Nutrition Tips & Supplements for Eczema Relief
By Lea Wetzell, MS, CNS, LN
July 16, 2019
Summer bucket lists are full to the brim with fun, and the last thing anyone wants is for a painful eczema flair up that sometimes accompanies hot, humid days, to spoil the fun. Frustrating and painful to say the least! A lot of my clients, or their kiddos, are dealing with these flare-ups, so in honor of the dog days of summer, here are some natural solutions to eczema relief that really work.
First, let’s get this out of the way. What exactly is eczema?
Eczema is a skin disorder, where, when inflamed, skin can be patchy with red, dry flaking skin and some areas can also become moist and oozing. Basically, the part of the skin that holds things together (think glue) is not functioning properly. Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis) affects about 36.1 million Americans with 16% of those being infants and young children. Those most likely to develop eczema may have a history of allergies, asthma, or food sensitivities. It’s important to note that these allergies and sensitivities are often unknown to the eczema sufferer, so figuring them out is part of the puzzle, more on that below.
What Causes Eczema?
Many skin irritations, like eczema, are caused not by the skin, but by the gut (our intestinal tract), where 70% of our important immune system lives. So if skin is showing signs of eczema, we often interpret it as the body signaling poor intestinal health.
That poor gut health is often the result of an overgrowth of yeast or bad bacteria, caused by a diet high in processed carbohydrates, refined vegetables oils, and low in fiber. Plus, certain medications can compromise gut health; antibiotics, steroids, hormones, and birth control pills are examples of those.
Natural Eczema Solutions
At Nutritional Weight & Wellness we always start with food first, knowing that you can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet. Start by focusing on a healing, balanced diet of meat, vegetables and good fats (all things that are healing for your gut and delicious).
Often when the gut is out of whack, it’s because certain foods can be irritating the intestines, causing a potential eczema trigger. So while you’re focusing on your healing diet, it’s also a time to experiment with identifying what foods may be connected to your eczema issues. For my clients, some of the most common foods causing eczema flare-ups are identified by following a healing eating plan of meat, vegetables and good fats for 4-6 weeks. (However, it may take longer to notice significant results as the skin can take time to heal.) To save you some guesswork, many of my clients (but not everyone!) learn that gluten, dairy, eggs, or nuts are triggers for their eczema. Interesting research has concluded that eczema is three times more common in people with celiac disease and two times more likely in family members of celiac patients.
If this process of starting a healing diets seems overwhelming to you, (and we don’t blame you one bit if it does) working with a licensed nutritionist or dietician by phone or in-person can be helpful to determine your individual needs.
Supplements Can Help
In my clinical practice, the diet is always the most important foundation to healing. Supplements can be a nice support for that foundation, considered as a step two in the health journey.
- Probiotics – Probiotics are our first part of the solution to heal/rebalance the gut and in turn help the eczema calm down. Bifido bacteria, specifically, is the probiotic we start with to bring up the level of good bacteria in the intestinal tract while also weeding out the bad bacteria and yeast. Bifido Balance comes in capsule and powder form (easier for most children to take), so pick what works best for your situation. Because it’s so important we must restate that while probiotics can be very helpful, it’s crucial to eat nutrient-dense real foods (those veggies, healthy fats, and meat or fish that we listed above) at the same time. This type of diet stops feeding the bad bacteria and yeast while also supporting the good bacteria to help skin to heal!
- Vitamin A/Cod Liver Oil – A sign of low vitamin A is rough and dry skin, sound familiar? The best source of vitamin A for the skin comes from animals (not plants), so taking 1 tsp per day of high-quality cod liver oil is a great way to help your skin from the inside out.
- Omega-6 GLA – This recommendation is for adults only. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an essential fatty acid that has targeted anti-inflammatory properties for the skin. Borage, evening primrose, and black currant seed oil are good sources and names you may have heard. For eczema, 600-800mg of GLA over several months may be needed to help bring down the inflammation.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D3 is critical for a healthy immune system. Too little and too much can cause conditions like eczema to flare. A healthy level for someone with eczema would be somewhere between 50-70 ng/mL (60 ng/mL being an ideal level). The best way to determine whether you need vitamin D3 supplementation is to have levels tested by a doctor in the midsummer and midwinter. Supportive amounts to take can vary but 2-5,000 IUs of a Vitamin D3 is a general range. For kids, the amount used is adjusted depending on size and weight with the average dosage being 600- 1,000 IUs. The best fit, if supplementation is needed, is liquid VitDK2 drops, super easy for kids to use and no issues with taste.
Eczema can be an aggravating for many summertime outdoor activities (and other times of the year as well of course), but with proper nutrient support and targeting the root cause of the issue you can enjoy your family’s favorite activities with ease.
- The Kresser Institute. Functional Approach to Eczema. https://kresserinstitute.com/functional-approach-eczema/. Accessed 6/30/2019
- Zand J, Rountree R, Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child, 2nd ed. New York: Avery/ Penguin Putnam, 2003.
- The Cleveland Clinic. Eczema. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9998-eczema. Accessed 6/30/19
- Hanifin J, Reed M. A Population-Based Survey of Eczema Prevalence in the United States. Dermatitis. 2007;18(2):82-91. doi:10.2310/6620.2007.06034.
- Dr. Mark Hyman. 7 Strategies to Eliminate Eczema. https://drhyman.com/blog/2015/11/12/7-strategies-to-eliminate-eczema/. Accessed 6/30/19
- Ciacci C et al. Allergy prevalence in adult celiac disease. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology;113(6):1199-203.