Learn which foods help—and hurt—your HS.
Weight loss. More energy. A stronger immune system. In a recipe for good health, a nutritious diet is undeniably a main ingredient. Knowing this leads people with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS)—an inflammatory skin condition characterized by painful cysts and bumps—to wonder: Can diet help manage HS symptoms too?
“There’s no one food or diet that’s going to miraculously clear this condition,” says Hirshel Kahn, MD, a dermatologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital. However, in combination with other medical treatments, certain diet choices may help to keep HS under control, he says.
Here’s how you can help heal hidradenitis suppurativa through diet—plus, what foods to eat more of, and which ones you should kick to the curb.
1. Lose weight if you need to. “The most important thing about this condition is to eat a healthy diet and keep your weight down so it’s not contributing to the severity of the disease,” says Dr. Kahn. If you’re overweight, shedding 15% of your body weight can significantly reduce the severity of your symptoms. Reduce your calorie intake, control your portions, and eat a diet full of fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
2. Eat foods that help fight inflammation. “Because HS is an inflammatory disease, eating foods that are anti-inflammatory—like turmeric, kale, nuts and fatty fish like salmon—may help,” says Dr. Kahn. Some inflammation is good, since it helps your body fight off foreign invaders, but it becomes a problem when inflammation occurs day in and day out, because it keeps your body on constant high alert. This is called chronic inflammation, and it’s been linked to many serious health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s. Eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties is not only good for hidradenitis suppurativa, but key for your overall health too.
3. Avoid foods that inflame (and cause weight gain). Just as some foods help combat inflammation, some foods actually promote it and should be avoided. Nixing inflammation-promoting foods from your diet, like sodas and refined carbohydrates, as well as minimizing red meat and processed meats, may help with HS symptoms. “Especially since HS improves with loss of body weight, it may be a good idea to avoid those types of foods in general,” says Dr. Kahn.
4. Eat more foods with wound-healing properties. Pumping up your intake of certain nutrients may also help to heal HS wounds. Arginine, an amino acid found in lean proteins (chicken or turkey), peanuts and pumpkin seeds, improves collagen accumulation and may improve wound healing time. Vitamins A and C and the mineral selenium may benefit wound healing too, mostly due to their antioxidant properties.
A well-rounded, nutrient-rich diet can improve your overall health, hidradenitis suppurativa included. For patients with mild HS, dietary adjustments and home treatments may provide short-term relief for HS symptoms.
However: “If the disease gets worse or is on the worse end of the spectrum, it certainly requires medical intervention,” says Dr. Kahn. If you’re interested in helping your HS through diet, talk to your doctor first to make sure you find a plan that works with your lifestyle and treatment.
Dr. Kahn is a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
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A diet cannot cure HS.
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A diet may help in combination
with other medical
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treatments to keep HS under good control.
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Sometimes patients ask me if they
should be eating differently, or
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if their diet can affect their skin.
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There's no proven studies that show that
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specific diets work better for
00:00:32,430 --> 00:00:36,380
What I would say is, the most
important thing about this condition
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is to eat a healthy diet,
and keep your weight down so
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that it's not contributing to
the severity of the disease.
00:00:44,640 --> 00:00:51,100
Eating a healthy diet with low calories,
portion control, fruit, vegetables,
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is all very much a part of helping
this condition to stay under control.
00:00:56,840 --> 00:01:00,880
Because hidradenitis suppurativa
is an inflammatory disease,
00:01:00,880 --> 00:01:05,860
eating foods that are anti-inflammatory,
00:01:05,860 --> 00:01:10,310
like kale, nuts, and
fatty fish, like salmon,
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may help in their anti-inflammatory
effects on this condition.
00:01:15,560 --> 00:01:20,540
Certain foods like processed
carbohydrates, red meats,
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sodas, may actually promote inflammation.
00:01:25,400 --> 00:01:30,300
And especially since hidradenitis
suppurativa improves with
00:01:30,300 --> 00:01:36,290
lots of body weight, it may be a good idea
to avoid those types of food in general.
00:01:36,290 --> 00:01:40,870
So foods like lean proteins,
like chicken and turkey,
00:01:40,870 --> 00:01:46,710
foods that contain nuts contain
a certain amino acid called arginine,
00:01:46,710 --> 00:01:49,510
which help to promote wound healing.
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Getting adequate vitamin A and
C may also benefit wound healing.
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I have patients that may be on
the mildest spectrum of this
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disease who would prefer to
try dietary adjustments and
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more natural home treatments.
00:02:08,300 --> 00:02:12,910
And sometimes that works,
not necessarily for the long term, but for
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short periods of time.
00:02:14,710 --> 00:02:19,294
But if the disease gets worse, or
is on the worse end of the spectrum,
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it certainly requires
00:02:22,470 --> 00:02:25,950
The influence of body weight on the prevalence and severity of hidradenitis suppurativa. Roskilde, Denmark: Department of Dermatology, Roskilde Hospital, 2014. (Accessed on January 18, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24577555)
Immunonutrition: Role in Wound Healing and Tissue Regeneration. Newark, NJ: Department of Surgery, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, 2014. (Accessed on January 18, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3900114)
Hidradenitis suppurativa: a common and burdensome, yet under-recognised, inflammatory skin disease. Copenhagen, Denmark: Department of Dermatology, Health Sciences Faculty, Roskilde Hospital, University of Copenhagen, 2014. (Accessed on January 18, 2018 at http://pmj.bmj.com/content/90/1062/216)
Hidradenitis Suppurativa: A Treatment Challenge. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois College of Medicine, 2005. (Accessed on January 18, 2018 at http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/1015/p1547.html)