It goes without saying that the biggest struggle with eczema is the itchiness. That itchiness will never go away until the skin (and internal body) is fully healed. Although as you heal, the intensity of the itch will slowly leave.
But until then, what can one do when the itchiness and heat coming from within due to inflammation is too much to bear? In my experience and battle with my own eczema, I found food to be the best medicine (and a minimum of 75% of the fight is done through diet).
Because the skin grows from the inside out and is a reflection of your inner health.
What are Cooling Foods?
In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) as well as Ayurveda, foods are viewed as containing some combination of the “elements”.
For TCM, the elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, water.
For Ayurveda: ether, air, fire, water, earth.
The elements contained within a food will increase the same elements within a person upon consumption, according to the “like increases like” principle. Eat some roasted peanuts and you will greatly increase oily fire in your body, which is why Chinese typically cook peanuts by boiling with water to balance the elements. Other “hot foods” that increase the fire in your body include cayenne pepper, dried ginger, soybean oil, cinnamon, black pepper, chilli powder, horseradish, lamb, trout and whole green or red peppers.
Eczema = Excess Fire
Heavy, warming root vegetables and squashes are provided by wise Mother Nature in the harvest before winter to help us get through the cold season and reduce this fire.
Since eczema is inflammation of the skin, one can view the disease as: excess fire being expelled through the skin. TCM doctors have told me I had blood heat specifically along with weakened kidney/liver function.
It is interesting to note, as well, that my Ayurveda instructor (who was unaware of the diagnoses made by my TCM doctors) suggested I donate blood to help relieve my body of excess pitta (one of the 3 doshas/constitutions made primarily of fire). These are very advanced diagnoses and explanations which might not necessarily apply to your current version of eczema, but one thing for sure is that eczema = excess fire.
Cooling foods should be incorporated in your diet to help control and ease the symptoms of your eczema. Let it be known that it is significantly more important to avoid foods that generate heat, toxic ingredients, nutritionally deficient processed foods, and allergens, which is a list much longer than the list of foods I’m about to give you.
If you do not clean up your diet first, even these cooling foods cannot save you. If you have severe chronic eczema and require nutritional help, please see a Certified Holistic Nutritionist such as Abby or myself.
Here is a list of cooling foods that I have turned to in times when the internal heat was burning out of control:
- Fennel (Bulbs or Seeds)
- Sprouted Mung Bean/Bean Sprouts
I ate a lot of these foods raw and straight out of the fridge for maximum cooling effect, but also because I was getting itchy and needed something immediately. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctors/practitioners sometimes warn not to go to extreme ends when cooling the body for fear of exposing yourself to colds and further illnesses; however I believe each person is unique and depending on the situation one might need to go for maximum cooling effect while others might not.
For me, I found that was the case until later on in my healing progress, at which point I had less internal inflammation, so I actually started fearing the cold for once! If you find that you need to eat some of these foods straight out of the fridge, feel free to do it! If you find that you like eating it fresh and hot after cooking it, then do so! If you find that after cooking them that it is too hot, let it cool down a bit first.
Listen to your body!
Without going into detail the full nutritional benefits of some of these foods, I will explain how I prepared and ate them:
Washed and eaten raw, usually cold. Fennel is one of those rare vegetables that enhance digestion, while being a cooling vegetable/herb. It also has a sweet liquorice-like taste. Even though I don’t like the taste of liquorice candies like a lot of people, I happen to find the taste of fennel very delicious. Even fennel seeds have the same taste, as well as the same digestive/cooling properties. An Indian restaurant I went to had a small bowl of fennel seeds at the exit. I didn’t know what it was at the time so I asked and they said it was fennel seeds, for aiding digestion and freshening your breath a little.
Washed, cut into long sticks and eaten raw, usually straight from the fridge. I went organic for both of these. Organic celery actually has sweetness to it unlike its conventional version. I used to buy baby carrots for convenience, but upon learning that most baby carrots are washed in chlorine to help maintain its orange glow, I started buying fully grown carrots and making sticks out of those after washing and peeling. Carrots may also be cooked with water as part of a more warming meal. Carrots are rich in beta carotene, which serves as an antioxidant and a pre-cursor to vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed for healthy skin and mucous membranes!
