Joyous Health Recipes Food
Joyous Health Wellbeing Well-Being
Joyous Health Beauty Beauty
Joyous Health Family Family
Previous Episodes 

7 Common Foods that Make Eczema Worse

I'm happy to tell you it is possible to heal from this aggravating inflammatory skin condition naturally.
Mar 30, 2022 | Joy McCarthy

My experience with eczema lasted the first two decades of my life. The itchiness and the dry cracked skin was just awful. However, I haven't had a flare-up in years thanks to diet and lifestyle changes. In addition to this, I've worked with hundreds of clients over the years with moderate to severe eczema and talked to many mamas with infants suffering from eczema because it is a very common skin condition. Most western medical doctors do not know how to treat eczema because they do not address the root cause and instead resort to creams, medications and even bleach baths. All of these conventional solutions do nothing more than temporarily take away symptoms and may cause harm to the delicate skin biome (the millions of bacteria living on your skin!). Side note: Have you tried our soothing Body Butter yet? It's been getting rave reviews for soothing dry, itchy skin and eczema patches!

I'm happy to tell you it is possible to heal from this terrible inflammatory skin condition naturally. 

I've been writing my new ebook The Eczema Healing Kit for the last few months and I'm absolutely joyous to be able to share this information with you so that you can heal your skin from within! 

Something I touch on in my ebook is foods that promote inflammation in the body. Due to the fact that eczema is an inflammatory based condition, is it imperative to eliminate inflammatory provoking foods.

In this post, I share with you 7 common foods (and food categories) that can make eczema worse. There is no one single food that can be solely blamed for eczema, but rather your overall diet and lifestyle can contribute to the development and severity of this condition. 


Cow's Milk

When it comes to any skin issues (especially eczema), the first food or food group that should be eliminated is pasteurized dairy. This is because your run-of-the-mill cow's milk dairy can be pro-inflammatory in the body, especially pasteurized or homogenized dairy, such as cow's milk, which contains large protein molecules that are difficult to digest.

While I don't believe all dairy (such as goat and sheep dairy) has to eliminated forever, it's helpful to eliminate it completely for a month if you are suffering from eczema and then gradually reintroduce specific foods to determine if dairy actually is the issue. I suffered from eczema in the past but have been able to re-introduce goat and sheep milk (still in moderation) because it contains less of the alpha s1 casein that typically causes inflammatory skin issues. But again, if there are no improvements in your skin, I would suggest eliminating all dairy for good.


Dairy products may also cause damage to the intestinal lining. When the lining of our digestive tract is damaged, it creates tiny holes that allow food particles to enter the bloodstream, which can lead to allergic reactions and sensitivities.

I talk about the connection to food allergies/food sensitivities and eczema in my newest Eczema Healing Guide. If you're cutting out dairy altogether, some dairy-free and eczema-friendly foods would be: almond milk, nut cheese, hummus/guacamole (awesome on a wrap) or coconut yogurt.


I'm sure you all know by now that sugar and refined carbohydrates don't need to take up much space in our diet. They don't support or build health in any way and instead, can prevent us from reaching joyous health! The problem is that sugar is hiding in everything including condiments (especially ketchup), pre-packaged salad dressings (it's actually way tastier to make your own, by the way!) and even canned diced tomatoes (certain brands at least).


Sugar is pro-inflammatory in the body and inflammation is a contributing factor to eczema. But more importantly, eczema has been found in cases where bad gut bacteria and fungus, such as candida, are present in the gut. Candida albicans (it's proper name) is an opportunistic fungus in the form of yeast that feeds off of sugar. In small amounts, candida isn't a great concern but it's when it overproduces that we start seeing adverse effects on our skin and along the intestinal lining which can lead to an even greater contributor to eczema known as leaky gut. In fact, research shows that 70% of patients with atopic eczema were shown to have an overgrowth of Candida albicans in the gastrointestinal tract. 

The best thing we can do in this case is to avoid all obvious sources of refined sugar and carbohydrates, keep natural sweeteners to a minimum and avoid the things that contribute to candida overgrowth such as antibiotics and chronic inflammation by avoiding pro-inflammatory foods. Plus, naturally sweetened treats like my Apricot Tahini Squares or Chocolate Breakfast Bark are simply way tastier!


Just like other common allergens, gluten (the protein that can be found in wheat, barley, rye, kamut and spelt) has been shown to contribute to eczema symptoms and act as a trigger for flare-ups. In fact, one 2015 study examined 17 people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity who suffered from skin issues (i.e. rashes that looked like eczema). The study found that people's skin improved significantly within a month after having adopted a gluten-free diet. Many people experience relief of symptoms after eliminating gluten from their diet due to the absence of gliadin in their body, one of the proteins found in gluten.

