Whether it's a mosquito bite or an underlying health condition, there are a number of reasons why your skin can feel itchy. There are likewise a number of ways to ease that irritation — for instance, you can incorporate the best foods to eat for itchy skin into your diet.
First, the causes of itchiness: According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some of the common culprits for itchy, inflamed or scaly skin:
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- Dry skin
- Skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, scabies or parasites
- Burns and scarring
- Insect bites
- Internal conditions like liver disease, kidney disease, anemia, diabetes, thyroid problems, multiple myeloma or lymphoma
- Mood disorders like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression
- Allergic reactions, which can cause hives or rashes
How you relieve itching ultimately depends on the root cause, per the Mayo Clinic. For instance, you might apply anti-itch cream to quell an eczema flare-up or an insect bite, whereas medication may help you tame itchy skin and other symptoms of a mood disorder or underlying disease.
Still, your diet can also help with itching and other skin irritation. Here's how to relieve itching naturally with the best food for itchy skin.
If your skin irritation is severe, comes on suddenly, affects your entire body, doesn't go away after two weeks or is accompanied by other symptoms, visit your doctor, per the Mayo Clinic.
1. Foods Rich in Vitamin E
So, what's good for itching? Foods that contain vitamin E may help.
Here's why: Vitamin E has antioxidant properties, meaning it helps protect your cells (including skin cells) against damage, according to Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute.
Applied topically, it can relieve skin inflammation and swelling from exposure to UV rays. This may help prevent the dryness or itching that can come with a sunburn, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
A small November 2015 study of 42 people in the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences found that taking vitamin E supplements helped relieve dry, itchy skin associated with atopic dermatitis (also called eczema) better than a placebo. However, larger studies are needed to better establish this link.
If you prefer to harness vitamin E's skin-protecting abilities through diet alone, it's likely best to supplement sources of vitamin E with plenty of vitamin C-rich foods that help skin (more on that later), per the Linus Pauling Institute.
Foods high in vitamin E include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruit like avocado and kiwi
- Vegetables like spinach, red bell pepper and asparagus
- Canned salmon
Adults should aim to eat 15 milligrams of the nutrient every day, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Talk to your doctor before trying any supplements, as the FDA doesn't require these products to be proven safe or effective before they are sold, so there’s no guarantee that any supplement is safe, contains the ingredients it says it does or produces the effects it claims.
2. Foods Rich in Vitamin C
Another group of foods to eat for itchy skin are sources of vitamin C. Similar to vitamin E, vitamin C's benefits include antioxidant properties that help protect your skin from damage, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
These antioxidant effects may also help ease inflammation (and the red, dry or itchy skin that can come with it) from conditions like eczema and psoriasis, per an August 2017 review in Nutrients.
What's more, vitamin C helps your body create collagen, a type of protein that makes up your skin and helps keep it elastic and hydrated, per the Linus Pauling Institute. As we age, collagen production decreases. But getting enough vitamin C can support collagen production and skin health throughout your life.
Dry skin is also more common as you age, according to the Nutrients review. And one of the ways to stop itching from age-related dry skin may be — you guessed it — vitamin C. Indeed, research suggests that vitamin C can help the skin protect itself against water loss.
However, more studies are needed to evaluate whether these effects are also linked to vitamin C from your diet, as most research focuses on vitamin C-enriched creams and lotions.
Here's what vitamin C-rich foods can help your skin (and overall wellbeing):
- Fruits like guava, kiwi, berries and citrus fruit
- Vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts
Per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, here's how much vitamin C adults should eat each day:
- People assigned female at birth: 75 mg
- People assigned male at birth: 90 mg
3. Foods Containing Probiotics
You can also take probiotics for itching — and you can get these beneficial bacteria in foods that heal your skin.
Probiotics can alter your skin microbiome for the better, which may help prevent or treat itchy skin, rashes and other symptoms of conditions like eczema, acne or sun damage, according to a March 2015 review in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. The review also found that probiotics can help with skin inflammation from an allergy.
Because of this, some of the best foods to eat when you have skin allergy may include natural sources of probiotics such as:
- Certain cheeses, like gouda and cheddar cheese
Probiotics are also available in supplement form. Talk to your doctor about which strain and dosage is best for you before trying one, though, per the Mayo Clinic.
4. Foods Containing Quercetin
You may also be able to reduce itching by eating foods that contain a type of flavonoid called quercetin, according to Mount Sinai. Flavonoids are a type of naturally occurring pigment that give plants their color. They're also antioxidants that can help protect your cells from damage.
And there's early evidence to show that quercetin in particular may be good for a rash. In laboratory settings, quercetin helped prevent immune system cells from releasing histamines, a type of chemical that's responsible for allergic responses and the ensuing symptoms like sniffles, watery eyes, facial swelling and hives. In other words, there's potential for quercetin to help you avoid itchy skin from an allergic response.
However, there needs to be studies that investigate this link in humans to establish whether quercetin is indeed connected to a decreased allergic reaction.
In the meantime, though, it doesn't hurt to eat the flavonoid — it's plentiful in nutritious plant foods that are part of any balanced diet, even if there's not sufficient proof that it's the best fruit for skin allergies. Per Mount Sinai, good sources of quercetin include:
- Citrus fruits
- Dark cherries
- Dark berries like blueberries and blackberries
- Olive oil
- Red wine
5. Other Anti-Inflammatory Foods
While there's no diet-related way to cure body itching instantly, eating anti-inflammatory foods may help prevent or treat skin irritation.
That's because many skin conditions cause inflammation (think: eczema and psoriasis), which can lead to dry, itchy, scaly or otherwise irritated skin, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Foods can't cure these skin diseases, but noshing on the following anti-inflammatory ingredients may help, per Harvard Health Publishing.
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds (as long as you don't have an allergy)
- Dark leafy greens
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “FDA 101: Dietary Supplements”
- Mayo Clinic: "Itchy skin (pruritus)"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Sunburn"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Vitamin E and Skin Health"
- Journal of Research in Medical Sciences: "Effects of oral vitamin E on treatment of atopic dermatitis: A randomized controlled trial"
- Nutrients: "The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Vitamin C and Skin Health"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Health effects of probiotics on the skin"
- Mayo Clinic: "Prebiotics, probiotics and your health"
- Mount Sinai: "Quercetin"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Foods that fight inflammation"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Itchy Rash? How to Tell If It’s Eczema or Psoriasis"
- MedlinePlus: Vitamin E
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.