Healing Eczema Naturally: Diet, Lifestyle & Skin Care Tips


written by:

Kayla Martin, MS, CNS

Are you tired of the constant discomfort, relentless itch, and the never-ending battle with eczema? If you’re one of the millions of people who grapple with this frustrating skin condition, you know all too well the toll it takes on your physical and emotional well-being. 

But what if we told you there’s hope for finding relief beyond just topical treatments and prescription medications? 

In this article, we’ll explore how simple dietary and lifestyle changes, along with targeted supplementation, can soothe your skin, calm inflammation, and offer relief from the relentless cycle of flare-ups and frustrations. We’ll help you identify and address the root cause of your eczema, so you can begin healing from the inside out.

What is eczema and what causes it? 

Eczema is a chronic skin condition characterized by inflammation, redness, itching, and the formation of dry, scaly patches on the skin. While the symptoms can vary, eczema is generally associated with a combination of genetic and environmental factors that stimulate the immune system and compromise the skin barrier. 

It’s important to understand that eczema is an external sign of an internal problem – specifically inflammation. When your body experiences chronic inflammation (from any source), your immune system can kick into overdrive and begin affecting your skin. Our goal is to uncover the root cause of your inflammation so we can treat it at the source and begin healing your body. 

That being said, there is a genetic component to eczema in about 70% of cases. About 50% of patients with eczema possess a genetic mutation in the filaggrin (FLG) gene. This gene plays a crucial role in forming the protective outer layer of the skin, and its dysfunction can contribute to a weakened skin barrier. People with eczema often exhibit a reduced number of beta-defensins in their skin. Beta-defensins are proteins responsible for helping the skin combat infections from pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. The compromised production of these proteins may contribute to the susceptibility of individuals with eczema to skin infections. Although genetics creates a predisposition to eczema, there’s still a trigger that causes the flare. 

Read on to learn about the most common root causes that may trigger eczema flares in people with (or without) a genetic predisposition. 

Gut Health and the Gut-Skin Connection

Recent research has shed light on the intricate relationship between gut health and skin conditions like eczema. Poor gut health, often characterized by increased intestinal permeability, can lead to chronic, low-grade inflammation that triggers or exacerbates eczema symptoms. This condition is commonly referred to as “leaky gut.”

Bacterial or yeast overgrowth in the gut, known as dysbiosis, is another factor linked to eczema. Functional testing, like the GI MAP by Diagnostic Solutions or GI Effects by Genova Diagnostics, can offer insights into the composition of your gut, including pathogens, yeast, mold, inflammation, bacterial balance, and so much more. Once we have that information, we can tailor a plan to address the underlying imbalances, restoring your gut microbiome to a healthy state – ultimately, this translates to healthier skin. 

Food Sensitivities 

Food sensitivities, particularly to gluten and dairy, are major contributors to increased intestinal permeability. Individuals with eczema should be cautious of these common triggers, as they can exacerbate inflammation and compromise the gut lining. Identifying and eliminating these sensitivities from the diet can play a pivotal role in managing eczema symptoms. However, an elimination diet should always be planned and supervised by a qualified professional

Histamine Intolerance 

 Histamine, a compound produced by the body in response to allergens or immune triggers, plays a vital role in immune response and allergic reactions. People with histamine intolerance have a reduced ability to metabolize histamine efficiently, leading to its accumulation in the body. This excess histamine can trigger inflammatory responses in the skin and disrupt the delicate balance of the skin’s barrier function, resulting in eczema flares, increased skin sensitivity, and susceptibility to environmental triggers. Addressing histamine intolerance through dietary modifications, reducing histamine-rich foods such as fermented foods, aged cheeses, alcohol, and processed meats, and supporting histamine metabolism can help alleviate eczema symptoms and promote overall skin health.

Nutrient Deficiencies  

Nutrient deficiencies can play a significant role in the development and exacerbation of eczema. Vitamin A deficiency, for instance, can impair skin barrier function and lead to increased susceptibility to inflammation and infection, exacerbating eczema symptoms. Similarly, inadequate intake of zinc, an essential mineral involved in skin repair and immune function, may compromise the skin’s ability to heal and regulate inflammation, contributing to eczema flares. Omega-3 fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory properties crucial for modulating immune responses and maintaining skin health. Deficiencies in these fatty acids can disrupt the delicate balance between pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mediators, potentially worsening eczema symptoms.

