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Which Foods Cause Eczema?


Some musings on which foods cause eczema: I used to think that eczema had nothing to do with food. I had several reasons for this belief. I inherited my eczema from my mother, who was a vegetarian for most of her adult life. My rationale was that if such a person could get eczema and pass it down to someone, the cause couldn't possibly be related to food, could it? I mean, come on! Veggies are healthy, right?

Another reason was that perhaps I was in denial. Admitting that I had to "watch" what I eat would signal the end to the consumption of all my favorite food. And what was my favorite food? You might have guessed but it was all the bad (but oh-so-yummy) stuff, loaded with sugar and starch.

As much as I hate to admit it, it now seems sort of preposterous to think that something I put in my body would have no effect on my skin. And even if that were true, let's take eczema out of the equation and think about it: eating starchy, calorie-laden, sugar-loaded food is not good for a regular individual anyway. If it wasn't the skin, I would end up having other health problems down the line.

So which foods cause eczema?

The medical community most commonly identifies the following as the possible food allergens for individuals with eczema:

  • Eggs
  • Milk and other dairy
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Fish

This list is in no way conclusive, but they are known as the most common triggers. There are people who are allergic to above listed who may not have eczema (their allergy manifests in some other way), but there is a general consensus that eczema and food allergy are related. My mom stuck to this list of foods to avoid pretty faithfully, so I ended up being the only freak among the neighborhood kids who didn't drink milk (I think I turned out all right, at 5 feet 6 inches and my bone health is pretty good).

But one mystery remains - I did avoid many of these so-called food allergens throughout my childhood, but I still suffered from eczema. It wasn't quite as bad as now, but enough to get it noticed by people. Talk about unfair! Mum told me I couldn't have ice cream because of my skin, but my eczema was still there! Eventually as I got older, I said bye bye to the above list and started eating whatever I wanted.

My eczema did get worse as I got older, but I can't tell if it's because of added stress in my life or because I started eating the forbidden foods. I did know that there had to be something more complicated at works - simply avoiding the food allergens hadn't helped much.

I did lots of research and came up with the conclusion that simply avoiding the common food allergens wasn't enough; I had to stop eating pretty much all processed food and adopt a diet that was as close to raw as possible. This finding was supported by the testimonials of former eczema-sufferers who found themselves "cured" after going raw. I have to say though, that a lot of those people sounded very evangelistic (heck, I would be too, if I found what I thought was a cure to this cursed condition) and their whole "if you haven't gone raw, you deserve to have eczema" tone has made my resistance grow stronger.

My personal beef with raw foodists aside, adopting a sensible diet that cuts out processed food is a good decision. Processed foods are loaded with sodium and sugar, trans fats and saturated fats. They are not meant to be consumed in large quantities but rather as an occasional treat. Unfortunately, due to the convenience of many packaged foods that are processed, they have seeped into our diet over the years and are becoming increasingly hard to avoid.

The funny thing is that no dermatologist has ever told me that I needed to avoid processed food. Maybe it was such a common knowledge that processed food is bad, that I was expected to just not eat it. Outside the typical list of things not to eat, it never dawned on me to question which foods cause eczema.

So what are some of the "processed foods" to avoid?

  • Boxed cereals
  • Canned soup, meat, ravioli (because of their high sodium content)
  • Sausage, ham, bologna
  • White pasta and bread made with refined white flour
  • Chips
  • Frozen dinners
  • Packaged cakes and cookies


Of course, to have a more complete success with diet-based eczema treatment, simply avoiding bad food isn't going to be enough. As I mentioned earlier, many people's success ultimately came from consuming raw food in conjunction with not eating processed food. I feel like I have a double whammy because I don't like most of the raw food options I've read about, plus I have to give up my favorite munchies.

For someone like me who uses food as a coping mechanism, making these changes is a huge step. But I try to look at it as any other diet - it takes small, incremental steps to achieve my goal. In the end, if my skin doesn't clear up, at least I would have crossed out unhealthy food from my daily diet as a byproduct. 

 

Related Articles

Eczema and Diet
Can eczema and diet be related, despite what I've been told (or NOT told) by medical professionals all these years? 

Eczema and Diet Series #1 - My Salmon Recipe
In Eczema and Diet Series #1, I give my own salmon recipe. Salmon is known for rich omega-3 fatty acids that are anti-inflammatory and beneficial for eczema.


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