Hidradenitis suppurativa, or acne inversa, is a skin condition. It affects the areas of your body with sweat glands, such as your underarms. This condition can cause deep, inflamed skin lesions or sores that may look like boils.
Hidradenitis suppurativa usually develops after puberty and may be genetic. It’s three times more common in women than in men.
While avoiding this condition is tough, there are several ways to help soothe symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Your doctor may recommend treatments such as antibiotics, laser treatments, or surgery.
Obesity or weight gain can cause or worsen this condition. It’s also linked to inflammation and hormone changes. A balanced diet, plenty of exercise, and other lifestyle changes can help you achieve a healthy weight.
The foods you eat also impact flare-ups. Certain foods help reduce skin inflammation and balance hormones.
As a bonus, eating to prevent hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms is good for your overall health. Maintaining a healthy diet to help reduce skin flare-ups is similar to eating a balanced diet to prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Milk and other dairy products can raise levels of certain hormones that lead to hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms. Cow’s milk may also cause inflammation. Clinical research confirms that to help prevent flare-ups, it’s best to avoid all dairy products:
- cow’s milk
- cottage cheese
- cream cheese
Sugary foods and refined, simple carbs can cause a spike in blood glucose. This may trigger inflammation and cause symptoms. Avoid simple carbohydrates and foods that are high in sugars:
- table sugar
- corn syrup
- high fructose corn syrup
- soda and other sugary drinks like fruit juice
- bread, rice, or pasta made from white flour
- white flour
- boxed cereals
- biscuits and cookies
- cake, doughnuts, and pastries
- potato chips
- chocolate bars
- protein bars
A small medical study found that brewer’s yeast may be a trigger for hidradenitis suppurativa. This may happen because this yeast causes a reaction in your immune system. Check your food labels and avoid anything that may contain this ingredient:
- fermented spreads
- some soy sauces
- some stock cubes
- some dried or canned soups
- some breads, cakes and pizza
- some gravies and dips
- some vinegars and salad dressings
- some health supplements
Others lifestyle factors that cause or worsen symptoms include:
- smoking cigarettes
- tobacco use
- obesity or weight gain
- ingestion of foods with gluten if you’re gluten intolerant
Foods that are high in fiber help balance blood sugar and hormone levels. Fiber also helps you feel full faster and reduces unhealthy food cravings. This may help you keep a healthy weight. Replace simple, sugary carbohydrates with whole foods and complex carbohydrates such as:
- fresh, dried, and frozen fruit
- fresh and frozen vegetables
- fresh and dried herbs
- whole wheat bread
- whole-grain pasta
- brown rice
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acid foods may help to reduce inflammation in your body. This may prevent or soothe inflamed sores. Further research is needed on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for hidradenitis suppurativa, but these healthy fats are also good for your heart, blood vessels, and brain. Try adding them to your diet by eating:
- flax seed and flaxseed oil
- olive oil
- pumpkin seeds
- chia seeds
- navy beans
If you have a sweet tooth, you can still enjoy desserts and sweet beverages occasionally. Choose foods and drinks made with natural sweeteners that do not raise blood sugar levels drastically. Natural sweeteners like these help to replace table sugar and other high-calorie sweeteners in your diet:
- monk fruit
- sugar alcohols like erythritol and xylitol
Diets for hidradenitis suppurativa have become popular. They include the Autoimmune Protocol and the Whole30 diets.
Some adults with hidradenitis suppurativa report good results on these diets. This may be because these diets restrict foods such as dairy and refined carbohydrates that are clinically proven to trigger symptoms.
However, some diets can be extreme and restrictive. There is little medical evidence that the paleo diet works and the long-term effects aren’t known. Avoid making drastic changes or following restrictive diets, no matter how popular they seem. They may not be sustainable or provide all the daily nutrients you need.
Medical research has confirmed that obesity and weight gain are linked to hidradenitis suppurativa. Talk with your doctor about a weight loss plan and your trigger foods.
There’s no cure for this condition. Medical treatment is necessary along with healthy lifestyle choices. Treatments such as medication, laser therapy, and protective silicone bandages may help relieve recurring skin irritation, pain, and swelling.
Further studies are needed on how your diet may help treat hidradenitis suppurativa. An elimination diet can help you find out if a certain food is a trigger for you. A dietitian can help you with this plan. Remove one type of food at a time, such as dairy or simple carbs, from your diet for a month or longer. Record any changes in symptoms. Then slowly add the food back into your diet. Check for symptoms and discuss any changes with your doctor.
Keep in mind that dietary changes can take up to several months to show any improvement. Make your new diet a part of your lifestyle. Then it will become a daily choice and not a temporary diet.