What is hidradenitis suppurativa?
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a skin condition characterized by painful lumps in the sweaty areas of the human body. The other name of the disease is acne inversa, since the bumps appear under the skin near the hair roots. The lumps usually appear in the armpits, the groin area, and other places where the skin rubs together. Eventually, even tunnels between the swellings may appear (3, 4). In fact, the lumps can get infected and, as a result, inflame. Consequently, pus will accumulate under the skin. Eventually, these bags with pus will blast, causing foul odor, pain, and discomfort in general (4).
Research has not distinguished any exact cause of hidradenitis suppurativa. Experts assume that hair follicles become blocked due to such factors as (3):
- Hormone imbalance
- Genetics (a person can inherit hidradenitis suppurativa)
- Immune system problems
- Metabolic syndrome
Hidradenitis suppurativa can appear regardless of whether a person is consistent with their personal hygiene routine or not. Being unclean has nothing to do with the causes of the disorder. In addition, it is not a transmittable disease. Statistically, the skin condition inflicts women in their twenties more than others, which has no distinct scientific explanation (3).
- Painful and restricted movement (particularly in those whose thighs and underarms are inflicted)
- Deformation of the skin (it may become pitted)
- Lymphatic obstruction (scars can inhibit the lymph drainage system, leading to swelling in limbs and genitals) (3)
In case of no severe complications, you can treat hidradenitis suppurativa by (6):
- Wearing loose clothes to avoid friction
- Taking a warm bath
- Putting warm compresses on the swollen areas for 10 minutes
- Taking anti-inflammatories
- Using antiseptics and antibacterial soaps to destroy the bacteria
- Managing your weight and preventing obesity. There is more skin friction in the affected areas of overweight people, which is why it is important to have normal weight
Hidradenitis suppurativa and obesity?
Your diet plays a paramount role in dealing with hidradenitis suppurativa. Maintaining a normal weight is key to preventing rubbing in the areas usually affected by the skin condition. In addition, reaching your ideal weight will help you balance your hormones (5). Accordingly, it stands to reason that if a person affected by hidradenitis suppurativa has excessive weight, their task is to lose it. So, if you have the same problem, consult a dietician to create a meal plan suitable for you in order to shed excess pounds in a healthy and sustainable way.
What not to eat in case of hidradenitis suppurativa?
There is little evidence on the curative effects of certain foods on hidradenitis suppurativa. However, some researchers have distinguished the products one with the skin condition may benefit from avoiding. These include (5, 1):
- Dairy. Milk products can increase the insulin level in your body, causing the overflow of androgens, which can facilitate the development of hidradenitis suppurativa. If you exclude milk, cheese, yoghurt, and other dairy items from your diet, the disease symptoms could significantly improve.
- Sugar. Decreasing your sugar intake could also lower your insulin level, potentially relieving the hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms. Hence, you should not indulge in chocolate, pastry, packaged juice, and other sweet products.
- Brewer’s Yeast. Excluding this item from your diet may allow your skin lesions to heal faster. Brewer’s yeast is a typical ingredient in pastry, as it lets the dough rise. Therefore, it is recommended that you minimize the consumption of bread, cakes, buns, and other bakery products. Likewise, brewer’s yeast is widely used in beer and wine production, which is why it is better to stop drinking these as well.
Before changing your eating habits, you should consult a doctor and a dietician in order not to make matters worse. Remember, radical changes can be stressful for your body and, therefore, they can induce new disorders.
What to eat in case of hidradenitis suppurativa?
Preliminary research has shown that particular items can ease the hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms. Consequently, on your hidradenitis suppurativa cure diet you should consume (1):
- Omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to reduce inflammation. Sea fishes, such as salmon, mackerel, sardine, herring, cod, and others are very rich in Omega-3. Other seafood with the high level of the Omega-3 fatty acids are caviar and oysters. Chia and flax seeds, along with walnuts also include the fatty acids.
- Zinc, a great anti-inflammatory that also slows down the production of androgens in your body. Products high in zinc include meat, eggs, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
- Vitamin D, which is believed to help fight with the disease according to some studies. Indeed, some data show that people with hidradenitis suppurativa tend to have the vitamin D deficiency. Accordingly, it might be useful to eat foods with this nutrient in order to deal with the disease successfully. Vitamin D is present in seafood, mushrooms, and egg yolks. Your body also makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight.
