Diet changes to combat eczema….where to start….

So this has been the one I have been dreading…the giving up on treats, foods I enjoy, foods which I’ve never thought twice about eating before….choosing to hope that diet is not related to my eczema foolishly….

But here I am with a sore neck, so dry and tight, inflamed and itchy, I can hardly twist it, my eyes are puffy and swollen, my arms dry and sore from the itching last night…my body is feeling sore, worn out, so inflamed and my emotions are barely under control. I can’t sleep properly even though I’m so emotionally tired, I am sad, tearful, angry that this eczema just won’t give me some relief! What do I need to do?

The way that makes me feel is way beyond any joy food could give me. The joys of having a good nights sleep, energy and skin I can deal handle seem much more important.

But where do I start?What do I change first? What do I rid of first?

Dairy?
Wheat?
Acidic goods?
Artificial ingredients?
Preservatives?

This is where I ask for your help, support and tips to help me change my diet.

What has worked for you?What would you recommend?

I look forward to hearing your comments!

Comments
20 Responses to “Diet changes to combat eczema….where to start….”
  1. Gary Gibson says:

    I actually posted the following elsewhere on your blog, under the ‘new Facebook page’ entry, but no one’s going to see it there; and so I hope you don’t mind if i repost it here, where other people can more easily see it under this particular heading. It’s a follow-up to an earlier comment I’d made back in November, and it has to do with my experience of dietary changes.

    Before i get to it, I saw from your comments you think dairy probably isn’t responsible. The thing to understand if you’re not aware already is that if you’re going to eliminate something from your diet to see if you’re allergic to it, you have to cut ALL traces of it from your food. That means not only no drinking milk, but also not eating foods with milk or lactose in them – and there are, unfortunately, a lot of them, including some foodstuffs you’d never think had milk in them. Milk is used for texture and thickening in all kinds of things, to pies and sausages and so forth.

    I’ve become adept through necessity at checking the ingredients list of every single thing I purchase now to make sure there’s no milk in it, as well as checking with restaurants and so forth as to whether something I want to eat might have any trace of milk or cheese or lactose in it whatsoever. So ordering a cheese-free pizza isn’t enough – you need to check whether the pizza base itself was made using milk. It means sacrifices. I thought that would be hard, but I’m so delighted at finally having positive results in regards to my skin it’s been anything but a genuine sacrifice. When you start to think something you previously loved is poisoning you, the love disappears fast.

    Fortunately, these days, all foodstuffs are required to list possible allergens in a separate ingredients box. That didn’t use to be the case, making it near as damn impossible to really cut something out of your diet. Thankfully things are different now.

    Anyway, here’s that follow-up on my dietary changes, which I started a while back.

    I’d previously been seeing a dermatologist at my local hospital after asking for a referral by my GP. The last time I went to the out-patients ward in late November, I requested a blood test for allergies. They did it on the spot. At the time, I’d been eliminating milk and eggs from my diet for at least six weeks.

    Now, quite a few people don’t seem aware there is such a thing as a blood test for allergies. I went back to my GP more recently because I hadn’t yet received any results about the test. I wanted to know if I really was allergic to the things I thought I was allergic to.

    My GP – in the nicest possible way – essentially claimed such a test couldn’t possibly exist, which is more than a little annoying. I insisted, and they then called the hospital, and I finally got my results. Out of the three things I’d been tested for – eggs, dust mites and milk – I proved to be allergic to all but the eggs.

    (I have another appointment in March, when I’m going to try to find out why I was tested only for the specific things I mentioned I *thought* I might be allergic to. Seems a bit strange it wouldn’t be more of a general test? But we’ll see).

    If you speak to a dermatologist or even your GP about possible solutions, they tend to be extremely noncommittal when it comes to your thoughts about ways of, if not curing, then greatly reducing the effects of eczema, which particularly in the past couple of years had, for me, become excessively debilitating. But I had enquired on a previous visit to the hospital about the blood tests (which I only knew about because my wife, an interpreter, had been translating on behalf of some patients in the same ward a few days before), and they had been happy to provide that.

    Happy to provide the test *once I asked*, that is. Nobody said ‘let’s give you a blood test’, at least, not that I recall.

    For a long time, I saw only a mild improvement in my skin, which has been pretty bad for a long time. But it was an improvement. I’d read online that some people felt it could take months to see a substantial change. More recently, about three months into the restrictions, I’ve noticed a much more substantial and qualitative improvement, especially since New Year. My skin feels softer in a way it never has before. My eczema is far from gone, but it doesn’t depress me the way it used to.

    Apart from eliminating milk (now I’m allowed I’m back to eating eggs) I change my bed sheets every couple of days and hoover the mattress, which is also a hypoallergenic memory foam model. That helps take care of the bed bug problem. It took time, but I’m finally seeing the benefits. The cold weather is making me a little bit sore again, but nowhere near as bad as it would usually be at this time of year.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve found the restrictive diet relatively easy to follow. I don’t mind soya milk as much as other people, and non-lactose dairy-free yoghurt, cream and milk from some companies such as Alpro taste to me pretty damn close to the real thing. It helps that I make my own bread with a cheap breadmaker.

    All this reflects a conversation I had with the nurse who gave me my blood test (as opposed to the dermatologist who arranged it). She also suggested it might take a few months before noticing any change.

    So here’s my advice: if you haven’t already, get a GP referral to a dermatology ward as an outpatient. And be pushy with the GP, if you have to: there’s a reason they’re called ‘general’ practitioners, rather than specialists. Ask the dermatologists for a blood test for potential allergens. If there’s anything specific you think you might be allergic to, mention it to them and they’ll take it from there. There are also ‘patch’ tests, but I personally found that no great use when I had it done.

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    • Thank you for sharing so in depth! It sounds like dietary changes have really helped you.

      Have you cut out dairy and wheat/gluten now?

      It sounds like a slow but very positive change. Keep us posted!

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      • Gary Gibson says:

        Dairy is all-out since I got the news I’m apparently allergic to it. Drinking my home-brewed soya milk cappuccino as I speak. I haven’t cut out wheat, but then I haven’t been tested for it. However, in my limited knowledge, wheat/gluten intolerance is more linked to coeliac disease than eczema.

        I found an episode of the Channel 4 series ‘Food Hospital’ particularly useful in giving myself the motivation to make changes. You can see it here: http://foodhospital.channel4.com/episodes/series-2/episode-one/

        At the moment my skin isn’t so great because of the colder weather, but it’s still a hell of a lot better than it would be otherwise. If you try cutting out milk just now, then by the time summer rolls around – and if you’re allergic to it – you’d start to see the benefits.

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    • Ritz says:

      Thanks Gary, I have an appointment to see a dermatologist referral in Feb and never knew an allergy test could be done on blood samples. I’m currently on a wheat and dairy free diet, but want to know to for sure if they are culprits. I already know I am allergic to dust mites and will be good to know what else.

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  2. virgi91 says:

    I’ve wrote a post about it, check it out if you want :)http://healthycollegelifestyle101.blogspot.it

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  3. Spanish Key says:

    Sorry to hear of your trouble. I am assuming that you have had the standard allergy tests, the skin prick and IgE assays? If not, that would be a good first step. You might also try an atopy patch test, which I learned about recently, and which can be used when the first two kinds of tests aren’t useful. I think wheat and gluten are currently demonized. However, you definitely want to try cutting out the major five allergy candidates each for two weeks at a time: wheat, soy, nuts, dairy, eggs. Avoid processed foods since they all seem to contain small amounts of the above. And at the same time stay off caffeine, alcohol, and spices, which can all confuse allergy matters. If you are in the Northern hemisphere, you’ve picked a good time to try testing food allergies, since pollen is less of an issue in the winter. Good luck.

