If you've ever had a boil, then you know just how unpleasant these pus-filled bumps can be. Once they develop, they often become larger and more painful over time — and are equally unpleasant when they rupture and drain. But do the foods you eat play any role in prevention and healing of boils?
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What Causes Boils
According to the Mayo Clinic, boils are typically caused by a bacterial infection, most commonly the Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, infection. However, there are a number of different ways that you may end up with a staph infection in the first place.
Diabetes and compromised immunity, for example, are circumstances that might make you more likely to develop a staph infection and boils. "Diabetics are more prone to boils and other skin infections, particularly if their blood sugar is uncontrolled," says Nadia M. Khan, MD, a doctor of internal medicine at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois.
You're also more likely to develop boils, according to Mayo Clinic, if you have other skin conditions or if you come into close contact with someone who already has boils. Staphylococcus bacteria are also one of the most common causes of food poisoning, Mayo Clinic notes.
Boils also can be an issue for anyone with hidradenitis suppurativa, a chronic inflammatory skin condition. If you have this condition, according to the Cleveland Clinic, you can develop bumps and, ultimately, boils around your hair follicles and sweat glands, which become clogged from an abnormal overgrowth of cells.
More on Hidradenitis Suppurativa
Treatments that can help manage the condition, the Cleveland Clinic says, include using topical cleansers, soaking in warm baths or applying warm compresses to the area (for 10-minute sessions), taking anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, wearing loose-fitting clothing to limit rubbing and maintaining weight to minimize friction in areas prone to lumps from the condition.
Additionally, Mayo Clinic suggests that eating a healthy, balanced diet can help by preventing weight gain (and thus limiting friction) and helping with weight loss to lower hormonal activity influencing the condition — thus making diet an important step in preventing boils, if you have hidradenitis suppurativa.
Mayo Clinic further notes that research has also identified specific foods that could be triggers for boils related to hidradenitis suppurativa — specifically dairy products like milk and cheese. Eating these foods can raise insulin levels, which, in turn, can cause your body to overproduce hormones known as androgens, possibly leading to outbreaks of boils and other skin lesions related to hidradenitis suppurativa.
Another potentially risky ingredient to consume if you have hidradenitis suppurativa is brewer's yeast, which is present in pizza dough, bread, cake and other baked goods. Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding foods that contain brewer's yeast in an effort to help heal skin lesions. Mayo also suggests limiting foods with added sugars to try to reduce insulin levels, potentially easing symptoms of the condition.
One More Thing …
One final thing to consider when it comes to your diet and boils is whether you have any food allergies, as an allergy to a particular food can result in skin issues.
"Although dietary modifications have not been well-researched for the prevention and treatment of boils, it has been found that decreasing refined sugar consumption and avoiding allergenic foods may be worthwhile," says Mary Opfer, RD, CDN, a dietitian and nutritionist in Westchester County, New York.
Read more: What Can I Eat to Help Fight Infection?
- Mayo Clinic: “Boils and Carbuncles”
- Nadia M. Khan, MD, internist, Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, Winfield, Illinois
- Mayo Clinic: “Staph Infections”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Overview”
- Cleveland Clinic: “Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Management and Treatment”
- Mayo Clinic: “Hidradenitis Suppurativa and Diet: What’s Recommended?”
- Mary Opfer, RD, CDN, registered dietitian, licensed dietitian nutritionist, Westchester County, New York
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.