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Can a Nutritionist Help with Eczema?

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Eczema is a common skin condition that causes dry, cracked skin, itchiness, and a rash on swollen skin. 
  • There is little research on the relationship between diet and eczema, but some small studies indicate that vitamin D and L-Histidine may be effective treatments for eczema.
  • If you suspect that your eczema is due to food sensitivities, work with a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you do an elimination diet to help identify your food triggers.

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a common skin condition. It affects approximately three percent of adults and 10 to 15 percent of children in Western industrialized countries.

The precise cause of eczema is unknown, but it’s thought to develop due to a complex interaction between genetic and environmental factors.

Food allergies and sensitivities often co-occur with eczema.

While there’s little research looking at the effects of diet on eczema, you may still consider modifying your diet. If you’re going to follow an elimination diet for eczema, it’s important to work with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Can a Nutritionist Help with Eczema?

Food allergies and sensitivities, and eczema often occur together, especially in people with early onset, severe, and persistent eczema. Therefore, working with a registered dietitian nutritionist who can help you eat a balanced diet while avoiding triggering foodsmay help with eczema management. 

Benefits of Working with a Nutritionist

If you’re struggling with eczema, you may be tempted to eliminate entire food groups. Instead, consider an elimination diet, with systemic reintroduction, to identify triggering foods.  

If you are considering doing an elimination diet to manage eczema, it’s important to work with a registered dietitian nutritionist who can help ensure you’re not missing out on important nutrients.

How is Eczema Linked to Food?

Much of the research looking at the link between eczema and food focuses on the connection between pre- and postnatal nutrition and infant food allergies.. However, there are some small studies that examine the effects of individual nutrients on eczema prevention and treatment.

Vitamin D

There is some evidence that prenatal nutrition  could lead to the development of allergic diseases like eczema. A systematic review and meta-analysis found that lower maternal vitamin D intake during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of childhood eczema. 

Another study looking at the effect of a vitamin D on eczema severity found that supplementation with 1600 international units (IU) of oral vitamin D drastically reduced eczema severity. 

While the studies looking at the relationship between vitamin D and the development of eczema are small, the results are promising. When taken in the correct dose, vitamin D supplementation is generally considered safe. If you’re unsure how much vitamin D to take, talk to your doctor or dietitian.

Probiotics

Some researchers believe that an imbalance in the gut microbiome could be involved in the development of eczema. Therefore, it’s thought that probiotics may help treat eczema.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when taken in the correct dose, provide a beneficial effect on a person’s health. They are naturally present in some fermented foods. You can also buy probiotic supplements. 

A randomized controlled trial found that children aged 4 to 17 years who took a daily probiotic had reduced eczema severity and reduced use of topical corticosteroids. 
While it’s not yet determined which strains of bacteria are best for treating eczema, a registered dietitian can provide you with recommendations on more commonly available strains.

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are complex carbohydrates that microorganisms feed on in the digestive tract. When used as fuel, they promote specific changes in the composition and activity of the gut microbiome, leading to improvements in health. 

A Cochrane review looked at the effect of prebiotic supplementation on rates of eczema in infants. They found a small amount of evidence that formula feeds that included a prebiotic supplement helped prevent eczema. However, it was unclear whether the prebiotic should only be used for high-risk infants or if lower-risk infants would also benefit from prebiotic supplementation. 

Overall, there isn’t enough research to recommend the use of prebiotics to treat eczema in adults.

L-Histidine

L-Histidine is a natural moisturizing factor that is incorporated into the skin barrier. A recent study found that L-Histidine supplementation led to reduced eczema symptoms in adults and children, which also reduced the need for topical corticosteroids.

If you’re interested in trying L-Histidine supplements to treat your eczema, speak with a doctor or dietitian who can provide recommendations regarding how much to take. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats found in foods such as fish and flaxseed. The three main types of omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is mostly found in plant-based foods, while EPA and DHA are found in fish and other seafood.

A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids can cause rough, scaly skin and dermatitis.

