What foods can cause eczema?

No food actually causes eczema. Instead, there are some foods that can trigger the flare up of eczema.

It’s an important difference to recognize because you can remove the offending foods from your diet, but the eczema may persist.

Children are born with eczema

Children are born with a genetic predisposition toward eczema. Some things, including some foods, can make it worse. Eczema results from an imbalance in the immune system. As a result, children may become sensitized to common substances in the environment (like food or pollen). A food allergy or a food sensitivity can make eczema worse. Removal of the food can improve, but not cure, eczema.

How to find out if food is making your eczema worse

There are two primary ways. First, there will be an immediate reaction including redness and itching of the skin, usually within an hour of eating the food. These reactions are associated with allergy and are due to the food reacting with the IgE antibody in most cases. Second, the delayed reaction can occur more than 24 to 48 hours after ingesting the food. These reactions are thought to be related to the food proteins aggravating immune cells or T-cells.

A skin prick test will confirm the first, immediate reaction but not the delayed reaction. The only way to know if a specific food causes a delayed reaction is by experience. Remove the food and see what happens. Reintroduce the food and watch the skin. If there is a reaction, keep the food out of the diet.

The most common food triggers

The most common triggers are cow’s milk, chicken eggs (both white and yolk), wheat and peanuts. If you try an elimination diet to test for skin reaction, start with these foods. A commonly experienced eczematous rash found around the mouth is caused by eating highly acidic trigger foods like orange, tomato and strawberry.

Source: Sydney Children’s Hospital

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