According to The National Eczema Association, more than 31 million Americans have some variation of eczema. Eczema is a common, non-contagious skin disease that can
start as early as infancy. Infant and childhood eczema usually disappear by
adolescence but can reappear in adulthood. Eczema may also start in adulthood
or evolve into a new variation of the disease. Eczema is a complex condition without
a known cure.
Eczema is characterized by severe itching which creates a vicious cycle of irritation
because scratching further intensifies eczema symptoms and can lead to skin
Eczema is prone to flares, which cause the condition to worsen. Eczema can also clear
up during periods of remission. This makes the condition stressful and confusing for individuals affected by the disease.
Dermatologists and Allergy/Immunologists are the medical providers who diagnose and treat eczema. Start with your primary care provider or pediatrician to determine the best specialist to work with in your area. Diagnostic tools used to determine environmental and food allergens include patch testing, skin prick testing and intradermal testing.
In 2021, after years of unsuccessful management of eczema flares, I was patch
tested and diagnosed with six contact allergies including gold, cobalt, benzoyl
peroxide, fragrance, glyceryl thioglycolate (a chemical found in perm solutions) and linalool. Thankfully, I gave up perms after the 1980s! If you are unfamiliar with linalool, it is a natural fragrance found in plants like lavender and bergamot and in spices like coriander, thyme, and oregano. It is used in almost every type of product that touches the skin, including hair products, skin products, laundry detergents, and cleaning products.
This type of eczema is called “Contact Dermatitis.” It is a complicated form of
eczema and occurs after encountering a substance that triggers an allergic reaction. There are two types of Contact Dermatitis: Irritant Contact Dermatitis and Allergic Contact Dermatitis. This form of eczema is not related to asthma or hay fever but contact irritants such as solvents, cleaners, or allergens such as fragrances, metals, and plant oils.
The most common method of managing allergic contact dermatitis is avoiding direct
contact with the identified allergens. For me, this means no more gold jewelry, no more lavender scented products, no more perfumes or products with fragrances and use of a special app that provides me with a “safe list” of products that do not contain any combination of my six allergens. The app is called CAMP (Contact Allergy Management Program) and is an updated item list based on a database provided by the ACDS (American Contact Dermatitis Society.)
Allergic Contact Dermatitis is also more prone to potential aggravation from food
sensitivities. Food allergies and eczema are widely studied and debated
throughout the world. Eczema is similar to diet in that there is not a “one
size fits all” approach. Eczema is highly individual. If there is a food
allergy or sensitivity present, it can be difficult to pinpoint because it
can be one food or multiple foods and the flareup can occur immediately
(30-60 minutes) or as a delayed response days later (24-48 hours).
Additionally, there are healthy foods that may be harmful to some individuals and
cause their eczema symptoms to flare.
Some key foods to avoid are the common food allergens and highly processed foods.
The big eight food allergens in the United States are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.
Culinary nutrition is about using fresh, whole foods and combining them with food
science to create healthy, delicious meals that are nourishing, healing and aid
in managing a variety of health conditions. I have been applying my culinary
nutrition knowledge to learning how to eat with eczema. I have created a
delicious, comforting salad recipe that I will share with you. This salad is
full of healthy goodness and contains a variety of recommended foods for individuals
suffering with eczema.
Most researchers and health experts agree that an anti-inflammatory diet is a reasonable place to start for relief of eczema symptoms. Some experts refer to an “eczema diet” which focuses on natural, healthy foods, eliminates gluten and other food related allergens.
Recommended food swap options include gluten-free whole grains like quinoa, millet, and amaranth, fruits such as blueberries and cherries, salmon, lean animal protein, and vegetables of all colors.
My recipe includes foods that are beneficial in managing Contact Dermatitis because they are anti-inflammatory, contain antioxidants, and boost immunity and healing.
My inspiration came from a local restaurant, which has a kale salad I love. I wanted to create a culinary version of this salad keeping the kale and using sweet potatoes, and quinoa from my personal “Foods To Include” list. What I love about this recipe is that with the addition of quinoa, it can be eaten as a main dish or as a side dish.
