All skin types need a healthy diet. With sensitive skin that is prone to redness, bumps or itching, food choices can be the key to clear, smooth skin. Very specific dietary changes can have a big impact– and what is important here is that each type of sensitive skin has unique dietary needs.
Diet and Rosacea
The triggers for rosacea are many and varied, but four food factors are common for the 16 million people living with problem. Alcohol, coffee, spicy foods and chocolate are at the top of the list of food factors to avoid to reduce rosacea exacerbations. These are fairly easy to carve away from a standard diet and many people with rosacea can expect to see some relief. FYI decaf coffee and tea seem to be far less of a problem.
Diet and Hives
The role of diet in hives is big and complicated. The raised red hives are triggered by an over-production of histamines and there is a long list of foods that are heavy histamine producers. Top of the list are shellfish, nuts, eggs, wheat, and soy, closely followed by strawberries, wine, cheese preservatives, food dyes and tomatoes. This is a long list, but the good news is that most people with hives only have two food allergies. The trick is finding out which two.
Eczema and Diet
Food allergies have often been linked to eczema. Dairy products, coffee, soy beans, eggs, nuts and wheat have been fingered as common eczema triggers. Most of these are nutrient rich foods and its not good science to cut all of them out of your diet without good reason. Traditional allergy testing calls for the elimination of all top known triggers and then add them back- one by one- into the diet. This is difficult to do without help from a healthcare professional. An easier, albeit less conclusive approach would be to omit each item individually for a week to see if the eczema improves.
The best bet would be to start with gluten-rich wheat. Gluten allergy is at the top of the list of eczema triggers. Well designed studies have found that people with celiac disease (a severe form of gluten intolerance) have three times the incidence of eczema. Even more interesting, close relatives of people with celiac disease have twice the incidence of eczema.
To learn if wheat is an eczema trigger for you, try eliminating bread, pasta and cereal for two weeks. In the past a gluten-free diet was pretty grim. Today there are so many wonderful gluten free foods that its one of the easiest dietary restrictions to follow.
Psoriasis and Diet
When the scaly, red patches of psoriasis appear, diet does not mean the elimination of certain foods but the addition of a very specific nutrient. University-based research has shown that fish oils appear to reduce the inflammation of psoriasis. Fish oils are rich in two omega-3 fatty acids– EPA and DHA– that reduce psoriasis symptoms. Standard advice recommends two servings of fish a week– a goal that can be met by one tuna sandwich for lunch and one salmon dinner.
While there is certainly strong science between diet and sensitive skin, there are also many worthless products and distressing over statements. I know first hand just how desperately we want to find something- anything- that will reduce redness and itching. Staring at a drawerful of prescription creams and pills that haven’t worked, it is so seductive to read about supplements and serums that promise to deliver perfect skin. Caveat emptor.