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Hidden Itchy Skin Triggers

I’ve been working with a client for quite some time now who struggles with eczema. First and foremost I want to say that eczema is not an easy health condition to figure out, there are many different root causes and not everyone’s will be the same.

For some eczema develops at around 3 years of age and quite often the individual will suffer with periodic outbreaks of itchy skin and eczema throughout childhood and adult life. For others eczema may develop later in life due to specific body system imbalances.

The most common irritants for eczema are:

  • Chemical irritants in household or personal hygiene products (contact dermatitis)

  • Environmental irritants/allergies (cat dander, dust, dust mites, pollen, etc), which can lead to an overactive immune system if constantly exposed

  • Omega 3 fatty acid deficiency

  • Gut imbalances, such as leaky gut and candida overgrowth, which can lead to food sensitivities, inflammation, and an immune response

  • Liver and toxin overload, which can lead to chemical sensitivities or a chemical intolerance

So the first thing to do in most cases with eczema is to repair the gut. But, I wanted to share something that should be kept in mind if you struggle with eczema. If eczema develops due to an imbalance within the liver, specifically if there is a high toxic load within the body, often times the liver can become sluggish and have difficulty with detoxification. In this kind of scenario, for some individuals, a chemical sensitivity or intolerance can develop.

Some chemical sensitivities include reacting to salicyaltes (can also affect migraine sufferers), amines, tannins, MSG, sulphites, and nitrates. These are chemicals that occur naturally in foods that are often referred to as the ‘itchy dozen’.

The itchy dozen includes:

  • Grapes

  • Oranges

  • Kiwi

  • Soy sauce

  • Tomatoes

  • Avocado

  • Broccoli

  • Dried fruits

  • Deli meats

  • Eggs

  • Chocolate

  • Coffee/caffeine

  • Dairy products

Another chemical sensitivity to be aware of is histamine. If you suffer from eczema and/or allergies, before you dive into a gut repairing journey that includes tons of fermented foods and beverages, it is important to be aware of histamine. If you have a histamine intolerance you may react very intensely to high histamine foods (fermented foods and beverages), such as kombucha, kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, beer, wine, and cheese as they are high in histamines. I discovered that this was what was aggravating my clients eczema.

Histamine is broken down by an enzyme called DAO. Some people can become deficient in this enzyme or it can get blocked due to heavy alcohol consumption. Histamine intolerance doesn’t just affect eczema, it can also play a role in acne and rosacea (reddening of the skin). For those that get red in the face or experience flushing from alcohol, may have a deficiency of this enzyme.

Caffeine also blocks the enzyme DAO. Therefore, if you are experiencing extremely itchy skin you may find relief from eliminating coffee, cacao, and caffeine rich teas from your diet. But again, it is extremely important to keep in mind that everyone’s eczema is different, and not everyone with skin issues has chemical sensitivities. There is a ton of new research to prove that chemical sensitivities are more common than you’d think!


- Fischer, Karen. Eczema Detox: the Low-Chemical Diet for Eliminating Skin Inflammation. Exisle Publishing Pty Limited, 2018.

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