The old saying “you are what you eat” is typically used to teach children healthy dietary choices, but as time and medical technology advance, we have learned just how accurate that saying really is.
What you put into your body is what it uses for fuel, so it makes sense that if you’re eating something your body doesn’t like, you’ll see symptoms of it. This is true even for conditions once thought to be unrelated to diet–like eczema. An inflammatory condition of the skin, no one knows the exact cause of eczema, but over the years medical experts have learned a thing or two about this condition.
SEE ALSO: A natural guide to clear skin
“The rash of eczema is different for each person,” explains the National Eczema Association. “It may even look different or affect different parts of your body from time to time. It can be mild, moderate, or severe. Generally, people with eczema suffer from dry, sensitive skin. Eczema is also known for its intense itch. The itch may be so bad that you scratch your skin until it bleeds, which can make your rash even worse, leading to even more inflammation and itching. This is called the itch-scratch cycle.”
Actually an umbrella term, “eczema” can be used to refer to any of the following conditions: atopic dermatitis, nummular eczema, dyshidrotic eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, and allergic contact dermatitis, to name a few. These conditions are now thought to be linked to allergic reactions within the body, some of those caused by diet.
Studies of children and young people with atopic eczema found that one-third to nearly two-thirds also had a food allergy. In most cases, eczema symptoms worsened within 2-24 hours of eating a trigger food, and some patients experienced gastrointestinal upset as well.
What foods should you avoid if you have eczema?
As a general rule, the following foods can cause eczema to worsen:
- Tree nuts
Food allergies can vary from person to person, however, so understanding which foods make your eczema worse can be a personal journey. WebMD indicates people who wish to identify eczema trigger foods in their diet should consider the following options:
Elimination diets: cutting a suspected food trigger out for 10 to 14 days. Watch to see if it makes a difference.
Food challenges: After you’ve taken food out of your diet, add a small amount back in to see if it causes symptoms.
Skin testing: Performed in a doctor’s office, this test uses food extracts to test for sensitivity. If the area tested swells up, it’s a sign of an allergic reaction. This test can be unreliable, however, especially in people with sensitive skin.
Blood tests: RAST — radioallergosorbent test — can check for special cells in the blood that are signs of specific food allergies.
SEE ALSO: Why it may be beneficial to have eczema
Managing eczema can be a challenge. Research suggests hormones and stress can impact eczema, and likewise, foods that affect hormones and stress can be problematic. Don’t try to solve you eczema issues alone; make sure you involve your doctor to ensure you find relief as soon as possible.