The Seborrheic Dermatitis Diet: Foods to Avoid and Foods to Eat

Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that can cause inflammation, flakiness, and itching in areas of the skin with the most active oil glands, including the scalp, face, and chest. While the underlying causes of seborrheic dermatitis are not fully understood, many experts believe that certain triggers, including diet, can play a significant role in managing the condition.

In this article, we’ll delve into how diet can impact seborrheic dermatitis and provide tips on which foods to avoid and which to include in your diet for optimal skin health.

Can food cause seborrheic dermatitis?

Should you be worried your diet is the cause of seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups? It can not be said with 100% certainty that certain foods cause seborrheic dermatitis. This is because the number of studies on the subject is very minimal and mostly inconclusive.

A 2019 study conducted by the British Association analyzed the lifestyle and dietary patterns of 4,379 respondents among which over 600 had seborrheic dermatitis to determine the correlation between dietary patterns and chronic disorder. This study was unable to show a causal link between both factors. 

However, the study highlighted that respondents with high fruit intake had a 25% less chance of developing the disorder. Also, seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups were common in women who had a more western diet made up of meat and processed foods like cheese, cakes, bread, tofu, cookies, salty potato chips, and ketchup. This study is unfortunately considered inconclusive as the authors do have a conflict of interest. 

On the other hand, scientific institutions like the American Academy of Dermatology, the American National Eczema Association, the British Association of Dermatologists, and the Mayo Clinic clinic do not consider dietary patterns as a potential cause of seborrheic dermatitis. 

Can your diet trigger seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups?

While specific foods have not been identified as causes of seborrheic dermatitis, some foods may be possible triggers. As such, adjusting your diet could help reduce flare-ups. 

High sugar / Highly processed foods

Seborrheic dermatitis and other forms of eczema have been linked to a bunch of chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity and chronic stress which are referred to as a metabolic syndrome. These conditions usually increase the risk of inflammation, making people prone to these conditions most likely to develop autoimmune inflammatory skin conditions, like seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis.

What all these conditions also have in common is that people suffering from metabolic syndrome mostly consume high-sugar and highly processed foods that increase the risk of inflammation. 

Yeast and dairy products

Although seborrheic dermatitis is not proven to be connected to diet patterns, it is believed that foods containing mold or yeast should be avoided. Seborrheic dermatitis is a yeast-related skin disorder as such, maintaining healthy gut health can help manage this condition.

Maintaining a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut microbiome can help prevent hormonal disruptions that in turn could potentially cause an overgrowth of Malassezia, a yeast linked to skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis. As such avoid yeast-based foods and dairy products like cheese, bread, pasta, beer, wine, refined flour etc.

Alcohol beverages

It is not uncommon for people with auto-immune inflammatory disorders like seborrheic dermatitis to experience flare-ups after drinking alcohol. A study published in 2020 on the risk of flareups of seborrheic dermatitis revealed that high-stress levels and high alcohol consumptions were risk factors for seborrheic dermatitis flareups. 

Trans fats and hydrogenated oil

Ingesting trans fatty acids and hydrogenated oils is known to increase the risk of inflammation in the body thus potentially putting you at risk of more frequent flare-ups. Common trans fats include industrially processed or hydrogenated oils like margarine, sunflower and safflower oils which are commonly used in making foods like french fries and most fried foods.

Foods to avoid if you have seborrheic dermatitis

Here is a list of the most common foods and oils to avoid if you are dealing with seborrheic dermatitis:

  • Cheese
  • Butter 
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Beers
  • Wine
  • Coffee
  • Processed meat 
  • Canned foods
  • Fried foods
  • Full-fat dairy products

If you have seborrheic dermatitis, you may want to avoid oils that are high in trans fatty acids. These are oil manufactured industrially via a process called hydrogenation. These oils have a high inflammatory effect in the body when ingested, and may trigger seborrheic flare-ups. They include:

  • Hydrogenated olive oil
  • Hydrogenated soybean oil 
  • Hydrogenated sunflower oil
  • Hydrogenated coconut oil 
  • Hydrogenated palm oil 

Instead, you may want to consider consuming healthy oils rich in omega fatty acids such as:

  • Fish oil
  • Waxseed oil
  • Krill oil, 
  • Cod liver oil
  • Algal oil 
  • Canola oil

It’s important to note that everyone’s skin is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. If you’re unsure which oils to use, you may want to consult with a dermatologist or skincare professional for personalized recommendations.

Alternative foods for seborrheic dermatitis

Now that we know what we choose to ingest may have an impact on seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups it’s time to have a look at healthier food options that can help manage this condition. 

Vitamins and Minerals

Introducing vitamins and minerals that can help reduce inflammations in the scalp is a great way to help minimize seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups. Biotin (vitamin B7) is the most recommended vitamin supplement for seborrheic-prone skin. This vitamin showed promising results when used on breastfeeding infants suffering from seborrheic dermatitis. 

Fruits and vegetables

Antioxidants found abundantly in fruits and vegetables can help control inflammation in the body thus preventing flare-ups.  Great examples you could try include carrots, spinach, broccoli, watercress, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts, bananas, apples, plums, mangoes, cucumber, grapes, lettuce, and celery. 

Whole grains

Switching out processed flour with whole grains and healthy cereals like wheat germ, or oatmeal that are rich in vitamin E can help soothe the skin and reduce inflammations thus, limiting the risk of irritations. 

Healthy fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids also known as healthy fatty acids are mostly known to help support heart health, however, these fatty acids equally help reduce inflammations in the body.

Introducing omega-3-rich foods in your diet is therefore a great way to reduce seborrheic dermatitis flare-ups. Known food sources include flaxseed, chia seeds, fish oil, salmon, mackerel, sardines, walnuts etc.

Seborrheic Prevention Diet

There is no specific diet that has been proven to prevent seborrheic dermatitis. However, maintaining a balanced and healthy diet may help support overall skin health and reduce the risk of flare-ups. Here are some general dietary recommendations for a seborrheic prevention diet that may be helpful:

  • Avoid or limit processed and sugary foods, as they may increase inflammation in the body and exacerbate skin conditions.
  • Incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats like those found in nuts, seeds, and fish.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids to help flush toxins from the body and keep the skin hydrated.
  • Consider adding probiotics to your diet, either through supplements or fermented foods like yogurt or kimchi, as they may help support a healthy balance of gut bacteria and reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Consult with a dermatologist or registered dietitian for personalized dietary recommendations that may help manage your specific case of seborrheic dermatitis.

FAQs 

Can packaged sausages cause flareups?

It’s possible that packaged sausages could cause flare-ups of seborrheic dermatitis, especially if you have a sensitivity or allergy to certain ingredients in the sausages. Some packaged sausages may contain additives, preservatives, and other ingredients that could potentially trigger inflammation in the body and exacerbate skin conditions.

Can coffee trigger seborrheic dermatitis?

There is no clear evidence that coffee can trigger seborrheic dermatitis. However, some people may be more sensitive to caffeine and find that it exacerbates their skin condition or other inflammatory conditions.

Caffeine is a stimulant that can increase blood flow to the skin, which may exacerbate inflammation in some people. Additionally, some people may be sensitive to the acidic nature of coffee and find that it irritates their skin.