Ear wax can be a gross topic, but it’s also crucial to talk about. The wax, also called cerumen, is naturally produced to protect the skin inside our ears and help our ears remain clean. This means we need it to stay healthy. This wax generally isn’t a problem, unless we end up with an excessive amount of it.
Too much ear wax or an ear wax blockage can lead to ringing in your ears, hearing loss, discomfort, and even pain. Some people end up with this issue naturally, where they simply produce a lot of ear wax. However, there are also foods that cause ear wax buildup. Other factors can play a role too.
While we don’t often talk about foods and ear wax, the connection makes a lot of sense. After all, our diets affect our health in countless ways.
For example, people who get plenty of vitamins and minerals tend to be healthier and have lower disease risk than those who don’t. Similarly, those with diets filled with processed foods and sugary treats tend to experience higher inflammation and more inflammation-related conditions.
From that perspective, many of the foods on this list won’t be a surprise. Still… it’s essential to pay attention to how your body responds to these foods. You might find that some trigger health issues while others have little to no effect.
Despite being such a prevalent food, there’s no end to the controversy surrounding bread.
The big issue here is gluten. The gluten protein is valuable for giving dough its stretchiness and making bread chewy. However, some people have an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease that causes considerable side effects from gluten. Others have gluten sensitivity and experience similar symptoms.
The side effects of consuming gluten when you’re sensitive to it aren’t limited to your digestion. There can be other issues as well, including increased inflammation and ear wax buildup.
While gluten only affects people who are sensitive, foods like bread and pasta are also high in refined carbs. You’ve heard that term before, right? It refers to carbs that have been through a considerable amount of processing.
That processing strips away many healthy features of the carbs, leading to less fiber and nutrients, plus faster digestion. That set of features easily leads to blood sugar spikes and inflammation, neither of which are good for your ear wax.
The issues we’ve talked about with bread apply to pasta too. That’s not surprising, given that pasta is often made using refined white flour and is high in carbs. Low carb and no carb noodles are a much better choice.
You can also pay attention to what you serve with pasta. This helps because the blood sugar effect is based on your entire meal, not individual ingredients. If you can serve plenty of vegetables and some lean protein with your pasta, it should have a much lower blood sugar effect. Sticking with a small serving of pasta can help as well.
The issues we’ve discussed so far don’t just apply to bread and pasta. They apply to many baked treats as well. After all, many baked foods rely on wheat and are high in refined carbs. This pattern applies to danishes, donuts, cakes, and countless other treats.
Gluten free baking gets around the gluten side of the issue, but many such products are still high in refined carbs. Some even contain more additives than regular baking (to help give them a familiar flavor and texture) and those additives can come with issues of their own.
The best way around these issues is to look for keto gluten free foods. Because these foods are low in carbs, they shouldn’t cause a blood sugar spike. They should be less inflammatory as well.
Then there’s dairy. One theory suggests that people who cannot easily digest lactose may experience inflammation, which could then contribute to an increase in ear wax production. A similar reaction could also occur for those sensitive to milk proteins.
Lactose free dairy products can resolve the issue for some people. Others may need to avoid dairy and stick to plant-based alternatives instead.
Identifying increased ear wax from dairy consumption would be almost impossible, so you’ll need to look for other signals instead. Lactose intolerance leads to gastrointestinal side effects, like stomach cramps and gas. A milk protein allergy is a little different and gives more traditional allergy symptoms, including itchy skin.
Inflammation is one of the big factors for ear wax production, which makes sweet treats an obvious issue. This category includes anything that’s high in sugar and contains relatively few nutrients, including cakes, candy, ice cream, and the like. These foods are high in refined carbs as well, which is another strike against them.
Some products in this category aren’t even marketed as treats. For example, breakfast cereals can seem healthy, yet they contain an insane amount of sugar.
Fried foods have a well-deserved reputation for being incredibly unhealthy. The biggest issue for ear wax is inflammation again, although the fattiness of fried foods doesn’t help.
Also remember that fried foods often include gluten (which is not removed in the frying process). Even gluten free foods may be contaminated with gluten from the fryer, which is a problem for anyone sensitive to gluten.
Pancakes typically contain gluten and are high in refined carbs, so they can easily promote inflammation. Their reliance on white flour also makes them much more processed than you might expect.
Ultra Processed Foods
Many foods go through some type of processing. After all, ingredients like rice, beans, and wheat aren’t particularly helpful in their natural form. Such processing is vital, but sometimes the idea goes too far.
Ultra processed foods are the ones to be most concerned about. These tend to be low in nutrients and also include plenty of additives. Many are also high in sugar, salt, calories, and fat, making them incredibly concerning for health.
This combination of features often leads to increased inflammation and this inflammation might lead to ear wax buildup. The salt is an issue too, as this can contribute to electrolyte imbalances and water retention.
Then there are the additives. There’s still a ton we don’t know about the effects of additives on health. Think about it. There are thousands of different artificial additives in food, all of which could interact with each other, with other ingredients, and with our bodies.
Regulatory processes, research, and testing help ensure that additives are safe, but these processes are never 100% effective. Problematic ingredients can easily get into the food supply, particularly if they only cause adverse effects for a small percentage of the population.
