Diet, Stress, and Allergens: How Environmental Factors Affect Eczema
Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, affects over 31 million people in the United States. For those affected, treating eczema requires a multi-pronged approach: 1) Start with a visit to your dermatologist’s office to make sure what you have is actually eczema and not something else, 2) Follow the proper skincare regimen, including a barrier repair moisturizer, 3) Manage symptoms by avoiding these common environmental triggers.
Eczema and Inflammation
It is important to understand that eczema is caused by underlying inflammation. This is part of your body’s natural immune response system. However, when exposed to triggers such as allergens, stress, poor diet, and other factors, inflammation can run rampant and is very difficult to “turn off”. So controlling these triggers will help to control eczema symptoms and flare-ups by reducing inflammation.
Eczema and Your Diet
Because inflammation is the underlying cause of dry, flaky, itchy skin due to eczema, eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods and low in inflammatory foods is beneficial. Anti-inflammatory foods, drinks, and spices include:
- Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries
- Wild-caught salmon
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
Foods that can cause inflammation include processed meats, sugary foods and candy, high-fructose corn syrup, and white bread and flour. Limit these foods to help decrease inflammation and keep eczema symptoms at bay.
There is some evidence that vegetarian and vegan diets may contribute to eczema flare-ups, as they tend to be low in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are healthy, anti-inflammatory fats that are most abundant in animal products. However, there are plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids available, such as flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, and avocados.
Eczema and Stress
Chronic stress negatively impacts the skin in a variety of ways. When your body is under a nearly constant state of stress, it begins to produce excess cortisol – a hormone often referred to as the “stress hormone.” Raised cortisol levels not only suppress your immune system but also increases the amount of sugar in your bloodstream, as well as triggers an inflammatory response. All three of these factors can bring on a flare-up of dry, itchy, inflamed skin if you are prone to eczema.
Take steps to reduce stress such as getting regular exercise, drinking enough water, listening to calming music, meditating, and using aromatherapy. Preliminary studies have shown that aromatherapy can reduce stress and anxiety.
Eczema and Allergens
Environmental allergens and irritants can wreak havoc on the skin, especially those affected by eczema. This inflammatory skin disease causes an impaired skin barrier, which allows external particles to more easily enter the skin, while also allowing moisture to evaporate from the skin into the atmosphere.
What is the Best Moisturizer For Eczema?
To strengthen the skin’s natural barrier, use a barrier repair moisturizer that uses MLE technology. I like Zerafite Barrier Repair Moisturizer. Regularly changing your bedsheets can also help to reduce allergens that come into contact with your skin. Some people with severe eczema and allergies even look for hypoallergenic mattress materials like natural latex instead of memory foam.
Managing eczema requires a multi-layered approach. Once you’ve been accurately diagnosed by your dermatologist and are using your prescribed skincare regimen, you can focus on making lifestyle changes to help keep flares at bay. Eat a healthy diet full of anti-inflammatory foods, reduce stress, and avoid common sources of allergens, irritants, and other known triggers whenever possible.
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As always, wishing you great skin!
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