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Can Sugar Aggravate Intertrigo?

By Suzanne S. Wiley ; Updated July 18, 2017

What you eat can affect how quickly you heal from infections and other health problems, and the effect isn’t always positive. What you eat can also make things worse, at least internally. If you have a lingering external problem like intertrigo, you may be wondering if your diet is responsible for prolonging this annoying rash. One problem with determining whether or not the sugar you’re eating has any effect on intertrigo is that everyday movement, clothing and sweat can aggravate it regardless of the original cause, so it’s very hard to tell what exactly is making things worse.


Intertrigo itself is a skin irritation that is secondary to another condition or situation. In other words, intertrigo isn’t a mysterious disease or pathogen that just appears -- it always has another cause. In some cases the cause is very simple, like folds of skin rubbing together or sweaty skin that can’t dry out. Other times conditions like an external yeast or bacterial infection on the skin can cause intertrigo. Intertrigo in sweaty areas can lead to yeast infections, too, so the last thing you want to do is make the intertrigo worse, no matter the cause. External yeast infections can happen in both women and men.

Sugar and Intertrigo

Whether sugar makes intertrigo worse depends on the cause, plus possible underlying health problems. Intertrigo caused by chafing from clothing and sweat, when there are no other health problems and no hidden infections, most likely has nothing to do with sugar or sugary foods. However, if a yeast infection is what led to the intertrigo, or if you get a yeast infection on top of intertrigo, then there could be an association with sugar. Both Columbia University and the Office on Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services note that eating sugary foods could contribute to the formation of yeast infections. The OWH notes “eating extreme amounts of sugary foods” is a risk factor for vaginal yeast infections, and Columbia University notes watching sugar intake can help keep yeast levels under control. One thing you might want to do is keep a combination food and symptom log, noting when symptoms get better or worse and what you were wearing or how hot it was that day. This could help you spot a pattern.

Recurring Irritation

Intertrigo can recur as long as the same conditions that caused it exist. You must be careful, especially when it’s hot, to keep the affected area as dry as you can and as aired-out as you can. Keep in contact with your doctor when trying to heal intertrigo, so you can jump on any complications immediately. If intertrigo persists or keeps coming back despite your best efforts, talk to your doctor about getting tested for diabetes. This is especially true if you are having repeated yeast infections along with it or in other areas of your body. The University of California, San Francisco, says diabetics have an increased risk of yeast infections throughout the body, including in skin folds, and notes a skin yeast infection can be an early sign of diabetes. Dr. Cynthia Bailey, a dermatologist in California, recommends anyone with recurring intertrigo, even without yeast, get tested for diabetes and avoid sugary foods.

Weight Gain

One way that sugar can definitely -- though indirectly -- aggravate intertrigo is through weight gain. Intertrigo can be highly distressing, and even more so if it’s in an area that you can’t air out consistently when outside your home, such as under breasts or in your groin. This can make you seek comfort in food and possibly gain weight, increasing the amount of skin that can become irritated. If what you tend to eat is high in sugar, then it could look like the sugar is making the intertrigo worse. Make sure you aren’t overeating, and talk to your doctor about stress-relief techniques to help you get through your day while the intertrigo heals.

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