Itchy Dozen Worst Foods for Eczema

    This article was updated 5th of April 2024.

    In this article we discuss the itchy dozen worst foods for eczema and our tips to manage and prevent eczema. 

    The video: Nutritionist Karen Fischer spoke about the Itchy Dozen Worst Foods for Eczema on prime time Australian news. Watch the video Eczema Breakthrough (above).

    Video notes: AM Activated Multi is the supplement Georgie added to her smoothie and The Eczema Diet is the book featured in the news video. Note both products were created by Karen Fischer, who is the author of this blog and the nutritionist featured in the video.   

    Eczema Diet and skincare for eczema

    Images: Karen Fischer previously had head-to-toe eczema. She used the FID Program (Food Intolerance Diagnosis Program) from The Eczema Detox and Wonder Zinc to clear up her skin.  

    The Itchy Dozen Worst Foods for Eczema

    Did you know eczema can trigger food intolerance to natural chemicals that make you itch? Furthermore, more than 50% of people with eczema have food hypersensitivity, according to a recent systematic review involving 225,000 people with eczema.

    Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, has a global prevalence of around 225 million so that means more than 112 million people with eczema have food intolerance and/or food allergy. However, most of them have no idea their diet is making their eczema worse. 

    Everything you have read about diet for eczema is probably wrong.

    The Itchy Dozen contradicts some popular beliefs published in online eczema blogs (like avocado being good for eczema - it's not). According to Australian research, the following 12 foods could make your skin incredibly itchy.

    As I always say...

    "One person's superfood is another person's sleepless night itching." 

    In other words, a food (such as avocado) that is good for a clear-skinned person, could trigger a maddening itching if you have eczema! 

    So don't believe everything you read online about diet and eczema. If it's a fact, it should come with good science and in-text referencing from PubMed.

    I'm here to dispel some myths and help you navigate your diet for eczema. 

    The first itchy food is a long one (sorry, it's important), but the others are short so read on to find out more.  

    1. Dairy products 

    Eczema Diet dairy

    According to a recent systematic review by Christensen (2023), 36% of people with eczema adversely react to dairy products, including cow’s milk, yoghurt and cheese. That means about 81 million people with eczema (world-wide) are sensitive to dairy. That is significant!

    Dairy is the second most common "itchy food" in people with eczema (the top one is coming up shortly). 

    If you have dairy hypersensitivity it could be making your eczema hell to manage. I mean nightmare, painful hell. The good news is you might not react to dairy, but you need to check. Here's how:

    Do you need an allergy test?

    Maybe, maybe not. If you have money to spend on an allergy test, it can be a good start but here's the catch: allergy tests won't tell you if you are sensitive to dairy. Most doctors don't know this, as nutrition is not their field. It's not their fault: it's just not discussed in regular medical journals.

    So you may be incorrectly diagnosed if you rely on allergy tests, such as the skin prick test, as they are notoriously inaccurate. Allergy tests also can't identify food intolerance, which can be just as problematic for eczema. 

    The only way to truly know if you are milk intolerant is to eliminate it from your diet for 1-2 weeks (i.e. an elimination diet), then drink some milk and see if your skin reacts. This method is also free (besides the cost of milk), unlike expensive allergy tests. However (disclaimer), get advice from an allergy specialist if you experience adverse reactions to food as a specialist can guide and monitor you during testing. 

    Swap dairy for this

    The best plant based milks to ditch the itch are calcium-fortified Oat Milk, Rice Milk and Soy Milk (if you are not sensitive to any of these). Avoid coconut water/milk and almond milk as they can make eczema super itchy. Really itchy. They are the worst. Stop drinking them now. 

    Calcium is hella good for eczema

    This is one of my best tips and an industry secret... Calcium is very important for sleep and it helps your skin barrier function correctly. However, dairy is not the best way to get it, especially if you adversely react to it. 

