Itchy Dozen Worst Foods for Eczema

Tomatoes are bad for eczema

Nutritionist Karen Fischer's daughter had severe eczema and avoiding 'the itchy dozen' changed their lives. Now her daughter is eczema-free and Karen recently spoke about The Itchy Dozen Worst Foods for Eczema on prime time news (watch the video "breakthrough diet for eczema" at the end of this article).

This article includes the following:

  • The itchy dozen worst foods for eczema (plus scientific referencing at the end)
  • Natural ways to treat eczema 
  • Photos and success stories 
  • Further resources for people with eczema. 

This article was written by Karen Fischer, and it is an edited extract from Karen's eczema books

The Itchy Dozen Worst Foods for Eczema

People are often surprised to find the Itchy Dozen includes some of the so-called 'good' foods for eczema. I know the Itchy Dozen contradicts some popular beliefs published in online blogs. However, according to Australian research conducted over the past thirty years, these foods could be the reason your skin is dry, flaky and incredibly itchy (ref: Loblay and Swain).

I've seen this information help hundreds of so called 'hopeless' cases of eczema. People who have had eczema for 20, 30 or 40 years and more, who thought they were stuck with eczema for life, are seeing their eczema clear up for the first time. It can really change lives but it requires a change in beliefs about healthy eating. This quote sums it up:

"One man's medicine is another man's sleepless night itching." 

So a food that is good for an eczema-free person, such as avocado, could trigger a bout of maddening itching in another person. 

Not counting allergy foods (as these vary), here are the surprising foods and beverages most likely to give you itchy eczema ...


1. Dairy products

Dairy can trigger eczema

Dairy products, including cow’s milk, yoghurt, butter and cheese, are the second most common allergy food seen in eczema sufferers (after egg). 

Dairy products can also cause damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. When the gut lining is damaged from eating dairy products, tiny holes allow larger food particles to enter the body and allergic reactions and sensitivities can result. Naturopaths often refer to this as 'leaky gut' and the medical term doctors use is 'increased intestinal permeability'. 

  • Yoghurt is particularly bad for eczema as it often contains added sugar, fruit flavourings, amines (histamines from fermentation) and a natural colour called Annatto (160b) which can trigger eczema.

Calcium deficiency can cause eczema

It's important to take a calcium supplement (instead of consuming dairy products) as calcium deficiency can contribute to eczema, and the eczema will not improve until this deficiency (if present) is corrected.

I like to prescribe a pure, fine calcium powder with added magnesium and glycine as these nutrients promote a good night's sleep, which eczema sufferers often lack.

If you are itchy, one heaped scoop of Skin Friend PM mixed into water or food will quickly calm down the itch.  

2. Grapes 

Grapes are bad for eczema

If you have eczema or asthma, avoid grapes and grape-products such as wine, sultanas, raisins and grape juice. Why? Because 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, herbal medicines and baby teething gel.

Instead of grapes, eat peeled pears as they are a low-salicylate eczema-friendly alternative. 

3. Oranges

Oranges make eczema itchier

Oranges and orange products including juices have similar properties to grapes as they are a strongly acidifying fruit, and a rich source of two itchy chemicals: salicylates and amines.

  • 36% of eczema sufferers experience a worsening of eczema symptoms when they eat amine-rich foods such as oranges. (Loblay and Swain 2006).

4. Kiwi fruit 

Kiwi fruit can cause eczema

Kiwi fruit can make you itch like mad as it is a strongly acidifying fruit and a rich source of salicylates and amines which commonly 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 three days later. No wonder people are confused about food intolerances. 

5. Soy sauce/tamari sauce

Soy sauce yoghurt coffee chocolate and eczema

Soy sauce is very rich in amines and MSG (both natural or artificial), so they can trigger eczema and other types of skin inflammation. 

  • 35 percent of eczema sufferers experience a worsening of eczema symptoms when they eat glutamates including MSG (Loblay and Swain 2006).

6. Tomato 

Tomatoes trigger eczema

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

7. Avocado

avocado can cause eczema

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

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 natural MSG. That's why we like them so much... MSG is highly addictive.

I'm not saying these foods are bad, just problematic while you have eczema, 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. 

In the meantime, eczema-friendly alternatives are the greens that are lower in salicylates and these include green beans, iceberg lettuce and celery to name a few.

Tip: after your eczema has disappeared, gradually expand your leafy green intake. 

9. Dried fruits 

Dried fruits cause eczema image

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 will make you itch like mad. 

So skip the dried fruits in cereals, avoid muesli bars and ditch the dried fruits in your child's lunch-box. 

  • More than 50 percent of people with eczema react to preservatives which are common in dried fruits, and their eczema symptoms worsen as a result (Ref: Loblay and Swain 2006)

10. Deli meats 

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

  • Nitrates triggers eczema symptoms in 43 per cent of eczema sufferers (Loblay and Swain 2006).

But it's not all bad news, good quality meats such as skinless chicken, lean lamb and beef are fine to eat, (organic is best as antibiotics are not used). And if you are not sensitive to seafood, fresh fish is a healthy option. 

11. Eggs

Eggs can cause eczema

More than 70% of eczema sufferers are allergic to eggs according to 'skin prick' and patch testing.

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. While not everyone's eczema is caused by raw eggs, this information from The Eczema Diet is interesting food for thought.

12. Junk food

Junk food chips and burgers cause eczema image

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.  

The solution? Cook your meals at home and ensure you use eczema-friendly ingredients...  

How to prevent eczema from the inside out?

Here are two ways to treat your eczema naturally: 

12-week low chemical diet

The Eczema Detox book

    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. 

    Skin friendly supplements

    Skin Friend AM

    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. Molybdenum deactivates sulphite preservatives and amines; anti-histamine vitamin C and vitamin B6 to help reduce allergic reactions (it gradually works over a three month period). 

    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 is the supplement I created to prevent my daughter's eczema more than fifteen years ago. It took years of testing before I felt confident that it could help others, and I worked with hundreds of eczema patients who tried the product and provided feedback for years before this product was manufactured in bulk and sold online. 

    To produce Skin Friend I enlisted the help of a top Australian supplement manufacturer. It took more than six months to find the right ingredients that were vegan, non-GMO, and free of salicylates, hidden sugars and additives that are often used in regular supplements. This is one of the few low salicylate products available world-wide. 

    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.}

      Why choose dietary supplements over skin care for your eczema?

      You can still use skin care products to moisturise and hydrate your skin. But keep in mind, your skin is literally made from the nutrients supplied in your diet (in the foods and drinks you consume). So it makes sense ... change your diet, consume the right nutrients, and you will change your skin from the inside out. 





      Skin Friend AM    Skin Friend PM

      Eczema Detox Starter Pack   The Eczema Detox

      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

      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. 

      Kimata, H., 2005. Prevalence of fatty liver in non-obese Japanese children with atopic dermatitis. Indian pediatrics42(6).

      Article may not be reproduced without written consent from the author.