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Hidradenitis suppurativa is a condition in which painful lumps form under the skin.
These lumps usually develop in parts where your skin rubs, such as the groin, armpits, buttocks, and breasts.
Although there is limited evidence to suggest that diet has a significant role in treating hidradenitis suppurativa, eating certain foods and avoiding others may help alleviate symptoms.
This article explains what to eat and avoid with hidradenitis suppurativa and provides a 3-day sample hidradenitis suppurativa diet menu.
What is hidradenitis suppurativa?
Hidradenitis suppurativa is an inflammatory skin condition that causes recurrent painful lumps to form under the skin.
They commonly form in areas where the skin rubs together, such as the armpit, groin, buttocks, and under the breast (1).
Constant skin rubbing can cause defective hair follicles to become blocked, leading them to break open and spill bacteria, among other things, into the surrounding parts of the skin (1).
This triggers an inflammatory response that can then lead to painful lumps or lesions under the skin.
Imbalances in your body’s secretions of oil or sweat from certain glands have also been linked with the condition (1).
Hidradenitis suppurativa is not contagious and is not the result of poor hygiene.
There is no one cause of hidradenitis suppurativa, but many factors are thought to contribute to its development.
Risk factors of hidradenitis suppurativa include (1):
- being overweight or obese
- metabolic syndrome
- female gender
There is no cure for hidradenitis suppurativa.
Instead, antibiotics and medications to reduce inflammation are commonly prescribed to minimize pain and drainage, decrease the frequency of recurrence, and prevent its progression.
Wearing loose-fitting clothing, avoiding harsh body wash products, and avoiding adhesive bandages are also helpful for managing the condition.
Beyond these interventions, diet may also play a role in managing hidradenitis suppurativa.
Hidradenitis suppurativa diet
Some foods may alleviate hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms while others may worsen them.
Foods to limit or avoid
- baked goods
- candy and chocolate
- bread and pasta
- fast food and pizza
- ice cream and other dairy products
- brewer’s yeast
- nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes)
These foods are thought to worsen hidradenitis suppurativa by increasing levels of certain hormones that can trigger the excess production of oils and proteins that block hair follicles (2).
They may also negatively affect the gut microbiome, which plays an important role in regulating your immune system and controlling inflammation.
Many of these foods are also restricted or limited on diets that have been suggested to alleviate hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms, including the autoimmune diet protocol (AIP) and anti-inflammatory diet.
Foods to eat
- chicken and eggs
- nuts and seeds
- extra virgin olive oil
Still, hidradenitis suppurativa affects everyone differently, so the foods that either trigger or alleviate one person’s symptoms may not do the same for the next person.
Therefore, it may be best to follow an elimination-style diet and keep a food journal so you can avoid or limit the foods that trigger or worsen your symptoms while eating more of the foods that provide symptoms relief.
Doing so will help prevent unnecessary dietary restrictions and allow for a more nutritious, varied diet.
3-day sample hidradenitis suppurativa diet menu
Here’s a 3-day sample hidradenitis suppurativa diet menu that consists of foods linked with symptom relief:
- Breakfast: oatmeal cooked with almond milk and topped with berries
- Lunch: grilled lemon chicken salad with a vinaigrette dressing
- Snack: apple slices and mixed nuts
- Dinner: pork loin with roasted carrots
Day 2 (vegan option)
- Breakfast: tofu scramble
- Lunch: chickpea avocado salad
- Snack: chia pudding with berries
- Dinner: black bean salad
- Breakfast: overnight oats made with almond milk and yogurt
- Lunch: burrito bowl
- Snack: almond milk yogurt and an apple
- Dinner: baked salmon with roasted green beans
Best vitamins for hidradenitis suppurativa
In addition to diet, some supplements have been suggested to alleviate hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms.
- vitamin D
- vitamin B12
- folic acid
A basic multivitamin supplement like this one from Centrum can help you with most nutrient shortfalls in your diet, but sometimes it’s optimal to supplement with individual nutrients that your diet may be lacking, such as vitamin D.
A vitamin D that provides 2,000 IU (50 mcg) per serving like this one from Nature’s Bounty should be sufficient for most people.
If you want to try supplementing with curcumin for its anti-inflammatory properties, look for a highly-absorbable one, such as this one from Doctor’s Best.
The bottom line
Hidradenitis suppurativa is an inflammatory skin condition in which recurrent painful lumps form, usually around the groin, buttocks, breasts, and armpits.
Certain foods may worsen your symptoms while others may soothe them.
Specifically, dairy, sweets, fast food, and other highly processed foods may trigger symptoms while fruits, most vegetables, and lean, minimally-processed proteins may alleviate them.
Still, hidradenitis suppurativa affects everyone differently, so it’s best to keep a food diary so you can identify which foods help or trigger your symptoms.
Taking certain supplements such as vitamin D and B12, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, and curcumin may also offer symptom relief.