Does Gluten Trigger Eczema?
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Dec 14 2008

Does Gluten Trigger Eczema?

No matter how much we talk about eczema, it seems that there is a lot of interest within the Celiac community regarding it, so I try to cover stuff about eczema as I come across it.   What we do know is that one of the most common symptoms that is relieved once adhering to a strict gluten free diet is eczema (or the more bothersome Dermatitis Herpetiformis). So, does consuming gluten actually cause the eczema problems?

According to Gluten Free Health, gluten is in fact a trigger of eczema.  They also mention the following:

Some children and adults also react adversely to certain seafoods, sesame, soy (about which I will say more in a future blog), chocolate, cabbage, curry, chilli, salicylates (naturally occurring in some foods and in aspirin), tree nuts, some fruits (citrus and others, particularly if not ripe) and vegetables, food colourings and additives including sulphites, tatrazine and M.S.G.. Animal hair etc and some plants also contribute to eczema problems. Eggs, peanuts, sesame and shellfish have also been implicated in anaphylaxis.

Removing the offending foods from the breastfeeding mother’s and a young child’s diets often quickly reverses the condition.

Eczema is usually more prevalent in children where one or both of the parents have suffered from asthma, eczema and other chronic conditions: i.e. there is genetic or hereditary predisposition.

So, what are your experiences with either eczema or Dermatitis Herpetiformis?

Article Written by:

Kyle Eslick is the founder of Gluten Free Media, as well as the creator of the popular Celiac Support Groups page. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+!

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  • Paul Smith

    Hi Kyle, just stoping to say Hi, and thanks for talking about GlutenFreeHealth.net
    All my best for you
    Regards
    Paul Smith

  • Leti

    My 3 yr old daughter has suffered from eczema since she was 5 months old. I have tried all types of treatments as recommended by her pediatrician and dermatologist–the best thing I ever did was put her on a wheat-free/ gluten-free diet. Her skin began to clear within 2 weeks!! I also make sure she eats yogurt with live cultures to keep her digestive system healthy which in turn helps her whole body (especially her skin) stay healthy. Thanks for your added information about eczema & diet!!

    • amy

      Leti,

      Our 3 year old daughter has had eczema since I can remember…2-3 months. We’ve tried everything similar to the previous posts. We’ve been wheat, dairy and soy free (allergens she tested positive to by doc) for 4 weeks and we’re not seeing much improvement. Feeling pretty disappointed. How ‘strict’ have you been on the g-free diet? Has your daughter had any outbreaks of eczema by being accidently exposed? Have you noticed any topical products impacting her skin? Sunblock of any kind (we’ve tried them all) make our daughters skin erupt. I appreciate yours or anyones insight!

      • Cindy

        We have 6 children, 3 of which have or have had severe eczema. Several topical things have a bad effect on their skin, but we have found Neutrogena sunscreen to work so well and not cause any outbreaks or burning. Also tropical traditons insect repellant has worked well without prolems. Almost anything else has been too harsh.

      • Craig

        Hi amy,
        I went gluten free in August this year (had eczema for many years). It’s now 80% better… and improving. However if I accidentally eat ANY gluten it comes right back. Try cutting ALL gluten (not just wheat) along with the other allergens too.

        GL.

      • Angela

        My son had suffered from eczema for 3 years, during his teen years, 3rd year was the worst. He had eczema from face to legs. I have tried 2 dermatologists. All they did was to supress the itch by prescibing all kinds of ointments. The y were useless, I couldn’t see my son going through cries and emotional breakdown..I have tried all kinds of ointments& lotions, tried vitamins. I had him tested twice for any allergies. He only had a couple food allergies which we always stayed away from but he still suffered of eczema. One of my friends told me to stop giving him anything that’s made of wheat or anything that has gluten. Immediately, I put him on gluten free only. I went to whole food store to get everything that is gluten free and free of potato flour as well….by god’s grace within a week I saw that he was itching lot less and getting better everyday, within 3 months his eczema literally vanished and never returned, from face to legs, the entire skin on his body was recovering from damage…I was shocked and happy that It finally went away. Since then he has no problems with eczema, living life happy.

      • Christina Casler

        My son who is now almost 4 had really bad eczema and we have stopped using what the pediatrician had recommended which was to slather him in petroleum cream and steroid cream, and to use just natural black coal tar soap and all free and clear, and his detergent, and we have gone gluten free . His eczema has cleared almost completely!!!

  • Stacey

    My 8 year old daughter has been on medicine for her eczema since birth. Tested for egg allergies at age 3-neg. Lately she had been have lots of stomach aches, diarrhea, and constipation. She didn’t enjoy eating at all. No formal diagnosis, but she has been gluten free since February and all symptoms have cleared!