    Switch to plant-based oat or rice milk (or another milk to suit your allergies) and check that it contains about 300mg of calcium per cup of milk. It should say "calcium fortified" on the label. 

    Adults and teens need to consume about 1000mg of calcium every day. So that's 2 cups of calcium-fortified milk, a cup of veggies, plus a supplement with about 300mg of calcium.

    If taking calcium in supplement form, ensure it also contains plenty of quality magnesium, like this one, as calcium needs magnesium to get into your bones (where it should be). You should take about 300mg of magnesium daily but avoid magnesium oxide, which is the cheap magnesium that others put into cheap, useless supplements. It does not work. It is a waste of your money. Love your body and get the good stuff. 


    2. Alcohol 

    Eczema diet alcohol


    If you have eczema or asthma, avoid alcohol, such as wine and champagne. Also steer clear of grapes, including sultanas, raisins and grape juice.

    Grapes are a “triple threat” as they are a very rich source of three itch-promoting chemicals called salicylates, amines and monosodium glutamate (MSG) which are known to worsen eczema (Loblay and Swain 2006)

    • Salicylates are a natural pesticide made by many fruits and vegetables, and it's also found in aspirin, perfumes and baby teething gel. Never give an infant baby teething gel, such as Bonjela, as it contains choline salicylate.  

    Wine, champagne and other forms of alcohol are rich sources of histamine, a type of amine that can cause facial flushing, asthma, hives and itchy skin.

    Research shows that about 30% of people with eczema (atopic dermatitis) have histamine intolerance.

    That means about 67.5 million people with eczema (world-wide) are histamine intolerant and should avoid alcohol, fermented foods, avocado, almonds and other nuts, and coconut. 

    3. Chocolate

    Eczema Diet chocolate

    I hate to break it to you, but chocolate is a rich source of two itchy chemicals: theobromine and salicylates

    Researchers from Japan have found that some people with eczema may have trouble eating chocolate. In a study, kids with eczema were brought to the hospital after an elimination diet, and they were given chocolate to eat. About 35% of them had a bad reaction to it, making their eczema symptoms worse (Uenishi, 2008).

    Another study found that almost half of children with eczema had their symptoms get worse after eating chocolate (Uenishi, 2004). But here's the good news: when they stopped eating chocolate for an average of three months (1 to 6 months), their eczema significantly improved. This shows that for some people with eczema, avoiding chocolate might be the answer. 

    That means about 78 million people with eczema (world-wide) are sensitive to chocolate. 


    4. Kiwi fruit 

    Eczema diet kiwi fruit makes me itchy

    Kiwi fruit can make you itch like mad as it is a strongly acidifying fruit and a rich source of salicylates and amines which can trigger eczema. 

    • Did you know food chemical intolerances can take days to appear? After you have eaten an irritating food such as kiwi fruit, reactions can either be immediate or the next day but they can also occur up to two days later. No wonder people are confused about food intolerances. 

    What fruit can I eat instead?

    Eat up to 10 blueberries per day and a peeled pear as they are low in salicylates. 

    5. Soy sauce

    Soy sauce yoghurt coffee chocolate and eczema

    Soy sauce is very rich in amines and MSG so it can trigger eczema and other types of skin inflammation. A Japanese researcher found that people with irregular (hard to treat) eczema adversely react to soy sauce and other soy products. 

    Sauces are some of the most problematic foods that can worsen eczema and the itch. Instead of sloshing sauce onto your plate, use pure salt (in moderation), garlic, ginger, basil or turmeric to flavour your meals. 

    6. Tomato 

    Eczema diet tomato

    Tomato and products containing tomato including tomato ketchup and spaghetti Bolognese, are another triple threat as they are very rich sources of salicylatesamines and natural MSG: the three worst chemicals for triggering eczema. 

    7. Avocado

    Eczema diet avocado

    We have had hundreds of reports from eczema sufferers who say avocado worsens their eczema.