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  4. Emily Cunningham says:

    Hiya, your Blog helped me so much a year an a half ago when my eczema reaching a all time high, I feel pleased to be able to pass on my my own experiences in the hope it will help you.

    Mid November last year (2011) I when Gluten free, I feel VERY luck to be able to say that over the past year seen and 80% improvement in my skin. I can now use all natural products and only the need for occasional use of steroid creams. I have now reached the point where I have some Gluten foods weekly.

    My advise would be to cut out foods one at a time, I was told it could take up to 6 weeks for any improvements to be seen so this will be a long process…… but it will be worth it! good luck!

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  5. Ritz says:

    Hey there, I’ve been reading your blogs but never got round to making comments, so here it goes. Like you I’ve only recently really made an active effect to tackle my eczema, rather trying to stay afloat, since I finished my undergrad in summer. I was previously on wheat free diet in my teens for one or two years, which looking back I guess did help before the stresses of life came in! So in August I made the decision to go back on a wheat-free diet as a step to combat my eczema and was surprised to find how more easily accessible it is to be wheat/gluten free compared to ten years ago. All the big supermarkets now have an ever expanding Free From range with the gluten-free label becoming more commercial and even select restaurants now doing gluten-free menus! The UK still has a way to go though, as I was in Australia in September and pleasantly surprised just how more easily accepted and accessible a wheat free diet was.
    I think the biggest culture shock of going on a wheat free diet is realising just how many food items contain wheat or gluten, rice will become your new best friend! But the good thing (and sometimes bad if your hungry on the move) is that nearly all fast food has wheat so restricting yourself to not eat junk food has got to be a good thing. The trick is to be prepared, making your own lunch midweek, carrying your own snack food and to have cooked food nearly every day.
    Last month I decided to also go on a dairy free diet to totally restrict myself for six months or a year and see how it goes. I think dairy is slightly more trickier than wheat free, so would suggest cutting down wheat first as there is a decent range of eating alternatives available to not make you think just how much you are restricting yourself.
    Hope this helps and keep us posted how it goes!

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    • Thank you for your post! I think like you I’m thinking of cutting out wheat first and reducing my dairy rather than eliminating it completely as I don’t want to restrict everything at once and just fail because its too much!

      Please update us on how the dairy free is going as well! When my skin is calm, I find dairy can’t be the culprit because I drink tea and have cereal but eczema is so confusing at times that eliminating is the only way we can really see!

      I’m starting to eat healthier, more fruit and veg and cutting out the junk food like biscuits, chocolate to give my digestive system a break from all of the rubbish I eat! I’m also drinking wheatgrass tea and slippery elm tea. Ill keep you updated.

      Thanks for the post.

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      • Cloud says:

        My diet helped me a lot, I thing it can suit you. Firstly, you should not eat dairy products. They contain histamine, which makes the allergic reaction stronger. Secondly, you shouldn’t eat all the RED fruits and vegetables and citruses like oranges and lemons. Eat green apples and green vegetables. Thirdly, everything spicy, salty and fatty is prohibited. The best for you is rice, potatoes, meat, fish, but not fatty fish like salmon. Also, you shouldn’t eat anything sweet, especially sugar, and nuts. And I’d advice you to drink olive oil, 2 spoons a day. Finally, you should understand that this diet can make you have vitamin PP avitaminosis, so you should eat a lot of “grass” food and liver.

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      • Thank you for your helpful tips! My skin has recently flared up on my neck and face and I’m going shopping tomorrow to stock up for the week so I don’t eat junk!

        I’m going to cut out dairy and wheat and incorporate more fruit (apples, melon) and veg (like you mentioned the green kind!) And fresh meats. It can’t dh any harm to eat better and I just hope my skin will appreciate it as its not looking good 😦 does your diet help keep your skin at bay constantly? Or do you still suffer from flare ups?

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  6. Lovie says:

    Removing sugar helps me but I find it so hard to give up.