  • Joann

    I have had horrible eczema on my hands for years. It would get bad, try to clear up, then get worse. My hands would swell, blister, crack, bleed, sting, itch, and make me crazy! I began to develop arthritis symptoms and could barely bend my fingers. My hands were useless at times! I had prescription creams from my dermatologist that would help sometimes, but it never cleared it up. I was told there was no cure, just keep my hands dry and try to manage my symptoms. After researching a GF diet and Celiac’s, especially after suffereing from about 50+ other symptoms that I never knew were realated, I have gone totally gltuen free. Within 4 DAYS, my hands cleared up about 90%. My coworker, my mom, my husband and my kids were amazed! My hands had looked like they had second degree burns up until recently, now they look normal, just a little dry. I am convinced the GF diet is the only way to go. A lot of my other symptoms are beginning to subside after less than two weeks on this diet. I don’t care what I have to “give up”. I’m getting my life and my health back!

    • gypsygirl

      Joan,
      It looks like you wrote this not too long ago. I am inspired by your story. I’m 33 and have been suffering from hand eczema for years now. I am a mother and feel like I can be a better mother and homemaker if I just got my ailment figured out! I started a GF diet just yesterday. It’s something very new, but I am encouraged by what you have to share! Thank you! I hope it is as successful for me as well!

  • Alekos

    i have atopic dermatitis since i ve been about 2 years old…. terrible scratching especially at nights…nothing makes it better. i just learnt to live with it. but most o fthe time it drives me crasy and i m just a misarable person. once a holistic doctor told me i also had candida so i had to go gluten free ..i did so and miraculasly the symptoms disappeared…my hands were clear. however i did not stay on the diet for long. symptoms are back and they always get worse after i eat large amounts of wheat products. skin prick tests turned out negative for the major allergens…. and my endoscopy for celiac was also negative. what should i do? should i stick to a GF diet for life …. ?? when i try this (although i know it works) i get these horrible cravings for wheat…which i can’t resist. then after having indulged i sratch and by bowel feels bad. …….

    • http://ajulintherough.blogspot.com Julie R

      My 2r year old daughter has had pretty bad eczema since about 8 months old. Like everybody else, we’ve tried everything, creams, prescriptions, antihistamines, different baths, etc., to no avail. We recently started a treatment called NAET (Nambudripads Allergy Elimination Technique) and found our daughter to have many food allergies, including a gluten sensitivity. We’ve been on a gluten free diet for almost 2 weeks and it has made a HUGE difference. Her skin looks better than it has in several months. If you haven’t heard about NAET, please go to their website and check it out. It really works and it clears the allergies so you don’t have to suffer with them for life.

  • Maureen

    I have been dealing with my skin issues my whole life…mine is worse in the evenings also…I am getting blood work done after years of fighting with doctors….dermatologists….and finally saved up enough money to go see a natural path doctor…. Let’s see what happens being 38 years old …this is getting tiring …. :)

  • Lisa Cardenas

    My daughter (6 yrs old) also suffers from eczema. We think we get it cleared up or find a miracle creme and it always returns. After reading symptoms of gluten – intolerance I am surprised not one of the many doctors we’ve seen have suggested that. I am going to give it a try after reading these postings. P.S. I have also used the neutrogena sunblock – the baby one (pure and free or something like that) it did not burn whatsoever. I have found that plain old diaper creme works well on flare ups which has the same ingredient minus the sunblock. zinc oxide I believe. Thanks for all the posts.

    • http://www.glutenfreepromotions.com Tiffany Janes

      Lisa – My little brother had a horrible rash that was always dx’d as this or that type of dermatitus. Every new doc prescribed a new creme and most helped for a while, but once the treatment with the cream stopped, the rash returned. Skip to 30 years later when I was dx’d with celiac. Shortly thereafter we found out my Mother has celiac and within months my brother decided to give the gluten-free diet a try. Yup! Three of us and the kids in the family haven’t been tested yet so there might be more of us eventually.

      Please don’t get me started on dermatologists! I was at a routine skin cancer check a few years ago and the doctor I usually saw had moved so I had a new one. He was so under-educated about celiac it was crazy. He literally told me that there was a new creme for DH that people could use if they had celiac and they didn’t have to be on the diet. I contacted a celiac specialist to confirm and of course, that wasn’t even slightly true. DUH! I found another dermatologist STAT….lol! Good luck to you ;)

  • kim

    My daughter is 19 yrs. old. She has suffered from severe eczema for 8 yrs with open wounds and infections causing major scarring. She endured 2 yrs of xolair injections (VERY expensive) but she had little to no improvement. She has steroid creams and is prescribed a round of steroids at least once a yr to help clear it up. NOTHING has worked! Until now. In a conversation about steroid use with my grandfather’s dr, I mentioned my daughter’s chronic use of steroids for her exzema. She suggested trying a gluten free diet (she isn’t even my daughter’s dr). I suggested it to my daughter who has experienced a 90% improvement in her eczema!!! When we told out family dr about her success, our dr was surprised and tested her for gluten allergies with a blood test. She tested negative, but when my daughter ate gluten again, her eczema flared up instantly! Just saying….it’s totally worth a try even if you test negative!!

