Research suggests certain foods, including dairy, sugar, and Brewer’s yeast, may trigger hidradenitis suppurativa flare-ups.

Hidradenitis suppurativa, or acne inversa, is a chronic 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 more common in people with obesity. Research has shown that losing weight for people with obesity can significantly lower symptoms.

It’s also associated with smoking, following an unhealthy diet, having high amounts of body fat, and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions including high blood sugar and high blood pressure that increases heart disease risk.

While there’s no cure for this condition, there are several ways to help soothe symptoms and prevent flare-ups. A doctor may recommend treatments such as antibiotics, laser treatments, or surgery.

The foods you eat may also affect flare-ups. Certain foods may help reduce skin inflammation and balance hormones.

Certain dietary changes significantly improve symptoms in some people with hidradenitis suppurativa. But it’s important to know that there’s currently no one diet recommended for the treatment of hidradenitis suppurativa. Research in this area is still ongoing.

Keeping a healthy diet to help lower skin flare-ups is similar to eating a balanced diet to prevent chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

The below foods may increase inflammation and lead to flare-ups in people with hidradenitis suppurativa.


Milk and other dairy products may raise levels of certain hormones that lead to hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms. Cow’s milk may also cause inflammation.

Limited research has demonstrated that eliminating dairy products may be helpful in lowering hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms in some people. Dairy products include:

  • cow’s milk
  • cheese
  • cottage cheese
  • cream cheese
  • buttermilk
  • butter
  • yogurt
  • ice cream

Sugary foods

Sugary foods and refined, simple carbs can cause a spike in blood glucose. According to research, this may trigger inflammation and cause symptoms. Studies suggest limiting simple carbohydrates and foods that are high in added sugars, such as:

  • 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
  • noodles
  • boxed cereals
  • biscuits and cookies
  • cake, doughnuts, and pastries
  • crackers made from refined flour
  • potato chips
  • candy
  • chocolate bars
  • sugary protein bars

Brewer’s yeast

A small 2013 study found that brewer’s yeast may be a trigger for hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms. This may happen because the yeast causes a reaction in your immune system.

Another 2020 study of 185 participants found that people who excluded brewer’s yeast (along with other foods) from their diets had a 70% improvement in symptoms. When participants added brewer’s yeast back to their diet after a period of time, 87% of them experienced symptom recurrence.

Still, you may want to check your food labels and avoid anything that may contain brewer’s yeast, including:

  • beer
  • wine
  • 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

Other factors

Although no clinical research trials have been conducted to date, some people with hidradenitis suppurativa report that eliminating nightshades from their diet improves symptoms.

Nightshades are a group of plants that include edible vegetables such as eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers.

Research from 2017 and 2019 has shown that dietary patterns that eliminate nightshades — along with many other foods, such as grains and dairy — are effective in reducing symptoms in those with autoimmune disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Research has also found that hidradenitis suppurativa is associated with several autoimmune conditions such as lupus and IBD. Your immune system may also be involved with hidradenitis suppurativa.

However, there are no research studies investigating the potential association between nightshade consumption and symptoms in people with hidradenitis suppurativa, so it’s unclear if this dietary change is beneficial for all people with this condition.

If you’d like to eliminate nightshades in your diet, cut out the following foods:

  • tomatoes and tomato products
  • eggplant
  • potatoes
  • peppers
  • paprika
  • tomatillos
  • chili powder
  • pepper-containing spice blends

Others lifestyle factors that cause or worsen symptoms include:

The below foods may help lower inflammation and improve hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms in some people.

Fiber-rich foods

Foods that are high in fiber help balance blood sugar and hormone levels. Fiber also helps you feel full faster. This may help you keep a moderate weight for your body size.

Replace simple, sugary carbohydrates with whole foods and complex carbohydrates, such as:

  • fresh and frozen fruit
  • fresh and frozen vegetables
  • fresh and dried herbs
  • lentils
  • beans
  • brown rice
  • barley
  • oats
  • bran
  • couscous
  • quinoa

Omega-3 fatty acids

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acid foods may help to lower inflammation in your body. Reducing overall inflammation may help prevent or soothe symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa, such as 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:

  • salmon
  • sardines
  • walnuts
  • flaxseed and flaxseed oil
  • avocados
  • pumpkin seeds
  • chia seeds

Popular diets and hidradenitis suppurativa

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 shown to trigger symptoms.

Still, some diets can be overly restrictive, and there’s currently no scientific evidence that any one diet works for hidradenitis suppurativa.

What’s known is that following an anti-inflammatory diet — such as the Mediterranean diet — that’s high in antioxidant-rich foods is helpful in lowering symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa while improving overall health.

In fact, a 2019 study showed that following a Mediterranean diet can improve disease severity in people with hidradenitis suppurativa.

Overall, following a healthy diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods and low in processed foods is likely to benefit people with hidradenitis suppurativa.


Some research has shown that taking certain vitamin and mineral supplements may benefit people with hidradenitis suppurativa.

For example, evidence suggests that high-dose B12 supplementation improved symptoms in people with hidradenitis suppurativa.

Additionally, research has demonstrated that people with hidradenitis suppurativa are more likely to have low blood levels of zinc.

People with hidradenitis suppurativa are also more likely to have low levels of vitamin D. Supplementation with this nutrient may lower symptoms.

If you’re interested in supplements that may improve hidradenitis suppurativa and correct possible deficiencies, speak with a healthcare professional.

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about hidradenitis suppurativa.

What type of diet is best for people with hidradenitis suppurativa?

An anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, that’s high in antioxidant-rich foods may help lower symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa while improving overall health.

Additionally, some research suggests that taking certain vitamin and mineral supplements may benefit people with hidradenitis suppurativa. Speak with a healthcare professional about what supplements are right for you.

Are there any foods I should avoid if I have hidradenitis suppurativa?

Dairy, sugary foods, and brewer’s yeast may be triggers for some people with hidradenitis suppurativa. You may want to keep a food diary to track any potential triggers you may be eating. Additionally, eliminating nightshades may help.

Can I still eat sugar if I have hidradenitis suppurativa?

You can still enjoy sugar and other sweeteners in moderation. There’s no need to cut them from your diet completely.

Medical research has confirmed that weight gain and having obesity are linked to hidradenitis suppurativa. Talk with a doctor about whether a weight loss plan is right for you, and what foods trigger your symptoms.

There’s no cure for this condition. Medical treatment is necessary, along with healthy lifestyle strategies. 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.

Make your new diet a part of your lifestyle. Then it’ll become a daily choice and not a temporary diet.