I often get asked whether I support elimination diets for the control and prevention of eczema. Here’s my response:
No. In fact, I specifically advocate against them.
Firstly, if you look at the evidence, elimination diets do not consistently help control eczema. In one study I like to discuss, researchers took children of families who were particularly concerned about a specific food. They put that food into a capsule and then made a placebo that looked and tasted the same. They then put the child on the food for a week, followed by the placebo the next week. They did this, on and off, for several months. Each day, the parents and a doctor scored the child’s eczema on a scale of 1 to 10. Neither knew whether the child was on the food or the placebo that week. After several months, the researchers went back and looked at whether the eczema was truly worse when the children were eating the food versus the placebo. They saw no consistent correlation between the weeks when the food was consumed and the eczema flaring.
Secondly, and most importantly for me, elimination diets can predispose children to developing food allergies. We know that eating a food early and often helps to prevent food allergy development, and when a food is avoided, especially in a child with eczema, it greatly increases their risk of developing a food allergy to that food.
With all this said, you or your child were not likely in the study I quoted above. If you still feel strongly that a food is worsening your child’s eczema, I suggest limiting, but not eliminating that food. Keeping a small amount of the food in your child’s diet regularly may help prevent an anaphylactic allergy from developing to that food.
If you still have questions, I suggest seeing an allergist 🙂
Dr. Alex Lyttle