Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that typically begins in infancy or early childhood. It causes a red, itchy rash to develop on the arms, legs, and face when something triggers the immune system to produce inflammation. It affects about 9.6 million children, and about a third of them have a moderate-to-severe case. It also affects about 18 million adults, or about 7% of the adult population in the U.S. When you’re one of those people affected—or your partner or child is one of them—you’re eager to find the best ways to manage the eczema and hopefully reduce any flare-ups. One way to keep your eczema symptoms under control is to identify and avoid your triggers. Some people wonder if the foods they eat could be a trigger, so they look to diet modification as a possible eczema treatment. Could an eczema elimination diet be the key to helping you manage your eczema symptoms? How an Eczema Elimination Diet Works An eczema elimination diet is an attempt to find out if a particular food triggers an eczema flare-up. Here’s the general idea: a person with eczema eliminates specific foods from their diet, then slowly adds them back in while closely monitoring their skin’s reactions. If they notice their eczema symptoms flaring when they add back in certain foods, then they’ll stop eating that food and eliminate it from their diet. The foods most commonly associated with eczema flares are milk (or dairy) and eggs, although other foods like soy and fish have also been associated with eczema exacerbations. If you’ve been diagnosed with an allergy to any of those foods, it might be worth discussing an eczema elimination diet with your doctor. Your doctor may have you avoid eating that particular food for several weeks before attempting to reintroduce it. Along the way, you’ll keep a close eye on your skin to see if your eczema gets worse or better. If you haven’t been diagnosed with a food allergy but suspect you might have one, your doctor can run some tests, such as a skin prick test for allergies or a blood test that looks for levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE), a type of antibody. A higher level of IgE can indicate an allergy. If the tests determine you do have an allergy, then you might consider the elimination diet. When an Eczema Elimination Diet May Not Be Appropriate Experts caution people against starting an eczema elimination diet on their own. In fact, elimination diets are generally not recommended for everyone who has atopic dermatitis. Instead, they’re most likely to be useful for people whose eczema is exacerbated by a true food allergy—often young children with moderate-to-severe eczema. So, if you don’t actually have any documented food allergies, an eczema elimination diet probably isn’t necessary for you. “But what could it hurt to try it anyway?” you might wonder. A few factors to consider when it comes to eliminating foods from your diet: Compliance problems. It can be very challenging for people to avoid eating certain foods. They will have to devote themselves to carefully reading labels and menus and being vigilant about everything they eat. And they’ll have to stick with it. Not everyone has the energy or desire to be so vigilant. Nutrition deficiencies. Let’s say you eliminate a food or several foods from your diet. What are you replacing them with? Without paying close attention to your diet and nutritional needs, you may unintentionally be reducing the amount of nutrients you’re getting. In children, it could even inhibit their normal growth pattern. Lack of benefit. Unless you have an actual food allergy that’s been shown to contribute to your eczema, avoiding a food probably won’t make your symptoms better. Consult Your Doctor Many people with eczema do have food allergies, but not everyone does—so avoiding certain foods may help some people but not others. If you suspect certain foods may exacerbate your eczema symptoms, talk to your doctor before taking any action on your own.