The root causes of eczema are unknown and may differ from person to person. For some people, a food allergy may be an underlying cause. In others, certain foods could worsen the symptoms of this irritating skin condition. Avoiding common trigger foods isn't a guarantee that you'll eliminate your eczema or improve your skin's condition, but it may be worth a try if you're suffering.
Common Food Allergy Triggers
Children and young people with atopic eczema often do have food allergies that may trigger symptoms. Food allergies, which show up in one-third to two-thirds of kids with eczema, may not be the cause -- but treating the allergy can help alleviate symptoms. Typical food allergy triggers include dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, soy and wheat. Gluten, tomatoes, citrus, corn and peanuts are other possibilities.
Foods That Cause Flare Ups
Certain foods may cause flare-ups, even if you aren't allergic to them. The University of Maryland Medical Center lists them as eggs, fish, peanuts and soy. Avoiding these foods doesn't guarantee an improvement in your eczema symptoms, however. You also might want to reduce your intake of sugary foods and refined grains, such as those found in processed foods. These can increase inflammation in your body and make eczema worse.
There's no specific diet to treat eczema and no specific test will show with 100 percent accuracy if certain foods are irritating your eczema. An exclusion diet, in which any potential triggers are eliminated from your diet, is a method you can use to test for potential irritants. After you've removed the triggers for a week or longer, add them back in one at a time and observe your symptoms over several days to see if your eczema worsens as a result. If you notice a reaction, then you can assume that the particular food is an irritant for you. Eczema conditions vary over time, however, so an exclusion diet doesn't always provide accurate results. A meta-analysis, published in 2009 in "Allergy," found little support for using exclusion, or elimination, diets in treating eczema.
Other Potential Triggers
Food is only one potential trigger for eczema. Airborne allergens, stress, irritants found in body care products, laundry detergent, specific fabrics, microbes, air temperature and hormone production are all possible irritants, as well. Determining whether a particular food or any number of other factors are causing your eczema is very difficult. Changing your diet is within your control, so discuss with your doctor whether it's worth your effort. Even with your doctor's support, don't expect dietary changes to work miracles with this condition.