I often get a lot of questions from people looking to heal their eczema naturally, or to stop those darn steroid creams. However, while it might be tempting to immediately jump into the “cures”, before you even go into all that – one important step is to find what is triggering your break-out so that can stop them from happening in the first place!
Otherwise, it might be really hard to know what works for you, and you might just end up going around in circles for years and geting stuck in the break-out cycle!
Are you stuck in the break-out cycle?
You know what it is. You have a break-out, so to fix it, you use a steroid cream or some kind of lotion.
But, if you never find out what is triggering your break-out, you eventually break-out again. Days, months, years go by and you find yourself breaking out again, and again, and again!
Did this ever happen to you?
In this article, we’re going to look at HOW you can find YOUR eczema triggers to prevent the eczema breakouts from happening!
How to find your triggers to stop your breakouts
While there can be many different allergens or irritants of eczema, the good news is that there are usually just 3 MAIN types of triggers that affect the majority of people with eczema.
Specifically, these are triggers that tend to create inflammation in the body. As I talked about in my article “The Truth About Eczema“, with too much inflammation, your immune response is activated, making you breakout!
Finding what YOUR inflammatory triggers are (whether that’s in food, medicines, environmental, or even all) BEFORE jumping into anything else, is one of the most important steps to take if you want to stop the break-outs.
To make this first step easier, below I’ve outlined 7 different ways to find what inflammatory triggers are creating your break-outs!
Now of course, these methods aren’t always perfect — so I’ve also mentioned the benefits of each, to help you get a clearer picture. Ready? Let’s start with option #1!
#1: Talk to several dermatologists
If you suspect you have eczema, your first move is to simply talking to one or several dermatologists can really help you get a clear picture of what could trigger your break-outs.
The reason I say “several” is because skin conditions can often be misdiagnosed. If you feel unsure about your eczema, don’t feel bad about seeing other doctors and getting more than just one opinion.
(Just remember to bring your eczema history/any medicines you’ve been taking to your appointment)
Here are some useful questions that can be answered by a dermatologist:
– What type of eczema do you think I have?
– Could the trigger be in food or environment?
– What can I do if the eczema comes back?
– Is this break-out at risk for growth or can I leave it on it’s own?
Now keep in mind, most dermatologists are only there for your skin. They are NOT nutritionists, dietitians, or your personal coach. (Meaning, you won’t get much in terms of lifestyle and diet advice – and for the most part they aren’t even legally able to advise you in that area.)
However, they ARE specialists in “derma” or “the skin”, and a good dermatologist should be able to at least answer what type of eczema he/she thinks you have, which can already be super helpful to find your trigger!
For example, allergic contact dermatitis is often triggered by outside allergens, dyshidrotic eczema is normally triggered by stress, auto-sensitized eczema is triggered by inflammation, etc.
If you’ve already spoken to your (or several) dermatologists about the above, but still don’t know where to find your triggers, then let’s move on to option #2.
#2: The allergy tests
Testing, patching, pricking.
This is normally where most people find themselves after years of having break-outs. It’s also really helpful for young children with eczema. Now did you know there are actually several allergy tests that people with eczema can take to find their triggers? I’ve outlined the most popular ones below.
The IgE test.
IgE tests are really helpful to find out what food you’re sensitive to, and, if that food could be considered a trigger.
IgE (or immunoglobulin E) allergies are immediate responses to a foreign substance that has entered the body. It’s not necessarily that these foreign substances are “bad”, but it’s more that the specific foreign substance activates an immune response in that person’s body.
The way an IgE test works is a lot of science-y stuff, so let me break it down in a better way:
Let’s say you have a friend named Matt, who has an undiagnosed peanut sensitivity and eats a peanut. Cells in the body that were exposed to the peanut allergens, immediately begin making IgE antibodies to fight against the peanut “attack”. If Matt took an IgE test, we can see on the test that these peanut IgE antibodies are high, and this tells us that Matt has a food sensitivity to peanuts.
The pros of using an IgE test, is that you can instantly see if you have any food sensitivity or allergy. This can help you know where to start looking for your trigger.
The cons, however, is that IgE tests aren’t always accurate. Because the primary way an IgE test works is by reading if the anti-bodies are high or not, it can be hard to tell what the person is reacting to, as a person’s IgE levels might be high due to other factors such as the season, state of health, etc. It’s still a good place to start, but just something to keep in mind.
