A lichen sclerosus diet is a sought after subject for those who suffer from the chronic condition, hoping eating or avoiding certain foods may help alleviate symptoms. The condition is not well understood, but it is speculated by the National Institutes on Health to be a result of autoimmune issues.
Lichen sclerosus is a chronic skin condition with uncomfortable symptoms of itchiness, pain and blistering. The majority of those with the disorder are women over the age of 50, but it can affect men, women and children. Typically, the skin affected is the skin around the external area of the vagina (vulva) and around the anus. In men, it is usually at the tip of the penis. The disorder does not get better on its own and requires medical intervention such as corticosteroids, other creams or surgery.
Can Foods Worsen Lichen Sclerosus?
The link between lichen sclerosus and diet is not well understood and studies remain inconclusive. A fact sheet on vulvar diseases from the University of Michigan Center for Vulvar Diseases discusses that limited research points to diets high in oxalates as being detrimental to those with lichen sclerosus.
High levels of oxalates in the urine may cause vulvar burning and irritate the skin. The evidence is inconclusive, but it may be a good idea to try a low oxalate diet to see if this helps improve symptoms.
As described in the April 2018 issue of the Journal of Food Research, foods particularly high in oxalates may be foods to avoid with lichen sclerosus. Some examples are rhubarb, red beetroot, beetroot leaves, spinach leaves, cocoa, tea leaves and parsley among others. It is also recommended in a March 2018 issue of Frontiers in Immunology to avoid foods high in salt and fat.
Avoiding these foods could potentially help curb the symptoms of lichen sclerosus. Adding oral calcium citrate may further help, along with a low oxalate diet, as calcium salts can help to reduce soluble oxalate content in foods.
Nutrition for Lichen Sclerosus
Although there are no direct recommendations for a lichen sclerosus diet, since there is a strong link to autoimmune disorders, hormone imbalances and autoantibodies, a diet used to control autoimmune disorders could be very beneficial.
The November 2017 issue of the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases describes the autoimmune diet as consisting of a six-week elimination phase during which grains, legumes, nightshades, dairy, eggs, coffee, alcohol, nuts and seeds, refined/processed sugars, oils and food additives are removed from the diet.
This diet is maintained for several weeks and sometimes foods are reintroduced to observe if symptoms return. This can help to target offending foods. In other cases, people with autoimmune diseases may choose to keep these foods out of the diet indefinitely.
Other advised autoimmune nutrition for lichen sclerosus diet includes adding nutrient-dense foods, fermented foods and bone broth. If you think that the autoimmune diet could help improve the symptoms of lichen sclerosus for you, consult your doctor for advice.
Read more: Bone Soup Nutrition
- National Institutes on Health: "Lichen sclerosus"
- Journal of Food Research: "Oxalates are Found in Many Different European and Asian Foods - Effects of Cooking and Processing"
- University of Michigan Center for Vulvar Diseases: "Vulvar Diseases: What Do You Know?"
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: "Efficacy of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet for Inflammatory Bowel Disease"
- Frontiers in Immunology: "Interrelation of Diet, Gut Microbiome, and Autoantibody Production"