Gluten has also been shown to compromise the intestinal barrier, resulting in a semi-permeable membrane otherwise known as "leaky gut" – a major cause of eczema which I talk about in my Eczema Healing Guide. The problem is that once the intestinal lining becomes permeable, undigested food particles and proteins can leak into the blood stream. These undigested food particles and proteins are considered "foreign invaders" by the immune system, which starts to mount an attack.

From there onwards, every time we consume gluten, our immune system is going to attack the proteins and cause a pro-inflammatory response. 


To limit inflammation in the gut overall, it's best to avoid gluten by opting for gluten-free grains such a quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and amaranth. It may not mean you have to avoid gluten forever, but taking a break from it will certainly help you determine if it's a problem food. Keep in mind gluten has also been known to show up in body care products too from shampoo to body wash, so it's important to be on the look out for that as well. 


Salicylates are natural chemicals found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, teas, coffee, wine, beer, herbal medicine and spices. You can also find them in various topical creams and perfumes. This is when it gets tricky because as you noticed, things like fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, tea and spices would typically be deemed "healthy" to the general public, but for someone suffering from eczema, they can be a contributor to their eczema flare-ups.

Salicylate sensitivities can vary depending on the amount you're consuming, making it rather tricky to determine whether you actually are sensitive to salicylates and which specific salicylate-containing food is causing a reaction. If you are sensitive to salicylates, you might experience an eczema flare up, itchy skin, hives, reflux, bloating, sleep disturbances or joint pain. These symptoms can also come along by consuming or encountering common food allergies such as dairy and gluten. For this reason, if you're looking to identify which foods are worsening your eczema symptoms the most, I would start with the common problem foods such as wheat, dairy and sugar and then consider whether testing to identify a salicylate sensitivity might be necessary.

If it comes down to that, the best way to identify a salicylate sensitivity is to avoid consuming salicylate-rich foods from anywhere from 1-3 months and then gradually re-introduce salicylate-rich foods into your diet, taking note of any reactions. It can definitely be helpful to work with your natural health care practitioner or nutritionist during this time. But if you wish to get started or at least familiarize yourself with salicylate-containing foods, you can find out more information about Low Salicylate Diets over here. 


I'm a huge fan of fats in the diet, but not just any fats – healthy fats! It's the processed bad fats such as fried foods and oxidized vegetable oils (i.e. soy, corn, cottonseed and canola) that are of concern and should always be avoided, but especially when healing eczema. In addition to these oils, it's also important to be mindful of using any oil past its smoke point as it causes oxidation and promotes inflammation.

My favourite cooking oils for high heat are coconut oil and avocado oil. For salads, I typically use a variety that includes olive oil, flaxseed oil, hempseed oil, and pumpkin seed oil, all of which are incredibly health-promoting and delicious. These healthy oils actually do the opposite of what oxidized oils do in the body by reducing inflammation. You can learn more about the benefits of fat in the diet as well as some of my favourite healthy sources over here!

Another thing you'll want to steer clear of is the acrylamide content in foods. Acrylamide is found in foods that are heated above 120 degrees Celsius, such as potato chips, french fries and fried foods. The levels of acrylamide have actually become such a concern that The World Health Organization has actually stated that the levels of acrylamide in food poses a "major concern" to human health. To prevent acrylamide exposure, it's best to roast, bake or boil foods. Even a simple change like toasting your gluten-free bread lightly versus toasting it to a crisp can help to reduce your acrylamide exposure and inflammation in the body. 

And while it might seem odd, if you are going to eat something that's fried, it's best to have to have it fried in something like duck fat which is high in monounsaturated and saturated fats which are stable for high-heat cooking. However, as we all probably know, it's best to avoid fried foods as much as possible.


If you're doing a lot of home cooking from scratch, you're likely already avoiding a lot of these things which is amazing. It's when we eat a heavily processed diet that we'll be exposed to pro-inflammatory things like food dyes, additives, and preservatives. Sadly, a processed diet is where 60% of American's daily calories come from. 

What's most scary about these food dyes, additives and preservatives is that they are so prevalent in children's snack foods. Take a yellow lollipop for instance; what might seem like a harmless little treat given to kid's after a doctor's visit (of all places) actually worsens eczema symptoms in 40% of eczema sufferers. Yellow lollipops contain tartrazine (102), one of several yellow food colourings that cause this effect, along with asthma attacks, runny noses and in severe cases, anaphylactic shock. It does this by stimulating the production of pro-inflammatory leukotrienes. Unfortunately, it goes beyond candy and junk foods because even foods like yogurt and margarine (which should be avoided) can contain artificial colours that trigger eczema flare-ups.

