Will a cleanse help with eczema?


Eczema is a common skin condition characterized by itchy, inflamed, and irritated skin. It can range in severity from mild to very severe. While the exact causes of eczema are not fully understood, it is known that genetics, immune system dysfunction, and environmental triggers like irritants and allergens play a role.

Many people with eczema try different remedies to help manage their symptoms, including dietary changes like cleanses. Proponents of cleanses claim they can help rid the body of toxins, reduce inflammation, and promote skin healing. But is there any scientific evidence that cleanses can help treat eczema? Let’s take a deeper look.

What are cleanses?

Cleanses come in many different forms, but generally involve restricting your diet to certain foods or liquids for a set period of time. Some popular types of cleanses include:

  • Juice cleanses – Drink only fresh fruit and vegetable juices.
  • Smoothie cleanses – Blend and drink fruit/veggie smoothies.
  • Master cleanses – Drink a lemonade-like concoction of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water.
  • Detox cleanses – Eliminate certain foods like dairy, gluten, meat, caffeine.
  • Intermittent fasting – Cycle between periods of fasting and eating.

The claimed benefits of cleanses are giving your digestive system a rest, eliminating toxins, reducing inflammation, improving nutrition, promoting weight loss, and allowing the body to heal. But many health experts argue there is little scientific evidence to support these benefits.

Potential benefits for eczema

While clinical research is lacking, some cleanses may provide benefits that could aid in eczema management:

  • Identify trigger foods – Elimination cleanses remove certain foods from your diet, which could help identify triggers for eczema flares.
  • Reduce inflammation – Some anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, vegetables, and omega-3s are emphasized in certain cleanses.
  • Improve hydration – Many cleanses boost fluid intake, which may relieve dry skin.
  • Support gut health – Probiotic foods in some cleanses could benefit the gut microbiome, which may play a role in inflammation.
  • Promote weight loss – Fasting cleanses often result in calorie restriction and weight loss, which could reduce inflammation.

However, more research is needed to confirm if cleanses can provide these theorized benefits for eczema.

Potential risks of cleanses

While cleanses may offer some advantages, they also come with possible health risks:

  • Nutrient deficiencies – Restricting foods can lead to deficiencies in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Dehydration – Fast cleanses limit solid food intake and can cause dehydration, worsening eczema.
  • Blood sugar spikes – Juice or smoothie cleanses cause blood sugar spikes from absorbed fruit sugars.
  • Energy crashes – Calorie-restricted cleanses often lead to headaches, fatigue, mood swings.
  • Disordered eating – Cleanses could encourage unhealthy attitudes about food and body image.

These risks may outweigh any potential advantages for eczema, especially among those with a history of eating disorders. Consult a doctor before attempting a cleanse.

Specific cleanses and eczema

Let’s examine some popular cleanses and what science says about their effects on eczema:

Juice cleanses

Juice cleanses involve drinking only vegetable and fruit juices for 3-5 days. They provide antioxidants and nutrients, but little fiber, protein or fat.

Potential eczema pros:

  • Increase antioxidant intake
  • Hydration from liquid intake

Potential eczema cons:

  • Spike blood sugar
  • Lack protein for skin repair
  • Possible nutrient deficiencies

There is no evidence juice cleanses directly improve eczema. They provide short-term nutrient boosts but lack key components for skin health.

Detox or elimination diets

These diets remove inflammatory foods like dairy, gluten, meat, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods for 30 days or longer.

Potential eczema pros:

  • Avoid common eczema triggers
  • Reduce inflammatory foods
  • Identify problem foods through reintroduction

Potential eczema cons:

  • Nutrient deficiencies if diet is too restrictive
  • Disrupts gut microbiome diversity

Studies show elimination diets may benefit some eczema patients by uncovering food sensitivities. But over-restriction can lead to malnutrition. Monitoring by a dietitian is advisable.

