Eczema and Nutrition

If you have ever felt like certain foods you eat help or hinder your eczema symptoms, you’re not alone.  Research has found that the severity of symptoms and frequency of flares can be well managed (or at least minimised) through lifestyle factors such as diet – particularly addressing food allergies.  But before exploring how nutrition may play a role in eczema, let’s discuss what eczema is and how common it is.

What is eczema?

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition, also referred to as Atopic Dermatitis. It is estimated to affect 20% children and 1-2% adults globally.

Eczema is characterised by rashes and itchy, dry, rough, flaky, inflamed and irritated skin which can appear anywhere on the body, most commonly on the arms and behind the knees.

How can diet help eczema management?

Given eczema is an inflammatory condition, consuming a plant-rich, anti-inflammatory diet may be helpful in managing symptoms.  Some key nutrients which research has found to be beneficial for eczema include:

  • Vitamin A: an important nutrient and antioxidant with many derivatives including β-carotene, astaxanthin, lycopene and retinol. Vitamin A and it’s derivatives play key roles in skin health including protection against UV radiation and tissue maintenance, with studies showing that a deficiency in vitamin A may increase the risk of developing or worsening eczema.  Dietary sources include fruits and vegetables (especially orange and red varieties), egg yolk, milk, liver, cheese and oily fish such as salmon.
  • Vitamin C: also known as L-ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is a nutrient and antioxidant that plays a key role in skin health. Research has shown a lack of vitamin C in the diet can increase the likelihood of developing eczema. Dietary sources include kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, berries, capsicum, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and potato.
  • Zinc: a micronutrient with anti-inflammatory benefits that plays a role in promotion of healthy skin cell turnover. Studies show a zinc may manifest in the form of eczema. Dietary sources include oysters, red meat, poultry, legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy, eggs, and wholegrains
  • Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFAs): PUFAs have proven anti-inflammatory benefits and have been shown to be beneficial for individuals with Eczema. PUFAs include Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) which are derived from marine sources such as salmon, mackeral and sardines, and Alpha-linolenic Acid (ALA) which is derived from plant sources such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
  • Prebiotics and probiotics: prebiotics are a type of fibre that act as fuel for gut bacteria, resulting in production of Short Chain Fatty Acids, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties and may be beneficial in inflammatory conditions like eczema. Prebiotics can be found in supplemental form and from foods such as barley, rye, rolled oats, wheat, onion, garlic, legumes and lentils.  Probiotics are live bacteria that are found in the gut, but can also be found in certain fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso and kefir, and in supplement form.  Some research demonstrates possible benefits of utilsing prebiotic and/or probiotic supplementation in the management of eczema, however, more research is required before we can recommend it for eczema management.

How can diet worsen eczema?

Research has shown a strong association between food allergy and eczema, particularly in children.  Individuals (especially children) with eczema have higher rates of food allergy to common allergens such as nuts, cow’s milk, wheat, soy, eggs and seafood (particularly shellfish).  Whilst common allergens such as dairy and wheat don’t appear to cause eczema, those with allergies or intolerances to these foods are more likely to experience exacerbation of eczema when they are consumed.

Similarly, some individuals with eczema may also have a food chemical sensitivity to one (or multiple) naturally occurring food chemicals.  These include salicylates, glutamates, and amines, which are found in a wide variety of foods.

Individuals with a food chemical sensitivity may experience skin symptoms, like rashes, itchiness and/or exacerbation of eczema.  If you suspect you may have a food chemical sensitivity or allergy, consult with a dietitian who specialises in this area.

Other factors which may worsen eczema include excess alcohol consumption and dehydration. Alcohol dilates blood vessels and promotes dehydration, which can worsen the redness and itchiness of the skin barrier – and can exacerbate eczema as a result.

Adequate water intake is important for maintaining the internal balance of skin, tissue function, and combatting dryness and itchiness associated with eczema. So ensure adequate water intake and only moderate alcohol consumption for both your overall health and to manage your eczema.

Overall, it is recommended to consume an anti-inflammatory, plant-rich diet to achieve a variety of important nutrients shown to help with eczema management.  The key nutrients discussed play pivotal roles in overall health, in addition to their proposed benefits for eczema management, so should be consumed as part of a balanced diet by everyone.


  1. Katta R, Schlichte M. Diet and dermatitis: food triggers. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. 2014 Mar;7(3):30. Avail:
  2. Sweeney A, Sampath V, Nadeau KC. Early intervention of atopic dermatitis as a preventive strategy for progression of food allergy. Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology. 2021 Dec;17(1):1-2. Avail
  3. Wollenberg A, Szepietowski J, Taieb A, Ring J. Corrigendum: Consensus‐based European guidelines for treatment of atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) in adults and children: part I. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 2019 Jul;33(7):1436-. Avail
  4. Wollenberg A, Barbarot S, Bieber T, Christen‐Zaech S, Deleuran M, Fink‐Wagner A, Gieler U, Girolomoni G, Lau S, Muraro A, Czarnecka‐Operacz M. Consensus‐based European guidelines for treatment of atopic eczema (atopic dermatitis) in adults and children: part II. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology. 2018 Jun;32(6):850-78. Avail
  5.  Čelakovská J, Ettlerová K, Ettler K, Vaněčková J, Bukač J. The effect of wheat allergy on the course of atopic eczema in patients over 14 years of age. Acta Medica (Hradec Kralove). 2011;54(4):157-62. Avail
  6. Skypala IJ, Williams M, Reeves L, Meyer R, Venter C. Sensitivity to food additives, vaso-active amines and salicylates: a review of the evidence. Clinical and translational allergy. 2015 Dec;5(1):1-1 Avail
  7. Wang K, Jiang H, Li W, Qiang M, Dong T, Li H. Role of vitamin C in skin diseases. Frontiers in physiology. 2018 Jul 4;9:819. Avail
  8. Karabacak E, Aydin E, Kutlu A, Ozcan O, Muftuoglu T, Gunes A, Dogan B, Ozturk S. Erythrocyte zinc level in patients with atopic dermatitis and its relation to SCORAD index. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology/Postȩpy Dermatologii i Alergologii. 2016 Oct;33(5):349. Avail