Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), also known as acne inversa, is a chronic, progressive skin condition.

There is currently no cure for HS. There are also limited treatment options available. For this reason, people often look for alternative therapies and lifestyle changes they can make, such as changes to their diet.

When it comes to dietary changes to manage HS, however, there is no one-size-fits-all model. What works for one person may have an opposite effect on someone else. Though there may not be a specific HS dietary plan that works for everyone, there may be dietary plans that work better than others.

Growing evidence suggests that making certain dietary changes may have an impact on HS. Keep reading for more information about what to avoid, what to eat, and what current research says about how certain diets can impact HS symptoms.

a ketonic meal getting prepared to treat hidradenitis suppurativaShare on Pinterest
Image credit: Jasmin Merdan

Some foods may cause symptoms of HS to become worse. Foods a person should avoid include:

  • processed foods
  • foods with simple sugars
  • any food that appears to make symptoms worse

A review of studies states that processed foods may play a role in HS symptoms. The researchers also add that brewer’s yeast and dairy may make symptoms worse.

Although more research is necessary to prove how effective each food is, there are some foods that may help with HS symptoms.

According to one review, people could try foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and foods high in dietary fiber. These include:

  • fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
  • flaxseeds
  • chia seeds
  • walnuts

Also, HS Connect recommend that people stay hydrated to help relieve symptoms.

Some diet types may be more suitable than others for people with HS.

Keto diet

The ketogenic, or keto, diet is a popular option for people looking to lose weight. The diet encourages eating a high amount of fats, a moderate amount of protein, and a small amount of carbohydrates. According to one article, this amounts to about 20–50 grams of carbs per day.

The idea of the diet is to force the body to use fat as an energy source and reduce its dependence on carbs as energy. There are currently no studies that look directly at how a keto diet would affect HS symptoms.

Since keto diets limit carbs and sugars, they may be helpful based on some research that suggests that reducing sugar and simple carb intake can help with symptoms. Other low carb diets may also provide some symptom relief.

However, a person should discuss this diet with their doctor before trying it.

Paleo diet

The Paleolithic, or paleo, diet encourages people to eat only the foods that primitive humans had access to.

According to Harvard Health, this includes:

  • seeds
  • fish
  • lean meats
  • nuts
  • low glycemic fruits and vegetables

The idea behind the paleo diet is that people should eat whole foods and avoid processed foods for optimal health.

There are no studies that look directly at the paleo diet’s impact on HS. However, like the keto diet, the paleo diet may be beneficial for some people living with HS.

If a person eats nuts and fish that are high in omega-3, they may see some symptom relief. According to one review, omega-3 may help with reducing inflammation.

Vegan diet

A vegan diet consists of eating only plant-based foods. Evidence suggests that a vegan diet has several potential health benefits, including lowering cholesterol, increasing fiber intake, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Still, a person needs to make sure that they are getting enough of the following:

  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • iron
  • vitamin B12
  • calcium
  • zinc
  • selenium
  • magnesium

A vegan diet, which has a focus on fruits and vegetables, is often higher in fiber. Dietary fiber can improve intestinal function and aid the elimination of toxins.

According to a recent review, it can also help a person feel full. This can reduce a person’s cravings for more food. It can also help individuals lose weight, and researchers have linked weight loss to HS symptom improvement.

Dairy-free diet

People with HS who reduce or eliminate dairy from their diet may find some symptom relief.

According to a 2019 review, there is some evidence to suggest that a dairy-free diet may be able to reduce the severity of HS.

Elimination diet

An elimination diet involves removing certain types of foods from the diet. Rather than focusing on eating only a certain type of food or not eating carbs, an elimination diet involves removing one type of food for several weeks to see if it has an impact on HS symptoms.

According to one review, people should record the foods they eat and keep track of how they affect their HS symptoms.

However, a person should not start a new dietary program without speaking to their healthcare provider first. There is no guarantee that a diet will effectively help with HS symptoms, and some diets may even pose some risks. A person may need to try several types before they find one that works.

Certain supplements may help reduce the severity of HS symptoms. However, a person can usually get these nutrients from their diet. People with HS should talk to their doctor before taking any supplements.

According to one review, the following supplements might help with HS:

  • omega-3
  • zinc
  • vitamin D
  • turmeric

Diet may impact HS symptoms for some people. Some foods, such as those high in fiber or omega-3 fatty acids, may help improve symptoms.

However, foods high in sugar and those that are heavily processed may make symptoms worse.

A person should talk to their doctor before making any major changes to their diet or starting a new supplement.