Preservatives can also do a number on our bodies, worsening eczema symptoms in more than 50% of eczema sufferers. Preservatives are chemicals used to increase the shelf life of products by delaying the growth of bacteria and fungi. BHA and BHT are some of the main preservatives you'll find in most foods that interfere with the body's natural processes. A good way of keeping our exposure to these to a minimum is to buy organic whenever possible. If you want to learn more about the Dirty Dozen Food Additives, check out my new book Joyous Detox!



While there are some better forms of soy such as fermented organic soy (tamari, miso paste or tempeh), soy is considered a common allergen and may be a cause of eczema.

In a Japanese study published in the Journal of Dermatology, researchers found that avoidance of soy-containing foods for three months significantly reduced eczema symptoms. We really have to teach ourselves to be master label readers when it comes to soy, because it is a very common food additive and hiding in many different foods. 

Aside from the more well-known forms of soy such as tofu, soy milk, soy yogurt, soy ice cream, soy cheese and soy flour, you'll also want to be on the ingredient-list-look-out when it comes to foods such as cereal, processed meats, baked goods, infant formula, Worcestershire sauce, and soy protein that vegetarians often use as a meat substitute.

The common theme and goal is to reduce our exposure to anything that increases inflammation in the body, which includes pro-inflammatory foods as well as common food allergens.

In fact, any foods that you're sensitive to and eat all the time can cause a reaction and promote inflammation in the body

The best way to figure out which foods are contributing to your eczema is to eliminate them for several weeks up to three months to see how your skin reacts and add them in one at a time. Keep a food diary and record any reactions. Of course, things like processed foods, cow's dairy and refined sugar might not need to be tested in such a way as we know of their negative effects in the body already, but more so the foods we typically deem as "healthy" for the general public that just might not work with your unique make up.

If you're looking for for more guided direction on how to heal your eczema, my Eczema Healing Guide would be perfect for you! I have created this guide because it is a very common question I get as a nutritionist "how do I heal my eczema" and I want to help you. Click on the image below for more information!

Also, be sure to check out our bestselling body butter in the Joyous Shop and read the reviews - many people have used it to prevent and treat eczema! My dad had severe itchy eczema on his legs and our body butter healed his skin and he still uses it to this day!


Are there any foods you would add to this list from your own experience?

Linda Uhrich   •   April 25, 2017

I am a nurse and see lots if eczema in my practice with formula fed infants. We use a combo of Glaxobase and vaseline after twice daily baths just patted dry. It does work. What else can you suggest?

Rachel Molenda   •   April 26, 2017
Janet   •   April 27, 2017
Rachel Molenda   •   April 28, 2017

Lynn   •   April 26, 2017

Will your ebook be published to paper, evetually. I ask because I don't do ebooks. And I would LOVE a copy to buy. Thanks for this info on eczema.

Rachel Molenda   •   April 26, 2017

Taylor H.   •   April 26, 2017

So funny! I saw your talk in Kelowna last night and was going to ask you about that eczema but time ran out. Who knew this newsletter would show up the next morning :) My little 20 month has had sensitive skin since he was about 2 months old... I feel like I have tried EVERYTHING from diet changes (although my family already eats very joyously, thanks to you! :) ), natural/organic lotions (many of which seemed to make it worse), endless different detergents and at desperate times we resorted to less "natural" creams and prescription "crap" from the doctor because he was too flared up and itchy to sleep... fortunately and annoyingly enough they work. I'm beyond tired of lathering him up in less than joyous products and spending a bazillion dollars on natural creams/lotions hoping that this is the one that will work. I look so forward to the release of your eczema ebook! I would love any recommendations on laundry detergents, personal care products and any other tips you have. Thank you so much!

Janet   •   April 27, 2017
Rachel Molenda   •   April 28, 2017
Lizzie   •   April 2, 2019

Mashell   •   April 26, 2017

Love it! Great stuff for anyone to implement as inflammatory problems can show up as different problems person to person (acne, allergies, etc.) I was looking at the link to the Low Salicylate Diets you referenced and it's sad that that article contradicts a lot of what you're saying. Right off the bat, it says "It is OK to eat meat, milk, and dairy products." And then goes on to recommend margarine and vegetable oils over things like olive oil and avocados. Do you think that people looking at that list should ignore those contradicting suggestions and just focus more on the fruit and vegetables they recommend to avoid?

