Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition characterized by an itchy, scaly skin rash. Although the exact cause of eczema is unknown, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that what we eat affects our skin.
If you’re experiencing sudden flare-ups without knowing why, you could be consuming your food triggers - such as gluten. Read on to learn more about the link between gluten and eczema and discover whether a gluten-free diet can help you manage the itchy symptoms.
You Are What You EatThe relationship between diet and eczema cannot be overlooked. What you eat can be the difference between clear skin and a bad flare-up. As eczema is an inflammatory skin condition, it stands to reason that inflammatory foods can exacerbate symptoms and should be avoided. On the other hand, anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce symptoms. Common triggering foods include:
- Citrus fruits (such as lemons, grapefruit, and limes)
- Shellfish (such as shrimp, crab, lobster, prawns, mussels, oysters and squid)
- Soy products
- Nuts (including peanuts)
- Different spices (such as vanilla, cloves, and cinnamon)
Remember that there is a difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity. If a certain food is triggering your eczema, a reaction will typically occur within 6-24 hours of consuming the food. It’s possible, however, that the reaction can be delayed.
Gluten and Eczema
Gluten is a naturally-occurring protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. Like milk, eggs, and nuts, gluten ranks amongst the top foods that are commonly known to worsen eczema.
Even though you may not technically be allergic to gluten, it’s possible that gluten may still trigger an eczema flare-up in sensitive individuals. This is because it may trigger a T-cell response in the body (which is a fancy way to say an inflammatory response).
Bear in mind that gluten will not necessarily have the same effect on everyone suffering from eczema. Everyone is unique and will react differently to different food triggers.
Celiac Disease and Eczema
Celiac disease is an immunologically-mediated disease in which a person has an autoimmune reaction that causes the immune system to attack its own body by mistake. Likewise, eczema is an autoimmune disease, in which sufferers have lower levels of a type of protein that's associated with a healthy immune system plus higher levels of a protein that's involved in allergic reactions.
Although it isn't clear what exactly causes eczema, the condition does appear to be linked to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. For example, researchers have discovered that eczema occurs about three times more frequently in people with celiac disease and about two times more frequently in relatives of celiac disease, suggesting a possible genetic link between the two conditions.
It further seems that those with celiac disease or a heightened sensitivity to gluten seem to be more frequently plagued by skin problems than those without these conditions. This begs the question: is gluten partly responsible for eczema? More research is needed, however, one thing is certain: the immune system definitely plays a huge role regarding these conditions.
Does a Gluten-Free Diet for Eczema Work?
Over recent years, gluten-free foods have become more readily available, making a gluten-free diet a plausible treatment option. For those with celiac disease or gluten-sensitivity, it’s possible that a strict gluten-free diet can help manage or improve eczema symptoms.
If attempting a gluten-free lifestyle is something you’re interested in, be sure to speak to your doctor or nutritionist as going gluten-free brings the potential for a very unhealthy diet (such as loss of fiber and vitamin D). For this reason, it’s not recommended to try a gluten-free diet for children.
We recommend trying a gluten-free diet on a trial basis for a few months to see if it brings any improvement to your skin. For it to work, it requires strict discipline with no cheat days. Most importantly, remember that a gluten-free diet is not a substitute for eczema treatments and should be done alongside your regular eczema routine. A gluten-free diet isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. There are other ways to naturally manage your skin condition. For example, as eczema is thought to be linked to a weakened digestive function, you can further support this body system by focusing on improving your gut health.
Elimination Diet for Eczema
If you’re not sure which foods are triggering your eczema, we recommend undergoing an eczema elimination diet. This involves completely removing certain foods from your diet for 3-4 weeks and then incorporating them back in to see which caused a reaction.
Bear in mind that an elimination diet for eczema is not intended to be a long-term diet. The goal is simply to reduce the intake of triggering food.
Finally, remember to always work with your dietician, nutritionist, or physician when undergoing an elimination diet. This is to make sure you or your child is still getting a well-balanced diet with all the essential nutrients.
Have you noticed a connection between consuming gluten and eczema flare-ups?
Let us know on our Facebook page!
https://www.verywellhealth.com/gluten-and-eczema-562614 https://nationaleczema.org/gluten-free-and-ad-the-whole-grain-truth/ https://www.avogel.co.uk/health/digestive-system/food-intolerance/gluten-and-eczema/