It’s not like these additives offer any health benefits, so why not skip them and look for less processed foods instead?
Soda And Energy Drinks
It’s not just foods that lead to ear wax buildup. Some drinks can have this effect as well. Soda and energy drinks are particularly crucial here, as they’re packed with sugar, contain barely any nutrients, and often use artificial additives.
Sugar free drinks aren’t necessarily any better, as the coloring and sweetening ingredients could still promote inflammation.
Then there’s caffeine. This stimulant might promote ear wax production too, perhaps by stimulating the nervous system, dehydrating you, or altering the pH balance in your ears. The problem could be even more significant if you focus on strong energy drinks.
Salty Fermented Foods
Unlike most of the foods on this list, fermented foods tend to be healthy. They’re famous for their probiotic content, which could help improve the microbe balance in your gut, leading to a variety of health improvements.
Yet, the hype around fermented foods makes it easy to miss their downsides. One of the biggest issues is the salt content. This can be incredibly high, as salt plays a crucial role in fermentation for pickled vegetables and some other fermented foods.
Salt is significant because it can increase blood pressure, contribute to fluid imbalances, and promote inflammation. All three of those issues can lead to higher ear wax production.
Thankfully, there are some non-salty fermented foods as well, like kombucha, kefir, and yogurt. These give you access to the probiotic benefits, without increasing your salt intake too much.
Chocolate is an interesting case too. On one hand, it’s often high in sugar and contains a surprising amount of caffeine. Both of these factors can contribute to inflammation and cause ear wax issues.
However, chocolate also contains a considerable number of antioxidants. Dark chocolate is even famous for its potential to decrease inflammation. So, despite the caffeine, small servings of dark chocolate could be mostly helpful.
Milk chocolate is less appealing, as it contains more sugar and less cocoa. As such, it’s much more likely to cause inflammation and a poorer choice for health.
The foods on this list can lead to increased ear wax production, but this doesn’t mean that they always will. While many have been linked to increased inflammation or other health issues, few studies have considered how food impacts ear wax.
Other factors can influence your ear wax too, including the following.
Using earphones or hearing aids frequently can lead to issues with ear wax, as the wax isn’t able to naturally drain as it should.
Inflammation is significant in ear wax production, which is why you should be cautious with sweet treats, ultra processed foods, and soda. However, inflammation doesn’t just come from our diet.
It can be caused by other factors too, including pollution, second hand smoke, high levels of stress, allergies, injury, autoimmune conditions, and medications. These external factors aren’t all controllable, so it’s important to work on the ones you can control, like stress and second hand smoke.
You could also talk to your doctor to learn the best approaches for your specific needs.
Some people just naturally produce more ear wax than others. This can be severe enough that they need regular treatment from a doctor to clear the earwax.
The natural shape of your ear can play a role too, along with the amount of hair. People with narrow ear canals or large amounts of hair may experience more ear wax issues than normal.
Ear wax also becomes more of a problem with age. This isn’t always because ear wax production has increased. Instead, ear wax often becomes harder and drier as people get older, which makes it more difficult to remove.
Finally, damage to your ear canals can lead to inflammation and scar tissue, which increases the risk of wax becoming trapped. This damage often comes from infection or surgery. However, it can also be the result of using objects like cotton buds to clean your ears.
Many of us still use cotton buds to get rid of ear wax, even though we’ve been told for decades that they don’t actually work. Cotton buds often make issues even more extensive, as they simply push the wax deeper into your ear. The process often hardens the wax and makes it more difficult to get out.
Similar issues are true for other options as well, including using your finger. You might even end up damaging your eardrum in the process.
Oil and ear drops are both used to soften ear wax, allowing it to naturally fall out on its own. This is one of the simplest and least invasive approaches, so it’s an excellent place to begin.
Olive oil is a popular choice, as this is a natural oil with anti-inflammatory properties and many benefits. However, ear drops are often formulated to help with ear wax, which might make them more powerful.
Some people use hydrogen peroxide instead. This can help to soften and easily break down ear wax. You can use hydrogen peroxide on its own or look for products that include it as an ingredient.
Ear irritation is when water is pushed into your ear using a small pump. This water is often enough to wash ear wax out without damaging your ears.
Medical professionals often use this approach, but you can also buy ear irrigation kits to use yourself at home.
Even if you’re using a specialized ear irrigation kit, home solutions for ear wax are often ineffective and can easily cause harm. It’s often best to get professional assistance instead.
As well as irrigation, a doctor’s office might also use micro suction to remove the ear wax or manually do so with a small hooped device.
We’ve talked about many health conditions on this blog, including foods that cause leg cramps and night terrors. Each health issue comes with its own set of foods to watch out for, but there’s one common thread – what you eat is just as important as what you don’t.
To put it another way, just cutting out foods isn’t the answer.
Doing so leaves you with a very limited diet that might even lead to nutrient deficiencies. The goal is to be wise. This often means reducing your intake of processed, fried, and sugary foods, and focusing on nutrient-dense natural foods instead. Fresh fruits and vegetables are an excellent starting place. Don’t forget about whole grains, legumes, lean meat, and seafood. These are incredibly valuable for your health.