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Can your diet help heal skin conditions like eczema? Keep reading to learn how!
Skin conditions like eczema can make it tough to show up as your best, most vibrant self.
With its painful and itchy red patches, eczema can be uncomfortable both physically and emotionally.
Finding relief can seem impossible. Especially when conventional doctors only want to prescribe prescription creams or even steroids.
Eczema doesn’t define who you are or what your worth is. But I understand the desire to find relief from the irritation and pain this common condition can bring.
New research is showing that eczema is far more than a skin condition. And that diet actually plays a larger role in the ability to heal this condition than we once realized.
If you’re struggling with eczema and are looking for some natural relief options, this article is for you!
In this post, I’ll outline:
- What exactly is eczema and how your immune system plays a role
- The most common causes of eczema so you can do your best to reduce or eliminate them from your life
- How to improve or even heal eczema through diet
- Some topical products that can also offer relief
If you’re ready to learn more about this inflammatory skin condition and how you can find relief, let’s go!
What is Eczema?
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by a red, itchy rash.
This rash can appear anywhere on the skin but is most common on the insides of elbows and the backs of knees.
Doctors have always viewed eczema as just a skin condition. But new research is showing that eczema is a result of the whole body’s inappropriate response to inflammation.
The prevalence of this condition has increased dramatically in the last decade. This is likely because eczema goes much deeper than the skin, and is a result of an imbalance elsewhere in the body.
Eczema is an external symptom of an internal problem. This insight gives us more information about what may be going wrong and how to treat it.
New findings show that eczema flare-ups always occur with an activation of the immune system.
So when your eczema is at its worst, your immune system is also working in overdrive.
This overactivation of the immune system is characteristic of autoimmune conditions. Leading many doctors to believe there is an autoimmune component to eczema.
While this can seem overwhelming, it’s actually good news. Digging into the root cause of why eczema occurs in the first place can help us find new and better ways to heal.
Eczema: an Autoimmune Condition?
A study done in 2015 has turned the way we think about eczema upside down, for the better. This study showed that eczema could really be an autoimmune condition.
Eczema is no longer a condition that we can only treat topically. We now have a better understanding of what’s causing these skin changes in the first place.
This study looked at a new drug that blocks the activity of two specific immune proteins. These proteins are important in helping the body fight viruses and bacteria. But they can also mistakenly target the body’s own tissue, resulting in eczema.
This targeting of the body’s tissue is what puts eczema in the same class as other autoimmune conditions.
In other autoimmune diseases, the body attacks different organs, such as the thyroid in Hashimoto’s, or the small intestine in Celiac Disease.
With eczema, our body is mounting an immune response against our skin.
Typically, there is a triggering event that initiates this overactive immune response. This can be a physical trigger like a food reaction, or an emotional event like stress.
Also, if you have eczema, you’re more likely to develop another autoimmune disease. This makes the case even stronger for viewing eczema as an autoimmune condition.
Common Causes of Eczema
Now that we understand eczema is more than a skin condition, we can dig deeper into what causes it in the first place.
If you have the genes, there are both internal and external factors that result in eczema.
Here are six of the most common causes of eczema:
Inflammation: this is likely the root cause of most cases of eczema. Inflammation causes eczema, and eczema causes more inflammation. This creates a vicious cycle of inflammation that can be hard to break. Since a majority of inflammation starts in the gut, changes to diet can help to heal this root cause of eczema.
Dry skin: When your skin gets too dry, it can more easily become brittle, rough, and tight. In susceptible people, these skin characteristics are a perfect storm for eczema.
Skin irritants: Fragrances, certain fabrics, chemicals in conventional skincare, and soaps can exacerbate skin issues and trigger eczema.
Stress (physical or mental): Both physical and emotional stress can be at the root of an eczema flare-up. Stress increases cortisol (your stress hormone) levels. The more cortisol you have in your body, the more systemic inflammation you’ll experience.
Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes, like the ones that occur during menopause or around the start of your period, can cause eczema. Sudden drops in estrogen can dry out your skin and make you more likely to experience an eczema flareup.
Now that we know the most common causes of eczema, we can work to heal eczema naturally. If you’re ready to learn how to use diet to heal your eczema, let’s go!
How to IMPROVE OR Heal Eczema Through Diet
Eczema is far more than a skin condition. Because of this, diet can play a large role in our ability to heal this skin inflammation.
It’s important to keep in mind that diet can help to heal eczema. But, it’s not a cure-all. Some cases of eczema will need further action beyond changing your diet. This includes medication!
If changing your diet isn’t enough to heal your eczema completely, there’s more you can do.
Working with a qualified health practitioner is a great next step. The right support provider can help you dig deeper into why you’re experiencing skin issues and come up with a plan to help your skin look and feel its best.
With that being said, here are some of the best ways to start healing eczema through your diet.
Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet
Inflammation is the driving factor behind eczema. With every eczema flare-up, you have an increase in inflammation.
Our inflammation levels are highly connected to our gut health. Reducing our intake of inflammatory foods can reduce our body’s inflammation levels.
Many people with eczema will benefit from removing food sources of inflammation. For many people, foods that cause inflammation include gluten, soy, dairy, corn, and industrial seed oils.
But if that isn’t enough to reduce your eczema, an anti-inflammatory diet like the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) might help.
The AIP diet goes one step beyond a typical Paleo diet. AIP focuses on removing foods that are likely to cause intestinal inflammation.
This approach also focuses on eating foods that help reduce inflammation.
To heal eczema, focus on inflammation-reducing foods like berries, leafy greens, ginger, garlic, and turmeric. Eating plenty of these foods, along with removing inflammation triggers, can greatly improve your eczema.
I completely understand that no one wants to change their diet. But, dietary changes can be instrumental in reducing the severity and frequency of eczema flare-ups.
And if you want to treat the cause of this condition naturally, dietary changes are often necessary.
Just remember, the AIP Protocol isn’t designed to be followed strictly forever. It’s an opportunity to find your unique food triggers and avoid those, while reintroducing the foods that work just fine for you and your body.
Up Your Probiotic and Prebiotic Intake
As I mentioned previoiusly, gut health is integral to skin health. This is especially true when it comes to inflammatory skin conditions like eczema.
Healing eczema through diet can be as simple as including more probiotic and prebiotic containing foods in your day.
Studies show that prebiotic supplementation – both alone and when combined with probiotics – is effective at improving eczema in children.
Both probiotics and prebiotics help to improve the microbial ecosystem in your gut. This can help heal the gut lining, improve digestion, and reduce gut-mediated inflammation.
Probiotic-containing foods are easy to incorporate into your diet. Foods like raw sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and – if you can handle soy or dairy – yogurt and tempeh, are full of beneficial bacteria and can give your meals a little extra flavor too!
Prebiotic foods are ones that feed and nourish your gut bacteria. They contain fibers that we can’t digest, but that our beneficial gut bugs can use for food.
To keep your gut bacteria healthy and happy, try including a serving or two a day of prebiotic-rich foods like broccoli, leeks, onions, brussels sprouts, or asparagus.
Including these foods in your diet can not only help to heal your eczema, but they’ll give your gut health a boost too.
Cut Down on Sugar and Processed Foods
Diets high in sugar and processed foods can increase your risk of developing eczema. And eating a diet consisting primarily of real, unprocessed foods can reduce your risk of experiencing a flare-up.
Cutting back on your consumption of processed foods can go a long way when it comes to healing your skin.
Sugar in itself is inflammatory. And consuming sugar in excess can lead to systemic inflammation and insulin resistance.
We can’t control all sources of inflammation. So it’s important to reduce the inflammation triggers you can control, like refined sugar intake.
Inflammation is a natural part of life, and it’s not all bad. But in excess, it can make conditions like eczema worse.
If you’re trying to heal eczema through diet, reducing your intake of sugar and processed foods will be beneficial.
