Which foods can help with eczema?
When it comes to eczema, what you eat can have a massive impact on the severity of your symptoms, and can be vital for avoiding flare-ups. Some foods which can support eczema-prone skin include:
- Pumpkin seeds
Read on to find out more about the benefits of these foods and how they may help those who suffer from eczema.
'An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ or so goes the old saying. There might just be some truth to this, though, as apples are an amazing source of one nutrient that’s essential for healthy skin – vitamin C!
If you’re not familiar with this nutrient, when it comes to your skin, it’s essential for maintaining healthy collagen production. Since you need collagen to keep your skin strong and elasticated, I’m sure you can see the benefits of including more vitamin C in your diet if you suffer from eczema.
In addition to vitamin C, apples also contain a healthy amount of fibre (good for keeping your digestion ticking over!), and quercetin. ‘What is quercetin?’, you ask. Quercetin is a type of plant-based flavonoid that can also act as an antioxidant, combatting free-radical damage and inflammation.
In the case of eczema, it’s the anti-inflammatory benefits of quercetin that take centre stage as, not only can it help soothe inflammation in the gut, it can also block the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are responsible for many of the symptoms related to skin inflammation.1
Apples are quite easy to include in your diet: you can snack on them in between meals, blend into smoothies or even stew with cinnamon for a quick, healthy dessert. When it comes to vitamin C, though, if you really feel as though you could do with an extra boost, you could try our Nature-C supplement.
Recently, many of us have become infatuated with avocados and this is certainly one of the healthier food trends to come out in the last decade. To start off with, avocados are a rich source of vitamin E, a nutrient which, in addition to strengthening the vein walls and supporting the immune system, can also act as a potent antioxidant. When it comes to eczema, there is some evidence to suggest that vitamin E supplements could help to ease eczema symptoms, but more trials are needed to confirm this.2
Avocados, like apples, aren’t just a one trick pony either. Besides vitamin E, they also contain essential fatty acids that can help to maintain the structure of your skin and its barrier function – this is extremely important for eczema-prone skin, where the barrier function is often impaired, allowing pathogens and toxins easier access to the body.
In addition, healthy fats such as these can promote the growth of good gut bacteria which improves digestion by aiding the breaking down of food. Now, as you may be aware, the health of your gut is intricately linked to the health of your skin. It's estimated that over 70% of your immune cells reside in your gut and it's here that many key nutrients are absorbed. If your gut is sluggish, your skin often has to pick up the slack, acting as a secondary pathway of elimination for toxins and pathogens.
Just like apples, there are plenty of ways to make sure your diet includes more avocados. You can easily mash them on toast, or serve as a tasty side dish, or even use them to create a creamy, chocolatey dessert!
Bananas are definitely a multitalented fruit and one that can be recommended for a variety of different health problems. Rich in fibre, potassium, vitamin C and manganese, it’s easy to see why they could potentially benefit your skin, as well as other areas of your body. What I want to highlight here, though, rather than any individual nutrient bananas contain, is their prebiotic qualities.
Now, as I mentioned previously, the health of your gut is very important when it comes to the condition of your skin.
One of the things that can greatly affect your gut health is the balance of bacteria that live here. If your gut becomes overwhelmed by unfriendly bacteria, it can cause gut dysbiosis to manifest which, in turn, can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as leaky gut syndrome. Eating prebiotic foods, like bananas, is a great way of nourishing your friendly bacteria and encouraging their proliferation, thus improving your overall gut environment.
Bananas are great for mixing into homemade goodies like banana oat cookies or banana bread muffins but, if you’re still interested in prebiotics, you could try our Molkosan Original prebiotic which is rich in L+ lactic acid.
It’s no secret that carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene and it’s this content of beta-carotene that makes them so beneficial for your skin. You see, beta-carotene (which your body converts into vitamin A) not only acts as a potent antioxidant, it can also help your skin to retain more moisture. Naturally, if you have a dry skin condition like eczema, this is going to be sought after. It also encourages your skin heal and promotes the development of new skin cells.
Now, carrots are easy to add to your diet – you can have them in soups, smoothies and salads. However, with more and more people becoming increasingly interested in the benefits of beta-carotene, many are turning to carrot juices to up their intake. This can be tricky as many of these juices are also loaded with refined sugars and preservatives. That’s why, if you do want to make the most of carrot juice, I’d recommend Biotta’s Carrot Juice which is free from added sugars and is lacto-fermented, supporting the production of gut-friendly L+ lactic acid.
While not as popular as its better-known cousin spinach, kale contains just as many, if not more, benefits for your health! It contains plentiful amounts of beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese, as well as antioxidants like our old friend quercetin. Ideal for supporting your immune system in addition to your skin, kale is definitely a leafy green that you should aim to include more of in your diet.
Of course, this might not sound like the most inviting prospect but there are plenty of ways of making kale more palatable if you are averse to this vegetable. You can blend into a fruit smoothie to mask the flavour or you can easily turn kale into a healthier alternative for chips!
Do you remember what I mentioned earlier about the importance of maintaining a healthy gut in order to support your skin? Well, prebiotics are an important first step on this path but, eventually, you might need to start investigating probiotics. Unlike prebiotics (which help to optimise your gut environment to nourish your friendly strains of bacteria), probiotics supply the friendly bacteria to your gut. Just like avocados, probiotic foods have soared in popularity recently and one that I’m keen to highlight is kombucha.
Kombucha is sweetened green or black tea that is then fermented, so it is rich in probiotics. It is now widely available in many cafes and restaurants so you shouldn’t struggle to find it. Nevertheless, if you want an alternative, you could try taking a probiotic supplement, like Optibac, which is backed up by science and ideal for maintaining a healthy gut.
7. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a wonderful healthy snack option as they’re bursting with magnesium, vitamin E and zinc. When it comes to eczema, zinc is a potentially beneficial nutrient that doesn’t always get the spotlight it deserves. This mineral is absolutely crucial for your immune system, but it can also help to speed up wound healing and promotes skin cell regeneration.
Unfortunately, zinc deficiencies do occur and, when levels of this mineral run low, it can impact your skin. You may find that any wounds take longer to heal, that you’re more prone to breakouts and that your immune system is more responsive!
The good news about pumpkin seeds is that they’re incredibly versatile so they’re a good way of increasing your intake: for example, you can incorporate them into cakes, energy balls or simply toast them for a simple, but delicious, snack.
Salmon, just like avocado, is a rich source of essential fatty acids, including omega-3. This means it has anti-inflammatory properties that could potentially benefit eczema sufferers. In one 2008 study, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA did appear to be able to help ease eczema symptoms. Here, 53 eczema patients aged between 18 and 40 were split into two groups.
The test group received 5.4g of DHA each day for 8 weeks and displayed better results than the control group, with a noticeable reduction in the severity of their eczema symptoms.3 This does have some positive implications for omega-3 fatty acids, so increasing your intake here is definitely not a bad idea!
Of course, if you have a restricted diet, salmon might not be an option for you. That’s why, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, it might be worth investigating an omega-3 supplement.
Originally written 25 April 2019 (updated 12 May 2020).