Rachel Molenda   •   April 27, 2017

Kaitlin   •   April 26, 2017

Love that you are focusing on eczema. My 7 month old son is on formula, and I fear that the cow's milk is triggering his eczema. I wasn't able to successfully nurse, and he's been on formula since about 6 weeks old, which is around when his eczema got worse. Am curious if switching to a goat's milk formula would make a difference - have been hesitant to try because we needed hypoallergenic "gentle" formula for his digestive system. Would be curious to know what you think about goat's milk with regard to your eczema experience. Have been a huge fan of your site for years and am super grateful for all your pre- and post-natal advice (your real talk with regard to healing after birth was much appreciated!). Thanks!

Rachel Molenda   •   April 27, 2017

sabrina   •   April 26, 2017

Looking forward to reading your new ebook. :)


Sang B   •   April 27, 2017

This is fantastic. Would the same items apply for an individual that has pseriosis? Thank you

Rachel Molenda   •   April 28, 2017

Andrea   •   April 29, 2017

Can't wait for this to be available! I'm 24 years old and have suffered with eczema my entire life. My dermatologist recommended methotrexate shot just the other day and I got it. Want to see me back Monday to talk about further chemo treatment but my gut is telling me this is not the answer! He says it's now dyshidrotic eczema🤷🏻‍♀️😔

Rachel Molenda   •   May 1, 2017

Angela   •   May 9, 2017

Surprisingly enough, I'd add food and drink that contains caffeine (coffee, chocolate). This can get my skin irritated. Very hard to abstain from, as both coffee and chocolate are often present at social events.

Rachel Molenda   •   May 10, 2017

Hope   •   June 20, 2017

Hi I suffer from really severe eczema. Sometimes it will show up then disapear and come back. I hate it so much and would like to starting eating healthy. I know your not a nutritionist but do recommend any diets I could start to eat healthier and get rid of my eczema. Feedback would be soooo appreciated. Thanks for taking your time and ready this!!

Rachel Molenda   •   June 21, 2017

Sam   •   June 30, 2017

I don't suffer from excema, but I do suffer from dandruff and keratosis Pilaris. Are these considered inflammatory skin conditions as well?

Rachel Molenda   •   June 30, 2017

Shemekia   •   August 21, 2017

After my son was born I had bad eczema, and I could not find a good cream to help. Foderma serum has been a life saver. I also love putting it on my feet, they're so luxurious even only after using it for a few days. Highly recommend

Rachel Molenda   •   August 21, 2017

Linda Uhrich   •   March 5, 2018

Joy I. Am a nurse with a 6 month old with horrid excema we have been dealing with for weeks. Using Glaxo and hydrocortisone but mom is not reliable in treating twice a day. We see him daily. He is breastfed.some solids have been started but after the onset which was about 2 mo ago. Advice? I suggested sage tea soaks and we may need to do them in clinic.

Rachel Molenda   •   March 7, 2018

Robert   •   July 1, 2018

Hi, great article, thank you. Just an aside, hummus is great, but many include Whole Foods 360 brand has CANOLA oil. So, just a note to try and find one with better oil additive.

Joy McCarthy   •   July 2, 2018

Salma   •   July 31, 2018

Hi, I'm happy to find this article about eczema and I didn't know that occurs in this way. I've suffered from eczema for my whole life and now it bacame severe in my fingers and my hands which is very annoying because I can't do any work with my hands. I have Question what about eggs can get eczema worse ?

Rachel Molenda   •   July 31, 2018

Lidia Mendoza   •   August 10, 2018

I had the worst eczema flare up I have ever had. Usually, I can get away with using coconut oil, but I just wasn't getting any relief. I saw all the good reviews for foderma serum so I had to try it. It worked so well! After 3 days, it was almost gone and no more itching!!

Rachel Molenda   •   August 10, 2018

Nathalie S.   •   December 30, 2018

Do I need to own a E-Reader before buying the Eczema Healing Guide?

Joy McCarthy   •   December 30, 2018

Louise   •   February 5, 2019

Hello! Like many of the other commentators, I’m dealing with eczema pretty badly. I’m 22 years old and it’s as worse as it’s ever been. :-/ I’m keen on following your advice, but what are your thoughts on eggs? Whenever I looked up info on eczema and diet, they always said to stay clear of eggs.

Joy McCarthy   •   February 5, 2019

GENEVIEVE   •   March 8, 2019

Hi, I am wondering about salicylates. After removing them it mentions to add them back slowly to find the culprits. Does this imply that the culprit would be a personal sensitivity to avoid indefinitely or something after healing the gut could be brought back?

Joy McCarthy   •   March 8, 2019

Natalie Figueroa   •   April 10, 2019

I'm the only one in my family that suffers with eczema. I got my first outbreak in 7th grade and it was hassle dealing with it. My eczema is mild to server depending on climate; spring, summer, and winter. What can I do to reduce outbreaks? Should I change my diet?