    • Alekos

      I m so glad to hear that your daughter’s eczema has disappeared. I was also suffering with eczema for years and the only thing that has worked amazingly enough is a gluten free diet although I have also tested negative and doctors do not take this seriously. i m afraid that if i start eating gluten again it will come back. I would like to ask you the following: how much gluten and for how long did she have to eat for her eczema to appear again?? and also avoiding gluten traces in food? has she noticed any other food that may trigger her eczema: ie. sweets or dairy ? Thanks a lot!

      • CJ

        Alekos,
        If you have a sensitivity to gluten, you need to eliminate all gluten….forever.. Even a little bit will cause problems. As has been said before, gluten attacks the intestines. A GF diet will allow the intestines to heal, and you MAY be able to eat gluten again and think you are ok, but then, boom, you are right back to where you were. So to avoid all problems, stay on the GF diet, which means NO gluten. And read, read, read! There is so much information on the internet. You need to know all that you can.

  • Elizabeth

    I have only recently had eczema on my body. Although I have tested negative for celiac both with blood and endoscopy the only thing that works is a GF diet. My mother and younger sister have celiac and I have 2 genes for the disease so it is possible I may get celiac. Since going GF it has cleared up 90% and no itching anymore but tried gluten again and got a itchy red mark again. I would suggest getting a gene test or find out if anyone has celiac in your but I’m convinced now it is gluten. If you crave bread I would suggest a great GF brand called udi’s. It does not need refrigeration and it’s yummy. Good luck and hang in there. It’s hard especially if you like to eat out or have cravings but it’s so worth not being itchy and red!

  • Bland Rooker

    See, I can’t be convinced of everything being linked to gluten. I’ve dealt with eczema since childhood, eat everything under the sun and have gone literally decades without any symptoms. My son is the same way, although he’s only 8, he will go years without symptoms then have a breakout for a couple of months that go away. My daughter shows no symptoms at all. So, I really don’t see the connection when all this time, we haven’t changed our diet in any way whatsoever.

  • Nadia

    I just wanted to add my own personal experience with this. I developed eczema in my teens after a childhood free of rashes and allergies of any kind. Over the course of a few years, it got worse and worse, to the point where a new outbreak would start just when the previous one began to clear up, and I always had red marks on my face and neck, and itchy legs at night. I was prescribed with all manner of tropical treatments and steroid creams, and told by various doctors that nothing else could be done. Then due to personal matters I went through an extremely stressful time when I lost my appetite and ate nothing but a bowl of lentils and rice every day. I had always considered stress a likely contributor to my eczema outbreaks, so it was interesting that during this extremely stressful period my eczema started to clear up rather than worsen. It then came back in full force once I regained my appetite and resumed eating normally. Concluding that my eczema must be diet-related, I went on a series of elimination diets, starting with gluten. I was gluten-free for a month but saw no changes, so I considered other potential intolerances, with no luck. Some months later I re-started a more extreme elimination diet, eliminating gluten again as well as several other things, and after a few weeks the eczema started clearing up. Within about 5-6 weeks it was completely gone, to the point where I once again became able to use skin products I had been allergic to for the past few years. I also stopped having the minor digestive discomfort I had developed in recent years, which I had attributed to plain old indigestion. When I experimented with adding items back into my diet, I had no problems adding anything except for gluten and possibly sugar. It’s been a few months since then, and I haven’t had a single eczema outbreak. I can even wear makeup, which was not possible before. Recently I’ve been testing out eating gluten, to see how my body will react. So far my stomach hasn’t felt so great, and my legs have been itching. I suspect the facial eczema might be a reaction to long-term gluten consumption. Next step for me is to go back to gluten-free and make an appointment with a doctor. My experiences with dermatologists and allergists have not been great – when I told them that I suspected some food intolerance or allergy, they told me that that was not possible and that I must simply be causing my outbreaks by exposing my skin to harsh chemicals. Even when the eczema went away due to my gluten-free diet, they did not believe that the gluten and eczema were related. I hope that other people dealing with similar problems can find relief with a gluten-free diet as I have. It can be quite disconcerting for doctors not to believe you, or for results to be slow in coming. I advise anyone trying out a gluten-free diet to give it more than just a few weeks, since in my case it initially seemed not to help but then eventually did in the long run.

