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Vegan Diet for Eczema: Is It Effective?

Medically reviewed by Johna Burdeos, RD
Posted on August 31, 2023

The vegan diet has gained popularity as a lifestyle choice that offers ethical, environmental, and potential health benefits. Some people with eczema who are seeking relief may wonder whether a vegan diet may help alleviate symptoms or improve their general health.

Read on to find out whether following this eating plan could help you manage eczema symptoms.

What Is the Vegan Diet?

Vegans avoid all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and products that come from animals and insects, such as gelatin and honey. The eating plan consists of plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

The diet’s emphasis on anti-inflammatory foods, improved gut health, and the elimination of common allergens from animal products can potentially reduce some symptoms of conditions like eczema.

However, there’s no conclusive evidence that a vegan diet can help with managing the skin condition, and more research is needed.

Can a Vegan Diet Cure Eczema?

There’s no cure for eczema, only management strategies. A vegan diet can play a significant role in controlling eczema symptoms for some people. One MyEczemaTeam member shared that their fiance, who is living with eczema, has had positive results following a plant-based diet. “He changed to a vegan diet about 4 years ago, which helped in reducing regular breakouts. Since he stopped using the steroid cream, he has been on an alkaline diet, juicing and herbal teas regimen,” they wrote.

However, a vegan diet doesn’t always do the trick: “I became a vegan three months ago. I am a cook and have suffered from contact dermatitis on my hands for 15 years. Over the last two months, my hands have really suffered,” shared another member. “I thought a vegan diet would be hugely beneficial to me. I am disappointed to see it’s not. I’ve had a skin infection on and off for the last couple of months, which has hindered my recovery.”

Following a plant-based diet may offer benefits for skin and overall health, even if you aren’t seeing an improvement in eczema symptoms. You can weigh the pros and cons with your health care team and see if this lifestyle change is right for you.

Potential Benefits of Going Vegan

A well-planned vegan diet can provide essential nutrients that may be beneficial for skin health, such as vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. Vegan diets are typically rich in anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, vegetables, and nuts. These foods contain antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation in the body, potentially lowering skin irritation.

Additionally, the high fiber content in a vegan diet supports a healthy gut microbiome — the trillions of helpful and potentially harmful microbes that live in your intestines. Health experts believe a balanced gut microbiome plays a role in managing inflammation and skin conditions, including eczema. The high fiber content in a vegan diet can promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.

For some people, dairy products and eggs are associated with eczema symptoms. By eliminating these animal products from the diet, those with an allergy or sensitivity may see fewer flare-ups.

Overall, plant-based diets tend to be lower in calories and saturated fats, making them a good choice for weight management. In addition, a well-planned vegan or vegetarian diet supports better heart health. Specifically, by reducing saturated fat intake and increasing dietary fiber, vegans may have a lower risk of heart disease and hypertension. Even if you decide veganism isn’t for you, there’s a good chance that incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet will benefit your general health and well-being.

“My diet is vegetable-based, and I’ve never felt better. I eat eggs but no meat and rarely cheese but no other dairy,” explained a MyEczemaTeam member.

Which Vegan Foods Are Good for Eczema?

A balanced vegan diet consists of various nutrient-rich whole foods. As with a regular diet, choosing unprocessed foods that are low in added sugar and sodium is important for planning a healthy eating plan.

Some common staples in a vegan diet include:

  • Fruits and vegetables — These are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.
  • Healthy fats — Avocados, flaxseed oil, and olive oil provide healthy unsaturated fats.
  • Legumes — Beans, lentils, and chickpeas offer protein, fiber, and minerals like iron and zinc.
  • Nuts and seeds — Almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds provide healthy fats and essential nutrients.
  • Plant-based proteins — Tofu, tempeh, and plant-based protein powders offer a protein-rich alternative to animal-derived sources.
  • Whole grains — Whole wheat, oats, quinoa, and brown rice provide complex carbohydrates and may be fortified with essential nutrients like B vitamins.

Eating well is essential for skin health and disease prevention. By exploring different diets like the vegan diet, you can find new ways to incorporate nutritious and interesting foods into your lifestyle. Visiting a farmer’s market, checking out a vegan restaurant, or even just talking to other people about food can open up opportunities for better health.

Cautions and Considerations

While a vegan diet can offer health benefits and potentially improve eczema symptoms for some, you should still approach it with mindfulness and caution.

As with any diet, a poorly planned vegan diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin B12, iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. When following a plant-based diet, it’s crucial to ensure you obtain the right amount of nutrients through food choices or, as necessary, through fortified foods and supplements. Opt for natural, whole foods, and learn to cook some vegan recipes at home. You may also be able to tweak a favorite recipe by replacing ingredients with plant-based alternatives. Learning to cook vegan meals can take time and energy but doing so can help save you from overspending on a vegan diet.

Remember, too, that just because something is vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy. You still need to read food labels, including nutrition facts and ingredients, and use your judgment to limit processed foods and avoid foods that don’t agree with your body.

It’s also important to keep in mind that every person's body responds differently to dietary changes. What works for one individual with eczema may not work for another. Although a vegan diet eliminates some common allergens, such as shellfish, milk, and eggs, you may have sensitivities to certain plant-based foods like soy or nuts. Identifying and avoiding trigger foods is likely more effective at managing symptoms than blindly choosing a vegan diet.

However, for some people, eczema is more related to allergic reactions to environmental triggers like pet dander or exposure to fragrances and chemicals that have nothing to do with diet. Consult with your dermatologist, allergist, and registered dietitian nutritionist to find your triggers and the best dietary approach.

Should You Try a Vegan Diet?

Experimenting with a vegan diet, even for a limited time, can be a healthy and safe experience. By eliminating animal-based foods, you may be challenged to try plant-based foods and recipes that can enrich your diet.

“I allow myself one portion of meat a week. I’m not ready to give up meat completely yet. I feel like my skin is better. It’s hard to say if it’s because of reducing meat or increasing the amount of vegetables and fruits that I consume now,” said a MyEczemaTeam member.

As with any dietary change, it’s essential to listen to your body and adjust based on your unique needs. Although a vegan diet may be helpful for eczema, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. With the right support and guidance, you can explore targeted lifestyle changes to support your health and wellness.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones. Here, more than 48,000 members from around the world come together to ask questions, offer support and advice, and connect with others who understand life with eczema.

Have you tried a vegan or vegetarian diet? If so, did you experience any notable health benefits? Share your experience in the comments below or start a discussion on your Activities page.

    Posted on August 31, 2023
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    Johna Burdeos, RD is a registered dietitian and freelance health writer. Learn more about her here.
    Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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