Therefore, omega-3 supplements may help treat eczema. A small study of people aged 18 to 40 with eczema found that taking a DHA supplement was associated with improved eczema symptoms.

While the results of this study have not been duplicated, a registered dietitian can discuss the other benefits of including omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. 

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Creating an Eating Plan for Managing Eczema Symptoms

Since eczema is an inflammatory condition, an anti-inflammatory eating plan that reduces inflammation in the entire body could help with symptom management. However, this has not been specifically studied for eczema.

While there are many different versions of anti-inflammatory diets, the most common and well-researched anti-inflammatory diet is the Mediterranean diet.

Here are the basic principles of the Mediterranean diet:

  • Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, pulses, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
  • Eat moderate amounts of fish, seafood, yogurt, cheese, poultry, and eggs.
  • Limit intake of red and processed meat products.

When creating an eating plan for managing eczema symptoms, try to keep the principles of the Mediterranean diet in mind.

Foods to Avoid When Managing Eczema

Current research does not show that any specific foods cause eczema. However, research does show a link between food allergies and sensitivities and eczema. Therefore, if you have a known food allergy or sensitivity, avoiding those foods may help reduce the severity of eczema.

What to Expect at My First Appointment

Your first visit with a dietitian will include an in-depth assessment of your current diet, your symptoms, and your trigger foods. Together, you will develop a treatment plan that considers your preferences and triggers.

You may also decide to try an elimination diet under the supervision of a dietitian.

When doing an elimination diet, it’s important not to eliminate too many foods at once. By only eliminating one or two foods at a time, you’re more likely to be able to properly identify the food you’re sensitive to and less likely to develop nutrient deficiencies.

Follow-Up Appointments

During your follow-up appointments, your dietitian will ask you about your food intake and how this relates to your eczema symptoms. If you’re doing an elimination diet, your dietitian will provide you with instructions regarding how to reintroduce foods.

How Do I Find a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Eczema?

When looking for a registered dietitian nutritionist for eczema, an online search using the term “eczema nutritionist” or “eczema dietitian” is a good place to start. Since nutrition for eczema is an emerging area of research, there may not be dietitians who specialize in eczema nutrition near you. In this case, consider telehealth appointments.

If you’re looking for a reputable registered dietitian nutritionist, Nourish offers personalized nutrition counseling via telehealth and accepts the most popular insurance carriers. To manage your eczema through diet, consider booking a virtual appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Takeaway

The science of the link between diet and eczema is emerging, but some small studies show that vitamin D and L-Histidine may help treat eczema. Also, research shows that there is a link between allergies/sensitivities and eczema, so avoiding foods you’re sensitive to could be beneficial.
Finally, since eczema is an inflammatory condition, following an anti-inflammatory diet (such as the Mediterranean diet) may help with eczema management. However, further research in this area is needed.

How a Dietitian Can Help

The registered dietitians at Nourish are trained to help you manage your eczema through diet and accept the most popular insurance carriers. If you’re interested in using diet to treat eczema, consider booking a virtual appointment with a Nourish registered dietitian

Frequently Asked Questions

Is eczema related to nutrition?

Research shows that there is a relationship between food allergies/sensitivities and eczema. While the exact causes are unknown, eliminating foods that you’re allergic or sensitive to could help reduce eczema symptoms.

What is my body lacking if I have eczema?

Small studies show that deficiencies in vitamin D and L-Histidine (an amino acid) could be related to the development of eczema. In both cases, supplementation with the deficient nutrient led to improvements in eczema symptoms.

Can a nutritionist help with skin?

There isn’t a lot of evidence for the use of diet to treat skin conditions, but some research shows a relationship between food allergies/sensitivities and eczema. In this case, working with a nutritionist to identify your trigger foods could be beneficial. 

In addition, eczema is an inflammatory condition, so following an anti-inflammatory diet (such as the Mediterranean diet) could theoretically be helpful. However, this has not been well-researched.

References

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