FOOD AND ATOPIC DERMATITIS
You’ve been told that food can trigger atopic dermatitis, but how much of an effect does diet really have? See what the experts say about food and atopic dermatitis.
Food and Flare-ups
Food allergens can trigger atopic dermatitis.1-3
It is possible to have both food allergies and atopic dermatitis.1-3 Some of the more common food allergens that can trigger a flare-up include milk and milk products, eggs, soy, wheat, seafood and shellfish.2, 3
However, atopic dermatitis is a complex disease and flare-ups can be triggered by many different things. There are some people with atopic dermatitis who have no food allergies at all.1-3 So while certain foods can trigger flare-ups in some people, not all flare-ups are caused by food.
It’s important to have a doctor diagnose food allergies.1-4
If you notice that you get flare-ups after eating one particular kind of food, don’t just take that food out of your diet.1-4 Food contains important nutrients and avoiding certain foods can lead to malnutrition.1-4
Consult a health care professional who can perform tests to confirm if you do have allergies to certain foods.1, 4 Doctors can help you find out if your food allergies are contributing to your atopic dermatitis flare-ups, or if there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration.1-4
These are a few common thoughts among people with atopic dermatitis. Do they sound familiar?
• “If I don’t eat shrimp, I won’t get flare-ups.”
Avoiding foods that cause allergic reactions to prevent flare-ups only works in a patient who has food allergies.4 This does not work for all patients with atopic dermatitis,4 an immunological disease that requires appropriate treatment. You should only remove a food from your diet if it causes flare-ups in spite of getting the right atopic dermatitis treatment, or if that food triggers allergic reactions.1, 4
Some patients discover that the foods that used to trigger flare-ups stop giving them trouble after their atopic dermatitis has been controlled.1
• “Going vegan will cure my atopic dermatitis.”
Studies show that certain diets can help manage atopic dermatitis.5 Vegetarian diets have been shown to decrease inflammation, while people with diets high in meat and processed food had a higher risk.5
However, while some people claim that diets can cure atopic dermatitis, this has been not been proven by scientific research.1 Atopic dermatitis is a chronic condition and so far, no permanent cure has been discovered.4, 5 If you decide that you want to try a particular diet, always do this under your doctor’s supervision.
• “My cousin told me probiotics can help.”
There are several food supplements that claim to help reduce atopic dermatitis symptoms and prevent flare-ups. While a few studies seem to show promising results for certain supplements like probiotics and prebiotics, overall, there is not enough proof to definitely say that any food supplement is effective.4, 5
Nutrition for managing atopic dermatitis
Healthy eating is good for everyone.1, 5
In general, recommendations for a healthy diet for the general public hold true for people with atopic dermatitis. Being overweight or obese has been linked to a higher risk of the disease, so maintaining a healthy body weight may be of potential benefit.5
Some foods, like dairy products, simple carbohydrates and processed foods seem to contribute to inflammation in some people, so it might be a good idea to eat less of these types of food.5 This means choosing a diet rich in whole foods, more fresh vegetables, lean sources of proteins and good fats.4
The best advice is to discuss nutrition with your doctor. Your doctor can help you identify food allergies, recommend a diet that fits your lifestyle and culture, make sure you are getting enough nutrients, and guide you on how to best manage atopic dermatitis.
- Jones, K. (2018, updated Oct 2020). “Everything you need to know about eczema and food allergies”, National Eczema Association, https://nationaleczema.org/eczema-food-allergies/ (Accessed October 28, 2020).
- Dhar, S. & Srinivas, S.M. (2016). Food Allergy in Atopic Dermatitis. Indian J Dermatol, 61(6), 645-648. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5122280/
- Katta, R. & Schlichte, M. (2014). Diet and Dermatitis. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol, 7(3), 30-36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3970830/
- American Academy of Dermatology. “Can Food Fix Eczema?”, https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/childhood/treating/food-fix (Accessed October 28, 2020).
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (2020). “PCRM’s Nutrition Guide for Clinicians: Atopic Dermatitis”, https://nutritionguide.pcrm.org/nutritionguide/view/Nutrition_Guide_for_Clinicians/1342028/all/Atopic_Dermatitis (Accessed October 28, 2020).
Health information contained herein is provided for general educational purposes only. Your healthcare professional is the single best source of information regarding your health. Please consult your healthcare professional if you have any questions about your health or treatment.