Have eczema? You need to read these eczema diet tips to tame the inflammation and manage your flare-ups. Reducing inflammation in topic dermatitis starts on the inside!
Inflammation and eczema
Inflammation is your body’s natural immune response to injuries, pathogens, fungi or infections. It’s a good thing!
However, in the case of eczema and other inflammatory driven skin conditions, your immune system may be overreacting to certain particles and substances or no invaders at all that causes inflammatory flare-ups. Inflammation already existing in the body may also be maintaining your skin condition and driving the redness and itching that’s so common in eczema.
Reducing inflammation is just one of the key treatment aims in helping manage and resolve eczema. But rather than just focusing on inflammation externally and relying on steroids and topical ointments, it’s imperative you dive into reducing inflammation internally. This may be your missing link in overcoming eczema.
6 Eczema diet tips to tame your inflammation
There are many dietary habits that can drive inflammation in the body and lead to eczema symptoms.
Fried foods, processed sugary treats, refined carbohydrates, soft drinks are just some of the common foods that can increase inflammation. There are also foods that are considered “healthy” that could be problematic for you such as high salicylate-containing foods, those high in amines, eggs, dairy or gluten.
As understanding the types of inflammation and the inflammatory pathways is complex, consulting with a holistic health team can prove incredibly beneficial in identifying what foods, lifestyle or environmental aspects that may be contributing to your eczema presentation.
That said, there are some dietary habits you can adopt now to help reduce your inflammation. Here are our top 6.
1. Keep a detailed food diary
Food and symptom diaries can seem like a lot of work, but they are incredibly helpful in understanding the triggers for your eczema flare-ups.
When we talk to clients about food diaries, we encourage them to be as specific as possible.
What was the portion size, what is the brand you used, how was it cooked? What symptoms did you notice, what time, where were you when your skin flared? These are all important aspects of tracking your inflammation triggers.
2. Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet
Anti-inflammatory diets like the Mediterranean Diet are packed full of whole foods that can calm your immune system and nourish your skin. There is an emphasis on high plant intake, lots of colour, healthy fats and quality protein.
Think leafy greens, oily fish, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. The Anti-inflammatory encourages seasonal eating to maximise nutrient and antioxidant uptake. It avoids inflammatory foods particularly sugar and refined carbohydrates.
3. Increase your essential fatty acid intake
Essential fatty acids are a must for reducing inflammation and support skin barrier function and integrity in eczema.
Consume healthy fats daily through foods such as sardines, salmon, trout, avocado, olive oil, hemp seeds, flax seeds and walnuts. By consuming fatty fish regularly, you’ll also be increasing your vitamin D – another great skin nutrient.
Supplementing with a quality omega-3 DHA / EPA supplement may be beneficial. Be careful of off-the-shelf products such as fish oils as they are often inferior quality and oxidised, which can do more damage than good!
4. Get your zinc in
Most eczema sufferers are low in zinc, especially those with severe symptoms. Zinc plays an important role in immune system function. The nutrient is also vital in the growth and repair of your cells and improving your skin barrier health.
Oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, cashews and chickpeas are some of the highest containing zinc-rich foods. Consume these daily and discuss with your health team about assessing your zinc levels if you have not already done so.
5. Incorporate probiotic and prebiotic foods
The health of your digestive system is closely linked to your skin health as the majority of your immune system is located in the gut.
We know gut health is more than a probiotic supplement. Eating probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods daily is a helpful addition to optimising your gut microbiome.
Probiotic-rich foods to incorporate are fermented vegetables, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles and natural fermented yoghurts. Be sure that these are refrigerated and don’t contain vinegar or added sugar.
Be careful of foods such as Kombuca which is fermented with sugar and yeast as yeast overgrowth can be a problem in eczema patients.
Prebiotic-rich foods are fibres that feed your gut bacteria. Garlic, onions, asparagus, apples, green bananas, berries and barley are just some of the many prebiotics you can consume on a daily basis.
6. Assess your protein consumption
Protein is essential for skin cell production. Often we see patients eating protein but from inferior sources such as processed meats.
Focus on consuming enough quality protein fish, organic poultry, grass-fed meat or organic fermented soy products such as tofu or tempeh. Lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, nuts and seeds are also great options for those eating a plant-based diet.
As a guide, using your palm can help with portions. Ideally women will consume one palm-sized portion of protein with each meal. Men should be consuming two. If you’re consuming snacks in between, adding protein can also help you consume your recommended portion.