There’s no single diet that will help manage eczema for everyone. Because eating certain foods may trigger eczema flare-ups in different people, you may be able to reduce your symptoms by finding an eating plan that works for you.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition. Also known as atopic dermatitis, it can cause skin irritation, oozing blisters, and itchy rashes. It can also result in leathery skin patches appearing over time.

Eczema most often appears during childhood, but it can also affect adults. Hereditary and environmental triggers may play a role in developing the condition, but its cause isn’t clearly understood. Many children “outgrow” eczema and experience few to no outbreaks as adults.

Research indicates that many people who have eczema also have food allergies or sensitivities. However, everyone is different, and discovering your personal food needs is important to minimize issues with allergies and eczema.

Not everyone will have issues with the foods listed below, but common food allergies associated with eczema include:

Eating certain foods doesn’t appear to cause eczema, although it may trigger a flare-up if you already have the condition. Sticking to an eczema-friendly diet may help manage your symptoms. Not everyone will have the same reactions or flare-ups to the same foods.

There’s no one-size-fits-all eczema diet, though eating a diet rich in antioxidants may help reduce symptoms. Some eating plans are based on principles that you may find helpful in managing your symptoms:

Dyshidrotic diet

The dyshidrotic diet is specifically for those with dyshidrotic eczema.

Dyshidrotic eczema is characterized by tiny blisters on your hands and feet. Like other forms of eczema, its cause is unknown. Allergens, including food allergens, may influence flare-ups.

Nickel and cobalt may worsen symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema. The dyshidrotic diet involves reducing foods that contain these elements to help reduce flare-ups among people with a sensitivity to these metals. There hasn’t been much research on low nickel and low cobalt diets for eczema, but the diet may be worth a try.

Nickel and cobalt may be found in:

  • whole grains, including wheat, oats, and buckwheat
  • legumes such as chickpeas and soy products
  • nuts and seeds, especially Brazil nuts and flaxseeds
  • meat, especially liver and other organ meats
  • dairy products, including milk
  • fruits and vegetables such as cantaloupe and potatoes
  • cocoa and chocolate
  • tea and coffee

Foods high in vitamin C may help reduce absorption of these elements, so eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables may also help. These include:

  • bell peppers
  • oranges
  • strawberries
  • broccoli
  • tomatoes

Elimination diet

An elimination diet may help those who don’t know what their eczema triggers are. A recent research review found that the diet may slightly lower eczema severity in some people, though more studies are needed.

There are many triggers for eczema outside of what you eat, including stress, topical products, and the environment. This may make it harder to determine the cause of your outbreaks.

If you wish to try the elimination diet, start by removing specific foods or food groups from your diet for at least 3 weeks to see if your flare-ups subside. For the best results, try removing one specific food or food group at a time.

It’s important to work with a dietitian while following an elimination diet to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients.

Going gluten-free

Research suggests that for some people, celiac disease and eczema seem to go hand in hand. This may be because of the genetic link between the disorders. Celiac disease is treated by removing gluten from the diet. If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity in addition to eczema, you may see an improvement in your skin if you eliminate gluten.

Gluten-free food has become very popular, and many foods are now labeled as gluten-free. Many wheat, rye, and barley products also have gluten-free substitutes available to buy.

A little imagination goes a long way here. For example, you can use potato flakes instead of bread crumbs to coat chicken cutlets and almond flour instead of wheat flour for baking.

Mediterranean diet

This diet emphasizes eating:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • nuts
  • grains
  • legumes
  • fish
  • healthy fats such as olive oil

It also includes red wine, which contains the plant compound quercetin. While there’s little research supporting the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for eczema, the omega-3 fatty acids and quercetin present in the diet may help lower inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory diet

This food plan focuses on eliminating foods that increase inflammation and eating fiber-rich foods.

Note that there’s no single anti-inflammatory diet, as a particular food may cause inflammation in one person but not another. In general, though, this diet places a strong emphasis on:

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • legumes
  • healthy fats such as olive oil
  • fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids

Heavily processed foods are limited in this food plan. You’ll also eat less meat on this diet.

Following an anti-inflammatory diet may help lower inflammation in your body, although research on eczema is mixed.

Eating certain foods may help with eczema even if you don’t follow a specific diet. Still, keep in mind any food allergies or sensitivities you have. Foods considered to be eczema-friendly may trigger a flare-up in those who are allergic to them.

In general, beneficial foods for eczema may include:

Fatty fish

You may be able to reduce your eczema symptoms by eating fatty fish such as salmon and herring. Fish oil contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory. You may also consider taking a fish oil supplement, though more research is needed on its benefits for eczema.

Your diet is your body’s main source of omega-3 fatty acids. If you can, it’s best to consume them through food rather than supplements.

Foods containing quercetin

Quercetin is a plant-based flavonoid. These natural compounds help give many flowers, fruits, and vegetables their rich color. Quercetin is also a powerful antioxidant and may lower inflammation in your body.

Although more studies in people need to be done, some research suggests that quercetin may benefit inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema.

Foods high in quercetin include:

  • apples
  • berries
  • grapes
  • broccoli
  • pepper
  • green tea

Foods containing probiotics

Probiotic foods, such as yogurt, contain live cultures that affect your gut bacteria and help support a strong immune system. This may help reduce flare-ups or allergic reactions.

Probiotic-rich foods include:

  • miso soup
  • naturally fermented pickles
  • unpasteurized sauerkraut
  • kombucha
  • kefir
  • tempeh

What you eat may not directly cause eczema, but it’s likely that it can trigger an increase in symptoms. This is especially true if you eat a food that you’re allergic or otherwise sensitive to.

Common food allergies include:

  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • soy
  • nuts

Many triggers may bring on eczema-related symptoms, including what you eat. There isn’t a single diet that reduces eczema symptoms in everyone, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid foods that seem to make your symptoms worse.

Focus on a healthy diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein. This may help you stave off some — or even all — of your eczema flare-ups.

If you’re planning to become pregnant and eczema runs in your family, talk with a doctor or healthcare professional. They can go over any preventive measures you can take to lower your infant’s risk of developing the condition.