A Gluten-Free Diet May Help Your Skin

Did you know that a gluten-free diet may help your skin? Dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, and keratosis are some conditions that eliminating gluten may improve in people who are sensitive to it.
A Gluten-Free Diet May Help Your Skin

Last update: 07 August, 2021

Have you ever wondered what influence gluten intake can have on the appearance of your skin? While there’s plenty of evidence that this protein can produce intestinal problems, many are unaware that it can also have a negative dermatological impact. Which brings us to the question: Can a gluten-free diet help your skin?

We should first clarify that gluten isn’t present as such in grains (wheat, oats, rye, and barley). It’s actually formed when they come into contact with water. Therefore, it’s possible for other foods that by nature don’t contain gluten to become contaminated with it due to improper handling.

Regarding this issue, it’s also important to know that gluten doesn’t produce problems in all people. However, some are sensitive to it because they have celiac disease. In other words, they’re not able to digest the protein. It’s common for them to experience skin symptoms after ingesting food containing gluten.

Now, what’s the impact of gluten intake on the skin of people with these conditions?

The skin conditions that have to do with gluten intake vary. Specifically, they range from itchy rashes to hair loss. However, in most cases, they may be autoimmune in nature or have a genetic component.

In this regard, several research studies suggest that some of the conditions that correlate with gluten intake in people with celiac disease or intolerance are those we’ll discuss below.

1. Urticaria

Urticaria is a condition that involves reddish, itchy welts on the skin. Therefore, after ingesting gluten, an allergic reaction occurs because the body releases chemicals (such as histamine), which are responsible for causing inflammation of the skin.

In fact, there are people with celiac disease who only show symptoms on the skin, but are unaware that this pathology can cause this problem.

A person with a rash on their inner forearms.
Some celiac patients have skin problems that have to do with their intolerance to gluten.

2. Dermatitis herpetiformis

The ingestion of gluten may cause a condition called dermatitis herpetiformis. This is also called Duhring-Brocq disease and is an inflammatory and autoimmune condition.

The clinical signs that demonstrate this problem are the presence of multiple intensely pruritic skin lesions that take various forms; they can appear in groups or can be spread out. What’s more, they tend to be chronic and recurrent.

They may generate papules, vesicles, and blisters with intense itching leading to excoriations or hyperpigmentation of the skin. They usually appear on rubbing areas such as the knees, buttocks, elbows, scalp, lower back, and back of the neck, with asymmetrical distribution.

3. Ichthyosis vulgaris

Ichthyosis vulgaris is a genetic skin condition of autosomal dominant inheritance. The main symptom is peeling of the skin and treatment involves topical creams or ointments.

A study that appeared in the journal Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal in 2015 reported that a patient with this condition presented sensitivity to certain foods, including gluten. It also mentioned that there were improvements in the appearance of the skin after the elimination of the identified products.

4. Dry skin

Since people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance present intestinal damage after ingesting this protein, it’s clear that they’ll have difficulty absorbing nutrients. As in these cases, the body can’t obtain the vitamins and minerals necessary for healthy skin, dryness is common.

You may be interested in: How Do Facial Masks Work on The Skin?

5. Psoriasis

Psoriasis, a condition represented by the presence of thick, scaly red plaques on the skin, shares a strong link with gluten consumption. It’s not clear whether gluten intake causes psoriasis or whether people with this condition are more likely to have celiac disease.

However, some patients with celiac disease may find that their skin symptoms improve when they adopt a gluten-free diet, regardless of whether they have a positive diagnosis of celiac disease.

6. Eczema

This condition is identified by an itchy rash that, in turn, causes whitish, scaly patches on the skin. It’s common in children, but adults can also experience it.

Although the main treatment is topical corticosteroids, in some people, a gluten-free diet may also help. It would be a complementary approach.

7. Alopecia areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition in which the body itself attacks the hair follicles, causing the hair to fall out. It’s been linked to celiac disease, although it’s not clear that this occurs as a consequence of gluten intake.

