Eczema can be both mentally and physically debilitating for those who suffer from it. We look at how nutritional therapy may help to manage the condition

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic, inflammatory condition that can leave you with red, dry, itchy and scaly skin.

It is an allergic condition; around 80% of sufferers have raised IgE antibodies - an antibody that the body produces in response to a threat. Common foods that contribute to inflammation include nuts, milk and wheat. Many people who suffer from eczema also suffer other conditions such as asthma and hay fever.

GPs will usually prescribe steroid creams and emollients to provide short-term relief from eczema. Nutritional therapy, meanwhile, can look to address the deeper problems causing the condition in the first place.

How can a nutritional therapist help with eczema? 

Nutritional therapy takes an individual approach to managing eczema. While two different people may present with similar symptoms, the causes may be very different.

Therefore, the nutritional therapist will usually carry out biochemical testing to identify any allergies or imbalances. They may suggest ‘crowding out’ certain foods from the diet which might be triggering inflammation and introducing specific dietary supplements, if there are any nutritional deficiencies. They will also consider factors such as skin products, laundry products, sleep and stress.

Here are some common dietary considerations when dealing with eczema:

1) Consuming an anti-inflammatory diet

Diets high in sugar and refined carbohydrates cause insulin levels to spike, which can contribute to inflammation. You may be able to reduce symptoms by consuming a diet that is anti-inflammatory. This includes oily fish, wholegrains, plenty of fruit and vegetables, and healthy fats such as olive oil.

2) Prebiotics and probiotics

The ability of the gut microbiota and oral probiotics to influence systemic inflammation, oxidative stress, glycaemic control, and tissue lipid content may have important implications in skin conditions such as eczema.

Recent studies have shown that orally consumed pre- and probiotics can reduce systemic markers of inflammation and oxidative stress, which may help reduce inflammatory acne and other skin conditions.

3) Be aware of nutrient deficiencies 

Deficiencies in certain nutrients including vitamins and minerals are known to influence the severity of eczema symptoms. Imbalances in omega-6 to omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake in particularly may play a role in inflammation.

Vitamin D also reduces skin inflammation, and may directly regulate circulating IgE levels. Patients with eczema have also been shown to have low blood serum vitamin D levels; less exposure to sunlight, which we need for our bodies to manufacture vitamin D, is correlated with symptom flare-ups.

Blood cell zinc deficiency is also associated with eczema severity.

If you are concerned about eczema, or any other irregularities or abnormalities in your skin, it is recommended you consult your GP, and take supplements only under guidance from a registered nutritional therapist or nutrition practitioner.

Train to become a registered nutritional therapy practitioner.