    While avocado is a healthy addition to your diet when you don't have eczema, avocado is one of the richest sources of amines and itch-promoting salicylates

    8. Broccoli

    Eczema diet broccoli


    This tip may surprise you but it could save you years of pain.

    Broccoli, spinach, silverbeet and kale can worsen eczema symptoms because they are another triple threat - all are rich sources of itch-promoting salicylates, amines and MSG. That's why we like them so much... MSG is highly addictive.

    Wow, are these foods bad now? One moment something is good for you, the next, it's demonised. What are the facts?

    I hear you... No. I'm not saying these foods are bad. They are still healthy. They are just problematic while you have eczema, and if you are sensitive to salicylates. But you won't know if you are sensitive to salicylates (or amines or MSG) until you avoid these foods for a couple of weeks, then test them again. 

    Which greens can I eat instead?

    Eczema-friendly alternatives are the greens that are lower in salicylates. These include green beans, iceberg lettuce, leeks, endive lettuce (the curly variety), choy sum and celery to name a few.

    Tip: after your eczema has disappeared, gradually expand your leafy green intake. I did when my eczema cleared up and I can eat everything again (I still can't eat tonnes of broccoli, but I can eat it once a week without an adverse reaction). 

    9. Dried fruits 

    Eczema diet dried fruit dried apricot


    Dried fruits contain a range of problematic chemicals - you could say they are a quadruple threat as they can contain salicylates, amines, MSG and sulphites!

    All types of dried fruits including dried apricots, dates, prunes and sultanas, contain high levels of itch-promoting salicylates and amines, and some also contain the preservative sulphur dioxide and natural MSG which is why they are flavoursome. But they could make you itch like mad too.

      10. Deli meats 

      Eczema diet meats


      Deli meats including sausages, ham, bacon and flavoured meats are high in nitrates, flavour enhancers, salicylates and saturated fats, which can worsen the itch of eczema. 

      What meats can you eat instead?

      Eat good quality meats such as skinless chicken, lean lamb and beef (organic is best as antibiotics are not used). 

      If you are not sensitive to seafood, fresh fish is a healthy option. Don't forget vegetarian/vegan options such as black beans, lentils, mung bean sprouts (bean sprouts) and chickpeas. 

      11. Eggs

      Eczema diet eggs

      According to a large systematic review, 37% of individuals with eczema are allergic or intolerant to eggs, according to oral challenge testing, which is the gold standard testing method to diagnose food hypersensitivity.

      That means about 83.2 million people with eczema (world-wide) are sensitive to eggs. That is huge!

      Another reason to avoid eggs includes the risk of 'egg white injury' (yes, that is the medical term). If eaten on a frequent basis, raw eggs can cause a biotin deficiency that can trigger eczema or dermatitis. While not everyone's eczema is caused by raw eggs, this information from The Eczema Diet is interesting food for thought.

      12. Junk food

      Eczema diet and junk food lollies sweets

      New Zealand researchers discovered children who eat fast food (take away foods) three or more times per week are significantly more likely than other children to develop severe eczema.

      The researchers from Auckland University used international data compiled from almost two million children and found they were not only more prone to eczema, they were also more likely to develop asthma if they ate junk food on a frequent basis.  

      The solution? Cook your meals at home and ensure you use eczema-friendly ingredients. It's easier than you think and you can find our Eczema Diet support group and diet at

      How to prevent eczema from the inside out

      Here are two ways to treat your eczema naturally: 

      1. Low chemical diet

        The Eczema Detox is a healthy low chemical diet that is low in sugar and totally free of glutamates/MSG, preservatives/additives and dairy. It also has plenty of gluten-free and vegan options. 

        The Eczema Detox, which was published in 2018 and is the new version of The Eczema Diet, also shows you how to successfully diagnose food intolerances and chemical intolerances (via the FID Program), so you know what to avoid and what to eat to become eczema free. You can find the Eczema Detox book here. 

