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If you’re living with eczema, odds are you’re seeking symptom relief that’ll soothe your dry, itchy and inflamed skin. No matter which kind of eczema you have, the symptoms can leave your skin feeling and looking less than its best.
More than 31 million people in the U.S. are living with some form of eczema, and it’s a condition that can vary significantly in its severity. Like many inflammatory ailments, every type of eczema is the result of an overactive immune system. If your immune system comes into contact with irritants, it begins producing inflammation, which makes symptoms appear. This inflammatory cycle, however, may be something you can help with the right foods.
It’s possible to lessen inflammation with your diet. While there’s no cure for eczema, you may be able to achieve some symptom relief, or potentially reduce your flare-ups, by including certain foods in your daily diet. Here are five eczema-friendly foods.
1. Flaxseeds or flaxseed oil
Flaxseed is one nutrient-rich seed variety. Packed with omega-3 fatty acids – specifically, one called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – these little seeds can offer powerful anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, flaxseed is one of the best sources of ALA.
This essential omega-3 helps lower inflammation, and it’s particularly helpful for a skin condition like eczema. Fatty acids like ALA found in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil have been shown to reduce inflammation.
Flaxseed oil in particular can be beneficial. Incorporating just one tablespoon of flaxseed oil into your diet can deliver your daily recommended amount of ALA. It can also improve your skin from the inside out. According to research, taking flaxseed oil can decrease the redness, swelling and itchiness that atopic dermatitis – a type of eczema – can cause. Taking flaxseed oil as a supplement is also shown to improve skin’s smoothness, keep skin hydrated and decrease skin sensitivity. This, in turn, can lead to less irritation.
You can easily incorporate more flaxseed into your diet by adding ground flaxseed into recipes like Cranberry Orange Muffins or Low-Carb Avocado Toast. If you’re looking for the benefits flaxseed oil can offer, you can find this variety in supplement form.
2. Foods high in probiotics
Probiotics are great for your gut health, but they can have benefits for the rest of your body too – especially when it comes to the frequency of eczema flares and potential skin infections.
Individuals who live with eczema can experience varied symptoms and levels of severity. According to multiple research studies, probiotics can be used as a type of therapy to balance healthy bacteria in individuals with eczema. Adding more “good” bacteria into your body’s natural flora can reduce the frequency of atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema). Consuming probiotics may also help those with moderate to severe atopic dermatitis, offering significant symptom improvement and curbing the frequency of flares. While research into just how helpful probiotics can be for eczema is still ongoing, there is evidence that shows significant improvements may be possible.
Another way foods high in probiotics may be able to help those with eczema is reducing the risk of skin infections. Eczema symptoms can lead to frequent skin infections – and even potentially severe diseases – and having a wealth of “good” bacteria from probiotics can help prevent or combat these infections.
To give probiotics a try, you’ll want to incorporate foods like yogurt with live or active cultures, tempeh or miso soup. You can also try fermented foods, like kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi. You can try recipes like Creamy Kefir Chicken Alfredo or Miso-Marinated Chicken Breast to get more probiotics into your meals.
3. Fatty fish
Fatty fish is packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that’s key for fighting inflammation and its effects. Like flaxseed and flaxseed oil, choosing foods high in omega-3s can offer you a critical dose of fatty acids that directly impact inflammation.
For those living with eczema, it’s those fatty acids that could help reduce the amount of inflammation, the severity of inflammation-related symptoms and even the frequency of your flare-ups.
Look for fatty fish and cold-water fish to get a great amount of omega-3s. Good options include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, sardines and anchovies. Oysters are another seafood choice that’s naturally rich in just the right fatty acids.
Honey can sweeten up a dish, and it may also be able to lessen certain factors related to eczema. Some varieties of honey, like manuka honey, can offer anti-inflammatory properties, are high in antioxidants and have antimicrobial properties.
Most of the research surrounding honey and eczema actually focuses on using honey as a topical treatment rather than eating it. But those results do show promise. A 2017 study found that applying honey – specifically, manuka honey – to eczema lesions nightly led to less inflammation and an improvement in those skin symptoms. Research shows that manuka honey can also help balance out wounds’ acidity, which can result in faster healing.
Research is still needed to determine the full effects and potential benefits of honey for eczema. But you can always give manuka honey a try. Topical is the most research-backed and tested method of application; talk with your doctor before you apply it as any kind of topical salve.
However, you can also incorporate honey into your diet to see if it might be helpful for your symptoms. You can try it as a sweetener in recipes like Honey-Almond Oatmeal or a fresh Honeydew and Blackberry Bowl with Basil and Lime Drizzle.
5. Fruits and vegetables high in quercetin
Eating fruits and vegetables is important across the board. However, when you’ve been diagnosed with eczema, you’ll want to choose your fruits and vegetables carefully. Specifically, you’ll want to look for varieties that include quercetin, a natural flavonoid.
Quercetin is pretty abundant in different fruits and veggies. It’s also surprisingly good for you. Science suggests that quercetin has the potential to prevent and treat a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, and some kinds of cancer. And there’s promise and potential for eczema too.
Quercetin works like an antioxidant, and it can reduce inflammation at a cellular level. Research shows that it’s also a potent immunomodulator, which means this flavonoid could potentially help suppress an overactive immune system – which is exactly what leads to many eczema flares.
Choosing fruits and vegetables high in quercetin can help soothe inflammation. Because inflammation leads to eczema flares and symptoms, quercetin can keep your skin and immune system in better balance. You can find quercetin in apples, citrus fruits, grapes, broccoli and onions.
Give the following recipes a try to get a boost of quercetin alongside other eczema-friendly ingredients: