Are eczema and food related? How can it impact your skin health
Something I always read when looking for information about eczema is “clean diet, clean skin". Is that true? Are eczema and food related? The relationship between what food you eat and eczema is debated by many, considered irrelevant by some, and strongly preached by others. From my experience, I believe it is very different for each person suffering from eczema. Here’s my experience.
It’s not about good and bad foods
After a few years in my life where my eczema had progressively worsened. So I turned to the internet. I tried to find a solution to the itchy, red, and dry skin I had all over my body. The creams I had been prescribed by my dermatologist at the time didn’t seem to work. So I began to consider the idea that my diet played a role in my eczema. After lots of researching, I decided I was going to change my diet and cut out everything the internet said was a “bad” food. I started intensively tracking everything I ate, avoided situations that wouldn’t fit my diet, and following a strict eating regime.
Easy enough, right?
This is where it went downhill. It wasn’t as easy to figure out eczema and food relationship. I didn’t seem to find any patterns in what I ate and my massive eczema flares. I would get very stressed if I caved and ate something I wasn't "supposed to"... And then I’d stress as I waited in anticipation for the inevitable eczema flare.
Though I had found some enjoyment in preparing healthy meals, I missed out on opportunities to go out and eat with friends and spent a lot of time feeling sad and frustrated. I even paid to take a blood-based food sensitivity test and the results were inconclusive. What I didn't realize at the time is that I was slowly starting to develop anxiety around food. Something I later learned was known as orthorexia.
This period in my life when I spent the most time and energy trying to "cure" my eczema ended up being the period in which it was the worst. Looking back, I believe that the stress and negative emotions that came with trying to maintain a strict diet were worse for me than any food I ate.
For me, it wasn’t only about the eczema and food relationship. Mental health was important as well
Fast forward a year and I was fortunate to go on a trip to Europe to visit some family and relax on a beach. While I was there, I chose not to follow a diet and ate whatever I wanted, though I still tried to eat relatively "healthy".
Free from the stress of what my daily life had turned into, my eczema improved greatly. When I finally came home, I woke up one morning and realized that for the first time in a decade, my skin was clear. It's been over a year since this day and every day I wake up and can't believe how lucky I am to be free from this disease.
I don't know if it will ever come back but I am certainly not taking any day for granted. As for my diet? I learned a lot from that year of my life, and I adopted a healthy lifestyle that allows me to indulge when I want to and not stress about what I'm putting into my body. The bottom line is that everyone's experience with eczema and food is different. For some, eliminating a food that they know is problematic may help. For others, that added stress may only make things worse.
Here are my tips to anyone suffering from eczema:
- Take lukewarm baths from time to time, don't be afraid to pamper yourself
- Finding a good moisturizer that works for your skin (takes trial and error)
- Jojoba oil helps for very dry flares
- Wear clothing that doesn’t irritate your skin
- Practice acceptance and self-love, think positively (sounds cheesy, but it’s important not to stress)
- Get lots of fresh air and sunshine, and do things that make you happy
Sending love to all those struggling with skin conditions. You are beautiful and strong, never forget that!
I am a 23 year old graduate student studying biomedical engineering who has suffered from eczema for many years before finally finding a way to balance my high-stress lifestyle with my own physical and mental health. I think that our ability to easily share our experiences with other people in similar situations helps so much and allows us to feel like we’re not alone in this journey!