        2. Eczema supplements

        There are a range of nutrients to help prevent chemical sensitivity and repair eczema-prone skin, including magnesium, molybdenum, zinc, biotin, vitamin B6 and a range of vitamins to deactivate salicylates and other itch-promoting chemicals. 

        But it's also what you avoid (in supplements) that can make a difference... Supplements usually contain hidden additives that can cause adverse reactions if you are a sensitive type of person that is prone to eczema. 

        Skin Friend AM Activated Multi is the supplement I created to prevent my daughter's eczema more than fifteen years ago (see my daughter's eczema, below). 

        Eczema detox before and after Karen Fischer

        {Photos of my daughter's eczema. Click on the photo for more success stories from our eczema clinic.}

          What about the best skincare for eczema?

          Not ready to change your diet? You can use skin care products to soothe and repair your skin. I love Wonder Zinc (Healthy Glow Barrier Cream) as it contains zinc, elderberry and organic seaweed to help prevent skin infections and it clears up eczema too. You can buy Wonder Zinc here

          As a thank you for reading the whole article, here is a discount coupon to use at my website where I share my eczema products and tips. 

          SHOP THE STORY



           The Eczema Detox

          About the author 

          Nutritionist Karen Fischer is passionate about helping people with eczema. Over the past 20 years, she has helped thousands of individuals with eczema through consultations, skincare and her books The Eczema Diet, The Eczema Detox and The Healthy Skin Kitchen.


          Reviews from


          Fischer, K., 2013, The Eczema Diet, First Edition, Exisle Publishing, Wollombi, Australia.

          Rudzeviciene, O., et al., 2004, ‘Lactose malabsorption in young Lithuanian children with atopic dermatitis’, Acta Paediatrica, vol. 93, no. 4, pp. 482–6. 

          Loblay, R.H. and Swain, A.R., 2006, ‘Food Intolerance’, Recent Advances in Clinical Nutrition, retrieved 1 April 2011 from Australian Government website

          Christensen MO, Barakji YA, Loft N, Khatib CM, Egeberg A, Thomsen SF, Silverberg JI, Flohr C, Maul JT, Schmid-Grendelmeier P, Halling AS, Vittrup I, Thyssen JP. Prevalence of and association between atopic dermatitis and food sensitivity, food allergy and challenge-proven food allergy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2023 May;37(5):984-1003. doi: 10.1111/jdv.18919. Epub 2023 Feb 8. 

          Foong RX, Dantzer JA, Wood RA, Santos AF. Improving Diagnostic Accuracy in Food Allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2021 Jan;9(1):71-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2020.09.037. 

          Lee SE, Lee SH. Skin Barrier and Calcium. Ann Dermatol. 2018 Jun;30(3):265-275. doi: 10.5021/ad.2018.30.3.265. Epub 2018 Apr 23. 

          Maintz L, Novak N. Histamine and histamine intolerance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1185-96. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/85.5.1185. 

          Wüthrich B. Allergic and intolerance reactions to wine. Allergol Select. 2018 Sep 1;2(1):80-88. doi: 10.5414/ALX01420E. 

          Chung BY, Cho SI, Ahn IS, Lee HB, Kim HO, Park CW, Lee CH. Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis with a Low-histamine Diet. Ann Dermatol. 2011 Sep;23 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S91-5. doi: 10.5021/ad.2011.23.S1.S91. Epub 2011 Sep 30. 

          Uenishi, T.,, 2003, ‘Role of foods in irregular aggravation of atopic dermatitis’, Journal of Dermatology, vol. 30, pp. 91–7.

          Nakanishi, Y., et al, 2008, ‘Monosodium glutamate (MSG): a villain and promoter of liver in ammation and dysplasia’, Journal of Autoimmunity, vol. 30, no. 1–2, pp. 42–50. 

          Uenishi, T., H. Sugiura, and M. Uehara, Involvement of food in irregular exacerbations of childhood atopic dermatitis. Skin Science, 2004. 3: p. 93-96.


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