If you have eczema, you want to do all you can to try to stop the irritation and itching it can cause. So you may be eager to try eczema diets promoted in books or on the Internet.
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How helpful are these eczema diets? Research about diet and eczema is conflicting.
- Eczema has been linked to food allergies, but most people with eczema don’t have a food allergy.
- Some small studies suggest that certain foods may actually ease eczema, but there’s no definitive evidence yet.
Diet and Eczema in Children
Most dermatologists seem to agree that adult eczema is not caused by food. Some young children have eczema caused by allergic reactions to certain foods. But after age 3 or 4, eczema caused by foods is very rare. Food can cause hives and other skin reactions, but not eczema.
If you are concerned that a food allergy is playing a role in your child’s eczema, talk with your doctor. Although you can have your child checked for food allergies, the results are often not reliable.
“Positive results [to food allergy tests] are very common, even if your child doesn’t have an allergy,” says Lawrence Eichenfield, MD, chief of Pediatric Dermatology at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. “So while it’s sometimes helpful for children with severe eczema, I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone.”
Diet and Eczema in Adults
Although some adults report having worse eczema symptoms after eating certain foods, no studies have been able to establish a link.
There is no science linking certain foods with flare-ups. But it can be an individual thing. For example, if a patient reports eating chocolate makes her eczema worse, then I would advise her to cut down or eliminate chocolate from her diet. Be sure to talk to your health care provider before eliminating any food from your diet, and before going on a special diet.
Research Into Foods That May Help Eczema
Although most foods and supplements have not shown promise in eczema research, research is ongoing.
For example, some studies suggest that probiotics may help relieve the symptoms of eczema in children. Probiotics are a type of live bacteria. They can be found in foods like yogurt and in some supplements. Most of these studies were done in other countries and tested different kinds of probiotics. So it is not clear what type of probiotics are most useful. More research in this area is surely needed before we can make a definite recommendation.
Another food being studied as a benefit for eczema is tea. Although there is no definitive evidence, a few studies suggest that drinking black, green, or oolong tea may help relieve eczema symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil, which help fight inflammation, are also being studied for eczema.