- Turmeric, a plant rich in curcumin, which is an effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound. In addition, turmeric may help prevent metabolic syndrome and regulate your immune system, thus reducing the hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms.
- Herbs that might help the lesions heal faster.
Variants of the hidradenitis suppurativa diet
The general recommendation for those who have hidradenitis suppurativa is to stick to a balanced meal plan. Accordingly, you need to get the necessary number of nutrients from the food you consume. In addition, there are certain tried diets that are said to ease the skin condition symptoms.
In his literature review, F. W. Danby concluded that eliminating milk products from your meal plan may be helpful in treating hidradenitis suppurativa. In one study, none of the 47 participants felt worse when following the dairy-free diet. Furthermore, the state of 83% of them improved (2). Therefore, it may be beneficial to avoid milk products on your hidradenitis suppurativa diet.
In an experiment by H. Colboc et al., 10 of the 20 patients asserted that their skin condition subsided as a result of the yeast-free diet. Only 5 participants deemed the diet useless, whereas the other 5 did not see any effect. ain, number of days impaired and inflammation intensity were significantly reduced in the group as a whole over 3 months of following the yeast-free diet. Moreover, those five patients who found the 3 month diet helpful in managing hidradenitis suppurativa lost an average of 2 pounds (7).
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On an elimination diet, you immediately exclude a wide range of food. Then, you gradually begin to return them to your meal plan one by one to determine which one(s) trigger your symptoms. People usually resort to this diet if the elimination of only one or a couple of products does not reduce hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms. The diet can last for weeks or months, depending on the recommendation of a dietitian (1).
Paleo autoimmune protocol diet
- Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, etc.)
- Sweetened drinks
- Fruit juice
Many patients claim that the AIP diet has cured hidradenitis suppurativa. However, there is insufficient scientific evidence on the impact of AIP on the skin condition.
Simply put, the Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidant items, which help prevent inflammation (10). On this diet, you should eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. Similarly, you should consume enough poultry, fish, and eggs, whereas red meat is not advisable. As for milk products, they are allowed on the Mediterranean diet (8). However, if you choose this diet to manage hidradenitis suppurativa, you should definitely avoid dairy items. The same as with other diets, there is limited scientific evidence on the diet either positive or negative influence on the disease. It has been demonstrated, however, that poor adherence to a mediterranean-style diet is associated with greater clinical severity of hidradenitis suppurativa, making it of interest for further research (10).
Hidradenitis suppurativa is truly a serious skin condition that causes both physical and mental discomfort. Apart from being painful, the disease can make you self-conscious. Luckily, there are several ways to treat it, including dieting. Among the main diet recommendations are:
- If you are overweight, you should slim down to reach the weight that is healthy for you.
- You can exclude dairy, brewer’s yeast, or sugar one at a time.
- You can stick to the elimination diet, initially excluding a wide range of foods. After you see an improvement, you can start reintroducing the foods to your meal plan one at a time, to determine specifically which foods trigger your symptoms.
- Adding products high in omega-3, zinc, and vitamin D, along with herbs and turmeric might help you.
- You may try the AIP or Mediterranean diets, which may help to reduce inflammation.
However, it is important to remember that none of the above-mentioned diets is a scientifically proven method of treating hidradenitis suppurativa. Therefore, you should be careful starting off any of these diets. Do not forget to discuss changes in your eating habits with a doctor and a dietitian in order not to aggravate your condition.
Additionally, it is highly recommended that you follow a well-balanced diet and get enough physical activity to keep your body strong and fit. It does not necessarily have to be a gym workout or running long distances. You can devote your time to a 20 Minute Full Body Workout at Home.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Diet in hidradenitis suppurativa: a review of published and lay literature. (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Diet in the prevention of hidradenitis suppurativa (acne inversa) (2015, researchgate.net)
- Hidradenitis suppurativa (mayoclinic.org)
- Hidradenitis Suppurativa (webmd.com)
- Hidradenitis suppurativa and diet: What’s recommended? (mayoclinic.org)
- Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Management and Treatment (my.clevelandclinic.org)
- Interest of Brewer’s Yeast-Exclusion Diet in the Management of Hidradenitis Suppurativa (2016, longdom.org)
- Nutrition and healthy eating (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- Paleo diet: What is it and why is it so popular? (2017, mayoclinic.org)
- Role of Nutrition and Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet in the Multidisciplinary Approach of Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Evaluation of Nutritional Status and Its Association with Severity of Disease (2018, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What is the paleo autoimmune protocol? (webmd.com)