#3: The IGg test.
An IGg (immunoglobulin G) test, is used to test antibodies that provide long-term resistance to infections. This test would actually be more helpful if you were looking for a food that you were sensitive to.
Symptoms that you’re sensitive to a food are things like headaches, nausea, fatigue, bloated, or hyperactivity. These symptoms can occur hours or even days after the offending food has been eaten, which is how some people can live forever without knowing they even have a food sensitivity.
Again, this test isn’t 100% accurate, but personally, I think this is a better way to test for food sensitivities, because these tend to be more subtle and most people live with them for years, if not their whole lives!
#4: The IBA test.
This one is fairly new, but something that might be of interest to you if your eczema is auto-immune.
The IBA (intestinal barrier assessment) test provides a baseline for gastrointestinal health. It tests the mucosal barrier lining of the GI tract, which can tell your doctor if you have intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome), which means that your lining is not tight and therefore allowing food particles and bacteria to escape. These escaped particles can leak into your bloodstream, and trigger an immune response resulting in eczema.
I really like the idea of IBA testing, especially for those of you who suspect that your eczema trigger is a leaky or inflamed gut.
Testing the mucosal barrier lining is very good test that can provide you with an enormous amount of health information, as well as give you a marker for inflammation. However, since it’s relatively new, it can be quite expensive, and it might be hard to find labs with that kind of testing.
#5: An elimination diet
Another helpful way that some people find their triggers is with an elimination diet. An elimination diet is where you eliminate offending foods for a minimum of four weeks, with a re-introductory stage later on.
If you’ve done an IgE/IGg test and it shows that you’re sensitive to specific foods, then this plan would be perfect for you. Simply remove the food you’ve been shown to be sensitive to, and see if your break-outs lessen or go down. If they do, then you’ve found your trigger!
One thing to consider though, is that an elimination diet ONLY works if your eczema is triggered by a food sensitivity. Remember that each eczema case is different, and the triggers are sometimes not as obvious as food, and in some cases, you can be reacting to more than just a food trigger.
For example, if you have an over-reactive immune system, your problem would be high amounts of inflammation that sets-off your eczema. Or, if you have hereditary eczema or lack of filaggrin, then your problem would be things like a weak immune system or outside triggers. A food elimination might not address that.
#6: The DIY Plan
Of course, you should also consider taking some time to do your own personal research.
What really helped me was to get a “trigger journal”, and write down the times when my eczema was really bad. After I would try to see what I was doing/eating differently, compared to the times my eczema was better.
Keep in mind that you will still have a lot of “what-ifs” — as you’re essentially doing the guess-work yourself. Still, some people find it can be helpful to at least give you an idea, so it’s worth mentioning on this list!
#7: What I did!
People often ask me how I found what my triggers were, or how I finally managed to beat my 12-year eczema.
Over the years, I did try the above methods and more, including popular diets like the elimination diet, GAPS diet, pescatarian diet, Paleo diet, low-carb diet, carb-cycling diet, and even the hormone-reset diet! However, I still couldn’t find what was making me break-out.
It took me 5-years, but eventually I was able to create a program that worked! It’s called The Flawless Program. The Flawless Program is the first eczema program, that addresses internal eczema issues, while eliminating inflammatory eczema triggers.
After the program, I realized that the things that made me break-out the most were not only things like high inflammatory foods, but also other factors such as some medicines that I was taking that created inflammation.
My Flawless Program will be re-opening soon. But if you’re reading this now, and want to get started, sign up for my free training series here!
Conclusion: Find your eczema triggers!
Remember, the trigger that you’re looking for are the ones that create high amounts of inflammation. Eczema is often immune system driven, and inflammatory triggers activate the immune response the most!
It’s normal to forget this, but if you’re breaking out constantly and randomly, then there are no shortcuts.
It wasn’t until I got rid of the inflammatory eczema triggers that I finally stopped my chronic break-outs from happening. My hope is that in writing this, you can get the same results too!
Did this article help give you an idea of where to start looking for your inflammatory trigger? Leave your comment below!
PS: Don't know where to start. Sign up to my free training series on this page !