    • Elizabeth

      I developed eczema when I turned 30 and never had any allergies or rashes as a child. I went nuts trying to figure out what was causing the breakouts all over my body. I saw allergists and dermatologists, and was prescribed topical steroids. They cleared up my skin when I used them, but then as soon as I went off them the eczema came back. I had food allergy tests, but they all came out negative – no allergies. I was told it was unlikely that I have a gluten sensitivity. I’ve realized, though, that conventional doctors are little help for this kind of thing. They are trained to prescribe medicine to treat the symptoms, but most have no idea of the underlying cause. I’m now on a gluten-free diet to see if that will help clear up the eczema, which is worst on my hands. I’m still in my first week, but I’m encouraged by your stories and hope I have the same success with going gluten-free.

      • Alekos

        hey Elizabeth,
        How has it been going so far? have you seen any difference?

    • http://gravatar.com/jachmoody jachmoody

      Thanks so much-am going to join my wife whose fibromyalgia has cleared by going gluten free and I expect my feet itching will stop and digestion/bloating will be relieved-hopefully energy will improve too.

  • Laurelin

    I am fascinated by this, and I’m definitely going to give it a try. I’ve been reading up on the Paleo diet, and the connection between gluten and autoimmune diseases. I have had severe eczema since I was a baby, same story as all of you, never had any help from doctors beyond getting prescription after prescription for steroid cream, which never works in the long term. Plus I just know they’re going to come out and tell us in a few years that those creams increase your risk for skin cancer. I’m excited to go GF and see if I have the same kind of miraculous success you all have had! Wish me luck!

    • Alekos

      Good Luck Laurelin !!! Let us know how it goes!!!!

  • Emily

    Thank you everyone for your posts! My son who is 6 years has had eczema since a baby. Some days I think he is doing fine and then BAM his face is red & itchy! He said to me the other day, “I wish God didn’t make me this way!” Totally broke my heart! My husband and I keep up with his skin constantly but nothing seems to work. I think this is what he needs…a gluten-free & wheat free diet? Let’s hope for the best!

    • http://ajulintherough.blogspot.com Julie R

      Good luck. I feel for you and your boy. The gluten free/wheat free diet has done wonders for my daughter in just 2 weeks. Also, check out http://www.naet.com

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  • Anne

    Nadia and others. I too had eczema for years, beginning when I was 20. It worsened each year until finally when I was thirty eight. It was all over my hands, face, jaw. What a dreadful time. I couldn’t even bathe my own children for the cracked hands. I accidentally discovered a wheat-eczema link experimenting with diet. I ihave been off gluten for 8 years and enjoy every day gluten, eczema and steroid free.
    I have never gotten officially tested because I don’t see a need to foot the expense. Good luck to you all.

  • Gail

    I am cosidering giving gluten-free a try. I’m 36 and never had any eczema until this year after the birth of my second child. I nursed for 10 months and had mastitis several times. I have always dealt with chronic migraines and acne and now am dealing with GERD and frequent diarrhea. I’ve also experienced joint pain since my daughters birth. Just wondering if these symtoms could be due to a gluten intolerance?

  • Brad

    I was around 32 when my hands started to develop severe eczema (I’m now 43). In short order, I was diagnosed with Atopic Dermatitis and was using topical steroid creams during my flare ups. It was always a cycle. Severe itching, swelling, fissures. It would then die down for a week or two and come right back. Worse in the winter than in the summer.

    I had allergy tests and everything came back negative. I ended up spending $2500 on a UVB light machine to ‘bake’ my hands. It helped some, but nothing like a cure.

    I asked my Dermatologist several times about treating the CAUSE and not just the SYMPTOMS, but he had no suggestions. None.

    Well, my wife is a massage therapist and works for a clinic for Integrative Medicine, where they focus on total health. She mentioned to the director about my hands and he immediately said ‘get him off the gluten. It will clear it right up’.

    So, after a bit of cajoling I tried it. My hands cleared up in 5 days. I was stunned. It was the gluten all along.

    I have since tried this game of eating limited, planned amounts of gluten to see if I can keep it in control (I still love pasta and good bread). At least for me, if I greatly limit the intake, my hands will not erupt, but if I go just a bit overboard, the eczema comes right back.

    I also notice when I get the gluten out of my system, I have more energy, feel better and sleep better at night. I’ve gotten more interested in how they have modified wheat (‘Frankenwheat’). I honestly believe a lot of these problems are from how they have modified our food.