Additional research suggests that deficiencies in other nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin E, and certain B vitamins may play a role in eczema development, highlighting the importance of addressing nutrient status as part of a holistic approach to eczema management and prevention. We’ll gather information about your nutrient intake through a detailed intake process and nutrient testing if necessary, so we can begin repleting your nutrient stores. 

Environmental Toxins

Environmental toxins, including heavy metals and mold, can be a root cause of eczema by disrupting immune function, triggering inflammation, and compromising skin barrier integrity. Exposure to heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, commonly found in air pollution, contaminated water, and certain consumer products, can impair immune responses and exacerbate inflammatory skin conditions like eczema. Similarly, mold exposure can provoke allergic reactions and skin inflammation in susceptible individuals. Other environmental toxins such as pesticides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may contribute to eczema development by disrupting hormonal balance, oxidative stress pathways, and skin barrier function. Given the pervasive nature of environmental toxins in modern society, reducing exposure is crucial for mitigating eczema risk. 

Topical Irritants 

Harsh chemicals commonly found in skincare products, including fragrances, preservatives, sulfates, and alcohols, can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness, irritation, and exacerbate eczema symptoms. Certain fabrics, detergents, and environmental pollutants can inflame sensitive skin, disrupt the skin barrier function, and promote eczema flares. Prolonged exposure to these topical irritants can compromise the skin’s ability to maintain its protective barrier, making it more susceptible to allergens and pathogens, and perpetuating the cycle of eczema. Identifying and avoiding these triggers, along with adopting gentle skin care practices and using hypoallergenic products, is essential for holistically managing eczema and preserving skin health.

By understanding the multifaceted nature of eczema, we can begin investigating the root cause(s) and develop a holistic approach to treatment and management.  

Different types of eczema 

Eczema manifests in various forms, each presenting with distinct characteristics and triggers. 

There are seven types of eczema, including: 

  1. Atopic dermatitis stands out as the most prevalent type, often associated with genetic predisposition and immune system dysfunction. 
  2. Contact dermatitis, on the other hand, results from direct skin contact with irritants or allergens, leading to localized inflammation. 
  3. Dyshidrotic eczema primarily affects the palms, fingers, and soles, presenting as itchy blisters. 
  4. Neurodermatitis is marked by thickened, intensely itchy patches of skin, commonly triggered by repetitive scratching. 
  5. Nummular eczema appears as coin-shaped patches of irritated skin, typically on the limbs. 
  6. Seborrheic dermatitis tends to affect oily areas, such as the scalp and face, leading to redness and flaking. 
  7. Stasis dermatitis is a skin condition characterized by inflammation, redness, and scaling on the lower legs, often associated with poor circulation and venous insufficiency.

It is important to note that each subtype requires a personalized approach to treatment, emphasizing the significance of accurate diagnosis and personalized care for effective eczema management.

Addressing Eczema From the Inside Out 

Addressing eczema from the inside out is paramount for achieving long-term relief and comprehensive management of this chronic skin condition. Eczema is not merely a surface-level concern; it is a complex interplay of genetic predispositions, immune system responses, and environmental factors. By focusing on internal factors, such as gut health and immune system function, we can target the root causes of eczema, rather than solely alleviating superficial symptoms.

The gut-skin connection plays a pivotal role in eczema, as an imbalanced gut microbiome and increased intestinal permeability can lead to chronic inflammation, triggering or exacerbating skin issues. By fostering a healthy gut environment through targeted testing and intervention. you can begin reducing your body’s systemic inflammation and positively impact your skin. 

Additionally, identifying and addressing food sensitivities, particularly common culprits like gluten and dairy, can contribute to healing the gut and mitigating eczema symptoms naturally. Holistic approaches that encompass lifestyle modifications, stress management, and targeted nutrition not only promote skin health but also support overall well-being.

Now, let’s break down how you can leverage nutrition, lifestyle factors, and targeted supplementation to heal your eczema from the inside out. 

Nutritional Recommendations for Eczema  

1. Identify and Eliminate Trigger Foods 

Begin by following a therapeutic diet that removes any identified food allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities. This may involve undergoing allergy testing or keeping a food diary to pinpoint potential triggers. An elimination diet can be implemented for 6-12 weeks, during which highly reactive foods are eliminated. 

Gradually reintroduce these foods systematically and wait for three days before adding another potentially triggering food. This approach helps identify specific dietary triggers contributing to eczema flare-ups. Elimination diets can be tricky to execute and we highly recommend working with a healthcare professional who is well versed in designing, implementing, and reintroducing foods on an elimination diet. 

