Eating certain foods may cause your skin to ‘erupt in a raging flare’ – what to avoid

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Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, dry and cracked. According to the NHS, some people only have small patches of dry skin, but others may experience widespread inflamed skin all over the body. “People with atopic eczema usually have periods when symptoms are less noticeable, as well as periods when symptoms become more severe – this is known as flare-ups.

Unfortunately, eczema is a life-long condition but flare-ups can be largely avoided if you steer clear of triggers.

“A GP will work with you to establish what might trigger the eczema flare-ups, although it may get better or worse for no obvious reason,” explains the NHS.

Some people find the foods they eat can have an adverse impact on their eczema symptoms.

According to the National Eczema Association (NEA), for some people, certain foods like sugar, eggs or dairy cause their skin to “erupt in a raging eczema flare”.

To minimise the risks of dietary-induced flare-ups, the Eczema Foundation recommends adhering to the following dietary principles:

  • Reduce consumption of cow’s milk
  • Reduce consumption of fast sugars
  • Reduce consumption of saturated fat
  • Reduce consumption of pesticides and endocrine disruptors (which alter our hormones).

According to the NHS, you should not make significant changes to your diet without first speaking to a GP, however.

“It may not be healthy to cut these foods from your diet, especially in young children who need the calcium, calories and protein from these foods,” warns the health body.

As it explains, if a GP suspects a food allergy, you may be referred to a dietitian (a specialist in diet and nutrition).

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They can help to work out a way to avoid the food you’re allergic to while ensuring you still get all the nutrition you need.

In addition to cutting back on certain items, increasing your intake of others may alleviate eczema symptoms.

As the EF points out, certain foods have natural anti-inflammatory properties, so it makes sense for people with an inflammatory disease to incorporate them into their diet.

It recommends the following:

  • Green tea and matcha tea
  • Turmeric-black pepper blend
  • Ginger
  • Berries and red fruits: goji berries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.
  • Omega-3-rich foods (dark fish: sardines, mackerel, herring; vegetable oil, walnut oil, rapeseed oil, olive oil)
  • Dry fruits: nuts, hazelnuts, almonds
  • Dark chocolate
  • Certain green vegetables: broccoli, artichokes.

Key self-help tip

Moisturising your dry skin is mission critical if you have eczema and there are a number of effective ways to do this.

According to the NEA, the best way to replace and retain moisture in the skin is to moisturise immediately after taking a bath or shower.

“Although there have not been comparative studies to pinpoint the best frequency or duration of bathing, the ‘soak and seal’ method of treating eczema is recommended by many healthcare providers to combat dry skin and reduce flares,” says the health body.

To get the full therapeutic benefit of soak and seal, follow these steps in order:

  • Bathe or shower in lukewarm (not hot) water for a short period of time (about five to 10 minutes) at least once per day.
  • Avoid scrubbing your skin with a washcloth or loofah.
  • Use a gentle cleanser (not soap) that is unscented, fragrance-free and dye-free.
  • Lightly pat dry with a towel leaving the skin damp. Do not rub the skin.
  • Apply prescription topical medication to the affected areas of skin as directed.
  • Liberally apply a high-oil content moisturiser all over the body to seal in moisture. Try to do this within three minutes to limit the amount of moisture lost from the skin.
  • Let the moisturiser absorb into the skin for a few minutes before dressing or applying wet wraps. Wear cotton gloves over your hands while you sleep to help lock in the moisturiser and prevent scratching.

One of the most effective ways to moisturise your skin is to apply special moisturisers called emollients.

“These special moisturisers work by hydrating and soothing your skin and helping to repair any damage,” explains Bupa.

According to to the health body, they can ease pain and itching and stop your skin getting infected.

“Your doctor can prescribe emollients, but you can also buy some products from pharmacies. Use your emollients all the time, even when you don’t have any symptoms,” it adds.

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