This could look like switching from buying store-bought granola that contains added sugar, and making some homemade granola instead.
Or it could mean choosing an apple as a snack instead of chips or crackers.
Little improvements can go a long way. And it’s important to not get stressed or overwhelmed with these changes (stress can increase inflammation, too 😉).
Your diet doesn’t have to be perfect in order for you to see improvements in your skin. And any steps you can take to reduce your processed food consumption can make a difference.
Eat Foods that Benefit Skin Health
Nutrient density is also important when you’re trying to improve the health of your skin through diet.
Our skin is our largest organ, but it’s also one of the last places that nutrients and hydration go.
Increasing the nutrient density of our food gives our body more nutrients to work with. And with more nutrients available in general, there are more for use in our skin.
Also, vitamins, minerals, and other dietary nutrients impact skin growth and immunity. These are two essential pieces when it comes to combating eczema.
There are so many vitamins and minerals that can benefit our skin health and help clear up eczema.
Here is a list of just a few of the beneficial nutrients for combatting eczema:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K2
- Vitamin C
If you want a deeper dive into eating for healthy skin, here’s a detailed article I wrote on the topic.
Eating foods that contain these essential nutrients will support better skin health in general, plus it can help heal your eczema too.
Safer Products for Healing Eczema Topically
We can make great strides to heal eczema by changing our diet. But sometimes, dietary adjustments alone aren’t enough.
There are many topical creams and lotions on the market that promoted as a cure-all for eczema. But the truth is, many of these products contain harmful ingredients that could do more damage than good in the long run.
While healing eczema is important, it’s not worth sacrificing your hormonal health or exposing yourself to potential chemical irritants.
This is why, when it comes to using topical products that are safe for eczema, Beautycounter is my number one choice.
Beautycounter is serious about its commitment to providing safe skincare products. They’ve prohibited the use of over 1,500 chemicals that can pose potential health risks to consumers.
Here are some of Beautycounter’s best products for topically healing eczema.
This multi-tasking, skin-nourishing balm is as a cleanser, moisturizer, and overnight mask.
This balm contains a blend of lotus extract, jojoba seed oil, and avocado seed oil that works to soothe and hydrate irritated inflamed skin.
Topical solutions for eczema that focus on soothing inflamed skin are going to be your best bet. And this Cleansing Balm is at the top of that list!
This body moisturizer will provide soothing hydration to those red, irritated eczema patches. It features squalane and aloe vera to help draw moisture into the skin and soothe irritation.
Besides being a killer moisturizer, it also adapts to your own skin’s needs, not leaving you oily or too dry. I love it for the dry patchy skin on my elbows and knees that often develops in the winter.
If your eczema is the type that tends to react to most topical products, this Soothing Baby Oil is a good choice for you.
Formulated for a baby’s sensitive skin, this mix of coconut, jojoba, and sunflower seed oils helps to soothe and soften dry, irritated skin. And with minimal ingredients and no scent, this product can soothe even the most inflamed skin.
The Bottom Line on Healing Eczema with Diet
Eczema is an inflammatory, autoimmune condition. And, as with any other autoimmune condition, the severity and frequency of flare-ups relate to your gut health and what you eat.
Eating an anti-inflammatory, real food diet is going to be your first line of defense for healing eczema.
From there, boosting your gut health with prebiotic and probiotic foods, and reducing your intake of processed foods will help improve your skin even more.
And ensuring that you’re getting plenty of skin-healing nutrients like Vitamins A, C, and K2, and Omega-3s will help maintain your skin health in the long-term.
Changing your diet to help heal your eczema can seem overwhelming. But trust me, you don’t have to be perfect. Any small, incremental change can do positive things for your eczema and skin health.
And if you need some more guidance, I’m here to help! I’d love to help you develop a game plan for helping to heal your eczema, naturally. Click here to learn more about my services.
Have you seen improvements in your eczema by changing your diet? What dietary change has been the most impactful for you? Share your experience in the comments!