenting with their elimination can help you identify personal triggers if any.
Inflammation worsens any skin condition. As for the autoimmune component of eczema, inflammation increases in the presence of conditions resulting from improper immune response; inflammation also worsens these conditions, creating a vicious cycle. Alternative medicine expert Dr. Andrew Weil and the University of Maryland Medical Center recommend cutting back on foods known to trigger inflammation. When eaten in excess, omega-6 fatty acids prompt the body to produce chemicals that promote inflammation. The richest sources include sunflower oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, sesame oil and mixed vegetable oils. Most commercially prepared snack foods use these oils. When cooking, choose oils such as canola and olive instead. Saturated fats found in meat and other animal foods also contribute to inflammation. Weil also recommends cutting back on refined carbohydrates and sugar, both of which react with proteins in the body to promote inflammation.
Common Food Allergens
Because of the links between eczema and allergies, eating the foods most likely to cause allergic reactions or sensitivities could worsen your eczema. The most common culprits include dairy, soy, citrus, peanuts, wheat and possibly all grains that contain gluten, fish, eggs, corn and tomatoes. If you suspect you have food allergies, see a doctor for testing. You can also experiment with an elimination diet that involves cutting out a particular food for a certain time frame and adding it back in to see if it makes a difference in your condition. For optimal results, consult with a health care professional knowledgeable about executing this type of diet.
Foods High In Histamine
Many foods contain the chemical histamine. While usually not problematic you can suffer symptoms similar to an allergic reaction if you lack a sufficient store of the enzyme necessary for its breakdown in the body. Termed "histamine intolerance," the British Allergy Foundation reports this condition has been linked to a number of health problems including eczema. You cannot completely cut out histamine due to its presence in numerous foods, but cutting back or eliminating the richest sources as well as foods known to release histamine into the bloodstream will help. Potentially problematic foods include fermented foods, alcohol, chocolate, citrus fruits, spinach, eggplants, tomatoes, fish, chicken, processed meats -- especially smoked or cured -- Brewer's yeast, alcohol, uncooked egg whites, pineapple and strawberries.
The most important foods you can include in a diet to combat eczema will have an anti-inflammatory effect. Examples include antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables in a wide array of colours and foods rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids such as flax seed, hemp seed and walnuts. Fatty, oily fish represent a good source as well, but you might need to limit consumption if you suspect histamine intolerance. Choose whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal and whole wheat, unless you discover sensitivity to gluten as well as plant proteins such as nuts, seeds and beans.