Eczema can be a tough condition to navigate. On top of being uncomfortable, it can sometimes seem as though flare-ups happen out of nowhere.
Or do they? More and more evidence indicates that there may be a connection between your diet and eczema symptoms, partly because of your gut. And you know that when your gut is involved, fiber can be, too. Here’s the quick-and-dirty on what is eczema is, and how fiber and other foods may be able to help with flare-ups.
What is eczema?
Eczema, a.k.a. atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory skin condition. Symptoms include episodes of itching, skin irritation, blisters, rashes, and patches of leathery skin. In short, it’s not exactly fun.
While eating a certain diet may not necessarily prevent you from having eczema, it can reduce its intensity or frequency.
There’s no cure for eczema, but there are plenty of over-the-counter medications that can help. Your doctor may also suggest changes to your diet in order to help prevent flare-ups. While the verdict is out on whether certain foods cause eczema, it’s generally believed that foods that cause inflammation can worsen the skin condition in people who have it. Additionally, food allergies are a comorbidity (related health condition) of eczema that can possibly cause flare-ups. Studies have shown that up to 30 percent of people with eczema also have a food allergy.
That said, while eating a certain diet may not necessarily prevent you from having eczema, it can reduce its intensity or frequency.
What foods should I avoid if I have eczema?
Of course, if you’re allergic to a food that tends to cause eczema flare-ups, you should do your best to avoid it. Common food allergies in people with eczema include:
Keeping away from foods that cause inflammation may also help with eczema. Sugar, for example, can increase insulin levels and thus inflammation, so consider cutting sweets from your diet.
Fiber’s benefits for eczema are due to the connection between the gut and the immune system.
People who suffer from dyshidrotic eczema, characterized by tiny blisters on the hands and feet, may find that their symptoms are exacerbated by foods high in nickel or cobalt. These include:
- Whole wheat
- Whole grains
- Baking powder
- Dried fruits
- Canned foods
So, how can fiber help with eczema?
Fiber’s benefits for eczema are due to the connection between the gut and the immune system. The majority of our immune system is housed in the gut, specifically the millions of good bacteria located there. Inflammation, like that which causes eczema flare-ups, is an immune response. Keeping our gut—and therefore our immune system—healthy can help control this response.
Prebiotics are a great way to maintain gut health, as they feed the bacteria in our gut. (Bellway fiber supplements are made with prebiotic fiber. Just saying.)
What foods should I eat if I have eczema?
These foods may be able to help control eczema flare-ups by reducing inflammation:
- Whole grains
- Olive oil, avocados, and other healthy fats
- Fish and other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids
For those who suffer from dyshidrotic eczema, foods high in vitamin C may be able to help by reducing the absorption of nickel and cobalt. These include:
- Citrus fruits
- Bell peppers
The bottom line:
Your diet may not cause or prevent eczema entirely, but it may be able to reduce the exacerbation of your flare-ups. Fiber, in particular, can help by keeping your immune system healthy, and controlling the inflammation that can worsen eczema symptoms.