By Dr. Stuart Min and Dr. Eddie Valenzuela

Can I control eczema through diet?

Are there foods that trigger eczema?

Is my baby’s eczema really food allergies?

These are common questions I get as a doctor and pediatrician specializing in dermatological issues. While there are no clear-cut yes/no answers in the uncertain connection between food and eczema, there is plenty of good information you can apply to your own case – or your baby’s case of eczema – to understand whether you should avoid certain foods for the sake of skin health.  However, regardless of how diet may impact your eczema and overall health, it is still recommended to keep a safe and effective body wash for eczema symptoms.

So if you’re ready to skin-sleuth, here are the facts you need to know.

 Are Eczema and Food Allergies Intertwined?

It helps to look at Allergies and Eczema like cousins… often seen together, but not necessarily related. Yes, adults and babies with eczema often suffer from hay fever and allergies as well. But you can have food allergies without eczema and eczema without food allergies.

Up to one in three kids with eczema do have a food allergy that can worsen symptoms. And some research indicates food allergies can cause eczema in young children. But after age 3 or 4, that’s considered rare.

So what if you suspect food may be triggering your or your child’s eczema?

Finding Eczema Food Triggers

This is where it gets tricky. Removing the right foods could make a big difference. Removing too many foods can deprive a growing child of essential nutrients and not necessarily help.

Just because you verify a food allergy doesn’t necessarily mean that food will trigger eczema symptoms. I’ve had patients who’ve identified eczema triggers as foods to which they have no allergy.

For some folks who suspect a food-eczema link, step one might be turning to your pediatrician and looping in an allergist to confirm whether your child has any food allergies or sensitivities.

A purely allergic reaction to dairy products, eggs, nuts, soy or wheat can cause problems that ‘look’ like eczema, but it’s not the same and will require different treatment.

Pick Up The Clues & Keep Notes!

Like a good sleuth, be observant, keep notes of what you or your baby ate before an eczema flare, and watch for patterns.

One method for evaluating food triggers for eczema is an elimination diet done in coordination with your doctor. It’s a methodical trial and error process as you work through several potential food triggers, but a proven way to confirm whether a food is a definite eczema trigger and has to come off the menu for good.

 – Now What?

Remember 2 out of 3 kids with eczema don’t have a food allergy at all. You can eliminate foods that create scratching or find no trigger foods at all and symptoms persist.

It’s all trial and error, remember? It’s always worth trying different tactics to help your child or yourself. Don’t be disheartened if a particular diet doesn’t yield results. Stick with the other things your doctor recommends — like frequent moisturizing with lotions formulated for eczema, using body washes & eczema shampoos for sensitive skin, wearing all-natural fabrics and avoiding environmental allergens like dust mites, pollen, or pet dander.

As the medical community continues to explore the link between food and eczema, you’ll hear a lot of new, unproven and possibly conflicting information. Studies are currently looking into whether certain foods can actually help eczema…like probiotics, tea and Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and fish oil.

But until that next proven breakthrough, stick to proven hygiene and lifestyle habits that help with eczema. Remember you’re around triggers every day, and it’s often hard to tell if the problem is food or other triggers like stress. Be observant, listen to your body, lean on your medical experts, be patient and don’t forget that the best #1 treatment for eczema is taking care of your skin with moisturizers.  Choose a non-greasy eczema cream that can help fight off severe eczema and remain close by when needed.