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  7. P says:

    Also, if u want any tips (e.g. rice paper pancakes for your springrolls & samosas!) on how to manage without either dairy or gluten, let me know. I enjoy eating & I eat loads. I find managing without gluten is quite easy as long as you willing to cook for yourself more & eat more non-european cuisine. Dairy is a bit trickier (because of real pizza & cheesecake!) but doable & if it’s a trigger, you’ll be happier without it!

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    • Thanks for the tips and help!

      I think wheat and dairy seem to be written everywhere to trigger eczema so that will be a good place to start…even cutting them down significantly just to see the effects if any. I think it’s laziness more than anything which makes this hard otherwise fresh fruit, veg, meat seem to e reasonable things to eat without all the snacks!

      Wish me luck!

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  8. P says:

    Late teens, saw a specialist who cut almost everything from my diet. Stopped seeing him before everything got reintroduced. 10 yrs on I don’t eat wheat or dairy.

    Not eating wheat definitely helps – major part of bringing my skin under some control. But because of way it was cut out, I don’t know if problem is wheat or gluten. Too scared now to find out. Has changed my life for the better.

    I cannot ingest any dairy without it affecting my throat & getting upset stomach. I don’t think affects my eczema but seems I am allergic/intolerant either way. Again too scared to try reintroduce.

    So I would advise its important to be systematic so that you know as best you can what is bad for you & so you don’t cut out what is good for you.

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  9. Lisa says:

    Cut out the wheat and dont look back. I wish I did it sooner, it has really changed my life. The less you time you spend feeling sorry for yourself that you cant eat so many comfort foods, the more time you will have to explore all the foods you CAN eat and to learn about them. I am constantly cooking with fresh seasonal veggies. My diet is mostly fruits and veg and good pastured meat. Sometimes I eat gluten free substitutes for things I miss most (bagels and pizza) but nothing can compare to whole, nutrient dense, living food!! I had the worst eczema of my life last year (covering 80% of my body many places weeping) and this year I have very little to speak of. It is manageable. It would probably be even better if I cut back more on sweets and dairy. I also dont stress when I do get eczema because that makes it worse too. If you want to talk or have questions feel free to reach out. You have the power to heal yourself! Go forth fearlessly.

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    • Thank you for your post.

      I am currently attempting to put together a diet plan for food I can eat and have actually brought some wheat/gluten free bread to eliminate gluten!! It’s just checking foods now of gluten but like you said I think if it helps keep eczema at bay then I don’t even need comfort food! I have bought a mixture of fruit, vegetables, meat (just chicken really) and nuts ( all alkaline foods). Foods I should be eating anyway really. Lets just see if I can do it!

      I will update when I start, I’m glad to hear your diet has been greatly helping you! Gives me hope!

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      • Lisa says:

        I just re-read my comment and sorry if I sounded harsh or judgemental! I truly want the best for you that it can be and hope you find the path that offers you relief. From my own experience I think I spent a lot of time being upset that I couldn’t eat certain things, and there was a bit of denial on my part which only set me back. I would also say don’t beat yourself up if you do have a setback or get off track, just get right back on it and keep going forward. ❤ You can do it! We are all here for you too.

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      • Your comment is fine! It’s a method that has worked tremendously for you and you’re just trying to pass it on!

        I have always eaten what I have wanted and had good skin at times so this makes me doubt it is food as I’ve never changed my diet but my eczema has been up and down….I’m thinking of firstly just incorporating more fruit, veg and good foods before cutting out.

        Like you said it’s important to see the positives as well and not the negatives as it just makes us feel worse and that in turn can’t be helpful!

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  10. Hello! In my personal eczema experience, giving up tomatoes and citrus foods was helpful as they made my mouth (and the area around my mouth) itchy. I also seemed to have an improvement in my skin (and huge improvement in nasal allergies) when I tried to give up dairy. I do get tempted by cheese pizza sometimes but if you can drastically cut it down, I think it will help. Good luck and I’m rooting for you to have success in your journey! 🙂

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