Children Health

Could Your Child’s Diet Be The Cause of Their Eczema? | by Jillian Sprague, MSN, CPNP, RN | Jan, 2024

If you do a quick Google search of causes of eczema in children, the top answers are genetic factors and environmental factors, such as dust mites. However, there are many triggers of eczema, including food. As a pediatric nurse practitioner, I see and treat many kids with eczema. My 3 year old daughter also has eczema, which has motivated me to find alternate treatments. Topical steroids are the most prescribed treatment, but these are often only a temporary fix. Read on to find out how ultra-processed foods have been linked to eczema.

There are multiple different types of eczema, but the most simplistic definition I found is from the National Eczema Association: “Eczema is the name for a group of inflammatory skin conditions that cause itchiness, dry skin, rashes, scaly patches, blisters and skin infections.” Most often, eczema begins in childhood, and can occur in children as young as 3 months old.

Ultra-processed foods are foods that have 5 or more ingredients and typically contain food additives, such as artificial colors. Sadly, many foods that are marketed towards kids are ultra-processed.

  • A cross-sectional study in the United States found that among girls, the consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with eczema.
  • A study out of China found that the consumption of processed food, particularly pickles and processed meats, was a risk factor for eczema. Although this study did not include children, the findings can be applied to children.
  • A patient centered study from 2017 asked participants to report their improvement in atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema) after removing certain foods and found that after removing junk foods, 51% noted an improvement.

The most simple way you can decrease or eliminate ultra-processed foods from your child’s diet is by encouraging them to eat primarily whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are minimally processed and contain no additives or artificial substances. I like to tell parents to shop the perimeter of the grocery store as this is where most of the whole foods are. The processed foods tend to be in the middle aisles.

I also know that eliminating processed foods from your child’s diet can be difficult as many children are picky and gravitate towards the processed foods (my daughter would eat Goldfish all day if we let her). However, after looking more into the association between ultra-processed foods and eczema, I have become even more motivated to minimize these foods in her diet.


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