2. Emphasize Nutrient-Dense, Anti-Inflammatory Foods 

Focus on consuming a diet rich in nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods to support overall skin health and reduce inflammation. Incorporate colorful vegetables, high-fiber fruits such as berries, kiwi, citrus, and apples, as well as fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Opt for high-quality proteins from sources like fish, poultry, beef, and eggs. Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Additionally, incorporate anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like turmeric, cilantro, basil, and cinnamon into your meals. 

3. Support Gut Health 

Consume prebiotic-rich foods such as garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and bananas to nourish beneficial gut bacteria and promote a healthy gut microbiome. Additionally, incorporate probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and kombucha to introduce beneficial bacteria into the gut. These foods help normalize gut flora, strengthen the intestinal barrier, and reduce inflammation, which can positively impact eczema symptoms. 

If you notice that eating more probiotic and prebiotic rich food actually worsens your symptoms – that is an important clue that you might have an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. We often see intolerance to seemingly “gut friendly” foods with conditions like SIBO or histamine intolerance. That’s why we prefer to test, not guess, when it comes to gut healing.

4. Avoid Inflammatory Foods

Reduce or eliminate inflammatory foods from your diet, including highly refined carbohydrates, sugar, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, and seed oils. These foods can contribute to inflammation in the body, exacerbating eczema symptoms. By minimizing intake of these inflammatory substances, inflammation can decrease, allowing the gut to repair and the immune system to calm.

Incorporating these dietary strategies can play a crucial role in managing eczema from a nutritional standpoint, promoting overall health and supporting skin wellness. 

Lifestyle Practices to Prevent and Manage Eczema 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is integral to managing and preventing eczema flare-ups. By incorporating mindful practices into your daily routine, you can support your skin’s health and overall well-being. Here are some lifestyle practices to consider:

1. Audit Your Body Products

Choose gentle soaps and skincare products that are free of dyes, alcohols, and perfumes, as these ingredients can exacerbate eczema symptoms. Opt for moisturizers containing ceramides, which help support the skin barrier and seal in moisture, aiding in eczema management. We recommend Vanicream for eczema. 

2. Upgrade Your Bedding and Towels 

Invest in hypoallergenic bedding and towels made from soft, breathable materials like cotton or bamboo to reduce irritation and promote comfort during sleep. Quince makes high quality, organic sheets that are less likely to irritate your skin. You’ll also want to use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent for your clothing, bedding, towels, and any other fabric that touches your skin.

3. Practice Good Hygiene 

Maintain good hygiene practices, including regular bathing with lukewarm water and gentle cleansers to keep the skin clean without stripping away natural oils. Pat the skin dry gently with a soft towel, avoiding harsh rubbing that can aggravate eczema-prone skin.

4. Light Therapy

Consider light therapy (phototherapy) as a treatment option to help reduce inflammation and improve skin symptoms associated with eczema.

5. Good Gut Health Practices

The types of food you eat matter for your gut health, but so does how you eat. Support your gut health by developing the habit of sitting down to eat, chewing your food thoroughly, and slowing down. Taking three deep belly breaths before meals can help calm your nervous system so your body is primed to digest food efficiently. Plus, this makes it easier to slow down. 

6. Prioritize Sleep

Ensure adequate sleep, as it plays a crucial role in calming inflammation that may exacerbate eczema. Establish a bedtime routine and create a comfortable sleep environment to promote restful sleep and support overall skin health. Aim for eight hours of sleep and try to stick to regular sleep/wake times to support your circadian rhythm.

7. Move Your Body

Engage in regular physical activity to ease inflammation and support your immune system. Choose activities that you enjoy, whether it’s walking, yoga, or weight lifting to incorporate movement into your daily routine. Try to avoid excessive heat during acute flares to avoid further aggravating your symptoms. If you exercise outdoors, pick cooler hours or a shaded area for your workouts. Less intense exercises that keep your body temperature lower may be necessary during flares.  

By incorporating these lifestyle practices into your daily routine, you can take proactive steps to prevent and manage eczema holistically, supporting your skin’s health and overall quality of life. These recommendations may vary depending on the root cause of your eczema, but working with us will ensure you get personalized guidance and treatment options tailored to your individual needs.