Joy McCarthy   •   April 11, 2019

Diane   •   April 19, 2019

60 plus food allergies.


Jayna   •   May 1, 2019

Thank you so much. This advice really helped me a lot. I would totally recomend this diet to others

Joy McCarthy   •   May 2, 2019

Evelyn   •   November 30, 2019

Hi! My 7 month old is suffering from eczema and allergies. We’ve tried just about every cream. What do you recommend??

Joy McCarthy   •   December 1, 2019

Amitee DeGrasse   •   December 2, 2019

I have eczema on both of my hands from the year of doing dishes without using gloves. I have fair-ups that get the painful blisters too. I also have gone through a lot of different over-the-counter eczema creams, and Foderma non-steroid eczema serum seems to work the best for me and is the one I use the most. It is a bit of a lighter and so it rubs-in very well and seems to be quickly absorbed. It works quickly too. I always keep a few bottles of this serum on hand!

Joy McCarthy   •   December 2, 2019

Mehreen   •   January 12, 2020

Hi ,I have been suffering from eczema and it's getting evenworse day by day .I can't even apply lipstick or foundation on my face. Please guide me that which makeup products are best for eczema.Also that can I drink low fat cow's milk while I am suffering from eczema.

Joy McCarthy   •   January 12, 2020

Javier   •   February 7, 2020

Good information tks

Joy McCarthy   •   February 7, 2020

Stacie Marie   •   August 13, 2020

Great job young lady!!! In fact, this is a well researched dietary “do” list for promoting a health diet for anyone truly interested in feeling well!!! Food allergies and a sensitive immune system are directly related to a ‘fast’ lifestyle-as for me and my girls we can’t wait for your book to be released!!! Good luck! Sincerely, the Sutton Family

Joy McCarthy   •   August 14, 2020

Mel   •   September 19, 2020

Hi Joy, I’m just wondering whether you would offer the same advice (meaning, which types of food to avoid) for someone suffering from psoriasis?

Joy McCarthy   •   September 21, 2020

Amy   •   September 28, 2020

What can I actually eat then? This is everything that exists :(

Joy McCarthy   •   September 29, 2020

Mufeeda Suhaib   •   December 16, 2020's a great article . Thank you for sharing. My first child had started eczema when she was one and a half month old. Through medication and many trial and errorsits under control at her 15 th year or age. It's great to have a second girl child without eczema. Thank god. But... Now 2020 making me to cry aloud... Weep aside the room since my third baby.. little Zayan is suffering from severe eczema from his 40 day of birth.. even if he is exclusively's not ceasing till now . Now he is about to six months old. My baby... And me too suffered al lot from the last 3.5 months.. and it's so sad that his skin peels many time after getting redness almost all over the body. Even though taking medication from specialists... I'm depressed 😔. For this breast feeding baby how could I help to find the triggors? Is it related to climate only? Or else upon my diet? Can you suggest some remedies.please. ? Hopefully sending this message.

Joy McCarthy   •   December 16, 2020

Anna Maria Lucania   •   January 7, 2021

I want to thank you very much, Joy, for your much-needed, incredibly informative and wonderful website but especially for this particular article on foods that may irritate eczema. I've had on/off since birth and I'm a much older woman than you - I'll be the "big" 60 this year! It took me almost my entire life to figure out what my triggers were and your article is so on target! I already knew most on your list, however, as I like to say, "You can teach an old dog new tricks," since I am very grateful that I indeed learned new ways to help avoid additional eczema triggers.

Joy McCarthy   •   January 14, 2021

Jackie   •   February 4, 2021

Why don't I just....not eat?!

Joy McCarthy   •   February 5, 2021

Mary   •   May 15, 2021

My 4 1/2 yr old great grandson has eczema and we have tried many things and he drinks lactaid milk is that good?

Joy McCarthy   •   May 17, 2021

Ann   •   May 27, 2022

I have been eating organic and grass fed pretty much all my life now,and I have celiac and other food intolerances that I have been avoiding for years now. I only eat homemade food,from scratch,and still got eczema.Did a 3 month detox with green juicing,salads and roasted vegetables,and my eczema has only gotten worse to the point of being head to ankles.I also did homeopathics and I still don't see any improvement.Not sure what else I need to avoid besides the nickel,latex,aluminum and feathers that I'm allergic to.

Joy McCarthy   •   May 30, 2022

Post Comment

Welcome to thoughtful, organic beauty

Hello Joyous is an organic, plant-based, sustainable beauty brand here to bring more joy to your day.