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If you are prone to dry, itchy and inflamed skin, your diet may be to blame. Find out what foods may be causing your skin irritation.

Why does my skin become irritated?

Itchy, irritated skin can be triggered by many factors, ranging from dry skin to certain fabrics, and even food allergies.

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) and food allergies often go together. In fact, food allergies may play a role in aggravating dermatitis. For others, eating or just touching a particular food may cause their skin to react (allergic contact dermatitis).

When your skin is affected, symptoms may include redness alone or in combination with swelling, a rash or itchiness. Skin reactions to food can be immediate or take hours or even days to appear.

Some food allergies can be severe, causing life threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis.

Foods that may cause allergic reactions

When it comes to food allergies, peanuts, wheat, eggs, cow’s milk, soy and shellfish are among the most common culprits. The itchiness caused by these foods and subsequent scratching can then lead to flare-ups or worsening of dermatitis symptoms.

Here are four examples of foods that you may not have realised can cause skin problems:

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are the most common food that triggers dermatitis in people who are sensitive to Balsam of Peru.

Balsam of Peru comes from the tree Myroxylon balsamum pereirae, which is grown in South America. It is one of the ‘five most prevalent allergens’3c and is widely used in the manufacture of fragrances, flavourings and some medicines.

Other types of foods that can cause problems for people sensitive to balsam of Peru include certain spices (such as cinnamon, vanilla, and cloves), chocolate and colas.

2. Citrus fruits

Citric fruits are also a food to avoid if you are allergic to balsam of Peru. Citrus peel is the second-most commonly reported cause of dermatitis flare-ups (after tomatoes).

The citrus family of fruits includes grapefruits, oranges, lemons, limes, cumquats and mandarins.

3. Foods containing nickel

Many people are aware that skin contact with nickel, for example through jewellery or watchbands, may trigger allergic-contact dermatitis – but few people are aware that dietary nickel can also lead to dermatitis in nickel-sensitive individuals.

Foods that can have high levels of nickel include certain grains (such as whole wheat bread and oatmeal), beans, lentils, peas, soya beans and some canned foods.

4. Spices

Spices contribute so much to the flavour of meals – so having a spice allergy will come as a blow to any food lover.

Common spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fenugreek, garlic and vanilla can trigger allergic skin reactions. This can be through handling or eating foods containing the problem spice. Spices are also sometimes added to cosmetic products, so you may have to read labels carefully.

What Can You Do?

If you suspect you’re allergic to one or more of these foods, should you avoid them completely?

When a food allergy is confirmed, avoiding that food can help reduce dermatitis symptoms. However, food elimination diets are not recommended for everyone so speak to your doctor before making any changes to your diet. Your doctor can also give you advice regarding management of your dermatitis.

If your dermatitis is causing you discomfort, you can help minimise the dryness with the Dermeze range of soap-free wash, creams and ointment, which are fragrance free, and irritant  free.

The information provided in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about the topics discussed, please speak to a healthcare professional.

Dermeze is the registered trademark of Aspen Pharmacare Australia.

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