Seborrheic dermatitis most commonly occurs on the scalp, but can affect any area of the body with a large number of oil glands.This inflammatory condition can cause redness, flaking, itching and lesions. No special diet exists to treat seborrheic dermatitis as of 2011, but your food choices can influence inflammation, a major player in skin conditions such as this. Responses to changes in the diet can vary between individuals with the same health problem, and no guarantees exist that avoiding certain foods will influence your symptoms.
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Your body uses fats to produce hormones involved in the inflammatory response. The Western diet is heavy on omega-6 fatty acids, which promote the production of pro-inflammatory chemicals, and is lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation. This imbalance likely contributes to the high incidence of inflammatory conditions in these societies, according to an article in the December 2002 issue of the ‘’Journal of the American College of Nutrition.’’ Oils particularly high in omega-6 fats include vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower, safflower and soybean. Read the ingredients of packaged foods carefully since they are typically prepared with these oils. Fats found in animal foods and trans fats also contribute to inflammation.
Choosing the Right Carbohydrates
A diet high in carbohydrates that produce large spikes in insulin can also promote inflammation. Nurse practitioner Marcelle Pick, writing for the site Women to Women, explains that high insulin levels cause the immune system to act as if it needs to fight off a harmful substance, leading to elevated levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals that normally alert infection-fighting white blood cells that they are needed. When no invader is actually present and inflammation is prolonged and constant, it can cause problems, such as inflammatory skin conditions. Problematic foods include processed carbohydrates such as white bread, soda and sugary foods such as cookies and candy. Carbohydrates that promote normal insulin levels include whole grains such as oatmeal and brown rice.
Considerations for Food Allergies
While you might associate a food allergy with your face swelling up to the size of a basketball, it can manifest in other ways. Naturopathic physician Nicole Sundene, writing on her site Kitchen Table Medicine, explains that a food allergy can contribute to seborrheic dermatitis. Your body’s rejection of the food can trigger the inflammation characteristic of this condition. She notes the most common offenders appear to be dairy, wheat and citrus fruits. Other common allergens include fish, such as bass, cod or flounder, shellfish such as crab, shrimp and lobster, peanuts, tree nuts and eggs. Experimenting with an elimination diet can help determine if certain foods worsen your symptoms. Cut out all suspected problem foods for a period of time and add them back one at a time to see which affect your condition. For specifics, work with a doctor experienced in administering such diets.
Other Diet Considerations
Along with limiting specific foods, you want to make sure to include plenty of inflammation-fighting foods in your diet. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants, substances that can fight inflammation. When cooking, choose olive oil or canola oil over vegetable oils rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Eat more omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna, flax seed, hemp seed and walnuts, provided you do not have any allergies to these items.
- ''Journal of the American College of Nutrition''; Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Disease;Artemis P. Simopoulos, MD, FACN December 2002
- Kitchen Table Medicine; Natural Treatment for Seborrheic Dermatitis, Dandruff and Cradle Cap; Dr. Nicole Sundene; December 2010
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Seborrheic Dermatitis
- WomentoWomen.com; Causes of Inflammation; Marcelle Pick ObGyn NP