September 8th, 2010
02:00 PM ET

Does eating gluten cause eczema?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Wednesdays, it's Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer at the
American Cancer Society.

Question asked by L. Rodriguez, Orange County, California

I have suffered from eczema for many years. I changed doctors last year and she thinks that my skin condition may be a result of being allergic to gluten.

Since I have an HMO, she cannot test me for the allergy because they will not pay for it. I have tried going gluten free and the skin condition got better but did not go away. Is there anything that I can do to be sure I was given the proper diagnosis before completely changing my diet and life?

Expert answer

You ask a fascinating question about a very common disease, much of which was first described only in the past 60 years.

Celiac disease is also called gluten-sensitive enteropathy and nontropical sprue. It is an allergy to gluten in the diet. People with this disease often have mild abdominal discomforts such as bloating and gas after consumption of breads and cereals that contain gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats. Some have more serious symptoms such as bowel mal-absorption, abdominal pain, diarrhea and nutrient or vitamin deficiency. Children with it can have severe malnutrition and growth impairment.

The treatment of a serious gluten allergy is a gluten-free diet, which has a lot of meat, fruit, milk and potatoes. Many grocery stores are starting to carry gluten-free foods. Restaurants in Europe and Australia commonly advertise gluten-free meals. Abdominal symptoms generally improve within a few weeks of changing to a gluten free diet.

This disease is primarily found in whites of Northern European ancestry. It is estimated that 1 in every 300 to 1 in every 500 Northern Europeans have some form of it, usually with relatively mild non-specific abdominal symptoms. This disease was once thought to be one that began in childhood and infancy, and some children eventually grew out of it. It is now realized that some children do go into remission and may relapse later. Also, the prevalence of the disease increases with age, meaning some people develop it as they age. Some will develop first symptoms in their 50s or 60s.

Patients are at higher risk for Type 1 diabetes, mellitus, collagen vascular diseases, autoimmune thyroid disease. Bone mineral deficiencies such as osteopenia and osteoporosis have also been noted. Uncontrolled celiac disease is also associated with a small increased risk of a number of malignancies. There is no special cancer screening recommended for patients with celiac disease.

The disease can be diagnosed using blood tests that measure the amount of immunoglobulin that binds to the proteins gliadin and endomysium. The classic definition of celiac disease includes atrophy of parts of the small bowel as seen on biopsy. A series of small bowel biopsies is often done to confirm it. The biopsies can be done through an endoscopy, in which a fiber-optic tube is placed in the mouth and down into the small bowel or through some even less invasive procedures.

There are some skin illnesses associated with celiac disease. It is very frequently associated with dermatitis herpetiformis, an itchy red raised rash with fluid-filled vesicles. This rash is not related or caused by any of the herpes viruses, but has the name because the rash resembles that of the herpes viruses or shingles. It improves as the disease improves with diet modification.

Patients and their seemingly unaffected family members are more likely to have atopic dermatitis, which is also known as eczema. The hallmark of eczema is itching with the skin scaling, crusting and an oozing of a serous or transparent fluid. Eczema can be worsened by stress, heat, dry air and sweating.

You actually may not have celiac disease or at least you may not have the clinical manifestations of a gluten allergy and you can still have eczema related to celiac disease. It would be preferable that you get the testing to confirm or disprove the diagnosis of gluten allergy. Even if the tests were negative, many physicians would suggest a two month trial of a gluten-free diet to see if the eczema improves. Most would advocate continuing the diet if there seemed to be some improvement in the rash and even if it did not clear up fully.

soundoff (1,962 Responses)
  1. RV Repair Garden Grove


    June 28, 2021 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Nearby RV Repairs


    June 28, 2021 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Sprinter Van Hard To Repair Van

    Very good article. I am experiencing many of these issues as well..


    June 28, 2021 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Repair Near Me Now

    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this post! It's the little changes that produce the biggest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    June 28, 2021 at 23:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Rv Collision Repair Shop Near Me

    I truly love your site.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself? Please reply back as Iím wanting to create my very own blog and want to learn where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Appreciate it!


    June 29, 2021 at 01:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mercedes Sprinter Van Abs Repair

    Next time I read a blog, Hopefully it does not fail me just as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, nonetheless I really believed you would probably have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something you could fix if you weren't too busy seeking attention.


    June 29, 2021 at 03:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Sprinter Black Death Repair

    This excellent website certainly has all of the info I wanted concerning this subject and didnít know who to ask.


    June 29, 2021 at 03:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Repair Mission Viejo

    I like it when folks get together and share views. Great site, continue the good work!


    June 29, 2021 at 03:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Repair Orange County California


    June 29, 2021 at 05:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Sprinter Repair Costa Mesa


    June 29, 2021 at 06:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 07:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sprinter Van Conversion Shop


    June 29, 2021 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me

    The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesn't disappoint me just as much as this one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read, however I really believed you would have something helpful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something you can fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.


    June 29, 2021 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. RV Repair Near Me Now

    Having read this I thought it was extremely enlightening. I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this informative article together. I once again find myself spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


    June 29, 2021 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Camper Repair Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 10:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RV Repair California


    June 29, 2021 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Camper Repair Near Me

    Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Finding the time and actual effort to produce a superb articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I procrastinate a whole lot and don't seem to get anything done.


    June 29, 2021 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RV Repairs Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Repair Near My Location


    June 29, 2021 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Mercedes Benz Sprinter Chassis Repair


    June 29, 2021 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me


    June 29, 2021 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Sprinter Van Repair Shop

    Very good post! We are linking to this great article on our website. Keep up the great writing.


    June 29, 2021 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Luxury Van Repair

    I wanted to thank you for this fantastic read!! I certainly loved every bit of it. I have you book marked to look at new things you postÖ


    June 29, 2021 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Nearest RV Repair


    June 29, 2021 at 21:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Sprinter Van Frame Repair

    Good day! I could have sworn Iíve been to this website before but after looking at some of the articles I realized itís new to me. Anyhow, Iím definitely pleased I discovered it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!


    June 29, 2021 at 22:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Nearest Mercedes Service Center


    June 29, 2021 at 22:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RV Repair Around Me

    Iím impressed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog thatís equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is something too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I stumbled across this during my search for something concerning this.


    June 29, 2021 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Repair Orange County California


    June 29, 2021 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RV Repair Places Near Me


    June 30, 2021 at 01:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Luxury Sprinter Van

    You have made some good points there. I checked on the net for more information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this website.


    June 30, 2021 at 02:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Sprinter Van Repair San Diego

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you so much, However I am going through difficulties with your RSS. I donít understand the reason why I can't join it. Is there anybody having similar RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!


    June 30, 2021 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. 2500 Sprinter Van Repair

    Great information. Lucky me I ran across your website by accident (stumbleupon). I've bookmarked it for later!


    June 30, 2021 at 04:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. RV Repair Seal Beach


    June 30, 2021 at 06:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me


    June 30, 2021 at 06:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. RV Repair Orange County California

    I blog quite often and I really thank you for your content. This great article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to bookmark your site and keep checking for new information about once per week. I subscribed to your Feed too.


    June 30, 2021 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. RV Repair Near My Location


    June 30, 2021 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Rv Upgrades Shop


    June 30, 2021 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Camper Repair Shops Near Me

    A fascinating discussion is worth comment. I believe that you should write more about this topic, it may not be a taboo matter but generally folks don't talk about these topics. To the next! All the best!!


    June 30, 2021 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Sprinter Repair Shops Near Me


    June 30, 2021 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Video Marketing Company


    June 30, 2021 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.