Sample of Eczema Foods To Include:
Kale: A cruciferous leaf cabbage with varieties of green and purple leaves.
Quinoa: A versatile, gluten-free plant seed with a nutty flavor. (pronounced KEEN-wah)
- Often used as a gluten-free whole grain source which can be added to salads, used to thicken soups, eaten as a side dish, or a breakfast porridge.
- A complete protein source, containing all nine essential amino acids.
- Health benefits include gut health, lower blood sugar levels, and antioxidant
Sweet Potatoes: A root vegetable that is a healthful replacement for wheat and rice.
- Rich in phenolic compounds, anthocyanins, and beta-carotene varying across flesh
- A good source of B complex vitamins as well as vitamins A, C, and E.
- Health benefits include gut health, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
I wanted to keep kale for my greens, and I wanted to use sweet potatoes and apples, which are two of my favorite fall foods. For my third ingredient, I added quinoa so I could make the salad with more protein for a main dish. I used red kale instead of baby kale to try something new and add to the fall color. I used walnuts because I love the flavor they add to sweet potatoes. The nuts can be replaced with pumpkin seeds if desired.
Full Recipe: Roasted Apple, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa, Kale Salad
Prep Time: 25 min. Cook Time: 35 min. Total Time: 1-hour Servings: 4
Balsamic Maple Dressing:
- 1/3 cup olive oil or avocado oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons 100% pure maple syrup
- Pinch of sea salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1 bunch kale (green or red varieties), stems removed and softened
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons fresh, lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
1.5 cup cooked white quinoa (1/2 cup dry quinoa)
1 cup water
1 large, sweet potato, cut into small cubes, peel if desired or if not organic
- 1/4 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1 Tablespoon avocado oil
1 Red Apple(Gala, Fuji, Pink Lady), cut into small cubes, peel if not organic
- 1/8 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
- pinch of nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon avocado oil
1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped
Can use pumpkin seeds instead of nuts
Mason jar, nut chopper, large cookie sheet, unbleached parchment paper, large mixing bowl, medium mixing bowl, and small mixing bowl.
1. Make the dressing and set aside. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a mason jar and shake until mixed well.
2. Toast the walnuts or pecans on the stove for 2 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Chop into small pieces and set aside. You can store the nuts for up to a week in an airtight container.
3. De-stem and wash the kale and chop into bite size pieces. Add kale, olive oil, lemon juice and salt to the large mixing bowl. Massage the leaves for 2-3 minutes and set aside. The leaves will continue to soften while sitting. This helps retain more nutrients than wilting on the stove. Reduce oil and lemon juice for a smaller bunch of kale.
4. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees for potatoes and apples. Prepare baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
5. Wash and chop the sweet potatoes and the apples. Peel the ingredients if not organic. Put the sweet potatoes in the medium mixing bowl and combine with cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and avocado oil. Put apples in small mixing bowl and combine with cinnamon, nutmeg, and avocado oil.
6. Roast sweet potatoes for 20 minutes. Add apples and roast for another 10-15 minutes. Let cool slightly when done. While food is roasting, prepare the quinoa.
7. Rinse ½ cup quinoa and drain if not already pre-rinsed. Bring quinoa and water to a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer for up to 15 minutes, checking regularly. Water should evaporate, let quinoa sit for 5 minutes and fluff.
8. Add to the kale, the quinoa, sweet potatoes, apples, and nuts or seeds. Mix well. Plate the salad and add balsamic maple dressing to taste. Enjoy!!!
To Your Health,
 Katta, Rajani, and Megan Schlichte.“Diet and dermatitis: food triggers.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 7,3 (2014): 30-6.
Graf, Brittany L et al. “Innovationsin Health Value and Functional Food Development of Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.).” Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety vol. 14,4
(2015): 431-445. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12135
 Laveriano-Santos, EmilyP et al. “SweetPotato Is Not Simply an Abundant Food Crop: A Comprehensive Review of Its Phytochemical Constituents, Biological Activities, and the Effects of
Processing.” Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 11,9 1648. 25 Aug. 2022,