Anti-inflammatory cleanses

These cleanses focus on foods considered anti-inflammatory, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, olive oil, and spices like turmeric. They avoid inflammatory foods like refined carbs, fried foods, alcohol, and red meat.

Potential eczema pros:

  • Increase anti-inflammatory foods
  • Avoid inflammatory foods
  • Emphasize eczema-friendly foods

Potential eczema cons:

  • Difficult to sustain long-term
  • May neglect important nutrients

Some studies indicate anti-inflammatory diets can reduce immune cell inflammation. While these diets appear eczema-friendly, diversity and balance are still key.

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting cycles between a period of fasting (or severe calorie reduction) followed by a period of normal eating, typically within a 24-hour period.

Potential eczema pros:

  • May lower inflammatory markers
  • Promotes autophagy to clear damaged cells
  • Encourages ketosis to reduce inflammation

Potential eczema cons:

  • Hunger pangs or low energy during fasting
  • Disordered eating habits
  • Difficulty staying hydrated

A few small studies note anti-inflammatory effects of intermittent fasting. However, long-term efficacy for eczema and safety concerns require more research.

Lifestyle approaches beyond food

While diet can impact eczema, other lifestyle measures are important:

  • Reduce stress – Chronic stress worsens inflammation.
  • Exercise regularly – Activity lowers inflammatory markers.
  • Supplement wisely – Some supplements like vitamin D, fish oil and probiotics may help.
  • Avoid irritants – Prevent contact with harsh soaps, detergents, perfumes.
  • Moisturize frequently – Hydrate skin to repair protective barrier.

A comprehensive approach is best – not just short-term, restrictive dieting. Work with healthcare providers to find the right combination of lifestyle changes to manage eczema.

The bottom line

While some people report cleanses help their eczema, there is minimal clinical evidence to support most cleanses. The benefits for eczema tend to be hypothetical and are unlikely to produce lasting improvements on their own.

Ultimately, cleanses are not a cure or long-term solution for eczema. They involve extreme, short-term changes that can be nutritionally inadequate or increase disordered eating habits. People with a history of eating disorders should avoid cleanses.

The most effective eczema management involves identifying and avoiding triggers, practicing proper skin care, reducing inflammation and stress, exercising, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a balanced, nutrient-rich diet. Work with healthcare providers to find science-backed approaches that fit your individual needs. While cleanses may provide a small piece of the puzzle, they should not form the core eczema treatment plan.

Type of Cleanse Potential Pros for Eczema Potential Cons for Eczema
Juice cleanses Increase hydration and antioxidants Blood sugar spikes, nutrient deficiencies
Elimination diets Avoid triggers, identify problem foods Risk of nutrient deficiencies
Anti-inflammatory cleanses Emphasize beneficial foods Difficult to sustain long-term
Intermittent fasting May have anti-inflammatory effects Hunger, low energy, dehydration

Key Points

  • There is minimal evidence that cleanses can treat eczema. Any benefits are likely short-term.
  • Some cleanses may help identify trigger foods or provide anti-inflammatory effects.
  • However, cleanses can disrupt nutrition, gut health,hydration, and blood sugar control.
  • For lasting eczema relief, take a comprehensive approach with lifestyle changes, trigger avoidance, proper skin care and a balanced diet.
  • Work with healthcare providers to find appropriate, sustainable ways to manage eczema without extreme cleanses.


While cleanses promise an alluring quick fix, the reality is they provide minimal lasting benefit for complex chronic conditions like eczema. At best, a very structured elimination cleanse may help uncover trigger foods. But most cleanses are nutritionally inadequate and unsustainable. For those predisposed to disordered eating, cleanses may do more harm than good.

Invest your efforts instead into holistic lifestyle changes and working with professionals to find individualized solutions. Get tested for food sensitivities, reduce stress, exercise regularly, repair your skin’s moisture barrier, make dietary improvements that you can maintain long-term, and keep working with your healthcare providers to find what works for you. This comprehensive approach is the most effective way to take charge of eczema.

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