Washed and eaten raw, usually straight from the fridge. Sometimes I won’t even slice it and I’ll eat the whole thing in one go! A word of caution to those with hay fever allergies when eating cucumber, I know certain types of cucumber immediately give me itchy lips. If you know you have an allergic response to cucumbers because of this, as well as any of the other foods in this post, don’t eat it! The last thing you need is additional histamine and antibodies running in your system.
Sprouted Mung Bean/Bean Sprouts
Eaten raw, early in its sprouting or fully grown. This vegetable is a Chinese cuisine staple because it helps balance the greasy heating dishes found at typical Chinese restaurants. Bean sprouts are the product of fully sprouted mung beans. You can sprout your own mung beans and add them to your salads or rice before they are fully grown!
Steamed until bright green, and eaten after it has cooled, or straight from the fridge. Kale is my favourite “redemption” snack for those days or moments when I binge on unhealthy food; sugary sweets, meals lacking vegetables/fibre etc (if your eczema is in a severe state, you absolutely must cease the intake of ALL unhealthy/toxic foods).
Kale is a well-known superfood rich in vitamins and minerals. It will simultaneously detox your body and nourish your body from nutritional deficiencies. I see this wonderful leafy green as a “must have” in anyone’s diet for addressing disease.
Briefly cook this with water or by steam until bright green. When I first read about the candida diet, I tried it because I was exhibiting all the symptoms of candida overgrowth, especially considering my excessive antibiotic use and presence of sugar in my diet. I even cut out white rice to reduce “empty carb” intake, so I essentially went on a paleo diet. I was so hungry I didn’t know what to do, but adding broccoli and cauliflower helped provide more substance to my diet.
These two veggies belong to the Brassica family of vegetables (which also includes cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts), and are known for their cancer fighting power.
Cooked with very little water to start, I was not aware of this vegetable until we started trying all kinds of vegetables for variety and health. When cooked, okra gives off this kind of goo, indicative of its rich mucilage content. Mucilage is very beneficial for gut health, easing constipation and acting as a prebiotic (bacterial food) for the good bacteria! Elementally we can see okra as adding the water element back into your body in a form that stays (due to stickiness of the ooze). Okra’s other benefits can be read here. My family would cook okra with some meat, and then serve over top of rice for a delicious saucy dish which helps cool and moisturize the body from within.
This is best taken when squeezed into water or tea (or you can also juice it). I used to start my day with lemon water to aid morning liver detox. Now, I drink lemon water after meals to aid digestion, or when I know I ate something that will require me to detox from. Rich in vitamin C, lemon water will help detox your liver by supporting your body’s antioxidant cascade/network, protecting all your cells from free radical damage. Vitamin C also supports collagen formation for the development of strong healthy skin. I noticed that increasing my vitamin C intake made my skin stronger, more moist, and more resistant to the damage from scratching.
This is best eaten raw, from the fridge. After I’ve exercised and showered in the morning, I always start my day by eating a couple fruits, usually an apple and a pear. I find this to be a refreshing way to start that day thanks to the vitamin C content and the healthy carbohydrate content providing some quick energy.
Coconut Oil/Mint Oils/Mint Teas
Coconut oil is seen as heavy and cooling. I use it as a Vaseline replacement, to coat and protect cuts and cracks. I will then apply some peppermint oil to areas that are extremely itchy to help cool and soothe it. Always mix pure mint oils with another quality oil such as coconut, or jojoba, lavender, chamomile, shea butter, aloe vera (if you’re not allergic). Pure mint oils can be too strong and end up irritating the skin more (seen as airy/light/invigorating/cooling). Mint tea cloths/compresses can be used in place of direct oil applications. One can also place their face above a steaming cup of mint tea to feel its cooling vapours, and then drink the tea when cooled. Pre-brew some mint tea and fridge it for maximum cooling effect!
In essence – be sure to incorporate more of these cooling foods, as they will help you to reduce the excess fire and inflammation in your body caused by your eczema.
Learn more about my Conqueror Dry Skin Soothing Balm or visit my eBook links below to learn more about how you can heal your skin:
- The Elimination Diet: A Guide to Conquer Eczema & Food Sensitivities
- Healing Eczema: Why Dieting Is Not Enough
- The Power of Thoughts: How Mindset Shifts Can Help Eliminate Eczema
- My Detailed Eczema Healing Treatment Plan