This is a guest post from Jennifer Roberge who is the founder of the award-winning Its An Itchy Little World blog and The Eczema Company. Propelled to find a solution for her son’s struggles with eczema, allergies, and asthma, Jennifer has established herself as the go-to resource on integrative and holistic methods, and the best natural products for healing both inside and out.
My son was just three months old when he started to develop red, dry, itchy patches of skin. I watched as his tiny, little body became covered head-to-toe in eczema so terrible, it resembled severe burns. In vain, I pleaded with him to stop scratching himself raw. I took him to numerous doctors and dermatologists. And, I applied a variety of different medications on him, including the prescribed topical steroids.
But still, he scratched. And tossed and turned all night. He wasn’t getting any better.
It was heartbreaking. As a mother, watching him suffer—and not being able to take away his pain—was my worst nightmare come true.
Today, I am grateful and relieved that my son’s eczema is 98% healed. It was a long, dark, and painful journey, but we got there in the end, and I’m proud to say that we got there on the natural path. I focused on healing through the foods he consumed and using natural eczema treatments instead of topical steroids.
In the hopes that my experience will help you and your loved ones suffering from eczema, I’m sharing my story with you today.
Foods That Trigger Eczema
I think we can all agree that there is a connection between a healthy diet and our overall well-being. What many of us don’t realize, however, is that what we eat also drastically affects our skin. In fact, for those with eczema, what we eat can be the difference between an irritating flare-up and clear skin.
The relationship between eczema and diet became apparent to my family when we conducted a food elimination diet, which I explain in more detail below. This diet helped us more clearly identify that gluten, dairy, soy, corn, tomatoes, almonds, and a few others were all triggering my son’s eczema to flare.
After some rigorous research, I learned that, while everybody is unique, certain foods are more prone to trigger eczema than others. I also learned that there are plenty of anti-inflammatory foods that are known to reduce eczema symptoms.
Eczema trigger foods include…
- Citrus fruits (such as lemons, grapefruit, and limes)
Many of these foods are problematic because they are hard to avoid as they are found in most breads, pastas, cakes, cookies, and cereals. If any of these foods are causing problems (as they were with my son) an adverse reaction will likely occur within 6-24 hours of consuming the food but can occur up to 48 hours later.
Eczema Elimination Diet
Finding the offending foods is the tricky part and, as I mentioned earlier, an elimination diet can help. Essentially, this means removing certain foods from your or your child’s diet (such as the top 8 allergens; milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans) for 1-2 weeks for younger children (much longer for adults) and then slowly reintroducing them to your diet.
This process really helped us pinpoint the foods which were causing a reaction in my son. I highly recommend giving it a try before undergoing any other dietary changes. Some diets may encourage eating more substantial quantities of certain foods, and if they are triggers for you, you’ll see your eczema get much worse, not better. This happened to us, and it’s quite discouraging.
I recommend working with a dietician, nutritionist, or physician when undergoing an elimination diet to make sure you or your child is still getting a well-balanced diet full of all essential nutrients.
If you’re wondering how to start an elimination diet and identify your food triggers, make sure to read this blog post I wrote as it gives a thorough how-to on undergoing this diet successfully: How to Start an Elimination Diet for Eczema.
Fortunately, some foods are known to reduce eczema symptoms for some. For example…
- Salmon and herring contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, making them extremely beneficial for those with eczema because they are anti-inflammatory.
- Foods that are high in probiotics, such as kefir, kombucha, sourdough bread, miso soup, tempeh, and naturally fermented pickles, can also be helpful. These help to encourage good bacteria growth in your gut. A healthy microbiome is key to good skin and overall health, as studies are now beginning to prove.
- Blueberries, kale, and broccoli are high in quercetin, which is a powerful antioxidant and antihistamine. So throw the first two in a smoothie, along with some kefir (if you can tolerate dairy), and blend up a probiotic and antioxidant-rich beverage.
Try a Plant-Based Diet
Animal protein is hard to digest, leaving less time for your body to heal. On the other hand, plant-based foods including vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are much easier to digest and are naturally anti-inflammatory. Since eczema is an anti-inflammatory disease, this makes a plant-based diet perfect for finding relief from eczema.
Since everyone’s skin is different, just as everyone’s body is different, plant-based may not be right for you. Some people do better on a plant-based diet, while others may find a more carnivorous diet is right for them, like the Paleo diet.
The Paleo Diet
Healing diets like the Paleo diet also reduce the severity of eczema by eliminating inflammatory foods. Personally, we eliminated eggs, dairy, grains, and more and instead focused on more nutrient-dense foods, and we saw a real improvement in my son’s skin. These foods help heal the gut wall and reduce chronic inflammation associated with auto-immune diseases.
For more information on helpful diets you can try—such as The Alkaline Diet, Gluten-Free Diet, and The Eczema Cure Diet—check out our post Eczema 103: Naturally Healing Eczema from Within.
100 Days of Real Food is also a great resource for learning how to eliminate processed foods from your family’s diet. Sometimes all you need is to clean up the diet and move to eating whole, nonprocessed foods to start seeing the skin healing. In fact, that’s the best first step you can take.
Four Natural Eczema Treatments
When my son’s itching was at its worst, all I wanted to do was stop his relentless scratching.
- These ScratchMeNot Mitten Sleeves were a lifesaver. They have flaps that we would keep open during the day, so he was still able to play, and fold over his hands at night, so the whole house would slept soundly knowing he was protected. They also work great for adults.
- For soothing relief, we moisturized with Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream. My son loved the soft, buttery texture, and I loved how gentle it was on his sensitive skin—no stinging or burning! Plus, it contains only six ingredients making it the all-natural solution of our dreams—especially because most drugstore brands we tried contained some variety of alcohol which burned his skin!
- Manuka honey on eczema is a wonderful treatment, as it provides both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Wet and dry wrap therapy … see details below!
Wet and Dry Wrap Therapy
Finally, to treat more advanced flare-ups, we tried wet wrap therap. This process involved applying a natural emollient to my son’s body and then wrapping him in a wet piece of clothing covered by a dry layer. We usually did this after giving him a warm bath. Once we removed the clothing (usually after about 2 hours), we re-applied the moisture to his body.
Dry wrapping is also a great therapy for eczema that requires less time and less mess. This therapy simply consists of sealing the skin with a natural emollient and covering with a dry cloth or piece of clothing. Dry wrapping can be done overnight (without making things wet) so as to let the cream further penetrate the skin and provide long-lasting relief.
For full body or specific body area dry wraps, check out our Remedywear, eczema clothing<. these garments offer soothing comfort and protection with their tencel anti-inflammatory zinc fibers. [caption id="attachment_177053" align="aligncenter" width="1200" ] YORO Naturals, Remedy Wear[/caption]
Additionally, in a clinical study , TENCEL and Smartcel™ Sensitive was proven to reduce the severity of atopic dermatitis, reduce itchiness and improve quality of sleep when worn overnight for three consecutive nights.
Healing my son was not an easy journey. It took a lot of time, research, and trial-and-error, but we’ve come so far and I am happy to share what I’ve learned to help others. Today, his food allergies and sensitivities are mostly gone, and his skin is gloriously clear. I am so grateful we were able to heal him from within, and I hope you can experience the same results as we did!
References Wiegand, 2013, Skin-protective effects of a zinc oxide-functionalized textile and its relevance for atopic dermatitis. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol; 6: 115–121. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3656624/