Lichen sclerosus is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease. It causes thin, white, patchy areas of skin that can be painful, tear easily, and itch. These areas can appear anywhere on the body, but are usually found on the vulva, around the anus, or on the foreskin of the penis in uncircumcised men.
Lichen sclerosis most commonly affects postmenopausal women, but can erupt at any age. It currently has no cure. Even though men get this condition, it’s classified as part of a group of vaginal disorders called vulvodynia.
There is little-to-no research on the impact of diet on lichen sclerosus. The Vulval Pain Society provides some research pointing to the potential benefit of diet changes, like a low-oxalate diet, that may affect pain level. Findings are not conclusive, and a low-oxalate diet has been refuted by another study.
This lack of ironclad evidence doesn’t mean you should not try a low-oxalate diet, especially if a urine test indicates you have high levels of oxalate in your urine. Eliminating high-oxalate food is effective, for some women. You can also talk to your doctor, or dietitian, about the low-oxalate diet, and its potential benefit for you.
There are also alternative diet plans, which might be effective. Around 20 to 30 percent of women with lichen sclerosus have an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis. If so, you may also wish to discuss the potential benefits of the autoimmune protocol diet with your physician, to determine which food plan is best for you to try.
Foods to avoid for lichen sclerosis
The low-oxalate diet eliminates high-oxalate foods and drinks. These include:
- spinach, raw and cooked
- canned pineapple
- many boxed cereals
- dried fruit
- rice bran
- bran flakes
- soy flour
- brown rice flour
- potatoes in all forms, including baked, French fries, and potato chips
- buckwheat groats
- cocoa powder, and hot chocolate
- nut products, such as peanut butter
Foods you can eat with lichen sclerosis
Low-oxalate foods and drinks include:
- dairy products, such as cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and cheese
- white chocolate
- green peas
- all oils, including olive oil, and vegetable oil
- herbs, and seasonings, such as salt, white pepper, basil, and cilantro
- beer, and most forms of alcohol
- weak, lightly-steeped green tea
General diet guidelines and tips
Oxalate is a byproduct of your body’s metabolism. It’s produced naturally by the body and is also found in many plants. High-oxalate foods can cause inflammation in the body’s tissues. Oxalate is eliminated from the body through urine and stool.
Reducing the amount of oxalate which passes through your system may help to reduce inflammation from occurring around the vulva and anal region. Eating low-oxalate foods may help, especially when coupled with a calcium citrate supplement, or with high-calcium foods. Calcium binds to oxalate, reducing its absorption into the body’s tissues.
Some tips for sticking to this food plan include:
- Keep a list of high- and low-oxalate foods on hand.
- Eat calcium-rich foods, or take a calcium citrate supplement daily.
- Keep a daily oxalate journal, to track your food intake, symptoms, and progress, over time.
- If you plan on eating out, review the restaurant’s menu on line, and call ahead to inquire about ingredients used in the dish you wish to order.
- Drink lots of water and other low-oxalate beverages to help flush out your system.
- Use an oxalate app tracker to check out the oxalate content of foods, such as breakfast cereals, in the store, and on the go.
Most foods are not high in oxalate, making cooking easier. There are many delicious recipes that can help you get started. These include:
- low-oxalate chicken stir fry
- fried apples
- “mock” garlic mashed potatoes
- coconut flour chocolate chip cookies
Very little research has been done specifically on diet and lichen sclerosus. However, there is some evidence pointing to the potential ability of a low-oxalate diet to reduce symptoms, in some women. Having your urine tested to determine if it’s high for oxalate may provide information about this food plan’s ability to work for you.
Other tips include drinking enough water to produce pale yellow urine, and decreasing refined carbohydrates while increasing healthy plant fats to reduce inflammation. You can also talk to your doctor, or dietitian, about the low-oxalate diet, and other options, such as the autoimmune protocol diet.