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Foods That Cause Ear Wax—How to Reduce Buildup

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

Excessive ear wax can be a result of an unhealthy and unbalanced diet. Sugar, refined carbs, food intolerances, and excessive caffeine intake are common causes of ear wax buildup.


Let’s look at common trigger foods linked to excessive ear wax production and how you can keep your ear canals healthy and clear.   

Young woman with ear wax

What is ear wax?


Ear wax is a mixture of dead skin cells, fatty acids, and cholesterol that lubricates the ear canal and helps to prevent dust, fluid, and debris from entering the delicate structures of the inner ear. 


Ear wax also contains commensal microbes, a collection of beneficial bacteria that protect from an ear infection by inhibiting the growth and proliferation of pathogens, including harmful bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and viruses. 

Can your diet affect ear wax?


Yes, your diet can potentially affect the production and consistency of ear wax. 


Sebaceous glands in the inner ear are regulated by a range of hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Dietary habits can significantly impact hormonal balance and trigger excessive production of ear wax. 


Research published in Clinics Journal suggests a healthy and balanced diet rich in essential nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids support normal ear wax production and promotes ear health.  

  

Reduce these foods that cause ear wax

Sugars and refined carbs 

Sugary food and refined carbs, including white bread, cake, cookies, pancakes, or crackers, quickly enter the bloodstream and raise blood sugar levels and insulin. 


Because insulin directly triggers the production of androgens, consuming sugar and refined carbs can raise testosterone and estrogen, which stimulates sebaceous gland activity and ear wax buildup. 


In fact, this study published in the Journal of Diagnostics found that ear wax buildup is a reliable predictor of chronically high blood sugar


Dairy and gluten  

There is evidence that some individuals are sensitive to dairy products and dietary gluten and that consuming dairy foods and gluten-containing food triggers the excessive buildup of ear wax. 


“Although not fully understood how, it’s believed that food intolerances, especially lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance, can trigger inflammation,” says Dr. Berg, “which can cause increased ear wax production and may lead to ear blockages.” 


Caffeine    

Caffeine-rich products can cause a narrowing of the tiny blood vessels in the inner and outer ear, which triggers earwax production. If you are prone to ear wax buildup, it may be best to reduce your coffee intake. 

Cotton swap impacting ear wax

Best and worst ways to get rid of ear wax


Most of the time, ear wax is harmless and actually protects from ear infections. However, excessive ear wax build-up can lead to ear wax impaction and ear blockages, which can cause hearing loss and ear pain. 


Four ways to get rid of ear wax

1. Olive oil

Placing 2-3 drops of olive oil into the ear canal loosens up impacted ear wax and helps with clogged ear canals. 

 

2. Hydrogen peroxide 

Flushing out the ear with a hydrogen peroxide and water mixture has been found to effectively reduce excessive ear wax. Hydrogen peroxide causes tiny bubbles in ear wax, which helps to clear up blocked ear canals  


3. Colloidal silver 

Colloidal silver has potent antimicrobial properties, and using colloidal silver as ear drops can reduce itching and ear infections linked to ear wax buildup.  


4. Essential oils 

Both grapefruit seed extract and oregano oil extract soften ear wax and contain potent antimicrobial substances that kill harmful yeasts and bacteria linked to recurrent ear infections.


Five methods you should never use to clean your ears

While it’s important to maintain good hygiene, it’s not recommended to clean your ears excessively or with specific methods that may push ear wax further into the inner ear, which can cause injury or increase the risk of infections.


Cotton-tipped swabs can remove some wax, but they often simply push the wax deeper into the ear and may worsen an impaction or traumatize the ear canal.


Here are five methods you should refrain from using to clean ear wax. 


  1. Cotton swabs  

  2. Bobby pins or other sharp objects 

  3. Corners of napkins or tissues 

  4. Ear wax candles  

  5. Syringes 


Clinical practice guidelines published by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation state, “Don’t ignore your symptoms if home remedies are unsuccessful. Seek medical attention if attempts at home have not resolved the problem.” 


If you experience persistent ear wax build-up, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine possible underlying causes and to safely clean clogged ear canals without the risk of injury or infection.     

Good hearing

Key takeaways


Excessive ear wax production can result from hormonal imbalances, a diet high in sugar and carbs, and excessive caffeine consumption. In addition, dairy or gluten-intolerant individuals appear to be at increased risk of ear wax impaction and blockage. 


A low-carb diet, avoidance of trigger foods, and using hydrogen peroxide, olive oil, or essential oils to soften impacted ear wax are successful strategies that support normal ear wax production and promote ear health. 

   


FAQ


1. What is ear wax made out of?

Ear wax contains dead skin cells, cholesterol, fatty acids, and commensal bacteria.  


2. What foods reduce ear wax?

Following a low-carb diet like Healthy Keto® that’s rich in essential nutrients and omega-3 fatty acid sources, including salmon, sardines, oysters, and mackerels, supports healthy ear wax production and lowers the risk of blockages in the ear canal. 


3. What causes excessive ear wax production?

Individuals with dairy or gluten intolerance appear to have overactive sebaceous glands that cause excessive ear wax production. In addition, a diet high in carbs and sugars increases androgens, a group of hormones that stimulate ear wax production. 

 

4. How can I get rid of ear wax?

Avoiding trigger foods and excessive caffeine, following a low-carb diet, and consuming plenty of omega-3-rich foods can help reduce excessive ear wax. If you are sensitive to gluten or dairy, it’s vital to choose gluten-free and dairy-free options to avoid ear blockages. 


5. Does ear candling work?

No, ear candling isn’t effective for ear wax removal and can cause injury and burns, and may lead to irritating candle wax accumulations within the delicate structures of the inner ear.  

 

6. Can I use Q tips to get rid of ear wax?

While Q tips can be used to gently clean the outer ear, using them for wax removal in the inner ear isn’t recommended due to an increased risk of pushing the ear wax deeper into the ear canal. 


7. How do I fix an ear wax blockage?

Using olive oil, hydrogen peroxide, or essential oils helps to soften and expel ear wax. If the blockage persists, it’s best to consult a doctor to safely remove ear wax impaction. 


8. Can an unhealthy diet increase ear wax?

Yes, a diet high in junk food, sugar, and carbs can cause hormonal changes that stimulate sebaceous gland activity and cause excessive ear wax production. 

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