Atopic Dermatitis, Inflammation, and Food
Atopic dermatitis (also known as eczema) is an inflammatory skin condition. Treating or correcting the underlying chronic inflammation may lessen clinical features and symptoms, including itchiness and rashes. Diet may be one way to reduce that inflammation and thus speed healing or reduce flare-ups.
Inflammation and food
While diet is not the only (and perhaps not even the primary) factor underlying chronic inflammation in the body, it can play a key role. Multiple studies have shown that certain diets, such as the Mediterranean-style diet, may help reduce inflammation in the body when compared to the typical North American diet (that is, a diet high in saturated fats, trans fats, and refined sugars and low in fruits and vegetables). Based on these studies, some experts believe it makes sense for people with eczema, autoimmune disorders, and/or other conditions tied to inflammation to swap so-called inflammatory foods for “anti-inflammatory” foods in an effort to reduce symptoms.1
Refined sugars and carbohydrates top the list of foods to avoid if you’re wanting to try an anti-inflammatory diet. This includes refined white bread and pasta as well as foods with added white sugars. Other foods to avoid according to nutrition experts include many dairy products, fried foods and other foods high in trans fats, foods made with monosodium glutamate (or MSG), processed meats, and alcohol.2
So what foods should you choose instead? Foods common to the Mediterranean Diet, which is a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil, may be a good place to start. Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and broccoli are also good choices, as are reddish colored fruits like cherries, raspberries, and blackberries. Unrefined, whole grains (such as brown rice, oatmeal, and unrefined wheat) and beans may also help fight inflammation.3
Pitfalls to Avoid
Dietary changes should never be attempted in a vacuum. While many of these food choices (such as swapping fried foods for dark green vegetables) may seem like no-brainers for health-conscious individuals, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before making any widespread dietary changes. What is healthy for one person, under certain circumstances, may be unhealthy for another. If you have IBS, for example, beans may not be a good option for you. This is why food choices are something for you and your doctor to discuss one-on-one.
Tips for success
If you get the green light to make changes, you’ll be more likely to maintain success if you keep these tips in mind:
Plan for snacks
In-between times are often the hardest times to make healthy choices. If you often reach for something sugary or salty around mid-day, plan healthy alternatives in advance. Slice up some veggies to have ready and on-hand in the fridge and/or keep almonds or other healthy nuts with you on the go. Having something healthy accessible and on hand will keep you from reaching for the chips and cookies.
Be realistic with meal planning
If your evenings are generally hectic, don’t expect to spend 60-75 minutes each night cooking dinner in the kitchen. Consider using Sunday to meal prep for the week to make cooking easier or joining a food delivery service that specializes in high-quality dinners that can be made in 30 minutes or less.
Remember change is a process
Sticking to any diet, whether that’s an anti-inflammatory diet, the autoimmune protocol, or a diet for weight loss, can be difficult, especially when you’ve got a million other things going on as most of us do. However, it’s not an all or nothing sport. It’s a lifestyle change toward building healthier habits. So, if things didn’t go the way you’d hoped today, there’s always tomorrow. Just make one healthy choice at a time and move forward from there.
Have any of you tried the anti-inflammatory diet in an effort to treat or prevent atopic dermatitis flare-ups? If so, how did that work for you? Please let us know in the comments.
Have you been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis?