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Can You Clear Eczema by Avoiding Triggers?

Eczema can be difficult to treat. One reader found that identifying an allergy to eggs and minimizing egg consumption was able to clear eczema.
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Itchy red skin, such as rashes that occur in the crooks of the elbows and the backs of the knees, will often be diagnosed as atopic dermatitis. You may know it by the more common term eczema. Chronic eczema can drive a person to distraction. As a result, sufferers are often very anxious to learn if there are ways to clear eczema.

Allergen Testing May Help Show How to Clear Eczema:

Q. A reader wrote you about a recent flare-up of atopic dermatitis. I’d like to suggest that this person consider allergy testing to identify what may have caused it.

I have had eczema all my life and usually wear gloves for cleaning, dishes, gardening, etc. to avoid most problems. A couple of years ago I had a severe break-out that lasted months. It was difficult to do anything as my hands were so swollen, itchy and painful.

I went to a naturopathic physician who did a simple blood test to identify the allergen. The test determined that I was “off the charts” allergic to eggs. I had been eating an egg every day for breakfast for the whole time period of the breakout. While I had been eating eggs sporadically all my life, I had never eaten them every day until then.

The doctor suggested I stop eating eggs to see if it would clear up my eczema. After six weeks, it did! I can now eat eggs sporadically as I used to without too much difficulty, but not daily!

Avoiding Allergens Can Clear Eczema:

A. Allergic reactions to eggs are frequently seen among babies and young children with eczema. This appears to be less common for adults. Nonetheless, both kids and adults with hard-to-treat eczema (atopic dermatitis) may have multiple allergic sensitivities (Boonstra et al, Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, Sep. 2018).  As you note, avoiding an allergic trigger when possible may be the best treatment.

Home Remedies to Help Clear Eczema:

Readers have suggested a number of potential remedies for eczema. Some people use coconut oil as a moisturizer and find it works to clear eczema. Others are just as likely to be enthusiastic about Noxzema.

Sometimes probiotics may be helpful. Oils rich in gamma-linolenic acid (such as black currant seed oil, borage oil or evening primrose oil) have helped some readers. Certain other people benefit from taking flaxseed oilDrinking oolong tea has helped others, though just one study has been done (Uehara et al, Archives of Dermatology, Jan. 2001).

Vitamin D to Clear Eczema:

Some researchers believe that vitamin D may help clear eczema or reduce its severity. Investigators in Boston conducted a pilot study to see whether vitamin D supplements would benefit children with persistent eczema (British Journal of Dermatology, July, 2008). The youngsters were randomized to receive 1,000 IU of vitamin D or placebo daily for a month. The results were inconclusive but promising.

You will find many other options for easing eczema, psoriasis and dry skin in our Guide to Skin Care & Treatment.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I have moved from one home to another, an apart. to a mobile home. I’ve never had eczema until this new location. I have also just been diagnosed w/Hashimoto’s Auto Immune and have just started w/a new endocrinologist. I have had hypothyroid since 1983 and have been told Synthroid (non-generic) was not being absorbed by my body and was put on Triscent for a mth. I can tell no change. When I tried to show my doctor my arm, she immediately said, “no, no, you need to see a dermatologist.” I had read that Hashimoto’s could cause skin disorders.

I moved in on Oct. 29 and by Nov 1, started breaking out and itching. I thought I was being bitten by something. The home had not been cleaned well. I’ve heard of “dust mites”? I have 3 Air Purifyers and controlled asthma at this time. I made a “paste” of coconut oil and old fashioned oatmeal. This does seem to help, some drying. My arms are going to be so scarred. I love gardening and have done it for 45 years. Now I wear #70 sunscreen. I’m afraid to do anything. My diet has not changed except not as much sugar. I’ve had 2 “skin patch” tests at minimum 10 yrs apart. They showed I had no “histamine” in my body, but I have to go to the Dr. if I get Poison Ivy, for a shot Any advice would be appreciated.

I cured my eczema with a multi-pronged approach. I added borage oil supplements and glutamine for my gut health and avoided allergens, which for me are pork and quinoa. I believe I am sensitive to all the plants in the quinoa family. I can’t eat eggs that are even cooked on the same griddle as bacon, which makes me sad. It took some experimenting to figure out what I reacted to, but it was well worth it. No flare-ups now!

I had intractable eczema for many years. The itching affected every aspect of my life — I was miserable! It turned out it was all related to food sensitivities. In my case, I can eat eggs, but nightshades, citrus, and dairy are my big eczema triggers. Since figuring out the connection, I have been completely rash-free for about 15 years, except for a few odd occasions when I’ve accidentally ingested something I’m sensitive to.

It is shocking to me that something doctors told me was “incurable,” and could only be (barely) subdued with steroid creams is, in fact, easily controlled with a change in diet. There is still such a lack of awareness about dietary triggers and eczema.

A friend who had severe eczema told me that his VA doctor once lectured him, saying he didn’t want to hear any “New Age garbage” about diet and eczema. So my friend decided not to pursue that. This friend later went camping, and, long story short, got stuck in the woods and his food supply ran out. Despite his hunger, my friend had a pleasant surprise — his eczema went away, for the first time in years. Intrigued, when he got home he decided to do an elimination diet. It turned out his big trigger was wheat. He too had complete control of his eczema with a change in diet.

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