According to a scientific paper published in 2012, people with celiac disease and alopecia areata found that their hair grew back after adopting a gluten-free diet. However, the growth occurred randomly.

8. Keratosis pilaris

It’s not entirely clear whether or not celiac disease causes keratosis pilaris. This is a skin condition that causes goosebumps to form, especially on the back and upper arms.

However, some patients report that the appearance of the skin improves after adopting a gluten-free diet. On the other hand, it’s important to mention that this condition is common in those who have eczema.

Can a gluten-free diet eliminate these conditions?

In all of the above cases, a gluten-free diet could improve these conditions and help your skin. A particular case is that of acne, which we’ll analyze now.

There’s no direct association between the presence of acne and gluten intake. However, when people who aren’t diagnosed with intolerance or celiac disease notice improvements in their face after giving up gluten, it may actually be for another reason.

In these cases, it’s likely that that the foods they’ve eliminated, in addition to containing gluten, also have a high percentage of sugar and fat. All those products that are composed of these nutrients have inflammatory potential and can therefore cause acne.

A girl with acne pointing to a pimple on her face.
Acne is a common dermatological condition that can improve with some dietary changes, although not specifically with gluten products.

How can a healthy diet help your skin?

According to nutrition professionals, the best thing to do is to provide the body with the right nutrients. In fact, vitamins B complex, A, D, E, C, and K and minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and selenium are indispensable for healthy skin.

Therefore, to ensure the consumption of these nutrients, you should include the following foods in your diet:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds and their oils
  • Olive oil
  • Meats, eggs, and skimmed dairy products

Giving up gluten may help your skin

Indeed, giving up gluten can help your skin – but in people who are sensitive to this protein or who are diagnosed with celiac disease. You should keep in mind that in these cases, gluten consumption triggers an inflammatory reaction that manifests itself at the intestinal level and in the epidermis.

Likewise, excluding foods containing gluten can bring benefits, since ingredients such as wheat are used to make bakery products that contain high levels of added sugars and fats, which aren’t advisable for good health.

It might interest you...
Ways to Find Out if a Medication is Gluten Free
Step To HealthRead it in Step To Health
Ways to Find Out if a Medication is Gluten Free

It's easy to find out if a medication is gluten-free, as per the current labeling regulations. Why would a drug contain gluten, though?

  • Anderson, B. (2015). The effect of dietary change in a patient with ichthyosis vulgaris: A case report. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal14(3), 55.
  • Thomas, M., & Khopkar, U. S. (2012). Keratosis pilaris revisited: is it more than just a follicular keratosis?. International journal of trichology4(4), 255.
  • Jiménez Ortega, A. I., Martínez García, R. M., Quiles Blanco, M. J., Majid Abu Naji, J. A., & González Iglesias, M. J. (2016). Enfermedad celíaca y nuevas patologías relacionadas con el gluten. Nutrición hospitalaria33, 44-48.
  • Ortiz, C., Valenzuela, R., & Lucero A, Y. (2017). Enfermedad celíaca, sensibilidad no celíaca al gluten y alergia al trigo: comparación de patologías diferentes gatilladas por un mismo alimento. Revista chilena de pediatría88(3), 417-423.
  • de Jesús Cobos-Quevedo, O., Hernández-Hernández, G. A., & Remes-Troche, J. M. (2017). Trastornos relacionados con el gluten: panorama actual. Medicina interna de México33(4), 487-502.
  • Puerto Caballero, L., & Tejero Garcia, P. (2013). Alimentación y nutrición: repercusión en la salud y belleza de la piel. Diet Nutr Eff Skin Beauty Health Nutr Clin Diet10, 56-65.
  • Caproni, M., Bonciolini, V., D’Errico, A., Antiga, E., & Fabbri, P. (2012). Celiac disease and dermatologic manifestations: many skin clue to unfold gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Gastroenterology Research and Practice2012.