Supplement Considerations for Natural Eczema Relief

In addition to dietary and lifestyle modifications, targeted supplementation can play a crucial role in managing and alleviating eczema symptoms without medication. These supplements aim to address underlying factors such as gut health, inflammation, and skin barrier function, and as such, will vary depending on what we uncover as the root causes of your inflammation. 

Here’s a closer look at some key supplements and their potential benefits for eczema:

1. Fish Oil

Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil helps reduce inflammation, which is a key factor in eczema. Omega-3s also support skin barrier function and hydration. 1-4 grams a day has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects. 

2. High-Quality Probiotic

Especially beneficial for infants and young children, a high-quality probiotic supports a balanced gut microbiome, positively impacting eczema symptoms. We like Sacro-B by Thorne because it contains S. boulardii, a yeast that supports the gut microbiome and immune system. Spore-based probiotics, like Ortho Spore IG by Ortho Molecular, are another good option for boosting good bacteria and improving the intestinal barrier and inflammatory response.

3. Vitamin D

Low serum vitamin D levels are linked to bacterial skin infections, and supplementation has been shown to reduce eczema. Have your vitamin D levels assessed and supplement accordingly, preferably alongside vitamin K to aid calcium absorption and prevent arterial deposition. 

4. Curcumin

 The active compound in turmeric, curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It may help alleviate eczema symptoms by reducing inflammation and promoting skin healing.  

5. Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)

GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid found in certain plant oils like evening primrose oil and borage oil. It helps reduce inflammation and supports skin barrier function, making it beneficial for eczema management. Consider taking 2 capsules of Designs for Health GLA 240 a day. 

6. Skin Supporting Vitamins and Minerals

There are many vitamins and minerals that support healthy skin, such as vitamin A, E, C, Bs, and zinc. The Hair, Skin & Nails supplement by DaVinci Labs contains 15 nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, MSM, collagen, and hyaluronic acid that support skin healing. Take 2 capsules a day to help restore your skin. 

7. Butyrate

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that fuels cells in the small intestine, supports gut barrier integrity, and reduces inflammation. Supplementing with butyrate can reduce intestinal permeability, fostering a healthy immune response. We like Butyrate Sodium by Body Bio a day to support gut healing and ease inflammation. Take 2 capsules a day. 

8. L-Histidine

L-Histidine, an essential amino acid, aids in the synthesis of filaggrin (FLG) and helps regulate the skin’s moisture content. Oral supplementation of 2 grams per day for a month has shown promise in reducing the severity of atopic dermatitis.

9. Virgin Coconut Oil

Virgin coconut oil possesses natural antimicrobial properties beneficial for the skin’s microbiome. Applying topical virgin coconut oil twice a day for a month has demonstrated a significant reduction (95%) in Staphylococcus aureus, commonly associated with atopic dermatitis. 

10. Colloidal Oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal creams or baths can provide relief by protecting the skin and easing itching and irritation associated with eczema.

Before incorporating supplements, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to determine individual needs, potential interactions, and appropriate dosages. Personalized guidance ensures an effective and safe approach to supplementing for natural eczema management.

Final Thoughts 

The journey to overcoming eczema holistically is not one you have to navigate alone. We’re here to offer compassionate support, expert guidance, and personalized solutions tailored to your unique needs. Together, we’ll delve deep into the root causes of your eczema, unraveling the intricate web of genetic predispositions, immune system responses, and environmental triggers. 

With a comprehensive approach that encompasses dietary adjustments, lifestyle modifications, and targeted supplementation, we’ll empower you to take control of your health and embark on a path towards lasting relief and radiant skin. No more enduring the constant discomfort and frustration in silence – let us be your partner in this transformative journey towards healing and renewed well-being.  


Feeling better is possible. Meet with one of our practitioners to find out if 1:1 Functional Medicine Consulting is right for you.

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Anya is a Registered Dietitian, Functional Medicine Practitioner and founder of Birchwell, a virtual integrative health clinic based in New York City.

She specializes in helping her clients identify the root cause of their health concerns through advanced lab testing and her comprehensive assessment. She uses functional diet, supplement, and lifestyle strategies to address any imbalances in the body. Through her integrative and functional nutrition practice, Anya has helped hundreds of adult women and men fix their gut health (e.g. SIBO, reflux, candida, etc.), balance their hormones (e.g. PCOS, peri-menopause, estrogen dominance, etc.), clear their acne or eczema, boost their energy and performance, combat anxiety and depression, improve their body composition, reduce their joint pain - and more.

Anya Rosen, MS, RD, LD, IFNCP, CPT

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